19 November 2010

Casting for Recovery

Anji, 2009 Participant
"To fish is to hope," and thus Casting for Recovery began in 1996 in Manchester, Vermont.  The brainchild of a breast cancer reconstructive surgeon and a professional fly fisher, CfR started as a grassroots movement.  Casting for Recovery was founded on the principles that the natural world is a healing force and that cancer survivors deserve one weekend — free of charge and free of the stresses from medical treatment, home, or workplace — to experience something new and challenging while enjoying beautiful surroundings within an intimate, safe, and nurturing structure.

Natalie, 2010 Participant
Today, CfR appears in 42 states, and Texas plays host to two retreats--one in Apirl and one in November.  Cody and I have had the wonderful opportunity to participate in the North Texas 2009, the inaugural year for the North Texas retreat, and 2010 retreats.  Cody takes pictures, and I serve as a River Helper.  We fish the Pauluxy River in Glen Rose on the last day of the retreat with 14 ladies who have or have had breast cancer.  All the River Helpers are volunteers, most coming from area fishing clubs.

Cody and I find giving back to CfR important and pertinent to our lives.  Cody learned a new term--Co-Survivor--when we cheered the Susan G. Komen 3-Day/60 mile walkers two weekends previously, and has taken great pride in being a Co-Survivor for two reasons.  Cody's momma, Donna Bell of Upton Co., is a 24 year breast cancer survivor and was first diagnosed in 1988.  Cody said of his Mom's cancer, "I knew Momma was really sick when she couldn't tote a sack of feed and help take care of the cows."  Beginning in September 1994, doctors initially struggled to diagnose my breast cancer, but having reached a diagnosis and treatment plan, I am a 15 year survivor.  CfR was not available to Miss Donna or I at the time we were treated, but being a part of CfR now, offers Cody and I a form of therapy and pride.  Cody volunteers in honor of his Mom and me, and I volunteer to offer hope and be a walking billboard, showing the ladies that where I stand, so will they. 

My favorite fly rods and freshwater reels are Temple Fork Outfitters rods and Ross Reels.  They, along with Jim Teeny fly lines, have combined to create a fun and supportive fly-fishing rig.  TFO builds an 8½ foot 5# and 9 foot 8# cranberry-purple colored fly rod decked out with the pink ribbon breast cancer logo and a hot pink rod sock.  $25.00 of the rod's price goes directly to CfR.  Ross Reels designs a hot pink Rhythm Fly Reel with the breast cancer ribbon logo, numbered edition and anniversary year, and motto--"Reel in a Cure" engraved into the reel with all of its reel price going to the Susan G. Komen foundation.  Jim Teeny designs a weight-forward floating fly line, with the 30 ft. running head colored pink and the remainder of the line is a beautiful purple; 10% of the line's cost is donated to CfR.  I have this complete set-up, thanks in part to Cody Bell, who bought my reel and line at Blue Ribbon Fly Shop in Mountain Home, AR.  While it is a great conversation starter and has helped me catch many beautiful fish, Cody and I realize its real significance, and we give each other a knowing look as we fondly talk about this special fly-fishing outfit.  To fish is to hope, without a doubt.

22 October 2010

Oktoberfisch 2010

Why do people feel comfortable with repetition?  Why visit a fishing spot again and again, year after year, and look forward happily to seeing that spot?  Afterall, the water travels over the same terrain and bends and curves in the same places, making the same subtle and rushing noises, and that sameness can be extended to the vista, the State Park, the campground, and the beauty.  Within the sameness, there is always something new, something unexpected, something refreshingly different.  So even though there is comforting familiarity with a place, a surprise always awaits even if it is a subtle one.

Oh how I adore October, and 2010's October proves continually to be one of the best ever for me!  We spent part of our honeymoon fishing the Fredericksburg Fly Fishing club's annual Oktoberfisch on the South Llano River.  We chose to camp at the Shady Morgan Campground, instead of cabins farther upstream.  Jason's new girlfriend, Dawn, accompanied us this year, and Diane provided casting instructions to all who were interested.

Dawn and Jason spent Thursday night at the ranch with us, so we introduced Dawn to fly-fishing at the Catfish Pond, where Dawn hooked-up with several Bluegill.  Holding true to a fine tradition, Dawn kissed her first catch with assistance from Jason.

Having attended Diane's casting class and hooked-up with several fish, Dawn readied for her kayak lesson.  Believing their is no better way to learn than baptism-by-fire, we showed Dawn paddle strokes and how to hold her paddle, and then put her in the kayak.  We used the South Llano River State Park's river access as our put-in point, and Dawn paddled around while we assisted one another in getting launched. 

Somewhat disappointed by the lower-than-normal water levels and heavier-than-usual traffic on the five-mile stretch, the South Llano still provided gorgeous scenery, beautiful fish, especially a healthier Rio Grande Perch population, and plenty of pools in which we threw our flies. 
Jason spent time teaching Dawn casting from the boat and making sure Dawn was comfortable with the kayak, the rod, and the water.  Much to all of our delights, Dawn loved fly-fishing, and, using a top-water bee fly pattern, even hooked up with a Longear Sunfish on her own.

Cody built my own anchor, and I loved using it.  I could hold in positions that in previous years weren't possible.  As a result, for the first time, I fished a beautiful, tree-shaded curve just after the bridge at the state park, that has always looked fishy, and I was rewarded pleasantly so with a beautiful Rio Grande Perch, one of my favorite freshwater fish.

Cody used the pontoon boat this year, but unlike Jason and I in years past, it didn't seem to kill him.  Cody picked his spots, nailed his casts, and landed some beautiful Guadalupe Bass, Rio Grande Perch, and Sunfish.  A Blue Heron did take offense to Cody, for some reason, and pooped all over his boat; fortunately, the Heron spared Cody.

