Plans, Premonitions, and Paying Dues

Plans, Premonitions, and Paying Dues
Savage Gear’s TPE Shrimp has become one of my go-to baits for durability and lifelike appearance.

Seems you just never run into anyone who doesn't like it when everything happens just right. Fishermen especially love it when they plan for a day on the water and everything from the weather to the fish ends up working in their favor. These trips do actually happen and they help erase the memory of bad ones. For many of the folks who fish with me, the hope of catching just the right day is a high priority, especially the ones that travel great distances to get here. When you base an entire trip on just one day the stress of everything falling into place is real for the angler and the guide. Nobody wants to return home disappointed.

In order to provide the best opportunity for customers, guides often spend their days off scouting, either on their own or through information from other guides in their network. Nothing beats up-to-date information and even if the scouting mission proves nothing more than where not to take to clients it is valuable. Speaking as a guide, getting out there alone and exploring water you do not fish often or perhaps have never fished is a fun no-pressure outing–and sometimes we score big!

Call it a hunch, call it a premonition or whatever, it's a great feeling when you discover the kind of fish you are hoping to put your clients on. In many cases the new water might reveal an entirely different pattern than the one you had been fishing previously. Quite often I discover options for fishing with clients should my regular pattern fail to produce or a great backup plan should the weather take it out of play. Having a quality alternate plan in your hip pocket certainly puts a guide at ease and contributes to a more enjoyable day on the water for everyone.

A perfect example of this type of situation happened to me recently as I was scouting for an upcoming trip where my customers were hoping to catch redfish on fly tackle. The conditions here on Sabine and Calcasieu have been the same as everywhere with really high water levels. High water in our marshes is not generally conducive to sight-fishing and that had me worried. Fortunately I was able to locate an area where several good schools of fish were holding in water clarity that would fit their request. I spent enough time in the area to catch a couple and then left them to check out a few more places before calling it a day. I felt confident that I had a solid game plan.

The next morning I met Ben and Amity Sheridan who had made the trip from Arizona to visit family and friends, as well as go fishing to celebrate their fourth wedding anniversary. Both were very excited to chase redfish, their first-ever experience, and were just really happy to see some different sights. It's always a pleasure to have folks on my boat who are enthusiastic and willing to learn, and both Ben and Amity fit that description with room to spare.

After a short boat ride we arrived at the area where the redfish had been so cooperative the day before and, as hoped, the plan began to unfold perfectly. The light breeze made the tightly schooling fish easy to spot as they fed aggressively. We could not have asked for a better situation.

I climbed up on the poling platform and began to push the boat across the big flat to get Amity into position to take a shot and it didn't take long before she was rewarded for her effort. Soon it was Ben's turn on the front deck and after a short trip down the shoreline he was also hooked up on a nice one. This pattern held for several hours and made it nice for everyone. Once a school would finally separate or leave it was just a matter of scanning the surface before finding another group of willing redfish. Around lunch time the breeze stiffened, making the temperature more than comfortable but a little less than ideal for casting a flyrod. Ben and Amity were flexible enough to pick up my spinning rigs and finish the day throwing Savage TPE Shrimp under a cork with great success. The day was first-rate and the game plan had worked to perfection.

Now chasing redfish in shallow water is not for everyone, it takes some patience and a plan. Paying your dues on a poling platform in order to set your clients up with the best chance of success is sometimes more art than science. There are plenty of guides along the lower Texas coast who will attest to that. TSFMag's Scott Sommerlatte is one of the best and he has spent a lifetime poling anglers along flats from Mexico to Florida. The art of poling a skiff and reading water is not for the lazy or those afraid of the work that must be invested to be successful. There is actually something almost elegant and gentlemanly about pushing a skiff into position for the perfect cast.

Contrast the quiet and stealth-like approach of the poled skiff to those who run fiberglass rocket ships propelled by zillion-horse outboards, steered from atop a structure that looks to have been borrowed from a construction site. Blasting into a marsh pond and herding fish compared to truly stalking them is an entirely different mindset. It is my belief that those who embrace the poling skiff will know a greater sense of satisfaction than those who employ the "invasive" technique of horsepower and altitude could ever imagine.

We have finally reached the halfway point of the year and some of the best fishing imaginable is on the horizon, unfortunately so are the crowds. Please keep a full tank of courtesy on your boat and respect your fellow anglers. School is out for the summer and I heartily encourage getting the kids on the water every chance. Enjoy your time out there and be safe.