Therein Hangs a Tail

The Sting Ray shuffle in two acts:
Hurried Monday morning dash through the wind, rain and fog to arrive at the edge of the Matagorda Bay just fine, early, even, and before hooking up the boat, there was a persistent mewling of a kitten. My senses suggested it was the neighbors’ cat, stuck outside and away from the food dish. I’ve heard that sound before – know it — all too well.

My fishing buddy, a battle-worn, hardened water-warrior disappeared. I located him looking up the tree, trying to coax a kitten down. Little snowball kind of a kitten, pure white, pink ears. Not terribly scared. My buddy pulled out some shrimp and tossed her one. She gobbled it up. Tossed her a second, and finally, a third.

Loaded up and boated off to the flats.

In the past, I’ve always fished from a man-made object, boat, dock, or the shoreline, which isn’t man-made, except, by extension, with the all the reservoirs, so yes, that is man-made. I have a natural fear of what lies beneath the surface of the ocean. Out of the boat? Humans are no longer at the top of the food chain. Just a fear, I’ve spent many summers swimming in Barton Creek, the legendary watering hole in Austin. Crystal clear water. Not a problem, it’s not the ocean, nothing larger than a few inches.

However, my buddy implored, begged, wheedled, nagged and threatened, the latter being most effective, and we were wade fishing Monday afternoon. I picked up an Redfish, and I must admit, I liked the experience. Same gear, just different location. The secret is to shuffle to avoid the sting-rays, hence the title, the Sting Ray shuffle.


The next morning, it was up at oh-dark-thirty, load the boat, haul off to some fishing spot, this is coastal marshes, inter-coastal waterway, one of the richest “eco-zones,” or bio-diversity areas, due to coastline, barrier island and a thin ribbon of sand between the Gulf of Mexico and where the rivers meet the bay.

Thunderstorms were brewing, but blew throw in the night, leaving the air coolish. The first wade of the day was across a sand bar, knee-deep, into the chest-deep water. Another fear, I can swim just fine, and I wouldn’t mind swimming, but walking along? Another fear erased. Nothing for me on that wade and the crew opted for another location, barely ankle deep, and again, clear water.

As I was stalking the shallow water, I caught sight of a ray. I really have a strong distaste for rays. Little barb on the back of the tail. Won’t kill, but will seriously knock a person out of commission for a few days, maybe weeks, and the stories I’ve hear? Up to several months, “Man, he was out for, like, a whole year.”

Just a fear. As I walked along, I noticed that one stingray seemed to shadow me. My steps kicked up the silt on the bottom, my shuffle, and that stirs up Ray food. I hiked in a ways, out a ways, bait was bubbling up around me, but I could catch a thing.

I was slowly walking back to the boat, anchored a hundred yards out, and I paused. I’d walked all around the area, got nibbles, but no strikes. I switched to a yellow lure and waited. Then it hit. Rod-bending, line stripping action. Like on TV, only better. I fought it up close, it made a run, and I let it play out. Finally got it close again, and realized it was a big trout. I spiked the stringer through its jaw then fished the hook out and made it back to the boat.

I powered down two bottles of water and lay down for a nap.

Business and other pressures meant I had to home earlier than my buddies. I got to ride home with a cat on the front seat, next to me. Cat? Cat’s fine. My buddy has a new pet. No name yet, but I like “snowball.”

There are other bits and pieces, but I’m saving that for the other places.

Tip-of-the-hat to New Orleans.