We look forward to more fishing trips together and a wonderful anniversary trip back to the South Llano River and Oktoberfisch in 2011.

31 August 2010

North, to Alaska, North for Coho Fishing

Alaska, beautiful, majestic, immense, and home of many fish species.  I love going to Alaska--driving, flying, boating, it doesn't matter the method of transportation; I just love going to Alaska!  As always, like the majority of our trips, our purpose was to catch fish, and Coho was the target, Coho coming from the Pacific Ocean and Norton Sound headed home to the Unalakleet and North Rivers, and for one week, we called the Unalakleet River Lodge our camp home.  We needed one hotel, two planes, and a boat to arrive at the URL, but every leg of the trip was worth the journey, except we missed breakfast at Gwennie's in Anchorage, which was a brothel back in the 1920s.  We left Dallas on Saturday, arrived at Anchorage and the Millennium Hotel Saturday evening, and yes, the sun still shone as we finished supper at 10pm.  We left Anchorage on Sunday, arriving at Unalakleet that afternoon, boated up the Unalakleet River to the lodge, took the tour and became acquainted with the staff and our guide, dined on a fine meal, and rigged our rods for five days of glorious fishing.

For Cody, this trip was about adding to the freezer; for me, it was about adding to my species list.  Missions accomplished with lots of flare and fun.  Like most places this spring, the Unalakleet was blown out, so we only fished a few spots before trekking to the North River.  Lowell, our guide, put us on salmon early; however, on Day 1, I brought the 6# and 4#, accidentally leaving the 8# in the room--mistake, but not devastating.  On his fourth cast, Cody caught a pretty male who still had sea lice on his body.  My 6#, newly completed, hooked up with many salmon, but it was about an hour-and-a-half before I landed my first salmon on a pretty pink and purple fly I had tied.  Now, up until this trip, I only practiced catch-and-release fishing.  I knew the salmon were going to die, but catch-and-keep fishing was new to me.  No, I didn't listen as Lowell knocked the bucks senseless, nor did I watch as he sliced their gill plate to bleed them.  Lowell was very efficient and humane, but this fishing was a guilty pleasure.  The goal for everyone was to catch their limits early in the week, so the fish could be processed and packed for the flight home.  While we were at Unalakleet, the limit was four Cohos per person per day. 

We continued to fish for Coho as we worked our way up the North to a nice little cove.  There we fished for Chum.  Those fish are ones Picasso would have appreciated.  Lowell told us about a guest who was holding the fish, posing for a picture, when the Chum turned its head towards his bicep and clamped down.  While the guy had on layered clothing, the fish took a piece out of his arm.  Needless to say, I did not hold any of the Chum I caught.  I let the boys hold them. 

Moving farther up the cove, I fell in love.  The Coho and Chum were great fighters, but the Grayling and Dolly Varden captured my attention.  I loved watching Cody fishing mouse patterns.  The fly would hit the water, and 15 yards away, the Grayling would react, stealthily swimming along the bottom, and then, darting quickly to the fly.  Several were just hit and runs, but then, after about the fourth or fifth hit, it was GraylingOn!  What a fish--colors, fins, fight on a 4# rod with a dry fly.  For the day, I only caught one Grayling on a size 12 Elk Hair Caddis, but it was great fun!  While Cody fished for Grayling, I fished upstream for Dolly Vardens.  If I ever go back to Unalakleet, forget the Coho and Chum, I want large Dollies on the end of my line!  Overall, both Cody and I had a four species first day!

With the exception of Thursday, the weather was menacingly cold, high of 40 degrees, and constantly overcast.  At the dinner table, other guests shared how each day they layer dressed more than the previous day's clothing.  Tuesday, we were one Coho shy of our limit before lunch, so Lowell brought us back to the lodge for lunch so he could clean and process our fish for traveling, and it was really nice to warm up in front of the fire while having lunch.  I almost boycotted going back out, but I didn't.  The Dollies and Grayling awaited.  We fished the mouths of several small creeks, whose colors were bright red due to the spawning salmon packing the creeks.  The salmon aren't feeding; in fact, once the salmon hit fresh water, they never eat again, and apoptosis, cell death, begins to occur.  The salmon are returning to spawn, and bite the fly because they feel it is a predator who will eat their eggs.  Fishing the mouths of the creeks took lots of patience and several days, but Cody finally caught a brilliant red spawning buck.  I chose to fish the faster water for Dollies and was not disappointed.

The coldest day was Wednesday, and we started the day at Butch's Cove.  The Dollies I love so much decided they liked my flies, and I caught the biggest Dolly of our trip.  The day was pretty rough, though, and I refused to wade at times.  I just could not warm up or feel my feet.  Cody waded and caught Coho and Chum, while I stayed with the boat, catching Grayling and Dollies.

Two days, Lowell took us up the North several miles.  Thursday, the sun shone and temps warmed, so we fished for Coho, not to keep, just to catch and release.  These bucks and hens were nearing their spawning grounds, and Cody and I had several Coho doubles.  That day, the sun's light added a brilliance to the landscape.  Matt even stayed up past midnight to capture one of the most beautiful sunsets of his life.

Friday was our last day of fishing, and we wanted to end the week like we began it--catching four species for the day.  Lowell had taken us to another creek, which we waded.  Grayling thrived there.  We fished it earlier in the week, but when we returned, Friday afternoon, we saw a King Salmon.  He was rather red, but still had plenty of fight left in him.  I asked Cody if he would fish for the King, but Cody said Lowell would probably despise it.  Lowell told Cody to cast for him, but the King was really chummy.  (King Salmon make their runs back to the freshwater in late, late May and June; Pink Salmon runs happen in July, and August is the Coho Salmon run.)  The Grayling gave the King a wide berth, but would encroach upon his space.  For a while, I had been casting to a Grayling upstream of the King.  I finally got that Grayling to take my fly, and as I am bringing him in, the King honed in on the Grayling's splashing and targeted the Grayling.  I began fervently fussing at the Grayling to not fight, but Cody and Lowell kept trying to talk me in to letting the King get the Grayling.  I refused, though, and landed the Grayling, snapped his photo, and let him go, unharmed.  We motored down to Butch's Cove so Cody could catch a Dolly.  Ultimately, we caught Chum and Dolly, so it was--another four species day.

