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Subscriber John Harrison is very pleased with five days of redfishing handled for him this past October in the lower Laguna Madre in South Texas by Capt Dale Fridy of Shallow Water Angler Guide Service (Tel. 956-345-5173. Web: www.captain fridy.com). He writes:
“I had the good fortune to spend five days fly fishing for redfish with Capt. Dale Fridy in South Padre Island last October. It was one of the most enjoyable trips I made in 2010. This is the same guide Angling Report Editor Don Causey profiled in the November 2009 issue.
“Capt. Fridy is based in the Red Fish Inn (www.redfishinn.com), which sits right on the water’s edge at the southern end of Laguna Madre. It’s a delightful place to stay, with seven bedrooms with en-suite showers and a large downstairs living room with TV, etc. My room was large and comfortable with air conditioning and a balcony overlooking the Laguna. The inn is located at the quiet northern end of town but within walking distance of several good restaurants.
“After a light breakfast you leave right from the dock in front of the inn where Fridy has installed underwater lights and where you can fish until your heart’s content in the evenings if you so wish. He has a unique flats boat that he designed and had built for himself specifically to fish the redfish flats of Laguna Madre. The design is based on a Louisiana mud-boat – long, thin and with an extremely shallow draft. He is able to pole this boat into flats and creeks with just a few inches of water.
“Typically, we would leave the dock just after 7 am and we were usually back before 3 pm. With only a 30-minute run to the flats at the northern end of the Laguna, it was more than enough fishing for one person. Also, we tended to spend very little time running around once we reached the fishing area. We mainly poled from flat to flat all day.
“I fished pretty much the whole time with an 8 wt. rod, a floating line and 9- 12- or 16-pound leaders. The most productive flies were my own versions of a white kilowatt fly and a DLG shrimp tied on a size 1 or 2 Tiemco hook. I found this fishing is very rewarding but technically quite challenging, primarily because most of the time we were fishing in one to two feet of remarkably clear water and these fish see a great deal of pressure during the summer months. You are therefore sightcasting to fairly spooky fish, which requires accurate and careful presentation. I estimate we spotted 40 to 60 redfish most days, plus numerous very large (28- to 32-inch) sea trout. Ten to 12 fish in the boat was a good day, however, because of the spookiness of the fish.
“We did not see schools of redfish. We did see a few tailing red fish, mostly in the mornings. What we saw lots of were single fish cruising the shore. These fish always provided the most productive shots. The redfish we landed were mostly in the five- to 12-pound range but we saw many much larger fish.
South Padre Island is relatively easy to get to, with frequent flight from Houston to Brownsville, Texas, and then a 30-minute drive across the causeway to the island. It is consequently a very busy place during the summer months. I suggest you avoid the area in late June, July and August. In fact, Capt. Fridy does not fish at all during July and August. By September, the crowds thin out, however. During the five days I was there in mid-October, I saw only one other boat.
The huge bonus of South Padre Island is the natural beauty of the flats at the northern end of the Laguna. These are more like bonefish flats than the areas I am used to fishing in the Carolinas and Louisiana. Much of the area is a national park or bird sanctuary. There are huge flocks of every type of sea bird (including pink-breasted spoonbills) and very diverse vegetation and wildlife. On two mornings, we saw coyotes calling to each other and chasing sea birds across the flats. It’s an odd feeling at the end of the day to leave such an abundance of wildlife and bird life, and 30 minutes later, find yourself in the high rise holiday resort of South Padre Island.
Capt. Fridy has been guiding on the Laguna Madre flats for 16 years. He was Orvis Endorsed Saltwater Guide of the Year in 2002, and I found him an absolute pleasure to fish with. He is extremely knowledgeable and has good eyes that allowed him to routinely spot fish at more than 150 feet. His boat positioning was superb, even under the most adverse conditions. As for his boat as a fishing platform, I found it extremely comfortable. It has a casting platform up front and a leaning bar, plus the most comfortable riding seat of any flats boat I’ve ever been in. The only improvements I could think of would be a line-tamer drum by the casting platform and a few cold beers or a bottle of wine in the cooler for the trip back home at the end of the day. The cost of my fishing was $425/day. The room was $125 a day, including breakfast and lunch.”