What a way to end the coast
fishing season! Ron Mayfield of Houston and Steve Flanagan and I, both from
trusty 4x4 truck, we ventured south down the beach shoreline to the Mansfield Cut.
Never having done this before, we had hopes of jumping on some huge jacks,
setting a few state records, and hopefully not getting stuck in the sand. Both
Steve and I, being long time fly fishing jetty fanatics, looked forward to this
trip since its inception at the Shallow Water Show in
The run down the beach was easy, other than negotiating the boards with nails, medical wastes, and hard hats that had washed up on the shore, we made good time racking up 60 miles (one way) on the odometer. Sitting in the rear jump seat, I was the unofficial spotter. Between hanging on for dear life and trying not to upchuck from the bumpy ride, I was able to spot a few jacks running in the wave line. They are easy to spot (if they are there) since the rising sun silhouettes them from behind.
We pulled over a few times to cast at them, but all we achieved was Steve hooking himself in his forearm with a fly. I always admired how Steve is able to achieve sharp hooks. Now I know how sharp. This fly went in all the way to the hook bend (ouch!). The saving grace was that the barb was bent down, so the removal was easy (from my point of view) as I yanked it out with a pair of pliers (ouch! again). Deciding that fly fishing the surf with a dripping body part was not cool in shark-infested waters, we patched him up and off we went down to the cut.
Within a half-mile of the cut we encountered the sage of beach fishing, guide Billy Sandifer, with some clients. After comparing notes and game plans we were, according to Billy, there two days too late. The best time to catch the jacks in the surf is two days after a front passes through which had just happened four days ago. I guess with today's inflation rate "you shoulda been here yesterday" has turned into "you shoulda been here two days ago."
Once we reached the cut, we encountered a jetty setup similar to the one at Port Aransas. The main difference there is no smooth initial section to walk on, just rock-hopping from step one. The sides also slope down to the water at a lower angle so care is needed as you venture to the water's edge.
One other objective was to try out our two-handed fly rods—not Spey rods, but overhead casting fly rods. They look similar but the actions are different. With these 15-foot Texas Toothpicks we hoped to cast to where no fly has been flung before.
Once into position, I threw my old faithful Spanish Macarena fly into an area I describe as a corner. After a slow 10-count, I stripped it back and was amazed as a huge speck came from the bottom and nailed it. The wind speed and direction had been perfect for the last few days so the water clarity was perfect. From 70 feet away I could see the spots on its dark back.
Prior to this, I had moved my two-way radio from my shorts pocket and clipped it to my shirt above a shirt button. After I set the hook on the speck, I wanted to reel up the excess line and as I leaned over to untangle some of the line, the radio slipped off my shirt and fell into a crack between two huge pink granite blocks. (When fishing with several people it behooves you to be in contact so you can alert everyone when you encounter fish. Most of the toothy fish found at the jetties tend to roam up or down pretty fast playing the predator role to a T.)
After I landed and release the speck, a very fat 23-incher, I tried to retrieve the radio but found it beyond my grasp. Steve and Ron had both moved down the jetty a bit, so yelling at them was fruitless. During the next half-hour I hooked, landed, and release more specks, all the while waving at my companions to join me. Finally Steve noticed me waving at them like a madman while again holding a rod bent over with another sassy speck.
They joined me and, after sharing some Macarenas, they jumped into the fray. We kept a few for dinner and eventually the action stopped all together. We either wiped out the school or they moved on. You never know in these situations what really happens other than it is really fun while the line-pulling goes on.
After a quick round of rock, paper, scissors (I lost), I took the heavy stringer back to the ice chest in the truck. Meanwhile, Ron and Steve ventured out further on the rocks. On my return I found Ron at the end of the jetty with a large bend in his two-handed stick. By the time I got there I barely had time to take one picture before his leader got shredded on the rocks beneath the water.
It turns out he had eyed a school of baitfish coming around the end of the jetty. Once they hit the channel, a large school of jacks ambushed them and all hell broke loose. With the two-handed stick he was able to throw into the wind a considerable distance and get an instant hookup. The best estimates are that he had it on for about 20 minutes by the time I reached him with my camera. Both Steve and I murmured something about "you gotta pay your dues" before you land something like that.
With the sun beginning to set and the tide moving in, we decided to head back or risk spending the night on the dunes. On the way back we made a tally of the day and came up with 1 hooked forearm, 1 badly scrapped knee, 1 lost radio, 1 lost shooting head, several busted leaders, and an ice chest full of specks. Not bad for three aspiring jetti masters.
Lefty Ray Chapa, GRTU
San Antonio, Texas