Even though we fished all day, wading a good part of the day and fought the cold, because the meals were divine, we could have gained weight.  At Unalakleet River Lodge, the last dinner is always Norton Sound crab.  It was the best crab I had ever eaten, and it was all we could eat, too.  Before heading home on Saturday, we had New Orleans style beignets, and they were to die for.  We learned how to make a maple glaze for our salmon.  We bid our good-byes, enjoyed the boat ride down river to Unalakleet and the airport.  We left a cold Anchorage, Alaska on a Saturday (snow would be falling within two weeks) and arrived home Sunday morning to temps in the upper 80s.  We brought home three boxes of salmon, collectively weighing over 50 pounds and can't wait to eat and share our fish.

In 1805, the Corps of Discovery grew tired of the salmon when they camped at the mouth of the Columbia and resorted to eating horses just so they could eat red meat.  I don't think I could ever tire of salmon, and I guess we have 50 pounds to answer the question. 

14 August 2010

Port O'Connor, TX

The first saltwater fish I ever caught was a Redfish, albeit, an approximate 5" length Redfish, but a caught Redfish, nonetheless.  I caught it wade fishing with my friend Jack in the Lower Laguna Madre.  I think Redfish are pretty.  Not truly red like a Red Snapper, the Redfish possesses beautiful colors--the obvious black "eye," orange body with 24K gold flecks near its belly, it is a beautiful fish, but what I think is the most beautiful about a Redfish's hue is the shimmery, light turquoise color edging its fins, particularly the tailfin.   So, when I was asked to join Jason, Malcolm, and Cody for an extended weekend Redfishing trip at Port O'Connor, I could not resist.  However, it took me forever to pack and decide what I wanted to take, so Cody did not get to meet up with Jason and Malcolm for the Shiner Beer Factory tour.  Sad Cody.

Mullet drive me nuts!  I know people in Florida eat them and even serve them on the menu, but mullet are annoying.  They jump out of the water and sound like Bass, so the head turning is a natural reaction--for nothing; they spook and scare other fish near them; they move in on a Redfish's feeding ground; they just make a nuisance of themselves.  Saturday we fished with a guide who pointed out places for Cody and I to go, and took Jason and Malcolm to another spot.  We fished diligently all morning, but with the plethora of mullet, all other fish remained elusive.  I did get a good hit from probably a speckled sea trout, but that was it.  We moved to the area where tarpon exist, but saw beautiful porpoises rolling, instead and no fish.  We waded and some other boat encroached in to our area.  Basically, outstanding desire + excellent effort yielded NO FISH, argh!

When we five met up again, Jason was the only one with a bite and landed Redfish.  Malcolm thought he snapped the photo, but it wasn't present on the iPhone when we broke for lunch.  Jason said he had it stored in his memory and that was all that counted.

Cody and I headed out again, mainly sightseeing and attempting to go beyond the breaks, but the waves rolled too high, so we headed back into the bay, all the while the black Matagorda Island Lighthouse peered above the southeastern horizon.

Hitting the water at 6 a.m. again Sunday, Malcolm and Jason rode in Malcolm's Mowdy and Cody and I in the Mitzi.  We headed to the Saluria Bayou area, and though it took a while, Malcolm motored Jason over to a school.  Jason made about 15 false casts, landed his fly in the middle of at least 10 schooling Redfish, and immediately, Jason's 8# rod bent and bent hard.  Meanwhile, Cody and I hung back watching the rest of that spooky school make a V wake toward us.  I casted to a tail about 30 feet away, and what should happen, an interfering mullet scared the school to hither and yon.  Meanwhile, Cody and I watched Jason work that Redfish who peeled line off that Lamson, and then Jason reeled it in, all against a gorgeous sunrise.  I was glad to see Jason land that fish, because two days, amongst four people, a total of three Redfish were caught.  Jason had two, and Malcolm would catch one later that morning.  They genuinely are easily spooked fish!

Not long after Jason caught his fish, I casted to two tailing Reds, but one only nipped my spoon fly, and then there were none.  Since we were in an outgoing tide, we should have paid more attention to our grass flat, that would eventually become dry at low tide.  Malcolm's boat maneuvers like a mini-airboat, skims over water shallow or deep.  The Mitzi is a flats boat, but the flats became too dry, and Jason and Cody had to push the Mitzi out of the flat--not an easy task in the sandy, more muddy, areas. 

Eventually pushed out in to the channel, we knew Malcolm's boat could go places the Mitzi could not, so he headed off to a favorite fishing spot, and Jason, Cody, and I took the long trip back to Clark's.  What was supposed to be a long weekend, quickly became a regular weekend, and even though we enjoyed one another's company, this bad fishing trip, yes, I said bad, and that is a first for me, ended, and we headed home, with a side stop in Lulling, TX to buy a wonderfully sweet Black Diamond watermelon.

I know Robert guides the Port O'Connor area, and his clients land fish, but I have a negative impression of the area.  The best thing about POC, besides fishing with friends and seeing a healthy Brown Pelican population, was the lighthouse.  A black sentinel that served as a beacon, even in the daytime, and proved that while the fishing skills might have been lost, we would never be.

11 August 2010

Rod Building with Norm

Fly fishing is an art--in four dimensions and is both modern and classical, as well. 

Many have seen the movie A River Runs Through It, where Jason Borger is Brad Pitt's stand-in for the casting scenes.  Watching Jason's casting, hearing Jason's casting demonstrates one aspect of this unique art. 

