Do you have “extreme” in your blood? Fishing in extreme conditions can be defined best by those who fish most; those with fishing in their blood. Some may consider extreme to be 20 mph wind, muddy water, cold temperatures and light drizzle. Is this considered extreme? For some it might be extreme, for others such as myself, it’s a nice day. A fishing guide’s definition of “extreme” re-defines the word. For most, these conditions invigorate memories and thoughts of 10 mph wind, 80 degree temperatures, and puffy white clouds resembling various animal shapes. For me, these conditions create a surge of adrenalin and excitement that can replace the misery with success and accomplishment. Catching fish in extreme conditions when no one else can is no easy task. Essentially you become the “curve breaker.” The one who out performs the rest, and comes back with a box full of fish.
It is the evening before my next fishing trip, which is every evening as of now. I pulled up the multiple weather stations that I use to plan for the next day and noticed that the radar “looked like Christmas”. The entire middle Texas coast radar was lit up with red and green. My phone rang simultaneously with the first clap of thunder as it rolled through my old wooden house. Without any doubt, I knew it was my concerned client.
“Hey Johan, it looks like the weather is taking a turn for the worst. “ “Do you think we have a chance tomorrow with this cold front blowing in?”
I pay very close attention to the weather. I knew that a late season cold front was arriving with lots of rain to accompany it. I also knew that most of the rain would clear as of sunrise, but the wind would be blowing from the north-east at 20-30 mph which is manageable. For most people, this sounds like a good reason to sleep in and go to the diner for biscuits and gravy. My eyes were fixed on the 20-30 mph wind from the north-east and realized that this trip could not only happen; we had the potential to “smoke the fish.”
So I respond to my client. “The weather is not going to be a “chamber of commerce type day” but I think we can make it work if you want to fish.”
I always provide my clients the most realistic chances of success. I will not lie to them. If I don’t have confidence in catching fish I will cancel a trip; although this rarely happens. Regardless of the weather there is always someplace to fish and catch fish. Regardless of the weather there is always someone catching fish; the “curve breaker”. Imagine you were in a school where the grading system was based on a bell curve. Maybe you remember the smart kid in class that somehow made a 99 on a test when everyone else failed? Everyone else looked like a fool because of that one good grade. I still remember thinking, “what a jerk.”
If un-familiar with a bell curve, just think of it as a statistical method of ranking overall performance. The bell curve tends to represent the average, the above average and the below average. Sometimes a particular point on the bell curve seems to be an above average anomaly. In terms of ranking, this anomaly changes the way others are ranked based on a single high score. Everyone’s standards are suddenly changed by one student’s high score. That one smart student proved that it was possible to achieve a high grade on a test when everyone else was considered average or below average. That student was the curve breaker.
You should think like the curve breaker; there is always a correct answer. When it seems as though there are no good answers to catching fish you can bet that someone has found the right answer. Regardless of how bad the fishing is, just keep in mind that some “jerk” is going to show up at the dock with a huge box of fish. Your goal is to be the curve breaker, be the jerk, and be the only guy that catches fish when no one else does. Easier said than done; catching fish when no one else does involves thinking and fishing.
“We will trust your judgment if you think we can make a day of it.” So I say, “It’s going to be nasty but if you guys want to catch fish I know where to go and we will be safe.” “I have no promises or guarantees because this is fishing but I do believe we have a good chance.” “Ok, we are “all in,” we want to fish.”
Before I got out of bed I could feel my old wooden house creaking and shifting with every gust of wind. Once I got to the bait stand I realized I was the only one there. The cables on shrimp boats shook violently hitting the outriggers making a repetitive “pinging” sound. White caps were breaking within the harbor. The bait stand flags flapped violently adding to the auditory and visual ambiance of going fishing during a strong cold front. My solitude and the sights and sounds of the pre-dawn hours combined to create an eerie and ominous stetting.
“What would you like for bait sir”, asks UT (short for a complicated Vietnamese name). “Sau (7) lbs. of mullet” I say. My friends have been teaching me Vietnamese at 5:00 am lately. ”That’s all you want?” “Yes sir, that’s it.” “Ok sir, coming right up.”
My clients arrived at the boat ramp and I could see the worry in their eyes. Their mood seemed to add to the ominous and eerie setting that I was experiencing. With the wind howling and temperatures driven to a record low for April, we idled out of the marina and into St. Charles Bay, near Rockport Texas.
A thick white blanket of clouds covered the sky and muddy white-capping waves covered the bay. This in addition to crisp cool temperatures and light rain reminded me of late fall fishing conditions. I could almost taste pumpkin pie and Thanksgiving turkey but that dream was suddenly interrupted by the salt spray hitting my face. With my fingers crossed and my reputation on the line, we made our first and hopefully only stop.
It didn’t take long to get our first bite (big sigh of relief). After an epic battle in 30 mile per our wind and waves splashing in the boat, a beautiful 27” redfish broke the surface. This single fish somehow replaced our ominous thoughts with adrenalin and optimism. Shortly after the first fish the sun broke through the blanket of clouds and we were slammed with a triple hook up of reds. You could say that for a brief moment all was forgotten other than the drag screaming reds that were hammering our cut mullet. Our method wasn’t a poetic or artistic approach to catching these fish; it was an effort to put fish in the box, and get out of this salty murky mess as quickly as possible. That was exactly what we did.
On most days after catching a good box of one species, I chase after another. This day was different. My clients were all happy and content with a limit of reds in conditions that pushed their limits. They not only fished safely but they caught their limit of reds. Later that day, while watching the evening news I learned that the wind had been gusting to 45 mph while we were out fishing. Most of my friends had canceled their trips and those that fished took a beating and struck out. That day I was the curve breaker, the jerk, the guy who caught fish when no one else did.
You can go fishing and be miserable in extreme conditions without catching fish or you can go fishing in extreme conditions and forget the misery by catching fish. I will never forget the days that I was the curve breaker. I am a legend in my own mind on those days. When it’s all said and done, no one really cares but me. I sometimes have lucid dreams of fishing in terrible conditions only to wake in the middle of the night, in the middle of a dream… sweating. Do I really care this much about fishing to dream about my reality? I guess when you live it, you dream about it. When you dream about it, you must love it. Sometimes I am the curve breaker in my dreams and every now and then in reality. Regardless of which, the outcome is always the same: I am my own hero. Live the extreme and be the curve breaker.
I do not suggest this type of fishing for a novice without first gaining experience by fishing with a skilled captain. You really must have a good game plan and an understanding of what you are doing. With experience comes confidence; then some great things can happen in extreme conditions. Fish thrive and feed in turbulent conditions. Fish have to take advantage of turbulence in order to ambush prey in preparation for hard times. Before we leave the dock in the morning, we make sure we have a breakfast packed full of energy because we don’t know when we will eat again. The fish think the same way; they load their stomachs full of energy when their next meal is uncertain.
Want to go fishing with Captain Coombs? Give him a call now.
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