Surfside, TX: New Marsh Lakes & Old Gringo Comforts
I was covered in it.
Mud stuck to my ankles like socks, hardened adobe huts fell from my shorts, and sweat pushed the salty brown war paint from my face. Back at the launch after a full day chasing redfish through the marsh – looking, feeling, and smelling mucky – I realized this wasn’t what I was expecting eight hours earlier when Jared asked, “You don’t have anything else to do today, right?”
Technically, it was a question. Realistically, it was a warning. Buckle up, we’re not leaving until we cover some serious ground and find some bigger redfish.
After a long, undocumented, paddlesport-work-free, Regular Joe trek from California, through the Arches in Moab, up and down some mountains in Colorado, and through that big canyon in Arizona, I found myself in a Buc-ees parking lot in Angleton, Texas – three bites into a breakfast burrito – sweating.
Texas is home. But the parking lot was a type of sauna-hot that you intentionally forget while skipping through the Rocky Mountains. Still an hour before sunrise, I cranked the air conditioning and finished the remaining twenty minutes southbound to the kayak launch, ready to meet Jared Esley – kayak fishing guide at Tails and Scales Guide Service.
Just minutes into the trip, I was working the banks of the intercostal waterway in the new Viking Kayaks Profish Reload, getting passed by oil barges between cork pops, with the morning’s gas station burrito reminding me everything really is bigger, spicier, and coated in more picante sauce in Texas.
It didn’t take long to land for my first Texas fish of the road trip – a small redfish followed by Jared immediately landing his big brother. What we were hoping was a Texas-sized buffet turned out to be a nothing more than a couple of appetizers, two more hours of empty retrievals, and a couple of my famous missed hook sets.
While his clients probably agree that it’s all part of the experience, Jared doesn’t settle for reeling in small fish; he targets big Texas inshore slams and lots of them. With a reputation for bringing home meat haul stringers full of dinner table redfish, trout, and flounder, Jared wasn’t sticking around the intercostal much longer, and he sure wasn’t finding any worthwhile comfort in enjoying the couple small redfish we had already landed.
That’s when he passively aggressively told me to clear my schedule. That’s when he pulled out the maps. That’s when it started pouring down rain and that’s when I realized my sabbatical in the clear, cool mountain streams was over and I was left to find a certain back home, gringo comfort in being covered in sweat, mud, mosquitoes, and salt.
“We’re not going to sit around and wait for fish; we’re gonna go chase ’em.”
I heard him loud and clear but what I underestimated was the extent to which he chases. Before long we were miles into paddling (though in foot deep marsh mud, paddling is sometimes more like polling and shimmying your weight around the kayak to lift your stuck butt off of the muddy bottom) with a road block in front of us: marsh grass.
“There’s CrossFit and there’s kayak fit” he laughed, out of breath halfway through the first of our multiple half-mile kayak drags. I may have laughed back; I may have just slammed the kayak down and hunched over for breath, hands on my knees and covered in mud. If the distance of the drags and the weight of the gear didn’t snap us into exhaustion, the suffocating nature of the humidity did.
Every fifty yards we took a break to catch our breath, switch which arm was dragging the kayak, and unsuccessfully reason away more vices with upcoming terrain like entering into a deal with the devil.
“C’mon, marsh. Lighten up and I’ll stop spending too much money on gas station breakfast burritos.”
“If you’re going to catch a good Texas redfish, you might as well earn it” he comforted – gasping for breath after every third word. He was right.
At our final stop on the paddle, push, and hike tour – a new marsh lake that ‘looked fishy’ on the map – the top water bite exploded, we found the bigger fish, and even the thought of possibly retracing our steps to get back to the launch couldn’t ruin the familiar Texas-sized welcome home.
Thanks to everyone between California and Texas that made the last leg of the trip a little fishy and a lot of other kinds of outdoor fun. While there were a couple of trout caught in the mountains, a couple of rapids paddled in the valleys, plenty of trail peaks conquered, and a couple of stories sold, there weren’t any personal post-worthy trips. The pictures are up in the gallery. But a combination of 1) a thick mix of non-paddlesports activities on the agenda and 2) a spike in freelance paddlesport-related work gigs that I can’t share on the personal blog yet (thanks for the cheese, work peeps!) led to a big geographical gap between posts.
You fill in the blank yourself. Hint – It wasn’t boring.
- Erik Grundvik – What started as an impromptu hiking plan between old high school buddies turned out to be a tour around one of my favorite stops on the trip. Lake Tahoe is an amazing place and your set up there still has me jealous. Thanks for the hospitality, the free guided trip, and the bomb ham sandwich.
- Stephen, Melissa, and Scout Grove – Between the altitude, the beers, and the nacho overload, Denver was a blur. I’ll be back soon and I may even drag Philip and little baby Markita with me.
- Steve and Kathy Harr – Always good catching up, guys. While the house got my money at the horse track, I feel like I left New Mexico a winner after the hatch chili grits and the mile-long zip line.
- Nathan and Lauren Harr – ///
- Jared Esley – Thanks for the workout. Good luck with the new guiding business as it takes off. October should be fun.
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