Gulf Coast Fisherman Magazine VOL 40 No 2 SPRING 2016 - Page 31

Paddling Out by Jeff Herman When the Specks Decided to Take the Day Off... W e were ready for a spring trout trip. We woke early,. 4 am early, so we could make the drive from Houston to West Bay and be fishing at first light. Real trout warriors know that “night time is the right time”. You can fish late or you can get up for dawn patrol and the magic of the sunrise bite. The only problem was, on our first spring trout trip no one remembered to invite the specks. As the horizon turned from navy, to grey, to orange, the lack of bait popping on the grass flat adjacent to the reef was our first sign of trouble. The reef tends to act like a buffet for smaller bait fish and in turn the larger game fish will come in to graze at the bait fish buffet. Silence at the reef as the sun rises isn’t what you hope to hear. Still, with some years of experience you expect (read: “hope”) that the switch will flip and the feed will start, soon followed by the catching. On this spring morning the switch never flipped. We threw popping corks and paddle tails and topwaters for an hour with not even a tail slap to show for our efforts. It was time for Plan B and “Plan B” was look for some redfish. The tide was about to go slack and the next prominent feeding period looked like it would commence with the incoming current starting around 9 am. We had an hour to kill and decided to take a long paddle to an area that had scattered shell and a bunch of smaller reefs adjacent to deeper water. This type of area is a great bet in spring when the water is still chilly and the grass shrimp haven’t shown up yet. First, though, we had to paddle to the spot and it was a solid mile and a half away into the wind. This is a time when knowing how to paddle and having good paddling tools is important. If you are just getting started in kayaking, it is critical to learn a proper forward stroke. A proper forward stroke doesn’t really involve your arm muscles, but rather your core muscles. If your arms are sore the day after a paddle, chances are you are not using your core enough. Spend a bit of time on YouTube, or better still, find a certified paddling instructor to teach you proper technique. It makes a huge difference. The other thing about paddling efficiently is having a good, well made paddle. Yes, having a good kayak is key, but the next most important part of the equation is a quality paddle. Buy the most paddle you can afford and avoid the cheap, heavy, flexible garbage they sell at the big box stores. You don’t have to go crazy and spend hundreds on a full carbon paddle, but a stiff, light, and well made fiberglass blade will make a huge difference regarding how far you can paddle and how efficient you are in doing so. Look to quality brands like Werner, Bending Branches, or Accent and avoid the gimmicks and the heavy, unbalanced blades seen elsewhere. Back on the water: After we paddled over to the new spot, we started fishing. We hoped that if the specks weren’t going to cooperate the redfish would! My fishing set up is the same for reds or trout, and it doesn’t change much these days. I am always willing to try new things, but I tend to start off with the old standbys. I fish with three TFO rods. One is rigged with a popping cork, one is rigged with a weedless jig and (paddle tail or shrimp imitation), and the last one has a top water. This is what I call my “Hi, Low, and Inbetween” set up. It gives you the opportunity to work every area of the water column thoroughly – top, mid column, and the bottom. It simply gives you a great chance to find where the fish are holding. We grinded most of the morning, but finally in a patch of clearer water right next to the shell, we started finding some decent redfish. Our spring speck trip could have ended with just a pretty sunrise. Instead, though, we used our paddling skill, our gear, and our fishing knowledge to stretch our lines and catch some respectable fish. Hopefully, the specks will decide to show up next time, and if not… well, a few reds will do just fine. GCF Photo by Sam Rinando. APRIL • MAY • JUNE 2 0 1 6 31