Updated on June 22, 2021
Captain Experiences: Let’s check real quick to make sure we're good to go on Facebook. Yup, we’re live. Awesome! Hey, everybody, this is Jonathan with Captain Experiences and I'm here with Captain Richard Gardner. How’s it going?
R. Gardner: Good, how’s it going?
Captain Experiences: Good. Like every one of these interviews, if you're tuning in, feel free to leave your comments with Captain Richard and we’ll ask him some questions. Just want to start out by asking you to introduce yourself- where you mainly operate in Galveston, that kind of stuff.
R. Gardner: I’m Richard Gardner with Galveston on the Fly. I'm a fly-fishing guide in the Upper Texas coast, mainly in Galveston in the West Bay Complex, with exceptions, depending on the month.
So I fish kind of near the middle coast of the Brazoria area of Brazoria County, the San Bernard River, and the Brazos River.
That’s about as far south as I go. I might venture in the East Bay with some buddies just to come and do some scouting for them just for fun fishing but I typically try to keep most of my trips on the Upper Galveston Bay and the West Bay complex. And occasionally, we'll run to East Galveston Bay as well.
Captain Experiences: Awesome. That's great. You really kind of hone in on that one section of the bay which is obviously very vast to work out of for you just right there.
Captain Experiences: Can you tell me about the trips you offer, a half-day or full-day?
R. Gardner: Yeah we offer half days and full days. Half days typically run four to five hours, I’ll typically go over if we’re not seeing fish or if something is happening and we really didn’t get to fish all that often or too much. Typically, it runs 4-5 hours for a half-day and a full day's eight to nine, so it's a long day on the water.
We get on the water at about 7 a.m, maybe earlier if it's the weekend, trying to beat the crowds. It depends on what we're seeing. If we’re sight casting to cruisers, we’ll kind of wait a little bit to let the sun come up.
If I know that there's gonna be some tailing going on or some backing due to the tide levels I'll kind of wake up a little earlier and get those guys on the water a little earlier and beat somebody to the spot. It has been crazy the last two weeks, they've been insane. A lot of spots have been busy.
Captain Experiences: That's awesome. Can you tell me specifically what kind of fishing in West Bay is like?
R. Gardner: So, we really have good trips for fly fishing in the Galveston Bay Complex.
We are known for dirty water obviously- it’s not as clear as it is in Port O'Corner, Rockport, or down south, Upper / Lower Laguna Madre stuff. But we do have good fly fishing opportunities here. There are certain times a year, which start now from I guess early spring/ late spring and in the summer, where we have a lot of grass showing up. The grass regrows which filters that water and clears it.
If I took a photo of where we're fishing you couldn't tell if it was Belize or Galveston Bay because it is clear where that grass does grow through. But we're fishing a lot of back marshes, a lot of shorelines, that and spoil banks.
Sand flats turn into grass flats in the summertime. I guess now through the summer until that grass actually dies and it's off again. So basically just marsh fishing and sand flat fishing, whether it be on the west end or the east end.
That's pretty much what I offer out there. I do accommodate spin fishermen who want to throw the spinning or bait-casting rod but typically what I do is we sight cast fish. We sight cast fish either with a fly rod or the spinning rod along with the bait caster.
If they’re bait caster guys, it's kind of sacrilegious to just throw a spinning rod in Texas but I kind of did a lot of fishing in Florida back in early 2000's so I kind of turned over a new leaf.
Captain Experiences: I'm not about it personally but that's awesome. Can you share a little bit about how many people you can take, that stuff?
R. Gardner: So I run a Sabine Skiff. It's actually one of the only aluminum skiffs built in the world. There's a few home builds but Sabine Skiffs some of them by Brian Little and he actually has a warehouse in Kemah and he does a lot of the welding in East Texas kind of near Beaumont within the area.
But I run a skiff. It's a four-person skiff but I don't typically take four people out, it's usually me plus two other anglers or one other angler and there's always one person on the bow, and one person kind of sits and watches. And they kind of swap off and take turns.