Making a good cast or a mediocre one and hooking and landing a fish, most of the times a beautiful fish with gorgeous colors, stripes, spots, and shine, offers another artistic aspect.

However, what prompts people to continue fly fishing when casting is an innate habit and landing fish is a frequent occurrence?  Fly tying and rod building are the answers.  You know, someone had to tie the flies seen in fly shops, because there is not a machine that ties them.  Save some money and perfect fly-tying skills, so that fish are biting flies you tied.  It really is an added bonus, not to mention a third facet of this beautiful art.

True, pure fly fishing art form is presenting the perfect cast with a rod you built and a fly you tied and landing a fish.  Taking a blank and creating a unique design, which sets your rod apart from the store-bought rod, creates an added addiction to fly fishing.  I guess that is why Norm and Brother Mike suggested I name my first rod AA, because it is addicting (and due to work's interference, it took me from August to April to build that first rod).  Catching fish on a rod you built does nothing but encourage the building of another rod.  Just ask our friend Jason, who built 14 rods under Norm's tutelage.

Many of us in the Dallas Fly Fishers had a wonderful teacher, Norm Goheen, who on Wednesday nights taught us the meticulous, rewarding art of rod-building, well, building graphite rods.  (If anyone wants to learn to build a bamboo rod, Colonel J.A. Bradford is the man to see.)  Norm fought a courageous battle against several cancers but succumbed to the disease at the end of November 2009.  I love TFO rods, and with the exception of my Casting for Recovery 5# rod, I built every one of them under Norm's guidance. 

I did not have a four-piece 6# rod, so I began one under Norm's instruction in August 2009, but I did not finish it before Norm passed away.  I had the vision of the rod in my mind and shared it with Norm, who thought it would be an interesting rod, but I put it aside with Norm's passing.  Seeing as it is now needed, I picked it up again to work on it.  I have tried to look at it as Norm would, critiquing its craftsmanship like Norm.  I think it would pass his muster.  I have unwrapped and rewrapped some guides that I did not feel Norm would approve. 

Most handles are designed with a man's hand in mind, which means the handles are bulky and chunky.  Therefore, Cody started designing the handles for my rods, my 2#, my 4#, and my current 6#.  Cork is delicate, at times, and boring out the cork on the end for the reel seat to slide into is not an easy process.  Tonight, Dad, Cody, and I used Dad's drill press, not to mention the presence of six hands, to create a perfect handle.  I know Norm would be impressed with our precision and Cody's beautiful craftsmanship. 

I miss Norm.  I miss his lessons on Wednesday nights.  I miss his advice.  This is the last of my rods that he touched and offered construction advice.  It has taken 9 months to really decide if I wanted to continue rod building.  I knew I wanted to finish this 6#, just because Norm had a hand in it, but what about future rods?  Do I want to build a new rod without Norm's influence?  I have been thinking about a 7# rod and have a design scheme in mind.  All that we learned from Norm is in our minds, and we collectively share with one another what we remember Norm teaching us, so while I have five rods built under Norm's direct supervision, all of my rods will have Norm's guidance and passion in them.  My goal is to have a collection of rods from 2# to 10# that I built, with the exception of my 5#.  I need a 3#, 7#, and 9# to complete my goal, and while I wish my teacher and friend was here to help with those, Norm will be present in each rod.   

01 August 2010

Sylamore Creek Access

Our last day found us about 35 miles south of Mountain Home, fishing for trout at the Sylamore Creek Access.  We forewent Crooked Creek and Smallmouth Bass for more trout.  30 December 2008, we fished Sylamore Creek with guide Jamie Rouse when the White River was blown out.  I had never nymphed before Sylamore Creek, and it was a learning experience.  I did catch two fish my first try out with Jamie, and so when Cody mentioned he really wanted to fish Sylamore again, I told him I was game.  Cody fished Sylamore several times in the past, including the charity event Hooked on a Cure (benefiting St. Jude's Hospital) where Cody was paired with celebrity Flip Pallot.  Knowing that it is a trophy area and has produced the many times he has fished there, Cody wanted to give Sylamore a try.  Besides, we treat our fish so well, they are dying to jump in to our nets!

Last night, Cody tied several olive Wooly Buggers for fishing, today, and olive was the color to fish.  Three casts in, FishOn! for Cody Bell.  I decided to give the Wooly Bugger a try to, and on our second pass in the trophy, catch-and-release area, I caught an nice-sized trout, but could not get it in at the boat.  I was actually watching this dark, squirrel-like animal along the bank, because I knew I had never seen this animal.  So, while I was asking Cody what it was, I had hooked up, but I did not set the hook.  Cody told me that the animal was a mink and asked was I going to blog it.  I smart-alecily reply, "Yes, I'll blog it just after I land this fish and you take my picture."  Two seconds later, FishOff!  After talking with Larry at Blue Ribbon, I figured out what was wrong with my nymphing set-up, so I took the time to rig up a San Juan Worm with a Scud dropper.  Meanwhile, Cody ate his Deluxe Meat Lunchable and caught two fish (which I graciously helped net).  One was a long, skinny, baby Rainbow, but Cody landed a pretty 13" Rainbow on his second fish.  Finally, I threw my rig into the water, and about the third mend, FishOn! for me, and on the hot pink San Juan Worm.  I nymphed three trout, all taking the SJW, thank you Larry Babin, and Cody caught 10 fish for the day on his Olive Wooly Bugger. 

We made many passes in the trophy section, but when the water levels receded, we caught logs and rocks and sacrificed our flies to the river god.  After not catching fish for an hour and losing flies, we decided we had fished our fill.  We trailered the boat and got it ready for the return trip to Texas, tomorrow.  We'll have to get the Zoom ready in the morning, but we'll be leaving Denton Ferry RV park and Mountain Home, Arkansas for home.  We have had a great week being with friends, fishing for trout, and seeing the Ozark Mountains.

