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      The Nature Report: Laguna Madre Fly Fishing

      Roel Villanueva

      First light on the Lower Laguna Madre finds Rick Hartman casting for reds in the shallows, as his friend Roel Villanueva poles their boat quietly along. Hartman, who lives in Harlingen, has been a dedicated fly-fisherman for more than 20 years.

      Through thousands of hours of practice, Hartman has become one of the best in the world and won numerous international competitions.

      I have won the internationals, Hartman said. I guess four or five times.

      He has won the Fly-Fishing Masters the past two years, which was televised on ESPN and competed in the nationally televised Total Outdoorsmen Challenge.

      The Total Outdoorsmen Challenge, that TMs kind of a tough deal, the fishing champion. I took the silver medal in that, that TMs rifle, bait casting, fly rod, shotgun, archery, ATV|

      Watching Hartman expertly flick the fly line wherever he wants is captivating as he is truly a master of his craft.

      It TMs amazing what this guy can do, Roel Villanueva said. It is great to be able to have somebody who can cast 100 feet without any trouble.

      The redfish and trout can TMt seem to resist his perfect casts and carefully handcrafted flies.

      Hartman works as a guide on the bay when he is not off competing, but he takes his greatest pleasure in making those elegant casts.

      Casting is a lot of fun, Hartman said. Yeah, you can catch fish with a fly rod, but I also really enjoy just getting out and watching that line unroll. I never get tired of watching it...never get tired of watching a long cast|never do.