So I generally let them pick and choose how they want to do that. But sometimes I have to step in and say, “hey it's his turn” or, “hey he needs to get a few shots in” but it’s typically three guys on the skiff, that’s pretty much a full boat.
Captain Experiences: That's awesome. Can you talk about how you got into fishing, got into fly fishing, and then began guiding as well?
R. Gardner: So I’ve only been guiding for two years now, but I’ve been fishing all my life. I actually grew up in Pasadena, Texas and my dad still has this place on the Sabine near the St. Bernard River.
So I would get lost on the weekends for hours and hours on end as a kid as a 10-year-old. A little 12-foot Jon Boat just doing what you do, just getting lost. So my dad’s kind of the one who turned me on to it as an adolescent.
But as I started to grow, I could actually drive with my buddies. I basically just turned to kayaking or wade fishing, mostly wading- we'd wade the same flats that I pole now on occasion. On the west end of Galveston, I started guiding. I started fly-fishing about nine years ago / ten years ago. I was just getting bored with the conventional - not bored - I just wanted to change.
I wanted to do something different and I picked up a fly rod and kind of taught myself and all self-taught, and never turned back. Never looked back. I just kind of fell in love with it like everybody else does and here I am. I’m a guide. I guess 10 years later after I picked up a fly rod. But I've been guiding in the Galveston Bay Complex for about two years now.
Captain Experiences: That's awesome. That's great stuff. So do you go back to the same pointers and tips that traditional fly fishing guides would teach their students or do you have your own train of thought on that?
R. Gardner: It’s a little bit of both. I fish all over the world, probably six, seven, eight different countries. I traveled a lot as a kid, I travel a lot now.
I try to fly fish and try to surf and stuff. So I picked up a lot from the Belizean guides, the guides down in Costa Rica and Guatemala or wherever you might fish. So they all have their own tips, tricks, techniques. I try to take a little bit of every one of those guys. Cuz there's some amazing guides out there who have been doing a hell of a lot longer than me and I can definitely learn something from them.
I try to do that but I got my own little deal going on. I got my own little tips and techniques but I do take a lot from other guides who taught me along the way. It’d be stupid not to. We're always learning. Every time I go out on the water I learn something new, I really do. And I'm not just saying that. Whether it be tidal, whether it be wind wise, whether it be just trying to nail down fish in a specific spot at a specific time for a tide. So I take in everything I can get to be the best I can be for my clients.
Captain Experiences: That's amazing. On that note can you touch on the gear that you use or what weight rod - tongue twister - you might be using, that sort of stuff?
R. Gardner: You get guides who throw five and six weights at these little smaller redfish but generally I fish at an eight weight or seven, eight, or nine weight. Nine. Being wind-dependent and letting heavier lines kind of cut through that weight a little bit easier than an eight-weight will. As opposed to ending a knot in a seven as well but so seven, eight, and nine weight rods are typically ideal for the Texas coast.
You never know when you might run into a big old Jack in the summertime. Or now, somewhere cruising along and it's gonna be a fight on an eight weight but I traditionally fish a nine-foot fly rod. But I am starting to move towards these shorter shot rods that are about eight feet.
I use these thicker heads on some of these fly lines so it loads that rod easily. So there’s not as much false casting. They're really easy to point to as opposed to a long bonefish tapered line. So seven, eight, nine is typically what's ideal on the Texas coast.
Captain Experiences: Awesome. Yeah. Thanks a lot. What would you say makes your trips different?
R. Gardner: Different? That’s a good question. I think a lot of guides, I’m not throwing stones, but a lot of guides have been doing this a long time. I haven’t yet. I am not tired of it yet. I enjoy being on the water, which a lot of guides are, they enjoy the hell out of the water. They wouldn't do what they do.
I’m kind of patient. I don't get aggravated too easily and if a guy blows a shot or blows a fish, or does a trout set instead of a strip set, no big deal. We just wanna catch a fish.
I don't fly off the handle. I'm pretty calm. I'm pretty honed in on my spot up here in the Upper Galveston Bay area along with all the other guides too.
So I’m not too different in that aspect but I like to think I'm a little bit more patient than some of those guides out there, who didn’t do anything but that for thirty years.