31 July 2010

Mountain Home, Arkansas

Cody and I decided we had not had enough of the White River, so Friday, we crossed the border and headed to Mountain Home, Arkansas to fish the Middle White River running below Bull Shoals.  Reaching Cotter and setting up at the Denton Ferry RV park and then heading to the Blue Ribbon Fly Shop to buy our licenses put us back too late to fish the Cotter Access.  We tried to follow the directions to Rim Shoals, but we never could find Baxter County Rd. 3, even with Cody's three GPSes.  Evidently, Cody really wanted to get to Rim Shoals, because he let me talk him into stopping at the grocery store in Gassville to ask for directions.  Now, I asked and Cody sat in the car, until he thought it was taking too long, and he came in to find out what was happening.  What was happening was that I got lucky and was introduced to Wanda, Gassville City Secretary!  Wanda gave and drew perfect directions, and off to Rim Shoals we were.
Being the weekend, the White River is crowded.  When we arrived, it was not shoulder-to-shoulder, but many a fisherman lined along the shoals (small rapids or water riffles).  Cody and I staked a claim and commenced fishing.  I pulled in two fish--two very small fish, approximately two inches in length.  They were colored beautifully, which means they were healthy.  Cody was fishing an extremely lightweight tippet, so he kept breaking off as fish took his flies.  The water levels began to rise at Rim Shoals, so we left and went to the Cotter Access and fished Big Spring.  Just up from the confluence of Big Spring and the White River, some of the largest Brown Trout swim.  Educated, these 25 - 35 inch monsters leisurely swam out of the way of everything we tossed to them.  Even when we fished topwaters, the smaller, younger trout hit in front, behind, and to the sides of our flies.  Oh well, dream on.

Saturday, we put the Mitzi (which called Mountain Home and Blue Ribbon Fly Shop home for many weeks prior to the 2005 Southern Council Conclave when Cody won her in a raffle) in at Wildcat Shoals, motored upriver about 2 miles and floated down.  Cody dominated the White, today.  I caught one fish; Cody caught a dozen.  I tried nymphing, but Olive Wooly Buggers were the fly of the day.  Cody even called several of his fish.  Me, I had one poor idiot Rainbow try to eat my small, pink Thing-a-ma-Bobber, completely ignoring my copper midge and hot pink San Juan Worm. 

The Middle White River shares similarities with the Upper White River at Lake Taneycomo.  Bull Shoals Dam generates differently than Table Rock Dam, but the river sections still support large numbers of Rainbow and Brown Trout.  Branson's elevation runs about 1200 ft. above sea level, while Mountain Home's elevation is half that, running a little above 600 ft.  With the different elevations there is not much effect on the water temperatures, because Mountain Home's temps are about 57 degrees.  Wider than Lake Taneycomo, the Middle White's limestone and pebble bottom is more visible and possesses more gravel beds.  The numbers of fish are about equal, but we did catch larger and brighter colored fish at Lake Taneycomo.  Both sections are heavily fished, but the trout seem to handle the pressure.  The humidity is still high and fog rolls on the river easily; it just doesn't start as early or stay as late in Mountain Home.  The high canyon-esque walls are not present in Arkansas, but the Arkansas Ozarks offer pretty vistas, too.

Tomorrow, after talking with Larry Babin at Blue Ribbon Fly Shop, we are going to wet wade for Smallmouth Bass on Crooked Creek.  I am excited, because while we are in the trout capitol, I love bass fishing!  Hopefully, it is Fish On! tomorrow with lots of pictures!

29 July 2010

Fish for Four and Four for Fish

Fine fishing business on the water, today!

Beginning our day a little earlier, we met up with the Fords on their pontoon boat, picked up Bradley, and headed upstream to the Trophy Area.  Bradley talked about a gravel island he'd fished before with another Texas buddy, so we set off in that direction.  However, the abundance of fish along the way hearkened our names, so we fished.  Bradley and Cody nymphed and I fished the CodyBugger, and not long after wetting our lines, Bradley and I hooked up for a double.  Ahh, those Rainbow Trout sure are pretty, spots and blended colors of teal, turquoise, pink, and white. 

A water body paints many colors.  Catching fish is the only way to see her canvas.  We slowly worked our way up to Bradley's island, hooking up with fish along the way.  Unfortunately, when we reached the island, a family with a pontoon loaded with little kids beached before us, and with all the splashing they made, there was no hope of even casting to these easily spooked creatures, so we continued to drift back down the river. 

Last night, Bradley and Cody had tied CodyBuggers, and Bradley wanted to learn to fish streams on a sinking leader, so we gave just a few pointers, and tight-looped casting commenced.  A fish nipped Bradley's fly on one cast, while, after a perfect cast to a gravel bed, Bradley's CodyBugger had a chaser.  Even though the dam gates opened at noon, today, fishing was fine business. 

Just about the time we began our float down river, Stephanie phoned to tell about the unique Rainbow she landed.  The Missouri Department of Conservation heavily stocks Lake Taneycomo, because they swear the fish are not reproducing.  I say some Mizzou grad student needs to come confirm that, because with the weird in-breds we are seeing and catching, MDoC is wrong!  Steph caught a Rainbow, brilliantly colored, but all of its fins were rimmed white--exactly like a Brook Trout.  Another one of the "non-breeding" crazier in-breds we have seen, is this albino carp.  Unable to catch, I'll just describe it.  Looking at it from above, the fish's right side is completely white.  On its left side beginning at its pectoral fin and going back to its tail fin, the fish is completely white.  On its left side from its mouth to its pectoral fin and from its spine to its belly, the fish is purplish-gray!  Weird and ugly; we saw two of them.  MDoC needs to do more than just stock!  

