Life's Little Surprises
By Capt. Kenny Brewer
Licensed Guide, South Texas Coast
It was the latter part of March 1998 and the folks that I had scheduled to
take fly fishing that day had canceled the charter two days before. It seems
that a late season cold front was wreaking havoc with airports in the mid-west and
north east part of the country. To be honest, I was a little skeptical about
our chances of finding enough worthwhile opportunities to target, especially since
the wind was still blowing out of the north at about 20 knots at 5:00 am.
Now in this part of the country, the southernmost tip of Texas, cold
fronts usually blow through within a couple of days. This one
had blown 30 knots from the north for 3 days and if you
could believe the weather forecasters, was supposed to
become calm by midday. Yeah,right!
Have you ever had one of those days where you wake up and say to yourself,
"What should I do today, fish or play golf"? Well, I decided that I would
fish that morning and play golf in the afternoon. I would go scouting
and try to catch a couple of redfish for dinner. This seemed the
logical solution for a fly fishing guide that found himself with
an unexpected day off. So, I had a plan and I was determined
to see it through.
I loaded my gear on the boat and proceeded to head to a spot that would afford
the most protection from the still blowing wind. After a 20 minute boat ride
through the lower Laguna Madre, I shut down the outboard and began poling the
boat into the mouth of the small cove where I could anchor. The water was
only a few inches deep and surprisingly clear, considering the wind. I rigged my
Thomas & Thomas 'Horizon Series' #7 saltwater taper with the Ross Reels'
'Gunnison' model G-3 and tied a weedless #4 shrimp pattern of my own design to
the Ande 20 lb tippet, knowing the heavier tippet would perform better in the
wind. The springtime is when the shrimp larvae emerge from the mud bottom so,
naturally, a shrimp pattern should work best. Right? Right!
The air temperature and the water temperature were in the mid 60's. The sky
was still cloudy but breaking to the northwest and beginning to grow lighter
with the rising sun. With only neoprene wading booties, shorts, and a long sleeve
shirt on I stepped into the cool calf-deep-water. The area I intended to fish
was upwind a few hundred yards.
So I set out, sliding my feet along the bottom
in order to avoid an unwanted encounter with any stingrays that might be resting
there. As I "skated" along, I was watching for any signs that might indicate
potential targets. Nervous or quivering water, a V-shaped wake pushing
through the shallows, the tip of a tail or dorsal fin. I didn't see any.
After working my way to the ultra-shallow shoreline and not
seeing anything promising, I moved a little farther out to ankle
deep water and continued to slide along steadily but very slowly,
watching for any signs of game fish. The wind seemed to be
laying down just a fraction but I dismissed it to wishful thinking.
The surface of the water, even in 4 - 6 inches, was heavily
rippled by the wind.
I made a few casts to loosen up and noticed the first
signs of life as small schools of mullet were edging
into shallows. I moved another 20 ft or so and saw my
first target. A medium sized (22in) redfish (red drum)
was meandering along with just the tip of it's dorsal
fin breaking the surface. He was at an awkward casting
angle so I moved quietly to intercept his line of travel.
I managed to present the shrimp fly in what should
have been a favorable position and he bolted away like he
had been hit by a cattle prod. I continued to look for
targets and another redfish presented himself for targeting
a couple of minutes later. Again, right after a school of
small mullet swam by. I made a decent presentation and
again the fish ran away like a scalded dog! Redfish
are supposed to eat shrimp in the spring . . . dismayed, I
reluctantly changed to a #4 grey/white deceiver.
Moments later a large redfish, I estimated to be 26
inches or more, came into casting range with his
entire back out of the water. I loaded the rod and
made a 60 ft cast slightly across the wind and placed
the deceiver a couple of feet in front of and beyond
I gave a short strip and the fish exploded on the
fly! I was vindicated. After a fairly intense 5 minute
battle, the redfish surrendered to my will and I removed
the barbless hook and set him on his way. I don't keep
my first fish and I never keep more than I can eat.
The clouds were breaking up to the east out over
the Gulf and the sun was struggling to break free.
