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Kayak fishing the Lone Star State...


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By Ron Mc
#2297308
To fly fish, you definitely want to kayak in the bays, not the surf.
You can wade in the surf with a fly rod.

The very best fly fishing I know on the TX coast is a boat ride across Aransas Bay, San Antonio Bay, Matagorda Bay, to the lakes on the barrier islands (San Jose, Matagorda) - Fence Lake, Allyn's Lake, Panther Lake, Swan Lake
If you mothership a kayak across the big bay strapped in a power boat, it makes a quick taxi to the back of the lakes. The best fly fishing is staking the boat and wade to sight-fish - wading skinny water gives you a great sight advantage, and the grass bottom of the lakes is wonderful wading.
There is some pretty good water you can get to from Mustang Island, such as East Flats Lake, and some nice water launching at Bird Island Basin in PINS.
Shoalwater Bay launching at Charlies is a great place.
The grass line at S. Padre is always a good choice, paddling out from the Convention Center.
The massive state record spec was caught on a fly rod at the S. Padre grass line, but it was a good distance up the island - too far to paddle, unless you do the power boat mothership thing.
I've waded out at McGloin bluff at Ingleside and caught fly rod reds.
The tides are always a factor finding good wading water.
Lighthouse Lakes can be great wading with a fly rod in seasons when mean tides are lower.

The other thing is paddling in the sloughs and marshes on the land side of the bays and patrol for fish sign - where fresh water comes into the bays, it's tougher to find wading water,, but there are still some scattered good grass patches that you can stake and wade.

The jetties can also be really good, especially fishing a sinking line - the best time is pelagic migrations in spring and fall.
The list can just keep getting longer.
You can drift fish the flats using spinning tackle, keep a rigged fly rod handy, and switch to the fly rod when you're on fish sign.
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By karstopo
#2297311
Your choice, lots of water available. I’d go where you think it would be most enjoyable. Finding fish makes for fun, gives a target to shoot for. Go where the fish are, duh, but the fish have an independent agenda and just refuse to consult the fisherman with their intentions.

Logistically, the surf is hard to beat. One can drive the beach, find something interesting, park and walk a few steps into water and be fishing. What do you need, a rod/reel, some pliers, a few flies? But, the surf has to be not so rough or otherwise it will be more nightmare than dream. The surf could also be void of fish.

Then there’s everything else. Everything has to eat, the shrimp, Shad, crabs, mullet have to eat, things like zoo and phytoplankton, detritus, dead things, tiny invertebrates, algae. So the bait will be someplace eating and then there will be what you are looking for, the predators, feeding on the prey. So that’s it, finding this and then presenting something that suggests or resembles the prey.
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By karstopo
#2297319
Logistics trip up some fly fisherman. For instance, the OP mentioned the surf or going out into the bay with a kayak. What does fly fishing from a kayak even mean? Could be seated, could be standing, could be paddle some place to wade or fish from shore. Each has there own challenges and line management issues. How deep does going to a bay mean? Bays are various depths and different depths require different fly lines, leaders, perhaps rods.

The OP could go anywhere on the coast and find fish. Ron mentioned a bunch of spots in the middle coast/lower coast and there are plenty of places up the coast suitable for fly fishing. Up here, wadeable flats might be the exception rather than the rule. Who wants to wade in thigh deep mud littered with razor sharp oyster shell? All those oysters do filter the water well and it’s possible to find clear water over and around them in spite of the muddy substrate.

Bite me pod casts put on by John Lopez and Captain Scott Null get into some of the differences between regions of the Texas coast. On the upper coast, shrimp migrations are a big determination on where the predators will be. According to the pod casts, the crab movement is more influential on the lower coast.

Fishing over submerged sea grasses is different than over flooded oyster reef. The “cheat” here on the upper coast is find some shallow shell with moving water and fish it. It’s a rare day not to catch something on, over, next to shallow shell with moving water even if it’s only rat reds and puppy drum. That’s the majority of the structure I look to fish and even if the sight fishing conditions happen to be less than ideal, there still might be some limited sight fishing opportunities and there will certainly be some sign or structure fishing available, all with floating fly line.
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By JW FunGuy
#2297322
Karstopo pretty much summed it up, at least in my experience. And I think if you are going to fly fish the coast you are going to have to get it all. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your perspective) this isn’t the Bahamas with miles and miles of hard sand bottoms with azure blue water to cruise looking for fish.
First you have to decide where you WANT to go and then peruse google earth looking for spots that might be fishable, meaning “might” have fish. And again as karstopo said that might be in your kayak, I can’t stand in mine so I have to cast while seated, not the easiest thing, or standing in sinking muck, something I do not want to do any more, or search for the rare hard bottom or beach to walk and sight fish. A lot of times it also boils down to how far you are willing to paddle.
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In the muck
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In the boat
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Hard beach


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By Ron Mc
#2297344
actually, the S. Padre grassline is a hundred miles of hard pack wading.
From Outside Beach across Corpus Bayou and down Lydia Ann Shore is all hard pack wading. Have stalked and caught redfish on Outside Beach, and LHL marker 27 pass have caught big black drum from Lydia Ann beach, and even sight-fished slashing jacks. The smacks will also come in that far - it's only a couple miles to PA.

