Buggy Whippin: Galveston sight casting with Capt. Clay Sheward

November 1st, 2019

buggs lure redfish sheward Buggy Whippin: Galveston sight casting with Capt. Clay Sheward

Capt. Clay Sheward holds up a nice marsh redfish with a double spot tail.

Story and photography by Brandon Rowan

THE WATER IS STILL AND SO AM I. The redfish swims along a flat, that is painted with a palette of green sea grass and dull colored sand, unaware of our presence. On the bow of Capt. Clay Sheward’s skiff, I feel more like a hunter in a tree rather than a fisherman. The rod in my hand is the bow and the arrow is a hair-tied Buggs jig at the end of my line.

Clay gives the word and I make a light cast behind and ahead of the red. We can see everything in the water on this calm October morning. I reel quickly to intercept the moving fish and begin jigging to tempt what I hope is a hungry fish. My heart starts beating faster as the redfish inches closer and closer to my offering. Time thickens and that half  moment seems to last an eternity before the fish inhales the Buggs lure.

BEGINNINGS

Clay Sheward, 37, was born and raised in Spring, Texas. His passion for fly fishing started very early in life.

“I’ve been fly fishing for a really long time, since 1992, when the movie A River Runs Through It came out,” Clay said. “I saw that movie with my dad and that Christmas, my family provided me a fly tying kit and a fly rod.”

This film, which won an Academy Award for Best Cinematography in 1993, is set in early 20th century Montana and follows a pair of brothers and their love of fly fishing. Many scenes in this movie do an excellent job of capturing the camaraderie of fishing; the tense moments before the catch and the  euphoria after the fact.

Clay cut his teeth fly fishing on the local ponds and creeks near the Woodlands, but as he grew older his love of fly fishing carried him to new locations.

“Mostly, I went to the Guadalupe and the White River in Arkansas. Sometimes my family would travel to Colorado. I didn’t get to do it a whole bunch but I would practice casting in the yard to teacups. Of course, I grew up and girls came along, but I always tied flies. I still do it regularly,” Clay said.

sheward fly fishing Buggy Whippin: Galveston sight casting with Capt. Clay Sheward

OCEAN CALLING

Eight years ago, Clay’s focus shifted from freshwater to saltwater fly fishing. First from a kayak, then to an Ankona ShadowCast 18 which served him and his customers well for several years. But in 2019, Clay was searching for his perfect skiff and finally found it.

“I run a 2019 Chittum Skiffs Laguna Madre with a 50HP Tohatsu. I couldn’t be happier. The trailer is gorgeous and it is such a really nice rig. I can’t believe that I have one. It’s just unbelievable,” Clay said.

The Chittum has expanded Clay’s range and clients of Buggy Whippin Sight Fishing enjoy access to the skinniest of waters in our area.

STUDENT OF NATURE

Clay’s love and careful examination of nature has paid dividends on the flats, where subtle, easily overlooked signs can tip off the location of fish.

“I like to watch animals. It doesn’t matter if it’s just me chilling in the backyard watching birds or hawks, or even seeing my dogs’ ears perk up when they catch a scent and chase it down,” Clay said. “Sitting stream-side, watching a trout circle behind a rock and then leave during changing cloud cover and then come back to the same spot several times a day. Or watching a spider build a web completely from start to finish. That sort of thing.”

Clay recently purchased a drone to better observe wildlife in the marsh. This eye in the sky lends a totally different point of view compared to a poling skiff.

“I’ve seen some crazy things with trout and redfish schooling up on the flats with the drone,” Clay said. “I’ve seen schools of redfish following one big alligator gar. Whatever the gar did, the redfish did the same. I’ve seen bobcats back there in Green’s Lake, as well as pigs. It’s educational as hell.”

Brandon Rowan with one of many redfish caught sight casting with Capt. Sheward.

TIME RETURNS TO NORMAL and I quickly bring my first sight-casted redfish to hand. I get a “Nice Job” and a fist bump from Clay after the release. The day is early and we continue our hunt for redfish along the sandy flat.

Stingrays, so many stingrays, hover along eeriely as we the glide down the shoreline. Flounder scoot away in a trail of punctuated mud puffs and gnarled, large crabs plod on slowly. This is my first time on a poling skiff and it 100% reminds me of flounder gigging. You are able to witness the abundant life of the bay, visually scanning until your target is located and then a careful approach begins. Unlike the rapid fire retrieves of blind fan casting, you often only get a single shot, like a sniper, when sight casting to a redfish.