The light condition was made more difficult by the
rippled water which was making the targets a little
hard to spot. But the wind was slowing and the
water was calming just a bit, so I was hopeful. I
continued to wade along taking advantage of the
opportunities as they presented themselves.
Catching and keeping two medium sized redfish
that I intended to eat that evening and breaking off
another redfish that would not be turned. I didn't
have another grey/white deceiver and had to settle
for a green/white #4 deceiver.
After 15 minutes or so, I spotted what I perceived to
be yet another redfish easing along in the shallow water.
This fish appeared to be medium to large in size
and was moving steadily toward me so I stood still
and waited, watching. The sun was trying to break
through now thinning clouds and was creating quite a glare
on the surface of the water due to the low angle. It
was as if the fish was aware of the situation. It moved
into the glare, making visibility very difficult. I
waited until she submerged and watched for a slight
quiver on the water's surface. There it was.
I cast to about 50 feet to my left at 90 degrees to the
wind and made a couple of slow short strips. Nothing.
The fly was ignored. I picked up the fly and with one
back cast re-directed the fly back in front of the
'nervous' fish as she snaked along in 7 inches of water.
This time I waited a second or two and gave
one short strip and the line went tight.
All hell broke loose.
The fish inhaled the fly and began to 'tail walk' across
the flats for a distance of 20 feet giving a vigorous, mouth
open, head shaking display trying to dislodge the hook.
Then she settled back into the 6 - 8 inches of water and
ran for the deeper, open end of the little cove we where in,
still shaking her head. (I call this fish 'SHE' because it
is widely believed that the vast majority of seatrout this
size are female. Biologists don't think that the males
live to get this large.)
My heart was racing. My mind was running faster trying
to remember all the right things to do when you have a
trophy fish on! Always, bow to a leaping fish, play the fish,
don't try to muscle 'em in. This was no redfish on the end of my
line. It was a speckled trout (spotted seatrout) and it was
a big one! The fish ran to and fro sometimes shaking
it's head, sometimes just playing tug of war. Slowly,
I was gaining the upper hand as this trophy "Texas speck"
began to tire out.
Her runs were becoming shorter with less power. I had
retrieved nearly all my line and had worked the fish to
within 20 feet. I was nearly on my knees as I tried to
bring the fish close enough to land without her seeing me.
Trout have excellent eyesight. It didn't work. She saw
me and then opened and closed her mouth 'popping' trying
to spit the barbless hook. She stood on her tail once again
and 'walked' about 10 feet more before collapsing. She was
exhausted. The fight had gone out of her and landing the
fish became a simple task.
I admired the fish as I slipped her onto my stringer to
join the redfish that I intended to have for dinner that
evening. The time was 7:55 am and I was only a
couple hundred yards from where the boat was anchored.
Being a fly fishing guide, I am aware that new records
are possible any given day. This fish was not only a fine
specimen, but it just might be a contender for the IGFA World
Record for the species in the 20 lb class tippet.
I worked my way back to the boat and measured the
length of the trout at 31-1/4 inches and guessed her weight
to be at least 8 lbs. I don't carry a scale on my boat, much
less a certified scale, so I made tracks to the nearest certified
scale at a marina on South Padre Island.
Spotted seatrout are not a hearty species, as they are
(depending on the biologist you talk to) a member of the weakfish
family. So I knew that this fish was losing weight every minute.
The trip took a little over an hour and I felt a little giddy
with excitement. Arriving at the marina, the fish was weighed
and verified at 8 pounds 6 ounces! Then it was certified by a
biologist for species.
In the meantime, the wind had died to nothing. The lower
Laguna Madre had turned to a sheet of glass and the sky
was a deep, bright cloudless blue. I played golf that
afternoon and shot a million. For some reason I couldn't
keep my mind on the game. The information, sample
of the fly line, leader, tippet, and fly was sent to IGFA
headquarters in Florida for verification and after several
months was approved as a new World Record and
holds 1st Place Spotted Seatrout in the 1998 IGFA
Annual Fishing Tournament.
To see this fish, visit my
"Keep your rod bent and your line tight!"
~ Capt. Kenny Brewer
[ HOME ]
[ Search ]
[ Contact FAOL ]
[ Media Kit ]
FlyAnglersOnline.com © Notice