Written for "The Unlikely Muse" Houston Sidewalk 1998
Mark Marmon of Metro Anglers promises to get you fly fishing within ten minutes of downtown Houston, and it's not because he has a really fast car. Would you believe that carp, bass, mullet, perch, sunfish and coy reside happily in the city's dingy Bayous and Day-Glo-colored manmade lakes? Mark Marmon will convert any skeptic who thinks the only organism that could survive in these tepid waters is E. coli. Still, the name of the game is catch and release.
Fly fishing is practically a religion for some. This zen-like practice which involves the art of fly-tying, with delicate tools, a nearly invisible line and ornate artificial flies attracts a faithful following. A fly fisherman prides himself in his attentiveness, his knowledge of the environment, and his skillful casting that leaves the water seemingly untouched. It's a quiet, somewhat solitary sport where the fish can see and hear you and vise versa. Needless to say, it's not the same type of fishing where you strap yourself into an angler's seat and reel in a 200lb tuna while screaming profanities at the top of your lungs. Less drama, more process.
Marmon, who grew up fly fishing with his grandfather in the Medina and Guadalupe Rivers of San Antonio, makes a point of "wetting a line" nearly everyday. He says the diehard fly fisherman always has his gear in the car, and in Mark's case, his gear and some Honduran cigars. Besides his rod and lines, assorted flies, his hemostat (for removing the hook) and nipper (for trimming the line), Mark carries a detailed log book of every fish that he catches. Since January, he's caught 225.
About a year ago, a plastic surgeon from Ann Arbor, Michigan responded to an on-line ad that Mark had posted with his pledge of inner city angling-- he had joked to friends that he could start a business of his favorite pursuit. Mark's first client was so pleased with his return that Mark started receiving word-of-mouth referrals. Year's of experience, a love for the sport and forensic knowledge of Houston's waterways (Mark previously worked for a bio assessment company -- another reason he knows not to keep the fish) were the impetus for Marmon's Metro Anglers.
There are 3 "lies" (the place where fish hold and feed) to which Mark directs his clients: the lakes on the grounds of Transco Tower, Braes Bayou, and 2 lakes near the Astrodome. Mark provides all of the equipment and the trips last about 2 hours.
For our urban fishing excursion, Mark and I met at Braes Bayou near the corner of Stella Link and North Braeswood. We parked our cars at a run down strip center behind a Texaco Station and walked south across the Stella Link bridge to the other side of the Bayou. As we passed over the water, we -- with the aid of polarized sunglasses --could see several dozen huge carp, mullet and coy actively cutting the surface. We climbed gingerly down a steep incline and across a high speed bike path full of cyclers that recognized Mark and shouted "how's the fishing?" and other inaudible greetings. Within seconds, Mark cast his coffee bean fly in the water and repeatedly casted in the direction of the fish. When Mr. coffee bean didn't "match the hatch" which means imitate what the fish are eating, Mark switched to a bead head nymph, and bingo! We had been there for about 15 minutes when he had a take on his line and reeled in a sizable German brown carp, number 226.
While inner city angling might lack the idyllic scenery and elicit more than a few inquisitive stares, once you witness the abundance and variety of fish, it's hard to notice anything else. What's more is now when you post a "gone fishing" sign on your office door during lunch hour, it's feasible that you have.