As we strung up the rods beneath the shelter of the rental car's hatchback, I could feel the reluctance on Todd's part. It was palpable.
“We left a perfectly good hotel room stocked with rum and beer and the balcony view of the pool for this? They even had a never-ending supply of bacon on the breakfast buffet.”
This, as it turned out, was wind. Well, wind might not be entirely accurate. Not exactly, anyway.
At the end of the pavement several miles north of the tourist town of South Padre Island, we geared up with our backs to a sandblaster. The wind, coming from the south and blowing full force due north, turned the beach into a kite-boarder's ant hill. While wet-suit wearing thrill-seekers happily assembled the equipment they'd need to glide along the violent, wind-whipped surf of the south Texas coast with the help of a modified parachute, we donned sunglasses and buffs and leaned into the 40-knot gale, trying like hell not to miss a guide as we punched loops of saltwater fly line through stainless wire hoops attached to our rods.
"Are you kidding me?" Todd hollered, as the wind pulled his 8-weight out of his hands and flipped it into the sand next to the car. I smiled.
“This is South Padre in April. I've never known it not to be a little gusty,” I said.
“I got your little gusty right here,” he said, gesturing obscenely.
OK. A lot gusty. A steady gusty. The kind of gusty that picks sand up from the beach and blows it across the road gusty ... just like a ground blizzard at home in Idaho, where frigid winter winds blow yesterday's snow across the highway. And, if we can help it, we don't fish on days like that. But here ... we'd come so far. We'd endured so much. It had to happen. Had to.
A cloudless blue sky met the taupe sand with alarming, beautiful contrast, and the wind stirred the whole thing into a kind of fend-for-yourself frenzy. As we finished gearing up, we had to scream at each other to be heard over the wind and the crashing of the surf just a few hundred yards away over a series of small dunes.
But we weren't headed for the surf. We were headed to the flats of lower Laguna Madre, a long walk over tall dunes to the west.
"Maybe it'll be calmer on the bay," I yelled, wishfully. Through the tint of polarized sunglasses, I could see Todd's eyes roll.
“Right. And maybe I'll get all the sand out of my ass by next Tuesday.”
We locked the car, pointed our fly rods west and started walking up and over the dunes. And while the wind never really quit, getting off the beach did help some. From atop the dunes, we could see the green water of the Laguna in the distance. And we could see the whitecaps busting over otherwise flat water. With sand underfoot, we walked.
And I don't know if it was the thought of standing and casting in warm, clear water, or just the idea of working out the kinks in the saltwater cast, but, at least for me, the walk over the dunes was pretty damn cool. Windblown sand is both the canvas and the artist, and while the footing was a bit unpredictable, our feet were treading some fascinating earth.
We eventually wandered down onto a crunchy salt flat —the Laguna Madre is the saltiest body of water in the country, save for the Great Salt Lake — and walked another mile or so to the bay. There before us was the shin-deep, almost-crystal-clear water of the bay, whitecaps and all.
Fishing wasn't great, and I fully attribute that to the wind and the fact that sight-fishing through whitewater is virtually impossible. I managed to blind-cast a yellow-over-red Clouser to a tough little redfish, and Mike hooked one, too, just about the same size. Todd fished, but didn't get lucky.
Mike also hooked some small-ish panfish-looking critter that we opted to identify later. As he said in the car on the way back to the hotel room: "Only I could come all the way to south Texas and catch a bluegill in the salt."
Wind be damned. We came. We fished. We endured, by God.
Now ... back to that rum ... and the view from the balcony.