Most skinny grass on the TX coast is wade-able, which is what makes the barrier island lakes so awesome.
What destroys the wading water in the flats is boat tracks - each one is quicksand for a decade or more.

If you hit the seasonal tides right, the top of Trout Bayou at Estes is pretty incredible wading.
A really good time to blind fish a fly rod is a falling tide on cuts, such as the Estes cuts, or the passes onto Lighthouse Lakes.
In just about every case, you choose the fly rod when it has a specific advantage, such as close stealth presentation in a marsh slough.

If you're able to fish a lot, choosing only the fly rod is worthwhile, but if you take sporadic trips, best to show up with a plan to use conventional tackle to blind fish, and use the fly rod when and where it has that sight-fishing presentation advantage.

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By karstopo
#2297376
Yes, I live close to saltwater and have a lot of opportunities to fish throughout the year. I went through a long period of never bringing along a bait casting or spinning rig with me in the kayak, just a fly rod set up or two, sometimes three. but before that, I brought along both the bait-casting rig and fly set ups, and prior to that it was just bait casters tossing lures.

There's a ton of potentially frustration worthy moments using fly tackle. I sort of forced myself to endure all the mishaps and miscues just because I was determined to learn more and get more proficient with fly set ups. Handling loose fly in a kayak is relatively tough, so is casting while seated. I think wading, at least thigh deep or less, with fly set ups is easier than trying to tackle the issue seated in a kayak. Wading in shallow water with a firm substrate is fun. There's always the stripping basket option, but I don't think it's too difficult to manage loose line in shallow water without the basket.

The pressure gets ramped up either way. I put pressure on myself to learn to manage the wind and whatever other challenges came up with fly fishing in my home waters and it was hard at times, but enough positive stuff happened along the way to reinforce my desire to fly fish these coastal waters. None of it really matters how one fishes, it's all about enjoying the time doing it. I don't see any of it to be better or worse or exalt one style or method over another. As long as you find it interesting and fun, then fish however.

Fly fishing is interesting to me, trying to tie good or better flies, working on presentations, there's a lot of meat on that bone. But I like working a plug or paddle tail or a walk the dog topwater too and love tossing out a live bluegill on a circle hook into the lake and see what turns up. Fishing can be very personal, how you do it, and people should just strive to please themselves when fishing. Teach others what you know if you like and they want to learn, that's great too. Both my children love to fish now and they have there own personal way of doing it. I took them to a variety of places to fish, caught our own bait, fished lures, they've dabbled in fly gear. I don't have any expectations on how they should fish, but that they enjoy the time doing it.
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By Ron Mc
#2297382
I was generalizing more than internalizing, but we all work on our experience base.
I suggest our OP gets out and starts one.
The coast is a big place and falling on past success to catch fish in some manner every trip is a big plus.
I certainly wouldn't fish anything but a fly rod in the hill country or any moving water in North America, have done the reservoir bass fishing thing, mostly when young, but don't have interest in doing it any more.
I'm counting on a few fly rod nite-lite specs from the dock on my upcoming Arroyo City trip in two weeks, but still, friends and meat fishing is a priority there.
There's also a chance we're bringing kayaks this trip.
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By JW FunGuy
#2297409
Well karstopo you did it again. I had a pretty frustrating day on the water yesterday as far as the fly rod went, so your post was comfort to my ears.
The bottom line, I believe, is that with something like 367 miles of coastline in Texas there are opportunities of all kinds for fly fishing. And, I can’t even imagine what the number would be if you added in all the marshes and bays! I have also learned in my short time of playing this game is that it all changes, You can go to a place and go back later but because of tides or weather it will be a completely different experience! :D
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By karstopo
#2297412
Just to illustrate something about frustration and fly fishing, my last outing in the marsh, this was January 4th, went like this. The launch, I got my three fly rods tangled up pretty bad and spent a few minutes working that out. There are days, definitely more as I get older, that I'm just not as sharp as I would like. I get the tangles sorted out and paddle around and see sign in a place I've caught fish in the past, but I can't get anything to even bump the flies I try, proven flies in that very spot at the same time of year. The water in this particular location is just muddy enough to prevent me from seeing 100 percent that what I was seeing was redfish feeding. Finally, I move on, chalking up what I was seeing as sign was deceiving me as some sort of false sign because surely any fish there would have eventually taken what I tried, this was my reasoning.

