Well, mostly, we work on our boats, fix something on the trailer, or do some much-neglected tackle maintenance. Or maybe we go back out on the water to scout areas we haven’t been to lately. Then there’s the never-ending honey-do list that gets put on the back burner when the fishing is right.
But every once in a while when your guide buddy has a day off that meshes with yours, you blow off everything and just go fun fishing. No pressure, no timelines and it really doesn’t matter what you catch…as long as it’s bigger than his.
I recently got a call from my buddy Capt. Dean “Slowride” Thomas who guides kayak as well as boat trips down in Aransas Pass, “We need to go fishing.” Yes, yes we do. It had been far too long. There was a time when I was an active sales rep covering the retail tackle shops up and down the coast that we fished together at least a couple days a month. He is on the short list of people I most enjoy a day on the water with.
Dean was on a bunch of tailing redfish schools up on the grass flats, a short paddle from the launch. The mid-week prediction was for light wind and low tides that would bunch those fish up.Done deal.
A couple mornings later I pulled up in front of the Kayak Shack. This old building took a beating during Harvey and barely survived. The storm shifted her on the foundation and twisted the framework. Windows popped out of place, doors stuck and floors buckled. It was a mess and there was a good possibility the only remedy was a wrecking ball.
The house was built around the turn of the century and moved to its current location a few years later, after a major flood hit the town. Dean bought the place as a hub for his kayak guiding and kayak rental business in 2002. In the early days of the Texas kayak fishing scene it was the gathering place for many of the original members of the Texas Kayak Fishermen group. Many of my best friendships started on this porch. I went down there shortly after the storm to lend a hand and it was a sad sight.
Dean couldn’t stand to see her fall and decided to rebuild. After months of hard work, some help from friends in the kayak community and more money than Dean wants to talk about; she’s almost back. There is still more work to do, but with Dean’s passion and drive I have no doubt he will have her ready for another hundred year run.
After a quick tour of the rebuilding progress we loaded up a couple kayaks and headed for the water. For once, the weather guessers got it right. The skies were clear and the wind was barely noticeable. The tide was a good bit lower than expected leaving the grass flats nearly exposed.Reds love to get shallow, but this was a bit too extreme, even for them.
Not to worry, Dean spends 300+ days a year prowling these flats and he had a plan. We skirted the edge of the flats pausing for a few casts here and there at the mouth natural drains. Nothing much going on, so we pressed on towards a larger ditch that dissects the expansive flat before falling off into deeper water. The opening was holding some bait, but still no reds. We turned the kayaks into the ditch and headed in.
Within a few yards we found what we were looking for. A huge push from a large school of reds headed straight towards us with mullet fleeing ahead of them. It was stupid easy as there was no place for them to go. The narrow ditch was just a couple feet deep with only an inch or three covering the flats on either side. It was the old “fish in a barrel” come to life.
Over the next three hours we worked our way slowly up that ditch running into school after school of hungry redfish. There were literally hundreds of reds packed into this small space.Fish were caught, blow-ups were missed, a couple were broken off and the laughs were constant. It doesn’t get much better.
Several hundred yards up the ditch we found a slight depression off to one side that held a large single red waddling through matted grass with his back exposed. The kayaks were rubbing bottom as we scooted to close the distance. Dean grabbed his fly rod and I took up a position to get some video. We chased that fish all over the place with Dean putting the fly on the money time after time…nothing, no response whatsoever. Eventually the red snuggled up into a wad of weeds and quit moving. Apparently it was nap time. If the fish won’t cooperate, it’s time to get creative. With video running, Dean crept through the mud in a crouch and dang near grabbed the red by the tail before it woke up and left a rooster tail of water, mud and grass.
With that Dean says, “I need tacos.” Fully satisfied with a fantastic morning of catching we paddled back to the truck, reminiscing past adventures. Trips to Florida, paddling through storms, great catches, and epic fails. I don’t know how many days we’ve fished together over the past fifteen or so years, but it’ll never be enough.
Harvey certainly staggered the area, but the good folks of the middle coast have survived the barrage of body blows and come out stronger than ever. What they need now are customers.Many people I talk to still think the area is a wasteland and are avoiding it. While things definitely aren’t back to normal, it isn’t far off. I took a meandering path back home and found most businesses open for business. While there are still obvious signs of the storm, most of the damage has been cleaned up.If you are thinking about a vacation to the coast this summer, give some thought to the Rockport, Aransas Pass and Port Aransas area. In addition to guiding, Dean also rents kayaks by the day and also has a rental cottage available. You can contact him through his website: www.slowrideguide.com.