Boys being boys, Bradley and Cody were hungry, so with fast-moving waters, we docked the boat, came off the lake, drove to Branson's Landing, and ate at Bass Pro Shops' White River Fish House.  Everyone's meal was delicious and the sweet tea was outstanding.  This town has excellent sweet tea!  We visited BPS's fly shop, helped Bradley purchase some fly-tying materials, then headed off to two other fly shops to round out his material list.  Buying fly material is always good; yes, it is a little pricey up front, but tying flies for personal use saves $$$ when compared to having to buy the fly time and again.

We all chose to drift with the current this evening before the foggy fog misted upon us, and the Fords netted two and Cody netted two. 

Cody and I pack up camp and head to Mountain Home for some White River fishing in Arkansas.  The single best day of fishing I ever had was on Arkansas' section of the White, so I am hoping for a repeat performance.  I do have my pink rod, pink reel, pink & purple line, and pink San Juan Worm, so Fly Fshr Grl is r-e-a-d-y!  Learning the multi-personalities of Lake Taneycomo has been a great vacation; one Cody and I would do again!

28 July 2010

Learning Curve Mastered

Still beginning the day at 9:30, Cody and I mastered the learning curve, yahoo!  We motored back to the Trophy Spot but headed even farther upstream.  Still using my 4# rod, 150 grain sinking line, and the CodyBugger, I was able to hook up with some nice Rainbows.  Watching those fish give chase and then take the fly is fun business.  I'd buy a ticket to watch it, but that's me.  Cody's CodyBugger wasn't working for him, so he tied on a nyphming rig, which is what most of the fly fishers are doing in the section, and Cody Bell slayed those 'Bows!  We have found a section of the Trophy Spot that looks almost like the Green River in its density of fish.  Today, those fish did not move out of the way of our flies.  It was great fun!!  Tomorrow, we are heading out but earlier, because the fishing is good for about 30-40 minutes after the dam horn sounds signaling open gates, rising water. 

The wildlife along the river provides another scenic venue.  Just as we crossed the Trophy Spot demarcation line, a flock of eight Canada Geese flew over, and then another 20 feet downriver, a brood floated carelessly, as a cat stalked them along the shore dreaming of dinner.  Herons also line the banks and seem to be a good indicator as to where the fish are located, since fish are a huge food staple for them.  We did have an unwanted visitor, today.  I was fishing off the back of the boat towards the shore, so my back was to the main body of the lake.  Cody calmly says, "Look what's coming toward you."  Now, Cody's voice maintained its composed timbre, so I was not expecting the Copperhead that swam from one side of the lake to the other.  The camera rested on the boat's floor, so when I picked it up to snap that snake's photo, the lenses and the lcd fogged immediately (a great tell as to how cold the water is and how hot the air is).  Rather agitated, Cody kept telling me to get the picture, because that snake was swimming in the boat if Cody didn't troll out of its way.  I got two photos and watched as it made shore and slithered up the steep, hilly, and rocky shore.  You know snakes didn't slither until they misbehaved; darn snakes!  

On the first day, Bradley told Cody about a bar-b-que joint that served excellent ribs.  Cody, being the supreme bbq connoisseur that he is, wanted those ribs, so off to the Rib Crib we went.  Excellent fare, I must say.  Cody ate the ribs, of course, and either that was one big pig or they served Cody two racks.  I ate chicken, and of course, southern Missouri is in the South, so the tea was sweet and quenching.

Afterwards, we headed over to the Fords to tie some flies.  Bradley learned to tie the CodyBugger; we cast some fly rods; Stephanie worked on her book, and the river took on its evening personality with the foggy fog descending on the water.  Overall, another excellent day on the water!

27 July 2010

Lake Taneycomo

Today we fished Lake Taneycomo, and since neither Cody nor I have ever fished it before, it was a learning lesson.  The boat only had three fish for the day, so it was a hard learning lesson.  We motored to the tail end of the Trophy Spot, and began casting.  Fish swam everywhere!  I think I could have dipped the net in the water and landed two dozen fish, easily.  They followed the boat; they swam with the boat; the zoomed out of the boat's path.  Finally, fishing from the back and watching at least 15 fish give chase, nudge, and nip my CodyBugger, a beautiful 13.5" Rainbow Trout inhaled my fly and turned to swim off downstream.  It was great fun watching it all happen.  I used my new Sharkskin sinking line on my recently repaired 4 wt. rod, the last rod I completed at Norm's.  Oh, it was great fun!  That fish would run away pulling line out, which Sharkskin line has a nice zinging hum as a fish pulls line off that reel.  Then, he would rest, and I'd reel him in, and he'd catch his second wind and zoom, off he went, again.  This see-saw action lasted for about three or four minutes, before Cody netted that pretty little fish.  Fishing the same way, I caught another Rainbow about 30 minutes later, but this guy was a hair bigger but much fiestier.  He jumped twice, once about three feet wide and the second time about two feet in the air.  Getting this fish to pose for a photo presented a problem, but master photographer Cody Bell got the shot, in spite of my weak attempts to hold the fish.  Cody fished two flies spread along his leader, and nymphing, he landed a "Golden Bonefish" (carp) on a fly he tied.  The carp here do not act like carp elsewhere.  Gorging themselves on scuds, they don't make fast or long runs.  Cody gave this carp a run, though.  Cody teased that fish right off the river/lake bottom, made it take line, and netted that goldie.  Seeing as those carp are super slimy, Cody posed with him in the net, but before Cody put him back in the drink, that fished pooped all over the net and the inside of the boat.  We don't keep our fish, so they shouldn't behave so badly.

We are staying at Cooper's Creek RV park.  Nestled precariously on a caliche precipice in slot 50, we have not been able to level the RV, even with blocks, but we are in the shade.  Great selection of cable channels but poor reception.  Yes, CC has free WiFi, but only at the office area.  Ambient water temp is 90 degrees, so we don't really need to turn the water heater for the showers.

