08 May 2012

Amistad's Pecos River 2012

Rain!  Glorious, sweet, life-giving rain fell.  It fell all Wednesday  morning; it fell early and mid-afternoon.  Temperatures dropped to 64°F.  As a result, we did not fish Box Canyon.  We decided to seek a boat shop to repair the tiller that was damaged Sunday on the Devil's River arm.  With little luck at the boat shops, we decided to go to Comstock and see the Pecos River arm and Seminole Canyon.

Looking north up the Pecos
Cody took us to the Pecos River High Water Bridge crossing and we picnicked, gawking at the horrendously low water levels.  We met a couple from Washington state and talked with them about the Pecos River, the old road on the west, and where Mexico was located in relation to where we stood.  We read the historical markers, snapped photos, and moved to a new destination.

I had never been to Langtry, so Cody decided it was a perfect time to visit Judge Roy Bean and the Law West of the Pecos.  Interestingly enough, the museum is operated by the Texas Department of Transportation, and they have done a nice job preserving this interesting piece of history.  We discussed the lake levels and learned that water is being actively released from Amistad!  Gates were scheduled to be opened this afternoon.  It turns out that Falcon Lake is requesting the water to raise their water levels and operate their power plant.  Texas water management does not make sense.  As a teen, I grew up on Lake Granbury, and the same plan occurred:  Possum Kingdom's levels were dropped to increase Granbury's; Granbury's levels were dropped to increase Whitney's, etc.  Without rain, what increased Possum Kingdom's levels?

Returning to Comstock and Seminole Canyon, we stopped by the NPS Pecos River boat ramp, which is still open, to see the confluence of the Pecos and Rio Grande.  The confluence can not be seen from the High Water Bridge Scenic Overlook.  I was disgusted by what I saw.  I also understood the high numbers of Border Patrol in the area; we counted at least 30 cars along Hwy 90.  We probably could have boated the Mitzi through the narrow channel, but I doubt we could have boated to Panther Cave, which is only accessible by boat.

Pathetic confluence of the Pecos River and Rio Grande
We left the boat ramp and visited Seminole Canyon.  We hiked a part    of the Rio Grande River Trail and  then Rough Canyon Trail.  We saw the old Southern Pacific rail bed.  We enjoyed Rough Canyon, and while Cody was looking on Mexico, the dark skies released more glorious rain on Mexico and the sky lit up with bolts of lightening.  About .2 mile before reaching the car, the skies opened up and the rain began to fall.  I love rain, but rain in the desert is particularly special.  Thank goodness El Nino is gone; hopefully, now, we can get back to more normal weather, receive rain, and see the lake levels renewed.  Hopefully, Box Canyon will look better than the Pecos Arm!

07 May 2012

Amistad's Diablo East 2012

Trying to acclimate to Amistad's low water levels is an adjustment.  We put in at Diablo East, today, and boating under the bridges and seeing the high water marks really puts the 2011 drought in to perspective.

We headed south towards the dam in choppy, occasionally white-capped waters, and then turned NW heading to the many coves opposite the dam.  Winds were blowing 20 mph out of the SE, so setting the boat up to drift correctly and keep us out of the many exposed trees was not easy.  We cast to the eastern shore, even though we saw no fish.  The fish finder showed no fish, too.  For whatever reason, Cody turned to see if I was casting and saw a "turtle" swimming just under the water line.  Cody asked if it was a turtle, and we both said no, it's a fish.  Cody, using his sinking  line with one of my Bass Brunch, Gizzard Shad flies, immediately cast to it, she turned and inhaled the fly, and Cody brought her in.  That Largemouth Bass fought and jumped like crazy.  It was an enjoyable treat to watch.  We weighed her, and she tilted the IGFA-certified Boga scales at 3 1/4 pounds.  Cody enjoyed it immensely.  While not that easy, we wished the remainder of the day had gone more smoothly.

While snapping the photo, I did see a beautiful Spotted Gar running along the shore.  Those two fish were it for that cove.  The fishing was incredibly difficult.  Coves that had always been productive, holding many different species, had zero fish.  We did find fish at the mouths of the coves about 12 feet deep in the water column, even though the depths were approximately 57 feet deep.  Even though we fished heavy sinking lines with big rods, we had not hits, no catches.  We cove-hopped two more with no success.

