One Last Cast by Jon Bryan
On this particular morning’s fishing trip, Brad, a nine year old and by then an accomplished fisherman, and I were meeting my Uncle, and his Great Uncle, Alvin Pyland, better known as, Unkie, to sample some of the great trout action, under the birds, on the east side of the Galveston causeway.
This area, ten or twelve square miles, bounded on the east by the Texas City Dike and Pelican Island; on the south by Galveston Island, on the north by the mainland and west by the causeway, had been a consistent producer all spring. I told Unkie to be at The Pleasure Island Bait Camp, our fishing headquarters, at 7:30 AM and be ready to catch some fish.
We had purchased a beach house in the Jamaica Beach subdivision, ten miles west from the end of the Galveston Sea Wall. Launching at Jamaica Beach, we were now five to ten minutes from some great bay fishing spots; Green’s Cut, the Wreck, Confederate Reef and North and South Deer Islands. My favorite South Jetty spot was only thirty minutes by boat, less time than it took us to drive, launch and then motor out to the jetties!
By 7:00 AM Brad and I had the boat in the water at the Jamaica Beach launch ramp and had started our fifteen, minute trip to meet Unkie at Pleasure Island. I noticed storm clouds in the Gulf south of Galveston Island. Rain coming, what’s different about that?
After picking Unkie up at the bait camp and buying a quart of shrimp, we headed out to find the birds. Trout, feeding on shrimp, push the shrimp to the surface, the sea gulls see the disturbance, and always looking for a free meal, the gulls literally swarm over the shrimp and feeding trout. This is fast and furious action, trout are “jerked” into the boat without using a net, and many times we would use artificial baits rather than taking time to re-bait the hook.
Seeing several groups of birds in the distance we sped toward the nearest ones and began a morning of catching specs as fast as we could, and a morning of, we didn’t know then, high adventure.
We noticed the storm that I had seen earlier had moved almost to the island and storm clouds were also gathering north of us over Hitchcock and Texas City. Being in the bay, in a big bay boat, we felt secure since we were but a short run back to Pleasure Island. Then the southern storm moved on to the island, and we found out later that it had dropped ten inches of rain on the city, and shortly, a lot of that fell on us.
We kept fishing and catching specs, with northern storms getting closer. We paused to look at them and noticed they both seemed to stop right at the edge of the bay. We had storms north and south of us, and birds working, so we started back fishing. I have since learned not to “tempt” Mother Nature.
All of the sudden, barreling east, right down the bay, and coming right toward us, there was a large electrical storm, lightning popping all along its front edge and it filled the gap between our northern and southern storms. We were one mile east of the Causeway and the new storm was about two miles west of it. Plenty of time left, keep fishing!
Crack! Boom! Lightning hit a channel marker not three hundred yards from us and then Unkie uttered his infamous remark, “I’ve got time for one last cast.”
He casts out and hooked a nice one, which cost us valuable time to land. During the fight with the fish, I got Brad’s life jacket on him and donned one myself. Crack! Boom! Another bolt hits a channel marker not one hundred and fifty yards from us. “Let’s get going,” I yelled as the rain started to batter us
Really getting pounded by the storm, we saw that we couldn’t head back to the bait camp. There was almost a solid wall of lightning between the two locations. The storm was still heading our way. Full speed ahead to the northeast, was our only partially open choice.
Northeast of us was the Texas City Dike, a nine mile, red granite, wall built out into Galveston Bay. Its purpose was to smooth the bay waters for the Texas City harbor and channel, however, and I repeat, however, we were heading in on the rough side! The wind hit us then, the waves built up, all working to slow our speed. We barely kept ahead of the lightning, and the rain was blinding!
We kept heading northeast and kept getting pounded by the storm, wind, rain and four- foot waves, which are huge for the bay, since the distance between the wave crests is probably only ten feet, very rough! Wave tops in the Gulf in four-foot seas are twenty-four to twenty-seven feet apart. Lots of up and down for us, and luckily the drain plugs in the boat did their job and at least we didn’t swamp. Looking down, I believed Brad liked this and glancing over at Unkie, he didn’t have a care in the world. Personally, I was scared to death!
Plowing on through the rough water, we finally spotted the dike and could make out a bait camp on our side and headed straight for it. Closing in on the dike, I anchored the boat with the bow pointing into the storm, which had slacked off some. With the rain pelting down, we got out of the boat, soaked to the skin and waded to the dike and then some smart aleck under an awning at the bait camp, asked, “Kind a rough, wasn’t it?” If my nine year old hadn’t been along, there would have been violence!