This area is climate crazy.  Off the water, the humidity is around 60-70%, and yes, we are in the Ozark Mountains; on the water, sometimes it is non-existent, and then, a pocket appears.  We do not arise early because the foggy fog (Scooby-Doo days) hovers over the water at least 6 feet high.  Fishing really doesn't begin until about 9 a.m., but even then, the fog is present.

The water flows from east to west.  Until around 1 p.m., none of the Table Rock Dam floodgates stay closed, which means at times, we are in 20" deep water or shallower.  Afterwards, the floodgates make the water flow around 6-7 mph.  We used a chain this evening to keep us straight and to slow our float, but at times we were drifting at 5 mph--very difficult fishing.  Areas that were ankle-deep this morning, were 16 feet deep this afternoon.  Also, the fog starts rolling in ever so slightly, but present nonetheless, around 4:30.  The sun shines brightly and heatedly but hit a pocket of misty fog and the temperature easily drops 30 degrees or more.  Move out of the fog pocket, and the temps rise immediately back into the low 90s.  All the while, the water maintains a trout-happy 49 degrees.  Limestone bottomed, the rainbows, browns, and carp are easily visible, so visible that watching the fish move aside to let a fly pass by, then move back in their little niche frustrates fishermen of all types.  The title of lake is a misnomer, because this water body looks like a river, moves like a river, and fishes like a river, never wider than 50-60 yards.

We have really enjoyed meeting up with the Fords, my friends from Corsicana High School teaching days.  This has been their family vacation spot for over 26 years.  They bunk at Lilley's Landing, about four or five boat docks up river from our spot.  The area is beautiful with tree-lined, steep cliffs.  We did not fish, yesterday, because we hooked up the RV, put the boat in the slip, rigged up our rods, and just settled in the area, Mr. Ford took Bradley, Stephanie, Cody, and I down river 7 miles to the smallest Bass Pro Shop and to the Branson Riverfront Mall.  Traveling by boat is much better than traveling by car.  Think of the River Styx; Highway 76 is its equivalent.  Mr. Ford gave us some backroads, yeah!, to drive around, so we could meet them for lunch, and the backroads are the way to travel in this city.  Otherwise, its just one extremely long parking lot.

Fishing the morning hours until early afternoon is going to be the way to catch fish.  Then, being tourists in the afternoon and evening is how we can make the most of our stay.

25 July 2010

Branson's Lake Taneycomo

Cody and I headed for Branson to meet up with the Fords.  We took two cars--Cody is pulling the RV, and I am pulling the boat.  We made it to Fayetteville, Arkansas where we stopped at a rather remote RV park with awesome WiFi connections. 

When we travel with two cars, Cody and I pack the walkie-talkies, so we can communicate rather easily.  Cody provided the entertainment for the day.  Pulling the RV, Cody's car gets about 12 miles per gallon, which equates to about 160 travel miles before needing to gas up.  Our tanks were full when we left Palmer.  Cody gassed in Sherman, Savanna, OK, and totally pushed his luck to get to Fayetteville, and not just any where in Fayetteville, oh, no!  We passed at least two gas stations, and then Cody comes on the walkie-talkie as he is coasting through the yellow-lit intersection, "I think I've pushed my luck.  I think I'm out of gas."  Of course, I got caught at the red light, but I watch the RV coast up the road two blocks to Wal-mart.  Cody couldn't gas anywhere, only at Wal-mart, which was pretty cheap.  After four warnings, he had 0 miles left until he ran out of gas.  Cody is one of the luckiest people I know.

Cody is rigging up my 4 wt. Sharkskin sinking line (thank you TailWaters), and putting a sinking line on my brand new Ross 6 wt. Evolution LT reel (Thank you Travis at TailWaters).  We read the Lilley story Bradley shared on his fb page, and we are excited about catching some trout.  I want some Big Browns, but of course, will be happy to have anything, but carp, on the end of my line.

We make Branson and Cooper's Creek RV park, tomorrow!   

30 May 2010

Lake Amistad NRA, San Pedro Canyon

"And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.  And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it:  because that in it he had rested from all his work which God had created and made" Genesis 2:2-3 (Scofield Reference Bible, 1909).  As it was with the first sabbath, on this sabbath the fish rested, save one Bluegill...until 2 p.m.!

We put in at San Pedro Canyon, a new destination for Cody Mood Bell, but reading the map's "hot spots," it looked like it would produce fish.  When Ken Burns created his Lewis and Clark:  The Corps of Discovery documentary, at the end of the part one, he said Lewis and Clark were about to learn the difference between mountains on a map and mountains in real life.  Today, Cody and Julia fully comprehended Burns' words and learned the difference between hot fishing spots on a map and true hot spots.

We saw fish, had fish turn to look at our flies and nudge our flies, and even watched several inhale and promptly spit out our flies, but catching them eluded us dramatically.  We should have known that the day was going to be difficult when Cody hung his fly on a submerged tree.  We trolled over, as we always do, and Cody attempted to free his fly from the tree.  Unfortunately, it was too wrapped around the branch, so Cody decided to break off and sacrifice the Creek Crawler fly to the waters.  When Cody went to tie on a new fly, he realized that the rod's tip section was missing and had become separated when he broke off the fly and his line popped through the guides.  Well, Cody tells me he's going snorkeling, and as soon as he turns his back, that TFO 7# tip section bobs up in the water--tip down.  We have to be very careful trolling to it so that the water wake does not flood the open end.  Gratefully, Cody is able to pinch that tip and retrieve it from the waters.  Cody switches rods, and we continue fishing the San Pedro Cove--with no luck!