Further down the flat, we have no problem tracking down more reds on this absolutely gorgeous day. Bronze backs and tails flick along the shorelines and shell points. Some of these we catch, others refuse the lure or fly, and others spook and run.

It felt like an entire day’s worth of fishing has happened but in reality only two hours have passed. But the day is young. We make a change, push off the flats and head back into the deeper recesses of the marsh.

This redfish absolutely crushed a Buggs Jig.

BUGGY WHIPPIN

Clients of Capt. Clay Sheward can expect to fish the maze of marshes and flats on the north shoreline of West Bay and the surrounding areas. There are opportunities to wade or even fish from shore. His Chittum Laguna Madre skiff has everything the fly angler could want and accommodates two fisherman.

However, you don’t need to know how to fly fish to enjoy sight casting for redfish. Catching these fish on light spinning tackle is still a blast and provides ample challenge. You will be thoroughly tested on how accurately and quickly you can place a cast.

“Scratch them on the chin” is what Clay advises when casting to a hungry redfish. It’s hard for them to resist an easy meal in front of their noses. An alternative method is to cast beyond and ahead of a fish, making sure you intercept its path.

No matter your tackle, stealth and speed are essential for success. Casts must be made quickly but delicately, without excessive movement. Heavy steps, twisting hips or any careless motion can rock the skiff and alert fish to your presence.

Clay does not sugar coat it. If you are doing something wrong, he will absolutely let you know. But the best teachers rarely coddle. Those ready to learn and listen have a high probability for an epic day of redfishing with Captain Clay Sheward.

Capt. Clay Sheward poles his Chittum Skiffs Laguna Madre along the flats.

KEEPING IT FLY

As a fledgling fly fisherman, I was eager to pick Clay’s brain on advice for those new to the sport.

“First, remember ‘Tip down, strip tight and everything will be alright,’” Clay said. “Second, if you feel like you need to go faster and harder, you probably need to go slower and softer, especially with a fly rod.”

Must-have flies include the Kwan, Clouser, Gurgler, spoon fly and any shrimp imitation with a weed guard. If Clay could only have one it would be the Kwan. He also recommends tying a loop knot, with as small a loop as possible, for most flies. He is an avid user of 16 and 20 lb tippets for his clients when targeting redfish on the upper coast. He is also a firm believer in casting whichever rod you are going to buy.

“Cast it and get what feels good to you. Redfish don’t need expensive fly reels. It’s nice to have, but not needed for reds in our area,” Clay said. “Gordy and Sons is one of the nicest fly shops in Houston. They’re no joke and the people that work there are extremely knowledgeable fly anglers.”

Although Clay’s all-time favorite fishing location is the Black Hills of South Dakota, his favorite fish to catch on the fly is the tripletail.

Umpqua’s Kwan fly, tied with bead chain eyes.

“Getting them to eat is the best because they are so stingy man! It’s got to be a perfect presentation,” Clay said. “You can get really close to them though and that gets the nerves going. I think that’s my favorite right now, but chasing a redfish with its back out of the water, and poling up to them…hunting them, that’s always going to be for me.”

THE SUN IS OUT NOW and we find ourselves deep in the marsh, floating along a back creek that is absolutely full of redfish. We glide over schools of erratic, frenzied bait as multiple big redfish cruise down the shoreline, picking them off lazily, one by one.

Clay’s oversized redfish.

It’s been several hours since we left the dock and I’ve honed in on what’s needed to effectively spot and cast to fish, thanks to Clay’s instruction.

We absolutely tore it up on that little stretch of water. After each fish caught and released, we seemed to spot another one right away. Clay caught an absolute beauty of a fish that taped out barely over 28 inches; a heartbreaker of a fish if it was a tournament day.

My favorite catch of the day was an upper slot redfish that came on a second chance. We had a pair of fish swim across our path that ignored the first presentation. They picked up speed and starting swimming away, no longer in sight. I flung out a far cast, as delicately as I could, and started jigging back to where I thought they might be. I knew I got it right when my reel’s drag started screeching.  After a rigorous fight, I brought the bronzed backed, pumpkin eyed fish in for a quick photo and release.