I decide to drift a little next to a shoreline with scattered patches of shell. The slight breeze set up for it and little patches of reef dropped to slightly deeper water which has been a good structure to fish based on past experience. Still nothing goes for the flies. Then I get a case of tailing loops. I have an Echo BAG Quickshot 6 weight that is for me the most touchy rod to cast. I can pick up about any rod I own and get to casting well with it generally immediately, but the 6 weight Quickshot is a little different. I can go great for a time and then not. I'm blaming too much holiday cheer and the after effects of that, but I threw several bad tailing loops in a row and felt a rage coming on, but I took a few deep breaths and eased up on the rod and mostly started casting better. Had I had a bait-casting rig, I'd likely just used it at that point.

I came into another area with sign and scattered shell and didn't get anything to bite, so I decided to paddle right into the zone and confirm or deny at the risk of spooking fish just exactly what I was seeing. Sure enough, the water here is 15" or so and clear enough to see the bottom and clear enough to see redfish. I had a big slot zip by my bow, another swing by my Starboard side. I knew what I had been seeing as sign was fish. This was an elongated reef so I moved down off the spooked zone and to another part of the reef and staked out on the edge. Same sign, maybe a brief flash of redfish would show in the very slight chop and definitely mud boils here and there, mullet flipping, surface disturbances, wakes, all good things. But again, no love for what I was tossing which at that point was three different colors of redfish crack and one color of Borski slider.

I remembered I had some of those Gartside Soft Hackle streamers with me so I tried one at a wake creating, surface disturbing redfish. First cast out a couple feet from the next move of the fish, fish on. After that all the frustration I might have felt, it at this point was more just a perplexed feeling, melted away. Just by luck really, the code was cracked and the fish wanted that fly, it was obvious. I haven't used the Gartside Soft Hackle Streamer enough, just one time prior, to have built up the confidence with it that I have in some other offerings. The streamers sort of hover rather than quickly dip and that was probably the factor that change things up. The previous outing that I had used the streamers, redfish cracked worked just as well, so one could see how I might have believed more in the crack than the streamer. Redfish crack has come through so many times I was sort of deluded that it couldn't possibly not work if fish were present and feeding

The line I have on the 6 weight is an SA redfish line and is real slippery. I missed a couple of strip sets when I lost my grip on the line, but aside from that, things went along well once I changed patterns and I'm glad I hadn't the bait-casting rig along. It might have worked or maybe not, but it might have derailed the whole process of finally getting to the right fly with the right presentation.

Things can definitely not go according to the script that's in my head. I sometimes think I'm flexible and can adjust to what the fish are doing or want, but this outing proves to me really that I was slow to adjust, too fixed and invested in a plan that wasn't working. It all ended well, but I could have done things better and made better decisions sooner. Live and learn.
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By SurfRunner
#2298001
It has been a long time since I have been to this forum. At least a couple of years. It is my experience that what everybody said above is dead on! I would like to add that to be consistent, I have found that fishing the same area for a couple of years allows you to get to knowing it well. You learn the patterns, counters, and such. When it produces, where it produces and so on.....Kind of like a wife. :D
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By karstopo
#2298009
Yep, I organize my fly fishing from the kayak around launches, what’s structure is available at each launch. Each launch I might have launched from dozens of times and each offers several or many spots or viable structures. Kayaks are definitely range limited, so I tend to focus on what’s within a practical distance from the launch.

Of course, every tide and day shuffles the deck, but what I’ve found is that there are strong correlations between water levels and which particular structure the fish will likely be found. Everyone knows about the correlation between bait sign and predators. Then you just play detective taking in everything you might observe and whatever you can infer about the various structures.

One thing I’ve learned is that I’ve paddled by good fish on good structure only because I didn’t understand what I was seeing or didn’t understand how the fish related to the structure. Now, if the bait sign is right and I have a strong idea predators are present and feeding, I’m going to comb the area until figure out what needs to be presented and how. A whole lot of fish can be packed into tiny room to house sized areas.

Sometimes, I know I’m close by picking up a fish or two and I’ll reposition the kayak a few times to get at the heart of the cluster of feeding predators. Oyster reefs are structures that tend to really concentrate fish, but the fish won’t necessarily be all over the structure.

Other times, the fish are more scattered and possibly relating to a shoreline or particular depth or broad structure like submerged grass and sand.

Fishing is solving puzzles. There’s clues and the more clues you find, the better chance you can solve the riddle.
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