Each night I listen to the surf. I’m camping a mere 60 yards away. Sand dunes separate us. Fireflies hover over the dunes and sea grass on warm nights. I haven’t seen them since I was a child. We used to capture them and place them in clear glass jars. That was a long time ago. They still fascinate me. There is also a chorus of Crickets on warm nights. A soothing sound. Then there’s howling Coyotes during storms which there have been many since I arrived. The Coyotes travel and scavenge the dunes. I saw three together the other day after an violent nighttime storm where the temperature dropped to freezing. They were wet and miserable looking. They eyed me as I drove by. They were big and lean. As big, maybe bigger, than my retriever. I wouldn’t have survived the storm without shelter. Hypothermia would have taken me. They survived. Resilient creatures.
I’m on a barrier island along the Gulf of Mexico. I made the long journey here to fly fish the shallow bayside sand flats for Redfish. The conditions were ideal when I arrived. It was summerlike and calm. I walked the sand flats and spotted a few fish. Some close and some tailing in the distance. Then the weather changed. A series of cold fronts passed through, along with heavy rain and high wind. The storms bent the island Palm trees, flooded low areas and caused Power outages. In between storms there have been some fair days and heat but it is short lived.
I’ve been patiently waiting for the weather to stabilize. I’ve been waiting for it to heat up so that the shallow saltwater bay/ Laguna warms. But it’s not happening. I saw Redfish (Red Drum) when the water temperature was in the high 60s, low 70s F. The bay is presently ranging from 43F to 59F. It’s too cold. I go out every day in all conditions and search but the fish have left the sand for deeper more comfortable temperatures. I’ve walked several areas often venturing out a half mile or so but there is no sign of them. I came upon some Black Drum when the cool weather first struck but they also appear to have fled the shallows. A number of consecutive warm weather days are needed to boost the bay temperature and bring the fish back but that’s not happening. The sand flats have become lifeless.
I have a few remaining days left before I drive home. I don’t think the Redfish will return before I leave. There is disappointment in that I haven’t seen a fish in awhile and I have to remind myself that early on when the conditions were favorable, I spotted and caught several wonderful saltwater fish in the shallowest of water on a fly rod. On those first few days I witnessed what the sand flats have to offer. I witnessed their potential.
Tonight I’ll listen to the surf and the Crickets, and watch for Fireflies. Maybe I’ll even hear the call of a Coyote.
I’ll return to the barrier island along the Gulf coast and walk the sand flats again…