So, yes, of course we caught redfish – even me. Of course I'm getting pretty good at this non-reality saltfly stuff and the lack of sleep definitely helped. My final week in the States, fishing and casting with both Bill and Rick was some of the most fun I've had.
Redfish are pretty interesting; they pull hard – fighting in 6 inches to two feet of water, they grow to a decent size (to around 10 lbs in Rick's part of the flats), and they're actually fairly spooky: with a poor cast you'll spook fish – as they will if they see you or the boat.
Bill brought the wind with him, why he brought the wind with him he wouldn't say. But Rick was pissed off about it and said it was going to be hard enough for me to catch a redfish without Bill messing things up like that.
Spotting redfish isn't very difficult if you are fishy. In shallow water they often make a wake in the way that trout do and you really can't miss them when their heads are down their tails are up, waving at you. It takes a little while to learn to pick out the difference between redfish and mullet wakes – and this is pretty important of course since redfish are imaginary and mullet are impossible. And you're looking for red (without really looking for it) as opposed to silver or dark. But after a few days of being punted around I found myself pretty tuned in.
Both Rick and Bill had a few problems with my knots, which I found interesting considering that they are both “professionals”.
OK here are some notes for the UK stillwater angler who may want to try this: we were using 5 and 6 weights, you need a warm-water flyline, 12 foot leaders, chartreuse Clousers or pink woolly buggers with eyes that sink moderately quickly, both flies being around 2 inches long, or else poppers on the surface. The casts have to be accurate: you cast beyond and in front of the fish so that the fish turns towards the fly without turning towards the boat. Curved casts are useful for flinging to fish swimming away from you, but not essential. You let the fly sink first then fast strip. If you've extensively bank fished on stillwaters you'll have absolutely no problems getting to grips with this style of fishing. Most casts are between 40 and 80 feet, and if you fish with Rick you'll have a blast. Rick lives about 20 minutes from Mexico on the eastern side of Texas.
There is a cast you'll need to know, with the fly in hand and the line at your feet, you have to be able to go from this “at the ready” position to the fish as quickly and as accurately as possible, and without pulling Rick off his platform.
At some point, I'd like to try kayaking the area, if I have time. I reckon that will be productive and I'm curious enough to find out.
Rick and Bill are both good guys, they are wonderful casters, great company and very serious about their fishing, without being so serious that they don't enjoy it. Casting-wise I learned a heap (can you tell I'm back in New Zealand?); I always do. Rick's the best caster I've met; he spends two hours each day casting indoors, which is why we didn't get much sleep, and Bill has one of the most analytical casting minds I know – surrounded by this kind of talent none of us wanted to waste time sleeping.
Indoor casting has been a revelation; you're not compensating for the wind and minor adjustments have consistent results – I'm now looking for a hall of my own; it's fascinating!
The highlight for us was the final day when we waded a section containing large redfish, that's when you find out whether or not you can actually do it on your own, everything happens at your pace and best of all: no one else knows when you screw up!
After visiting Rick, Bill took me to one of his favourite swamps where we fished for bass and got to hang out with alligators and snakes. I'm really going to get into this bass fishing, I've a lot to learn and Bill already knows most of it.
So I've found another part of the world where I'm going to spend time: Texas. It's a weird place but I really like it.
By the way, here's Rick's email address.