One of my favorite works that showcases what the quality of angling was like in my neck of the woods back in the day is titled Plugger: Wadefishing The Gulf Coast. While not specifically about fly fishing, it showcases the exploits of one of, if not the most influential fisherman from The Lone Star State, the legendary Rudy Grigar. Rudy, whether purposely or otherwise almost singlehandedly altered the course of the way gamefish were pursued along the Texas Gulf Coast, by committing himself exclusively to the use of artificial lures back in the 1940's. And perhaps equally as important, he did it by getting OUT OF the boat and pursuing his quarry on the flats by wading. In a time when live shrimp under a popping cork was the norm, Rudy pioneered and perfected the use of lures like the Johnson Sprite Spoon, and the carved wooden plug.....hence the appropriate nickname, PLUGGER.
Plugger was originally published in 1997, and immediately became a cult classic among those of us who have dedicated ourselves to chasing Redfish and Speckled trout with artificial hardware on foot. As a literary work, it details the evolution and growth of not only Rudy as an angler but also the multitude of pioneering developments that spawned an evergrowing regional industry. From lure and rod design to boat architecture to current fisheries management, there's not one area of Texas angling that doesn't have Rudy Grigar's fingerprint indelibly imprinted on it.
Additionally, Plugger shines a high beam spotlight on what the quality of the angling was like along the Gulf Coast during the middle part of the twentieth century. The flip side is that it also details the decline in that quality due to commercial overfishing, greed, and pollution. And, ultimately how the hugely successful Coastal Conservation Association was formed with Rudy's help, in his Tackle shop in Houston to help combat and overcome many of the problems that continue to threaten our sport.
One of my old friends and long time Texas Rodmaker the late Ellis Mendiola knew Rudy very well and was a regular customer at his tackle shop in Houston. Ellis also had the grand experience of fishing with Rudy when he had his houseboat in the Chandeleur Islands. Back in 2007, Ellis told me a hilarious story about his trips with Rudy while we ate lunch on the deck of Captain Freddy Lynch's skiff one afternoon in 9 Mile Hole. Rudy had evidently taken out an ad in one of the popular fishing magazines advertising his guide service in the Chandeleur Islands that featured a "houseboat with full-service accommodations including air conditioning and hot water". Ellis described fishing with Rudy as an almost military style exercise. His stamina and focuse were according to Ellis, that of a person half his age. After the first day on the water, Ellis said he couldn't wait to get back to the houseboat to take a hot shower and relax in the cold AC. Upon their return, Ellis relieved himself to his bedroom on the boat, only to find that not only was there no AC....there was also no hot water in his shower as was advertised. Rudy's room was on the opposite end of the hall, and he happened to be standing in the doorway to his bedroom completely naked, when Ellis yelled at him "RUDY, I THOUGHT YOU SAID THIS BOAT HAD HOT WATER AND AIR CONDITIONING?" Rudy curtly replied "IT DOES....IN MY ROOM!". He slammed the door and went and enjoyed a hot shower and a cold room to nap in!
On a personal note, when I first read Plugger in 1997, I became so enamored with Rudy's story and the peripheral history involved, that I continued to read and re-read it probably twice a year up until just a few years ago. Rudy's passion and dedication to a then burgeoning facet of the sport had a profound effect on the way I still fish to this day. Funny enough, when my son Jackson was a newborn and had trouble sleeping through the night as all babies do, I used to read him Plugger to help him calm down and fall back to sleep. We often joke that those midnight readings may have been the subliminal impetus for his love of fishing, and his subsequent rapid early growth and success as an angler.
Used editions of Plugger are available on Ebay and Amazon, and if you have any love at all for angling history and literature, I highly recommend you acquire a copy. Plugger is a tremendously enjoyable read, and more importantly a unique insight into one of the most influential anglers to ever step foot on to the flats of the Texas Gulf Coast.
Hope you're all staying safe and healthy!