This past weekend I returned from a three day adventure to South Padre Island, Texas to explore the fly fishing opportunities there. For those of you unfamiliar with South Padre Island, it is located in the south west corner of the gulf of Mexico. We basically flew from Los Angeles to Houston ( aprox 2hrs 45 minutes) then took a 45 minute flight from Houston to Harlingen. Then we rented a car and drove south about 30 minutes through Port Isabel over the bridge to South Padre Island. We stayed at the Travel Lodge on the island which was clean and well maintained for $60 bucks a night and got breakfast to boot. It was very reasonable deal if you decide to visit in the fall which is off season and basically just fisherman.
Me and my good fly fishing buddy, Mike Ward got an invitation to visit our friend and guide, Eric Ersch of South Texas Redfish Guides. Check out his website. Eric has been guiding in fly fishing all over the world since 1989 and recently moved to this part of the world about a year ago to start up his new guiding business. Eric’s vast experience, enthusiasm, and passion will make anyone’s trip to Texas a memorial one. I highly recommend booking Eric if you consider sight fishing in this hidden inshore gem, you will have a blast.
South Padre Island and Laguna Padre are very well known for their extensive flats (60 miles long and 5 miles wide of water that averages around two feet deep) great for spotting redfish and sea trout tailing in skinny water. This is a wonderful place for those of you that wish to experience flats sight fishing for the first time or if you are a seasoned flats fly fisherman. SPI can be a technical fishery with lots of shallow water and skid dish fish, basically there is nowhere to hide. Good, stealthy first casts are important for success. There are many species to encounter. We saw sheepshead, redfish, sea trout and vast concentrations of pinfish and mullet everyday on the flats. Along the channel drop-offs you can find tarpon, fat snook (new species for me), ladyfish, jack crevalle, spanish mackerel, hardhead catfish and we did! In fact, on our last day we tried something different and ran to the channel. We were greeted with too many tarpon to count, racing up the inlet, porpoising along the surface as if they were late for the first day of school. We threw many shapes and size flies at them only to get splashed and rejected, sometimes less than a rod length from the skiff. It was a blast even though they showed us no love, just another unexpected fly fishing opportunity South Padre can throw at you. We did find working birds and bait outside the jetty which had fine concentrations of spanish mackerel that readily took our fly offerings. The hot fly was the pollo eléctrico or electric chicken which was basically a pink over chartreuse clouser.
If you enjoy photography as much as I do, there are many beautiful birds that winter from Mexico to photograph like the rosy spoonbills, perigren falcons, ospreys, grey herons, white pelicans and egrets. You can visit the sea turtle refuge center on the island and many fine restaurants, they even have a brewery. There are many DIY places to fish like off the beaches in the gulf in front of your hotel, the inlet jetties and many bulkhead and sea walls around the marinas. I saw many bent fly rods off the jetties hooked up on spanish mackerel while we drifted the channels. This place was very fishy and I look forward to returning. It was an easy destination to get to from Los Angeles or anywhere in the states and it’s in the good ol’ USA. I think I landed 8 species in three days. I was pleasantly surprised by the many fly fishing opportunities South Padre had to offer and I am sure there are many more I have yet to discover.