Upon entering our fourth cove, we found a unique feature--a rock wall, N 29°29.184 W 101°05.133.  We're guessing it was built in the early/mid 1990s, when the lake was approximately 100 feet low, because the wall was built into the rocky bottom.  We saw young sheep on either side of the wall and a nice pond formed on the shallow side.  I got off the boat and stood on top of the wall to fish.  Seeing that the water level had dropped, Cody and I decided if we even caught anything, we would release it on the lakeside of the wall.  I cast a sinking line, Bass Brunch, Gizzard Shad fly, and on my third cast, caught a nice 1 3/4 pound Largemouth Bass.  Cody walked the shore, casting his 2#.  He saw large minnows and many young Bluegill.  Cody then walked the lakeside all the way down to the point.  This cove was deep, had few trees, and several fish.  We each had timid hits, and we saw our first and only carp of the trip, so far, but caught nothing.

Dark clouds filled with rain, lightening, and thunder loomed on the Mexican side just behind the dam, so Cody checked the weather GPS.  Deciding not to press our luck by waving a 9 foot lightening rod, instead of casting a fly rod, we headed back to the boat ramp.  No sooner had we arrived than five other boats showed up, while one decided to launch.  Cody talked with folks in the other boats, and only one guy had caught five fish.  Everyone else caught one or none, so I guess we upheld the average for Diablo East.  The barometric pressure was changing, and even though we had a mostly full moon, finding the fish, much less catching the fish, was extremely difficult.  It was strange to be off the water before sunset, and with a 60% chance of rain during the night, we hope the fishing picks up at Box Canyon, Tuesday.

06 May 2012

Amistad's Rough Canyon 2012

Low! low! low!  Different! different! different!


Our annual outing to Lake Amistad is shocking.  I can not believe the lake, and I am having difficulties grasping what 21 feet low, 63% capacity means.  We fished our local haunts, or at least where we could boat.  We began the trip, as always, at Rough Canyon up the Devils River Arm.  Even in our Mitzi Skiff, that can be push-poled in a foot of water, we could only navigate 150 yards upriver from the mouth of Satan Canyon.  We could not reach the Bluegill and Carp area at Four Poles (we couldn't even see the Four Poles).  Satan Canyon had little trees, and after navigating a low spot, we headed back to as far as we could go, which was .2 miles less than we were able to proceed last year.  We discovered two springs, took pictures so we could see where fish bed and hide when the water levels are normal.  Near the springs feeding the canyon waters, Largemouth Bass and Redear Sunfish thrived.  Cody pulled a 2 lb and 1 3/4 lb LMB out of the canyon, and I had two Redears at 3/4 lbs each.  We saw bedding 1 pound LMBs, but left them alone to spawn.


An upside to the drought, I finally saw Indian Springs.  I guess everyone else was excited about seeing it too, because it was always occupied.  People even hiked from the cliffs down and spent four hours at the springs.

Slaughter Bend Cove still exists and can be boated and fished, but only about half of the canyon has water.  We caught some LMB and Sunfish, and we discovered a spring that is about 22 feet below the NPS No Camping and No Fire building signs, and we named the spring "No Camp Spring."  The thing about the signs, in previous years, we have always been level with those signs as we boated by to fish farther into the cove.  Astounding, just astounding.

We chose to fish an area we deemed Bonsai Island and its cove.  We always catch LMBs there, always!  This year, we learned that what we saw as an island is really a long undulating peninsula.  The treetops inside the cove had always been slightly submerged and held fish, especially along the cliff wall.  We fought getting hung up, and we had no hits, so we left.

We moved farther south to fish a Lowrey Springs Cove, which we discovered last year.  Sunfish, especially Redbreasts, were abundant and big, averaging a pound, and Painted Buntings flew everywhere.  We caught a total of three Sunfish, but we did get to see Lowrey Springs.  Dusk was growing near, so we headed out to get to our Smallmouth Bass Shore.

We found our reliable Smallmouth spot, and seeing the terrain we once boated over, I thoroughly understand how it attracted and held fish.  The depth finder lit up with an abundance of fish, and the twilight topwater tango was on.  Cody and I both tied on deer hair flies.  (Prior to that, all Cody fished was his CodyBugger on floating line, and I used a green Bonefish Bitter on floating line.)  I had not used mine since tying it in Diane's spinning deer hair class.  I nearly came out of my skin and swallowed my tongue when a nice LMB inhaled my fly.  I fought the fish, but seeing as I chose a long leader, after a minute of wrangling with her, she popped my line.  I diligently tried to catch any other of those showing up on the fish finder to no success.  Cody switched back to a sinking line, but no fish bit.  Having thrown our arms out, quickly losing daylight, and satisfied with 15 landed fish for the boat, we called it a night.



Diablo East and the canyons NW of the dam are on the map for tomorrow.


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