At 11:00 a.m. on Monday, September 8, I picked Ken Kahanek up and we headed south on the 130 toll road to Hwy. 71, swung over to I35 and headed south. Full of anticipation, we contemplated and discussed how the trip would unfold. We bypassed downtown San Antonio on Loop 410 East and before we knew it we had passed our turn onto Sinton and decided to go on to Corpus Christi where we picked up State Hwy. 35, north to Rockport. The trip took ¾ of a tank of gas and about 5 hours.
We checked in to our first floor room at The Lighthouse Inn and checked out the fishing pier right out our back door. Large swells were rolling in crashing against the bulkhead. After we got settled in our room, we relaxed with a drink on the patio and contemplated the wind, the swells and prospects for Tuesday’s fishing. Then we headed for Hu Dat Restaurant owned by Dat Nguyen’s family. Dat, we learned is now linebacker coach for the Dallas Cowboys. The food was good and reasonably priced
The sun had set when we returned to the room, so we headed back to the pier with rods in hand. I had fished this pier on a previous trip to the coast and remembered that the wind made it difficult to cast and it put a bow in the fly line making it hard to work the fly effectively and to set the hook. So, I had left my light rods at home; the eight weight rod would make it easier to cast, anyway
Five scattered, bright green lights glowed under the dark water within casting distance of the pier and clusters of small specks and skipjacks darted in and out of the illuminated circles that surrounded them. The wind had abated to single digit proportions making casting much easier than I had experienced before.We began to hook up almost immediately. My first two fish were skipjacks and the second one broke off unexpectedly. The leader was frayed from tiny, rough jaws so I replaced the OX tippet and tied on another streamer while listening to Ken fight another fish. After several more fish were landed I noticed the leader was rough again so I eliminated the tippet and tied a fly on the 15 lb. leader. As it turned out, conditions were ideal for a 5 weight line, and I made a mental note to take a lighter line next time. We caught fish on several patterns and the #4 Clouser minnow in Chartreuse and white worked as well as any. We both caught fish for an hour or so until I decided to head back to the room and catch the second half of Monday Night Football. Ken reported later that he had caught another 14 or so fish and that three other fishermen using “conventional gear” on the pier were skunked. He left them muttering to themselves.
Chuck Naiser had said he would meet us at Goose Island State Park at 7:30 a.m. so we took the opportunity to fish the pier at 5:30 in hopes of finding larger fish feeding around the lights. The larger fish never showed up but the 9 to 12 inch trout action was still brisk. After a hot buffet breakfast we met Chuck and began the main event.
Ken took the first turn on the bow. He and Chuck had a short break-in period required by all guides and fishermen working together for the first time. Then he was into his first fish of the day and we were relieved that, even though Ike was pushing in higher tides, we weren’t going home skunked. My first turn at bat, I had a hard time turning over the fly effectively. I was so intent on looking for fish in the early morning light conditions, I didn’t notice that I hadn’t remembered to repair my leader from the previous night and it had shrunk to about 6 feet. Chuck noticed, though, and I did better after the leader was replaced. As Ken and I traded places throughout the day, Chuck put us on fish ranging from singles to schools of dozens, if not hundreds. When you see a dozen tails in the air, surrounded by a patch of dark water the size of an end zone, its impossible to estimate how many fish are required to darken that much water. But you get an idea of its size when the school spooks.
Like all good guides, Chuck teaches as he poles the boat. The one thing that stands out most in my mind was that he likes a cast in which the line would hit the water first and then the leader would turn over softly so that the fly would enter the water with a barely audible plop. While this is a technique I have used with success on bass bugs for years, I never thought of using it in salt water before. He cautioned us against casting over the backs of feeding reds when casting to a school. “Make the first cast to the short side of the school“, Chuck advised. ’When casting to a single fish, try to put the fly right in front of his nose if he is stationary and just far enough in front of him to allow the fly to drop to his eye level about the same time he reaches it if he is moving“.
We concentrated so hard on the task at hand that we forgot to take pictures until the day was almost over. We missed a lot of good photo ops. We missed a lot of good fish-catching ops, too, but we ended up with nine or ten fish landed and we each kept one for the grill.
As all fishermen know, the third phase of any fishing trip is the remembering, the re-living of the preparation, of each fish caught and each fish lost and of the feeling we get just being there. This was the second trip to the coast for Ken in which he caught reds and I figure he will enjoy the third phase of this trip for a long time. I know I will.
This trip reinforced my belief that Chuck is as good a guide as the Texas Coast has seen. He put us on fish under difficult water conditions while inwardly struggling with how he was going to get his house closed up and get his family out of Rockport before the storm hit (it was still projected to hit land around Rockport at the time).
That night we celebrated the success of the day at Latitude 28° 02‘, Rockport‘s upscale restaurant. The crab cakes were outstanding, as was my blackened drum topped with crawfish tails in cream sauce. I highly recommend this restaurant, but take $$$.
On our return trip, we followed the instructions of Ken’s GPS and headed north to Tivoli (pronounced “tie vo la”; by locals) and then to Victoria and up Hwy. 87 through Cuero, Gonzales and Lockhart. This route cut our return trip time by 30 minutes.
Chuck can be reached at (361) 230-9392. His web site is www.chucknaiser.com.