Padre Island National Seashore
September 2011

Ed met Nilo and I at the campground just after 1400. His plans were to go don the beach, set up camp, fish for the evening, and then come back by 0700 Saturday morning to pick up riders. I had no idea how he was going to be able to do that, and was skeptical of him being able to return in time.

Matt arrived at the camp site at about 1600, followed by George. Setting up the tent, and shooting the bull took a few minutes. While Matt went to get his “Site Occupied” sign from the folks at the gate, Nilo and I were admiring George’s handmade 10wt fly rod. Laughingly I mentioned that I’d like to cast a few times with it. Conversation quickly turned to “let’s go down to the water and practice.” As Matt made his way back to the group, we had 3 fly rods just about strung up and flies tied on. “Matt, where is your fly rod?” from the resident smart- Aleck of the group. “Are we going fishing now?” Matt wanted to know. “Duhh…“again from the SA.

Laughing and picking we made our way over the dunes and started toward the water. I have no idea who saw the birds dive-bombing the bait first, but it didn’t take long for us to find ourselves in the mêlée. Each cast brought a hook-up. The ladyfish were everywhere. The size was small, but the numbers were high. A few small jack crevalle were in the mix. The ladyfish were biting clousers, and surf candies in an assortment of colors. As soon as the sun went down, the bite disappeared.

We made our way back to camp, excited about the morning fishing. To speed things up for the morning we went ahead and put Scott’s magnetic rod holder on my truck, and left all the rods rigged from the night’s fishing.

The burn ban was in place and strictly enforced so no charcoal grilling. A glass of wine, beer, and shower and the night was over, until about 0330 when it was time to go out and look at the stars. At PINS there is nothing in the way of the night sky. You can see stars that are normally hidden by the city’s glow. The sky is full of them.

We were up early packing stuff up. Breakfast can wait. We were going FISHING!

By 0630 the big truck was sitting in the parking lot of the visitor’s center with its 4way flashers on, a sure signal for anybody arriving in the dark. By 0700 the transloading was complete. 4 people in the big truck, and 3 in Ed’s. He had made it back to the parking lot with plenty of time to spare. While talking to him we found out that he made it as far as the 18 mile marker. Eighteen miles back, in the dark, on the sand. We found out what that really meant when we hit a couple of those soft spots traveling south.

Discussing strategy with Ed we decided to travel until we saw some activity in the surf. That lasted until about mile 10. The water was looking good. We saw some mullet, so we stopped and got in the water for a few casts. The ladyfish were once again biting. An hour later we got back into the trucks. So much for a “quick” stop.

More traveling with a few more shorter stops. Nothing spectacular was biting but the weather was perfect, and the wind was light. We kept looking for the black clouds of anchovies, hoping to see birds working. We never did see the action like the night before. Ed would stop, and describe to us what he was seeing, and why he thought this location or another, may be a better place to fish.

At one location Matt picked up a decent speckled trout that went in the cooler, on top of the beer.

We made our way down almost down to the 30 mile marker when the wind started to pick up. By 1400 we decided to go back to where Matt caught the speckled trout to pitch camp. By now the wind had really picked up. Fishing with a fly rod was now hazardous. The whitecaps had formed out as far as the eye could see.

Putting up tents in this breeze was entertaining. Matt used sand anchors. George used buried dead-mans. Skip and Mary Kay, used spiked plastic bags. Nilo and I just tied ours to the truck. I don’t know how Ed pitched his tent. He did it quickly without fanfare and was back into the surf. The trucks looked almost empty now.

Once the tents were up, and fairly secure, it was time to try the fishing again. Break out the back-up gear. Even using spoons with spinning gear was a challenge with the wind. Cast to the right, and the spoon traveled left before it ever hit the water. While fighting the wind, and waves, we landed a few more fish. Ed landed 2 reds, (one of which was barely undersized) and I landed a speckled trout and a bluefish. I am not even going to try to tell how many ladyfish and small jacks were landed that afternoon.

We kept 3 fish for dinner that night, which turned out to be perfect for the number of people we had. George made quick work of the fish-cleaning process, and dropped extremely fresh fillets into a large Ziploc bag. As the fish were sitting in some magic seasoning concoction that Matt, Ed, and George had made up on the spot. (Ask them what was in it. I only saw the small open bottles, not how much of what they actually used.) We started out with the stove in the back of the blue truck, but could not get the oil hot enough. We tried numerous ways to block the wind, but none worked. Nilo got tired of watching us suffer, and picked up the whole assembly and placed it on the back of Ed’s truck. With the direction his truck faced, the high sides, and the tonneau cover, the oil was quickly hot enough to get the first batch started. Do you call what we did for Matt as he cooked “supervising,” “harassing” or “kibitzing?” He ignored it all with good humor, as he sipped his fish flavored beer. The fish turned out wonderful. So did the surprise of stuffed grape leaves that Nilo passed around. So for dinner it was fish, grape leaves, wine and beer? That sounds right to me.

The wind may have actually picked up speed during the night. We fished a little bit after a breakfast of hot instant oatmeal. OK, there is a story there, but I’m not going to tell it.

Camp was broke up at about 0800, and we were on the beach again. After only the first stop, the group in the blue truck was done. Tired, sweaty, frustrated with the wind, we decided to head back to the parking lot at around 0900. The others would join us by 1200.

The other group joined us later with the stories of “the big one that got away.”

It was a great trip and we are looking forward to doing it again. We all learned a few things, both what to do and bring, and what not to do.

Having more than one vehicle in the group was a lifesaver. Particularly when Ed had been the one to scout the way down to the 18 mile mark long before any of the rest of us had stepped on the beach.


Gypsies pack better than this

Matt cooking dinner while George and Ed supervise 1

Matt cooking dinner while George and Ed supervise 2

Nilo and Puck walking along the beach 01

Skip and Puck sharing a joke 2

Are they done yet

Birds in the air, not feeding 4

Birds sitting on the edge waiting for dinner time

Grey lady suggested using Ed's truck, it worked.

Hurry up with the fish, Matt

Matt and a nice speck 2

Matt cooking fresh fish fillets, wind was too strong to cook in the open-1

Matt cooking fresh fish fillets, wind was too strong to cook in the open

Nilo catching a ladyfish on the fly 1

Nilo catching a ladyfish on the fly 4

Nilo in slightly rougher surf 3

Skip and Puck sharing a joke

Socializing as the sun started going down

TFFers at the first stop Saturday morning 3

TFFers at the first stop Saturday morning 4