But I’m not throwing stones. We got some outstanding people on the Texas coast that know fish through and through and so I'm not taking away from them at all and there's a lot of guys who have been doing it ten times as long as I have but I've fished with some of those guys.
Captain Experiences: That's cool. That's why we do these interviews. There are some people who might like that fly guide who’s a tough-love coach. Like, “come on,” that pumps them up or whatever. Others like guides that are a little calmer about it so that's cool.
R. Gardner: There are people that don’t have thick skin and there are people out there that do. There are personality conflicts on occasion, not me, but I’ve seen it. But it is what it is. Some guys weren’t meant to be on the same boat together but I try to pride myself on being the guy who pretty much gets along with anybody.
Captain Experiences: If you don’t get along on the water, and you’re not too deep, you can just walk right off! That's all. What's it like when you push someone beyond their fishing limits and they catch their first redfish on the fly?
R. Gardner: A lot of guys, especially those that haven’t done any saltwater fly-fishing - they've done straight fishing, trout-fishing - it’s just amazing, they’re ecstatic.
It’s a bucket list fish for a lot of guys. It's a bucket list fish for Montana guys, Colorado guys, the Midwest guys, or just a person who's landlocked that doesn't get to fish for these kinds of fish.
And it's awesome to see somebody hook up with a redfish. I'm thinking, I'm more excited half the time than they are. Whenever they're hooking up, it's cool man. It's cool to see their reactions and how ecstatic they are whenever they hook up so it's so fulfilling for me for sure.
Captain Experiences: That's awesome. That sets me up for my next question. The next question is why do you love what you do, what gets you up in the morning?
R. Gardner: I've never been a person who could sit at home, and kind of whittle away on video games or TV.
I’ve always enjoyed the outdoors, as a lot of other Texans do. I live on the Texas coast, so I live on the upper coast here in Seabrook Texas which is kind of the upper Galveston Bay complex.
I like my kids to do the same things. If I don't get up for myself, I get up for them. To kind of enjoy the same things that I do but this is being out in nature, seeing different things, running a boat, it's just cool.
Being outside and doing things that involve the outdoors whether it be fishing, hunting. I'm not the biggest hunter anymore. I haven't hunted in a long time but I still enjoy it. So just being outdoors, it's just kind of the key for me. We’re not gonna be here forever, so just enjoy the hell out of it.
Captain Experiences: That's awesome. Is there one memory that stands out for you over your time, your favorite memory as a guide?
R. Gardner: I think it was my first trip I ever took. It was my first guided trip and the guy I was taking, was his first redfish trip, so he had never caught a redfish in his entire life.
He was an average fly fisherman. He’d done some trout stuff but I had a lot of pressure on me being my first trip to run. It's kind of me still learning things and it being his first redfish trip.
He hooked up almost 30 minutes in. I think, okay, all the pressure’s off and we can just relax and go fish now. So I was kind of on edge but one of the most memorable experiences I've had was my first trip, putting him on his first redfish on fly which was really good.
Captain Experiences: That's amazing, That's a good story. How do you feel about the future of fishing and the future of fly fishing both specifically in Texas and Galveston Bay and then beyond generally?
R. Gardner: So there’s definitely more fish in saltwater, obviously. You’re going to hear everybody say it. The future of fishing is good, we got some great conservationists out there, whether it be the CCA of Texas or FlatsWorthy, and what they're trying to accomplish.
We definitely do have busier systems and busier marsh systems than I have seen. I've seen more skiff in my spots and other spots than I've ever seen in my entire life but these guys know what they're doing. They know how to run boats, they know how to be conservationists.
Catch-and-release is really catching on, so I have high hopes for the fishery. A lot of guys are doing it for sport, not for food anymore.
You still have obviously the meat haulers which is cool. I eat fish just like the rest of us do but I think the future's bright. I do, I really do. With the conservation mindset of the majority of anglers now. But it's busier. There's a lot of boats on the water so we’re gonna all have to get along and play nice, but I have high hopes for the future.
Captain Experiences: That's awesome. Do you remember fishing after the BP oil spill about 10 years ago? Can you just touch on what your personal experiences were like at that time and how the fisheries rebounded?