It was early in the afternoon but we decided to end the day on high note. The Chittum snaked its way through the marsh lanes as we made the scenic trek back to the dock. I was definitely impressed with the way the boat handled.  It took on chop with no issue, didn’t slide around the corners and granted us access to areas other poling skiffs couldn’t reach that day.

I’ve caught my fair share of redfish and I’ve got to say this was the absolute, most exciting way to catch them. If you have a background in kayaking, gigging or hunting, and you haven’t sight casted to redfish, you are missing out I’d say.

Summer and fall are Clay Sheward’s favorite times to be on the water but winter does have its perks.

“The water is so clear in the winter and it’s so fun. You can see everything on the bottom when you’re poling. You can learn so much, it’s incredible.”

Book a trip with Capt. Clay Sheward by visting buggywhippin.com, emailing claysheward@gmail.com or calling/texting 281-745-1578. Rates for two people max are 4 hours at $450, 6 hours at $550 and 8 hours at $650. Check him out on Instagram and Facebook @BuggyWhippin

Check out the heart shaped spot on Clay’s redfish!

Late Fall Galveston Bay Fishing

November 1st, 2019

red fish rach Late Fall Galveston Bay Fishing

Rachel Thevenet

By Capt. David C. Dillman

galvestonbaycharterfishing.com | 832-228-8012

Wow. It’s hard to believe that another year has passed. I wrote this article on the verge of Halloween, and finally the Upper Coast had its first passage of a “cold front.” Although not really cold, it at least got us out of summer-like temperatures and hopefully curtailed the remaining hurricane season. Tropical Storm Imelda, wreaked enough havoc in some places along the Upper Coast of Texas.

Prior to the arrival of Imelda, Galveston Bay was flourishing with speckled trout and redfish. The fish were being caught over the entire bay system. Then when everything was setting up for some outstanding late September and October fishing in Galveston Bay, torrential local rainfall and subsequent runoff curtailed the action. I am praying that this November and December, we see a return to a near normal weather pattern and end this year with some great fishing and catches.

big ug Late Fall Galveston Bay Fishing

Barry Lofton

I am optimistic that the fish will be caught from the traditional locations for this time of year. Trinity Bay should produce it’s fair share of speckled trout and redfish in November. Both shorelines in Trinity, depending upon the wind, will be excellent choices for those who like to wade and or boat fish. Jack’s Pocket should not be overlooked. The fish were there prior to Imelda!  Also in November, the shoreline between Eagle Point and April Fool Point, has always been productive, especially with a North-Northwest wind.

December, look for the fish to be transitioning to the Northwest reaches of our bay. Tabbs, Crystal, Scott and Burnett bays will all produce fish. This area offers shelter from the winds and provides the fish with deep water protection from severe cold fronts. One of the best stringers of fish I ever caught came from this area with air temperature hovering around 30 degrees. Clear Lake should not be overlooked during this month. Again, it offers the protection from the wind and allows the fish to slide off into deeper water in case of a severe temperature drop.

In November and December the flounder fishing is in full swing! The usual places should all produce excellent catches. The Galveston Harbor would be high on my list as the top spot. Of course, shorelines adjacent to major marsh drains, passes and the Galveston Jetties are also good.

Remember to take precautions this time of year. Check the weather and dress for the conditions. I highly recommend a waterproof/windproof jacket and carrying an extra set of dry clothing. Enjoy the Holidays and remember that the Houston Boat Show begins the first week of January. I will be there at the Eagle Point Fishing Camp booth during the show. Eagle Point should have plenty of live shrimp and mudfish for the angler.

Boat and fishing gear checklist

February 28th, 2019

texas fishing Boat and fishing gear checklist

Take the proper preparations with your gear and boat before fishing really heats up.

By Capt. Joe Kent

Spring presents an opportunity to visit about preparations needed to help ensure a trouble free time on the water during the best months for fishing that lie ahead.

During March and April many anglers and or boaters will use their equipment for the first time this year.  Many will have the unpleasant experience of launching their boat and encountering problems that ruin what would otherwise be a pleasant day on the water.

The equipment we are going to discuss includes the boat, motor and fishing tackle.  Each of those are vulnerable to damage when sitting up for long periods of time.  Finding a problem before heading out on that first trip of the season will save a lot of frustrations and expenses.

