Growing up on the Land of 10,000 Lakes, I guess I consider myself fortunate to have been near so many diverse waters (Lake Superior, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, etc.). But the diversity of the Great White North simply pales in comparison to the sheer variety of fishing available along the Texas Gulf Coast. A beautiful new book by NFLCC Secretary/Treasurer Colby Sorrells, Flyfisher's Guide to the Texas Gulf Coast: the Flats and Off Shore (Belgrade, MT: Wilderness Press, 2009), brought this point home loud and clear.
Another in a series of the popular "Flyfisher's Guide to..." by Wilderness Press, this book has all of the merits of the other books in the series, with the added bonus of having an author who really and truly knows his stuff. I own a few of these guides, and have looked over several others, and they are certainly nice looking books, but few of them have the feeling of authority that this one does. This is because Sorrells has written widely on the topic for over two decades, and more importantly, he's fished most of the waters that he writes about.
An example of the kind of experience and authority I'm talking about can be seen in the brief section on sharks. "I have an agreement with sharks," Sorrells writes. "I don't fish for them and they don't fish for me. If you get into an area where the sharks are taking your catch either on the line or on the stringer, MOVE. Let the sharks have the water. There are plenty of places to fish without having to deal with sharks." Although less than a paragraph (and in this day and age, being concise should be celebrated), it's the most pragmatic and best advice I've ever read on sharks for the fly angler.
The book is divided into convenient sections. The first covers gamefish likely to be fished for by the fly angler, ranging from the popular (tarpon and snook) to the less well known (sand trout). Then there are geographical sections covering the different places and kinds of fishing along the Gulf Coast (Sabine Lake, Galveston, Matagorda Bay, San Antonio Bay, Aransas Bay, Corpus Christi Bay, Upper Lagunda Madre, Lower Lagunda Madre, and Offshore). Each of these covers a wealth of details on the type of fish, methods of catching them, and other helpful tips. The book is filled out with convenient chapters on such subjects as tides, fly vs. light tackle, choosing a boat, the importance of sunblock, etc.
The book has many merits. It has numerous photos, illustrations and maps which help the reader at many points throughout the text--although the photo on Page 164 would have been better suited for the front cover (a bit of an inside joke for Texas NFLCC members). Each of the geographical sections offers contact information for numerous motels/hotels, tackle shops, etc. Like all the books in this series, it has a model Table of Contents and exhaustive index. If other publishers spent 1/4 the amount of effort on these two critical search tools, we'd all be much happier.
Since Texas has 367 miles of gulf shoreline and a further 3300 miles of bay shoreline, it offers a wealth of opportunity to the fly angler. Colby Sorrells has written what is certainly the definitive work on the subject, and one that is destined to remain not just a classic but also a model on how such books should be put together.
The book is widely available from many places, including Amazon.com. It is well worth owning for anyone who fishes the Gulf Coast, and is the perfect primer (and kick in the butt) for those who've always wanted to but haven't.
-- Dr. Todd