R. Gardner: That would have been 2010 actually, right? I’m a big surfer, I’ve surfed the Texas coast since I was 15 years old. But one thing I do remember as a surfer is all the oil deposits washing up on the beaches. I don't remember specifically as a fisherman that I saw any oil sheen on the water, any fish that might have been affected. Maybe I wasn't paying close enough attention to it there.
But I do definitely remember for certain as a Texas surfer that there were a ton of oil deposits on the Upper Texas coast that they just couldn't clean up and I mean that was pretty devastating and we bounced back pretty quickly. I'm not sure the ever-lasting effects of it but I'm assuming it did some pretty hard damage to our system. I just don't know to what effect just yet. But yes, an unfortunate set of events.
Captain Experiences: That’s really interesting. Thanks a lot. Now, we just have some rapid-fire questions for you. Just the first thing that comes to mind. Favorite body of water you fished?
R. Gardner: Caribbean.
Captain Experiences: Nice.
R. Gardner: That’s a good question. I’d probably be a veterinarian.
Captain Experiences: Nice. Cool.
R. Gardner: Surfing. I try to get my kids to go surfing. Piloting. I enjoy flying airplanes. I enjoy just hanging out with my kids and teaching them all the things that I love, those are pretty much my hobbies in my life.
My time is consumed by a lot. I try to do the best I can to make do with what I have, but I've got a lot of hobbies and I try to spread them out evenly and enjoy them all. But surfing or hanging out with my kids and my wife are probably the biggest hobbies in my life.
Captain Experiences: Awesome, that’s a lot to keep you busy.
R. Gardner: No. I mean I’ve been called some pretty bad things but I got some groups of friends that call me Dick, I got a group of friends who call me Rich, some of my old high school buddies call me Rick, it’s all over the map. When I introduce myself I find myself introducing myself as Rich these days. So I guess I'm just getting lazy. I don't want to spell out Richard anymore.
Captain Experiences: Rich. There you go.
R. Gardner: Favorite song or band. Man, I'm kind of old school. Not “old school,” but I like it a little. I’d say if I’m going country I like Morgan Wallen. I like it. That's a newer style country. Jack Johnson's always on the playlist. Off the top of my head, that’s pretty much what I can think out right now.
Captain Experiences: Nice, cool.
R. Gardner: Favorite movie? It’s embarrassing. I haven't been to the movies in a long time but my favorite movie would have to be Django Unchained. That’s one of my favorites. As bad as it was, it’s just one of my favorite movies.
Captain Experiences: Nice. Super entertaining.
R. Gardner: It’s a toss-up, man. Chopped beef sandwich at one of the best barbeque stops I can think of or Fajitas.
Captain Experiences: Nice, can’t go wrong with either of those. Do you have a favorite barbecue spot?
R. Gardner: So we do. I’m just right down the road from your standard Pappasito’s or El Tiempo, great spots. But I really enjoy Red River Cantina. They have a barbecue joint, but they opened up a Mexican food joint just south of where we're about five miles. It's got some good food.
Barbeque, I don't even remember the name of what it's called but it's literally in a gas station about a mile north of here. They opened up about six months ago and it's phenomenal barbecue. Brooke gas station barbecue, try it out if you ever run across that and those guys are amazing. I just don’t know their standing right now because of all this hoopla going on but it’s good stuff.
Captain Experiences: Do you have a drink of choice?
R. Gardner: I’m an IPA guy. Got my 8th Wonder. My favorite IPA would probably either have to be Nebraska brewing IPA or I'm a big fan of Stash IPA down in Boston. So I'm an IPA guy, the fridge is full.
Captain Experiences: Do you like Art Car at all?
R. Gardner: I like Art Car, yeah I do for sure.
Captain Experiences: That’s awesome.
Captain Experiences: I think I know this one.
R.Gardner: Yeah The Astros, man. I’m an Astros / Rockets fan. But still a Texans fan. I’m an Astros fan.
Captain Experiences: We’re talking and I’ve got my world’s series tickets right there hanging up there above the bed if you want to take a look at that. That’s awesome.