Let’s start with your boat and motor.  The number one problem according to marine mechanics is fuel that has been in the tank too long, especially untreated ethanol gasoline.  If your boat has been dormant most of the winter fresh fuel should be added along with a fuel treatment designed to enhance the fuel and absorb any water.

Ethanol based gasoline tends to break down and absorb moisture from the air, leading to expensive repairs if not addressed before running your engine.

The engine oil (for four-stroke engines) should be changed as well as the lower unit oil on all marine engines.  If you change the lower unit oil yourself, check for water. After setting up, if water is present it likely will drain to the bottom and come out first when the drain plus is removed.

Milky colored lower unit oil indicates the presence of water.  In either case, do not run the engine in gear until the source for the water is determined and repaired.  Most of the time it is a leaking seal.

Check your steering cables and fuel lines.  If cracks or noted in the fuel line, replace it.

Confirm that your bilge pump is working.  If your battery is over three years old, replace it.  Chances are it is not going to last much longer.

Before making that first trip to the ramp, crank the engine using an earmuff type fresh water flushing device.  Let it run for ten minutes and if no problems detected you are ready to head out.

While all of the above are good pointers for avoiding problems, nothing beats a check-up by your mechanic before making that first trip.  Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of trouble.

Close behind in importance is your fishing equipment and tackle. They should undergo a thorough inspection before that first fishing trip. Replace the line on your reels if they have been sitting up all winter.  Using a light penetrating oil such as WD-40, clean the outside of your reel and use a light reel oil to lubricate the internal parts.  Check the eyes on your rods for corrosion and clean or replace if necessary.

Clean out your tackle box and toss any rusty or corroded lures and hooks.  Also, check your supply of tackle.  Over the winter we often forget about items needed  for the upcoming season.

Utilizing time during March and April to prepare for the summer fishing season is time well spent.

A New Beginning

January 1st, 2018

Cruzfish2017 A New Beginning

Mike Johnson, Juan and Addie Cruz after a good day with Capt. Dillman.

By Capt. David C. Dillman

Spec-tacular Trout Adventures832-228-8012

can’t tell you how many times lately I have heard the phrase: “ I will be glad when this year is over.” For all of us that live on the coast of Texas, this is so true. South Texas coastal residents are still dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Here on the Upper Coast, the destruction left by the flood waters from Tropical Storm Harvey is still daunting. What has become a normal routine is still not “normal” for a lot of us that reside on the coast of Texas.

What is normal? The first two weeks of January is the annual Houston Boat, Sport and Travel Show. In its 63rd year, the show begins January 5, 2018 and runs through January 14. It is the largest indoor show of its type on the Gulf Coast. It features something for everyone that attends. I will be at the Eagle Point Fishing Camp booth during the show. While you are there, please stop by and say hello!

Maintain Your Ride

January/February is the time to get your boat ready for the upcoming season. Before one knows it, springtime on the Upper Coast will be here. You should perform all your required maintenance on the boat and engine. If it needs to go to a repair facility, don’t hesitate. They get busy and the earlier you get it in, the better chance it will be ready by March. If you are mechanically inclined, order all your parts now. They can become scarce during high demand times.

Hot Cold Fishing

On the fishing scene, the trout population is really good. However, there is a noted decrease in the overall size. TP&W has deemed the trout fishery is good and recommended no changes in the current bag limits this coming year.

The catches of redfish have been “off the chart.” Redfish have been plentiful throughout our bay system, along with sheepshead and black drum.

This January/February, fishing should continue to be good, before and after cold fronts. The Northwest reaches and the West side of Galveston Bay will offer your best opportunity for speckled trout and redfish. As the sun rises and sets, this side of the bay receives the most sunlight. The water remains a tad bit warmer than other areas of the bay, thus holding the fish. Also, during passages of cold fronts, the adjacent water is deeper and offers protection to the fish. Eagle Point up to the Seabrook Flats, Sylvan Beach, Tabbs, Burnett and Scott Bays will be the places to fish. West Galveston Bay will also see its fair share of fish.

Live shrimp this time of year will be in short supply. Few, if any bait camps will have some, much less even be open. You can always call Eagle Point Fishing Camp to check on their bait supply. Usually, they hold live shrimp all year. Hopefully we will have a “mild” winter, and avoid a major freeze!