Thomas Wolfe made it clear. You can’t go home again.
But as I recall the boredom I felt while reading Wolfe’s books in college, I’m sure he never said anything about not going back to college.
That’s kind of what I did the other day, after I got a call from a dear friend from college, a fraternity brother and good hunting and fishing partner, Charlie Paradoski.
Charlie was just back from Vietnam when we met in the early 1970s. We hit it off, with deer hunting the common thread of our lives at the time. Later it would be Charlie who would take me on my first saltwater fishing trip, a wading expedition to Galveston Bay, where he was guiding on his off days from a manager’s job at Sears.
I was new to the Houston Post then when I got a call from Charlie to accompany him and another friend on a trip to fish for speckled trout and redfish. I didn’t know anything about the fish or about wading, but I would come to learn and to think that catching big trout on artificials was the best thing in the world.
We caught fish that day and lots of times after that, as Charlie introduced me to the close-knit Galveston wading community. There were the old guys, Pete Tanner, Bubba Silver, Jack Montgomery and Maurice Estlinbaum. And then there was Charlie, whom I lost track of for 30 years after I moved to the Hill Country.
Then he calls and invites me down to Matagorda Bay for a day of wading in West Matagorda and a day of drift fishing in East Matagorda. Charlie has been fishing in Matagorda since the late 1980s, a move he made for a very simple reason. “Mostly the people,” he said while we walked along a dirty-water line as we waded. “There were too many people in Galveston. Now I fish down here and most days don’t see anybody else.”
The fish are generally bigger too, though we couldn’t have proved that our first day in West Matagorda. Recent rains had muddied the Intracoastal Canal with fresh water pouring from the mouth of the Colorado River, which looked like some ancient primeval forest, littered with dead trees swept downstream by the floods.
“We have to watch for big logs that get carried down the river when it rains because they can get you in trouble if you hit them with the engine,” Paradoski says as he, my friend Trey Carpenter, Houston angler Shane Schlemeyer and I navigate past the mouth of the river and into clearer water in the western portion of the giant bay.
Once we found the spot Paradoski was searching for, where off-color water bled out of a cove well into the shallow bay, he stopped the boat and ordered everyone out and fishing.
“We want to cast into the dirty water. That’s where the fish will be,” he said.
We spent several hours working different spots until we found a few fish in fairly deep water well out into the bay.
Fishing in water that came right to the tops of our waders, we landed limits of trout between noon and 2 p.m. and then decided to call it a day. We also landed and released a number of small redfish and a flounder.
Day two found us drifting over shell reefs in East Matagorda Bay, bouncing plastic jerk baits near the bottom and catching some very nice trout and a few redfish. We finished just short of limits for everyone and cut out for home.
Carpenter and I each brought home several bags of fillets for our families and had a chance to fish a bay we’d never fished before. And Charlie and I got to catch up on 30 years of lost time. There are worse ways to spend a couple of days in the spring.