R. Gardner: Did you go to this last world series?
Captain Experiences: Yeah.
R. Gardner I went to game 7.
Captain Experiences: No way! I think I was at game 4 or 5. It’s awesome.
R. Gardner: That’s a good one. Probably to fly without renting an airplane. If I can see what’s going on with the world and see what everybody else is doing. Yeah, flying for sure.
Captain Experiences: That's amazing, totally.
R. Gardner: [thinking] Probably, Payne Stewart, after his death. Rest in peace Payne. Yeah, great golfer, one of the greatest ever to live but yeah I was Payne Stewart for Halloween one year.
Captain Experiences: That's good stuff. That's cool.
R. Gardner: What do I want for Christmas? Probably a trip somewhere. I think a trip over any kind of physical gift at all. My wife and I by ourselves, no kids. We could relax on the beach somewhere and relax for three or four days. I'm surprised you don't hear screaming and hollering. Pretty good right now.
Captain Experiences: Yeah, caught a few but they're behaving. That's great.
R. Gardner: Yeah. Happy. Right?
Captain Experiences: Nice. I think so. Most answer with Sleepy or Grumpy. Good on you for going Happy.
R. Gardner: Kipping or strict? Strict, I can do about fifteen. Kipping, I can do about twenty-five.
Captain Experiences: Nice. There you go. You’re definitely the winner out of our guides so far. That’s awesome.
R. Gardner: I still do Crossfit, all of the gyms are closed but I’m a cross fitter.
Captain Experiences: Nice cool cool cool that's great.
R. Gardner: It’s Michael Jordan.
Captain Experiences: Nice. There you go. Have you seen the new documentary?
R. Gardner No. I have not.
Captain Experiences: I just watched the first episode. It's pretty sweet.
R. Gardner: My wife and I were going to watch it tonight actually but we’re still watching Longmire. I’m liking it. If you haven’t watched it, it's not bad. On Netflix.
Captain Experiences: No, I’ll check it out. Nice.
R. Gardner: Let’s see. The heaviest or the longest? The heaviest, all the tarpon have been in like the 30-40 pound range. Probably my heaviest fish was probably a 65-pound roosterfish. The longest would’ve easily been a gar which was like 60 to 65 inches.
Captain Experiences: Where was the roosterfish?
R. Gardner: Costa Rica.
Captain Experiences: Awesome.
R. Gardner: Costa Rica a couple of years ago, maybe three years ago.
Captain Experiences: That's awesome. Wonderful. Fly?
R. Gardner: No. This was on a popper.
Captain Experiences: Nice. That's awesome.
R. Gardner: Yeah, it was cool, it was really cool. It was going about 50 miles an hour, we’re just amazed that we actually caught that.
Captain Experiences: That’s awesome. So now for the favorite question.
R. Gardner: I wouldn’t throw it at a tarpon because it probably wouldn’t eat. I would say, man, a cruising redfish, about a foot of water, on a gin-clear flat with a redfish crack fly. Pretty much be certain those things are gonna eat.
Captain Experiences: That’s awesome. Good stuff. Well that’s about it, is there anything else you want to touch on, or anything you think we didn't cover?
R. Gardner: No. I appreciate you having me on. Thanks a lot. I appreciate it. I think you guys are doing an awesome thing.
Captain Experiences: Awesome. Do you want to shout out to the troops, the Armed Forces, that sort of stuff?
R. Gardner: Absolutely. All the first responders right now, all the frontline guys, ladies and gentlemen out there just kind of doing their thing and feeling the brunt of this, we do appreciate it. Obviously, always the service wonders, hats off to them. We wouldn't be where we are without what they do so hat's off to all those people. True heroes. They don't wear capes but they’re true heroes.
Captain Experiences: Awesome. Especially for a time like this. That's good stuff. Captain Richard Gardner, we'll have to do it again sometime soon. Best of luck with everything and keep in touch.
R. Gardner: Awesome. Appreciate it, Jonathan. Take care guys.
Captain Experiences: Sounds good.
To watch the full interview with Captain Gardner, check out this youtube video! !yt DeDZxe6RXAQ&t=4s