My wife and I had been discussing getting out of town for a little R&R for awhile now and finally decided to just do it. We both love the ocean and being from the midwest we don't get to see it often enough for our liking so we chose to load up the truck and head South to the Texican border and it's gulf waters , more precisely the tropical paradise of South Padre Island.
It's a little over 17 hours one way from the flatlands of Kansas to the palm tree lined streets of South Padre , just a nice little afternoon drive. We left KC Sunday morning and ended up just outside San Antonio for our first night away from home. After a good nights rest we awoke and finished off the remaining four hour drive on Monday , pulling onto the bridge joining Port Isabel and South Padre Island shortly after lunch. It's amazing how much the scenery can change in a matter of twenty miles...one minute you're driving roads surrounded by the same cropland and vegetation you left in the rear-view mirror the day before and then around the next corner it's all different. Cobalt blue water , waves crashing up on the sandy beaches and palm tree lined boulevards all vye for your attention in the blink of an eye. For a couple of lifelong midwesterners it's a sight that never ceases to put a smile on your face.
We booked the next four nights in a beachside hotel with a balcony view overlooking the bay side of the island and beach access on the other side that stretched for miles.
After a long day and a half of travel it was finally time to enjoy the spoils. Cell phones were turned off and stuffed in a drawer along with all thoughts of lifes everyday problems that plague us all at one time or another. For the next few days flip-flops , boogie boards ,fresh gulf seafood and cold cervezas were the only items on the agenda.
We spent the next five days trying to get our fill of the above mentioned items , and while we didn't manage to accomplish that feat we sure had one hell of a good time trying. The wife spent her mornings sleeping in while I ventured out with the nine weight and plied the local jetties for my first real taste of the salt on a fly. Larry from the local flyshop had told me that I was here at a very opportune time , the baitfish migration was in full swing and the surf was just loaded with all sizes and varieties of food for the fish to choose from. When I told him that I was a midwest trout bum just hoping to get lucky and catch a fish or two on my stay on the island he just smiled and said that he'd be very surprised if I didn't make that wish a reality. As I walked out of the shop with a small bag full of local flies and a spool of 60# flouro it was impossible to keep the shit eating grin off my face , maybe...just maybe this blind squirrel might be able to find a nut after all.
My first morning fishing the jetty was one I won't soon forget. A beautiful sunrise over the water , the aromatic smell of the ocean and more varieties of marine life than I could count chasing baitfish out in the surf.
Sometimes everything falls into place and this was just one of those days it seemed. I caught enough spanish mackerel that I lost count , nothing considered large in the saltwater world but they put up one hell of a battle and gave me and my freshwater tackle all we could handle.
Fish were busting everywhere and it was just a matter of waiting until something came within casting range and then getting your fly in the water. Often times I didn't even have time to start stripping before a fish would jump all over my offering.
At one point I hooked up and knew that this was something bigger , line started screaming off the reel and I wasn't sure the fish was going to stop. We battled back and forth for what seemed like an eternity (probably closer to ten minutes) before I got enough line back to catch a glimpse. Honestly ,I wasn't sure what it was until the guys who had been standing next to me watching the whole battle told me that it was a kingfish. I'd guess that it would have went between 25 and 30 pounds, definitely my biggest ever saltwater fish landed on the fly , the only problem being that I didn't get to land him. I'd had some difficulty navigating the steep blocks that made up the jetty when I was landing the smaller spanish mackerel so I knew this wasn't going to be easy. Luckily the gentlemen that had told me what I had on were willing to lend a hand. I really thought I had the fish worn down enough to land and was putting a little too much pressure on him for that reason when the line just broke. At first I was heartbroken simply because I had no pictures to tell the tale , but after sitting down and rigging back up a wide smile began to form on my face just thinking about the fish I had battled with. I didn't need a picture to prove anything...I was there!
I lost several other large fish that morning that I never got to see and in between caught lots of mackerel and a few ladyfish.
I saw tarpon rolling and following schools of bait and at one point I'm pretty sure I even had one hooked up. He showed me my backing and almost my empty spool before turning back towards me and popping the hook. I know it's just a fish story without any pictures to prove it , but hey it's my fish story and I'm sticking to it!
Our afternoons were spent on the beach , relaxing in the sun...boogie boarding...bird watching and when I was given the opportunity...fishing.
The surf was so full of fish that it was impossible not to catch something if you just gave it a little effort. Many times I'd be sitting on the shore with the wife when fish would start crashing the surf just beyond the first sandbar. I'd grab the flyrod and wade out into the waist deep water with waves crashing over my head and do my best to get a fly in the zone.
Bait swimming all around your legs and fish crashing the surface within casting range , the fish weren't big but I couldn't imagine a better place to be. It was definitely a thrill for this freshwater guy!
I fished at least a few hours every day we were on the island ,thanks to a wife that understands my addiction. The jetty fishing never was as good as the first day. Current , tides , wind , one of the variables just wasn't quite in-line like it was that first morning. I still caught fish , but no more kings or tarpon for the remainder of the trip.
The surf fishing on the other hand was just incredible! I can't tell you how many spanish mackerel and ladyfish I caught out of the surf , let's just say that in my wildest dreams I didn't foresee having that kind of luck.
At times it was a fish on every cast if you could just get your fly out far enough past the sandbar. I'm sure I don't have to tell you that I'm ruined now , the saltwater bug is in my blood for good!
When the sun began dipping below the curve of the ocean we would head to one of the local restaurants for our fill of fresh caught gulf seafood. If the only shrimp and fish you've ever eaten came from Red Lobster , you're selling yourself short!
My wife and I both love seafood and I'm pretty sure all but one or two of our meals on the island consisted of locally caught fish or shellfish. Of course we had to find a local dive to spend our evenings where we could watch the sunset and enjoy a few cold cervezas. Laguna Bob's fit that bill nicely and we became regulars by the end of the trip. Not a bad way to spend each evening after a day of fun in the sun...
Friday rolled around way too soon and we had to pack up and hit the road for the long trek back home. We stopped off in San Antonio for some sightseeing Friday afternoon and did the touristy things that everyone does , the Alamo and the Riverwalk.
It was nice , but after five days on a tropical island paradise everything else seems to pale in comparison.
Saturday morning we got up and drove the remaining 12 hours home to Kansas, still thinking about the great week we'd just had. On the drive we both decided that this was going to become an annual trip for us , just too many good things going on down there not to make an appearance at least once a year!