Shannon Drawe flipped his fly-fishing rod back and forth across the western bank of Ray Roberts Lake on a warm summer day, casting a fly to unsuspecting fish cruising through the reeds.
He was temporarily distracted from answering questions during an interview, with the hope of hooking a fish just off of the Sanger boat ramp.
“I consider fly-fishing to be a lot more physically challenging as far as coordination and the thought process that goes into selecting the right fly and the strategy that’s involved,” Drawe said after a few unproductive casts. “You’re not just pounding, pounding, pounding. There is, I believe, a little more thought that goes into it.”
Drawe is a fly-fishing guide on the lake, a rarity on any southern body of water that isn’t a trout stream. He took the business over from Joel Hayes, who guided on the lake before Drawe and introduced him to fly-fishing in the first place. He’s been taking clients out on the lake for several years now.
The idea of fly-fishing is to use a weighted line to carry an imitation lure, called a fly, to its target. Simply casting the rod takes some practice, but the method does offer some unique advantages for those willing to work on their skills.
“This first question I always get from people is, ‘you can fly-fish in Texas?’ I get funny looks from guys in boats and everything else,” he said. “But I’ve out-caught these guys on foot and in these coves more than once. They have their way of doing things and our way may be just enough different that when the fish are pressured, like they are here sometimes, I’ve got a better chance.”
Drawe targets several types of fish in the lake, including largemouth bass, gar and freshwater drum — also called gaspergou. The main draw for fly-fishermen, ironically enough, is a fish most conventional anglers do their best to avoid — the carp.
“The primary thing here for fly-fishermen to test themselves against is carp. Bass, to me, are actually pretty easy. I can get them to bite 99 times out of a hundred,” Drawe said. “Carp, I’ve already encountered six of them here today and they’ve just walked away. They’re a lot more smart. They are more intelligent and less reactive. You’ve got to be a lot more prepared.”
On a carp-fishing trip, Drawe will take clients wading through the shallow coves on the eastern side of Ray Roberts. Oftentimes, anglers will spot carp feeding in the grassy areas and cast towards them with a stealthy approach.
Drawe, who lives in Denton, said he generally spends about 120 days per year on the river. He is a professional photographer in his career. He also started the website, texasflycaster.com, in 2008 to cater to fly-fishermen in the DFW Metroplex.
Ray Roberts Lake is one of the best lakes for fly-fishing, he said, because it’s cleaner than most Texas reservoirs. It’s also large and is easily accessible from several points to wade or kayak.
“It’s got a lot to offer. I could go a lot of other places,” he said. “There’s no place that’s as clean, as uncrowded and just kind of untouched in a lot of ways. Any other lake right now you’d be running into a long line of trash right here. To me it’s just clean.”
He said he has a steady stream of clients from across the area who want to try their hand at catching a Ray Roberts carp. He also shuttles kayakers on the Trinity River as a side project as well.
Even though Draw said he fields a lot of questions about fly-fishing on the lake, he said it is starting to become more and more popular. For those interested in getting started, it’s just a matter of doing the research — it’s generally not as complicated as it seems. Though, it does help to know the lake.
“Information is really pretty critical. Maps and flies are two things that you really got to know a lot about,” he said. “The internet opens this whole thing wide open to where you can find about anything you need to know, whether it’s on my website or anywhere else.
“If they are already fly-fishing, there’s no reason not to give this a try,” he said. “That’s my advice. You’ve got to try it; you’ll like it.”