We had made a deal before beginning to fish, that if neither of us liked where we were fishing, we had to tell the other, and we would move to a new spot.  With no fish to our credit and well in to our second hour on the water, we headed to the flats, which were supposed to be hot for Largemouth's from May - October.  No nips, no hits, no fish--the flats were cold regardless the season's temperatures.  Thus, Cody ate and in my desperation, I tied a beautiful blue dragonfly pattern to my floating line in the attempts to catch one of the many carp that constantly crashed the surface.  (Those who know my fishing preferences have just been given CPR to read that I deigned to fish for carp; I strongly dislike carp, regardless of the fact they are nicknamed the golden bonefish and give an excellent fight; I do not like carp!)

We gave up on San Pedro Canyon, even though there were several coves that looked like the Texas shoreline of Lake Texoma, and motored to Rough Canyon.  We knew the day would be exceptionally crowded, but NPS needed to have a traffic officer directing boaters.  Cody got sprayed and drenched by one show-boating wakeboarder (due to me snapping his photograph, eging him on), and Cody had a few choice words for the ole boy, which can not be repeated here--not curse words, but not acceptable for print, either. 

We worked our way around other boaters in Big Canyon to a nice rocky cove, and four hours after putting in, we started to catch fish.  Bluegills, and small ones at that, but fish nonetheless began to eat our flies.  The curse was off and the good karma flowed.  It took a lot of different flies before we found the ones that would land fish.  For Cody it was the CodyBugger, red lips, and me, the Bonefish Bitter, brown.  By the time I quit fishing my bitter, the head was the only thing left, but fish kept taking the fly, so I didn't change it until absolutely necessary.  We worked on casting, calling shots, and calling fish, but we kept catching the little fellows.

Tired and watching the sun begin to wan, we made our way back to San Pedro Canyon, at least an hour's boat ride.  Now, in all fairness, Cody's flats boat is only equipped with a 25hp Mercury motor, which equates to about 15 mph, as long as someone sits on the casting platform, which Cody did while I drove.  We both decided the Texoma-esque shoreline proved too tempting, so we fished the boulder-lined coves until our arms fell off.

Not wanting to call it quits because there were still fish to catch, we fished a big, beautiful cove just west of the U.S. 277 bridge.  We tried poppers and Miss Prissys to no avail.  Cody tied on a CodyBugger, and I a Swamp Monster, and just as the sun dipped behind the canyon, Cody landed his second bass for the day--a 1.75lb Largemouth.  Thankfully, God gave us Bluegill; otherwise, the boat's fish count for the day would have been two!

I have not checked today's weather history, but I can tell you that a front moved in or something else caused the barometric pressure to drop.  I have heard it said by old men, that if the cows are sitting, the day's not fit for fishing.  I should have remembered that saying/lesson, and we could have snorkeled even though the waters were not clear like the previous three days--another sign of the changing barometric pressure.  We head home, Monday, and with the freeways being congested with Memorial Day travelers, it looks like it is the backroads (I am happy) for us.

29 May 2010

Lake Amistad NRA, Box Canyon

What an adventurous day; we fished, we explored, we followed the map locating interesting points, and we visited old places.  We started the day fishing a nice little cove teeming with Bass, Bluegill, and Carp.  Cody landed four bass and two bluegill in about 10 minutes.  We made another pass and caught a couple more bass.  Then, we motored to another cove which was crystal clear 14 feet deep.  We watched the fish reacting to our flies and began to call which one we would catch to make that catch count.  Cody ate and I fished, but the wind kept wreeking havoc with the boat alignment, so I decided to eat.  Well, just like Thursday, first cast, Cody catches a 2 lb. bass.  Cody decided I needed to eat more often.  Knowing the lake so well, Cody took us to a nice little cove that was stocked with some fat Bluegill, who out-weighed the bass!  With CodyBuggers tied on our lines, it was Fish On! until we decided to stop fishing. 

The wind would not cooperate, so we decided to cool off by motoring to some unique sites.  Lake Amistad's development began in 1968.  According to the initial reports presented to Congress, Mexico stated that they owned all the land that would become the Mexican shoreline.  I don't think that was necessarily true due to the evidence of towns and buildings which existed at the time of Amistad's construction and which are still present today--underwater.  We wandered over to Mexican waters to view the Catholic church, whose steeple just nudges above the waterline.  Closer to the present-day shoreline, the map delineates many buried but existing structures.  However, we did not have a Mexican waters pass, nor did we feel like having to go through US Customs once we returned to shore, so we didn't snorkel the area. 

Even though the winds picked up and created white capping, we boated northward looking for the Good Enough Springs site, which we found marked with a boat tie-off buoy, but the springs exist 130 feet below.  Cody then moved on to an area where they used to camp when he was young.  Being the trendsetters Nonna and Pa Bell are, we saw four families camping in the same spot with their boats parked on shore!  Cody fished the area for old-times sake.  Cody, the supreme gadget guy, marked buoys 15, 16, and 21 on his GPS before we headed back.

Trying to escape the high winds and spotting a great-looking cove, we headed in to what turned out to be some of the best fishing.  We studied the cove on the map, and since it looked like an anchor and had no name, we dubbed it Anchor Cove, and boy did it produce bass!  We tossed CodyBuggers and Creek Crawlers on 300 grain sink line, and we could set the hook just as soon as we saw the flash.  We must have pulled 10 bass out of that hole alone.

With much calmer waters we began heading back to the boat ramp, but we decided to fish the cove where Cody hammered the fish during last year's trip.  It proved fruitful again.  Cody fished a popper that the fished loved, and I fished a pale Creek Crawler, which the fish loved.  Aching, tired, and fast losing sunlight, we left the cove and made the short trip to the boat ramp.  It was a fine day at sea, regardless of the high temperatures.  Tomorrow is fisherman's choice (we'll study the map and look for the "hot spots" on paper).
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