A not-so-old mattress stuck in a barbed wire fence, random piles of trash and plastic formed by wind current in the middle of a field, and an enormous pole barn whose eastern wall was ripped apart–it looked like an angry god took a devastating swipe at it. I was in Rockport, Texas.
In August of last year Hurricane Harvey made landfall in this community, decimating it and many others along the Texas Gulf Coast. While the shadow of the storm still looms, this town is thriving with its family friendly beaches and its abundant fishery.
I arrived on a Thursday in May with hopes to fish a glass-like flat with no boaters and lots of reds tailing for shrimp and other crustaceans. Unfortunately that was not the case. As I pulled up to Goose Island to meet with my crew it was obvious that this was not the day. The wind was 15mph, boaters and fisherman were everywhere in preparation for a large fishing tournament happening that weekend, but none of that mattered because the crew I was meeting up with had the right boat for the job. Today I was fishing with Brian and Kaylor Little, owners of Sabine Skiffs. Brian designs his boats with his signature “zero dead rise hull” that allows for a shallow draft and virtually no hull slap. Poling skiffs have always had this issue: no matter how silent and stealthy you want to be, the waves have a tendency to lap up to the hull and make a slapping noise that spook an already nervous red out of your drift. That is, until now.
My first stop was Swan Point Landing, where I met with Dave Hayward. Dave has a wealth of knowledge about fishing the bays in the Rockport area and helped us narrow down the right flies for the job. Besides being the owner of the Orvis endorsed fly shop, Dave is an incredible casting instructor. If you need help on your double haul technique, he is the guy that will get your fly on the nose of a red from 60 plus feet.
Armed with the Helios 3D from Orvis and a black deceiver tied on, we took off for Lighthouse Lakes. This trail of lakes is a great hunting ground with flats, mangroves and oyster beds, it provides a perfect sanctuary for our spot-tailed friends.
Even though the conditions were less than ideal, with winds at 10+mph hour, the Versatile was a stealthy ghost hovering over the flats and it was apparent that Brian’s design really does work. There were waves lapping up against the boat but there was no “slapping” noise to be heard. Because of this we were seeing reds before they saw us, giving us several casting opportunities. The Helios 3D was a pretty handy tool in these conditions as well. Our lines to cut through the wind and allowed us to deliver our flies with accuracy and confidence
If any of you salty people out there are looking to get a new skiff, then definitely check out Sabine Skiffs. Brian Little has thoughtfully designed these boats to be extremely silent when approaching spooky fish in the flats but tough enough for a day of duck hunting. They are fully customizable for your needs. Brian has even outfitted the Micro skiff with oars for you freshwater folks so that you can stealthily position yourself into a hole to cast for bass on the river.
A huge thanks to the boys at Tag End Fly Co. for getting each of these great companies together for this memorable trip; Real Ale Brewing for supplying the post-fishing beverages (proudly not sold in 49 states); and Sea Level Apparel for supplying us with super-comfortable sun shirts and killer hats. If you haven’t checked out their stuff, do yourself a favor and look them up. They are a local Texas apparel company that are influenced by the ocean, sand, fishing and anything that has to do with living at sea level. Also, thanks to Orvis for providing us with the Helios 3F rods. If you are interested in testing out the pinpoint accuracy of one, check them out at Swan Point Landing or at anothn Orvis dealer near you. If you’re in Texas, see your Orvis dealer in Austin, San Antonio, or Dallas . Also, at some point during your visit to Rockport make sure to eat at the The Boiling Pot. This Cajun style boil house has peel and eat shrimp, crab and a crawfish with sausage, corn and potatoes all served directly on to your table. I am going to go ahead and suggest getting an order of their boudin and Oysters. The other cool thing about this place is that the only utensil necessary to eat a meal like this is a hammer. (to crack the crab legs.)
Please visit the American Red Cross Hurricane Harvey Recovery Program for information on how you can help with any relief efforts, or if you need help.
Check out my YouTube channel My Only Vice to see a short film from this adventure.
Until next time… keep your fly box dry and your flask wet.