30 April 2011

Central Texas Fly Fishing

We all have places we love to go fishing, and for me Central Texas is it—limestone bottoms, crystal clear waters, sight casting, trickles that turn into pools, a significantly varied fish population.  There are many other reasons, too, but those are my list toppers.  We break the trip to Del Rio in to two days, which allows us to layover in Central Texas, whether it’s at the Ranch or somewhere else.  Yesterday, we spent the day with a friend outside of Johnson City.  Cody and Robert kept telling me I would catch a Rainbow Trout, and I kept thinking, in Central Texas, last day of April, water temps above 70° F, yeah, right!  Well, since a picture is worth a 1,000 words, I’ll let Miller Creek in Blanco County tell its story.

28 April 2011

Fort Parker Surprise

I headed to Fort Parker after work, today.  Mainly, I was hoping to catch a couple of Rainbows, and I am still trying out my Bass Brunch fly.  Since I haven't used it on Lake Springfield's waters, today was as good as any other day to try it out.  It was a rough day on the water, and the wind was behaving.  Everything is on its bed right now, which means very little was biting.  For the day, I ended up with a small Largemouth Bass and two Bluegill.  I thought the fish would be pounding my flies, just because it has always been that way when I've fished Springfield, and I had FishOn! the third cast.  The Bass Brunch snared all three of the fish, but I fished a Popper and a Bonefish Bitter.  The Bitter had no takers, and the popper garnered some interest, but I saw only seven fish total for the day--very, very low.

The day was beautiful, somewhat windy, and areas of the Duckweed had dissipated, but the pollen from Monday's and Tuesday's high winds coated the water.  I wanted to stay on the water until dusk, but since the pathway from the parking lot to Lake Springfield had wash-out spots all along the way, I came off the water early.  For some dumb reason, Sunday night I had a nightmare that I was fishing Springfield and was attacked by Water Moccasins, Lonesome Dove style.  In addition to that, I "Like" Texas Parks & Wildlife on facebook and have seen the two different pictures on their page where the snake is eating a fish.  Lake Springfield does have a few springs feeding it in places, but I did ask the Rangers when I checked in this afternoon about snakes, especially on the trail and in the water.  I do not want to be bitten by a snake!  The rangers said there had been no reports of snakes out there, so I felt good.  Then, I walked around the corner and a noise in the bushes attracted my attention; boy was I surprised but remained calm.  I let the Rangers know, and we all watched the Chicken Snakes doing their mating ritual.

No Rainbows, but my fly caught fish, and the Chicken Snakes were really cool--all in all, a good day!

24 April 2011

Easter Egg Hunt

Easter Egg hunt at Old City Lake, Kiwanis Park, Ennis

Being Easter, Cody and I decided we would go on an egg hunt this afternoon at the Kiwanis Park in Ennis.  The park has a nice playground, wide-open spaces, a good area for families to gather, and oh, a lake, Old City Lake, to be specific.  The wind blew and gave no respite, so the small rods again stayed in their cases, and the 4# and 5# saw action. Equipped with our flies, fly rods, and I in my float tube, we searched for spawning beds.   The Mama Bass's spawning beds and eggs draw large schools of carnivores who just lurk and hover hoping to eat her eggs.  When we fish, since lurkers harangue the female Bass to hysteria, we ignore her and try not to catch the bass on their beds.  Wanting to give the Bass parents some reprieve from the pesky predators, we cast near their egg-laden beds and were rewarded nicely for a couple hours of fishing.  Cody cast a CodyBugger and caught six, huge Bluegills and Green Sunfish. I also tied on a CodyBugger pattern, until some fish hammered it hard and ripped the lips and palmered grizzly hackle from the fly; I wish I had landed that one!  Then, I tied on a Crayfish (tied for Belize, last year) and caught a Redear Sunfish, Bluegill, and a male Laregmouth Bass.   Measured by our catches, we enjoyed a successful egg hunt and a happy Easter!

17 April 2011

Nolan River White Bass

Cody and I read Russell's post about Sandies in the Nolan on the Texas Fishing Forum's Fly Fishing posts.  I went to high school in Granbury and lived near the De Cordova Bend Dam.  I canoed a short stretch of the Nolan one afternoon more than 25 years ago, and it looked like the pictures in Russell's post was the place I had been.  Missing the White Bass run wherever we went this season, I sweet-talked Cody Bell in to a Sunday afternoon trip to the Nolan.

We tried to get in at Adair Spring Park, but the ambulance, fire truck, and volunteer fire fighters blocked the way, so we headed over to Nolan River Park, aka Poison Ivy Heaven.  The wind blew straight from the west with no buffer, and Cody intended to wet wade and didn't feel like a long, drawn-out ordeal with Poison Ivy.  We monitored the airwaves for news on the activity at Adair Spring.  Care Flight had been released; they decided not to boat the victim to help, and when we made it back over there, medical crews were leisurely leaving.  We waited, pulled in, geared up, and headed on.

We waded the creek bed to its confluence with the Nolan.  Cody crossed to the western side and found a nice bed of greedy Redear Sunfish.  There was a Mama Bass bedding and lots of rather large, 12 oz. size, Redears lurking, hoping to eat some eggs.  We left the Mama alone and targeted the harassing Redears, who just loved the CodyBugger fly.  They were hungry, greedy, and hammering the flies.  Even a little Dollar Sunfish got in on the action.

We passed the narrow little slew that opened in to a nice elongated pool, and choosing the low bank, we cast to and caught some aggressive Bluegill.  Eventually, we climbed and walked the high bank, and realized that the pool was somewhat shallower than we thought originally, but with our polarized glasses and sunlight, it was like looking in to a managed aquarium.  We saw a male Largemouth Bass and small, separate schools of Bluegill.  Due to its shallow depth, the Duckweed was rather a nuisance, but the Bluegills were fun.

Originally, we planned to hike all the way to the old train tress, but the trail became difficult and laden with Poison Ivy, so we decided that the pool beginning at the big boulders resting in the river bed was as far as we would go.  Cody cast his CodyBugger, and we saw the hit-and-run, silver flash of the White Bass.  I switched out my fly to a Bonefish Bitter, hoping that crayfish were on the fishes' menu.  Cody caught two nice-sized Bluegill, and I wandered over to the riverbank and began fishing the tree-lined, shady streamside.  Spending about 10 minutes over there, I hear Cody hollering and walking his pet "fish on its leash" towards me.  Sure enough, a nice White Bass was at the end of Cody's line. 

Cody switched to a bead-chain eye, grey-and-white Clouser, and had moved about 15 ft. farther downstream from where he caught the Bluegill.  Sharing another bead-chain Clouser in chartreuse and white, Cody showed me where to cast, offered the advice to strip quickly, and I had FishOn!, too.  It was a nice White Bass.  I was happy, but now I had to know if my BassBrunch--Gizzard Shad pattern would work.  I moved about 6 ft. downstream, and even though the Duckweed would cover the fly, entangle the lines, and snag in the guides, the spot was the honey hole!  My BassBrunch was the fly I had hoped it would be.  I ended up catching eight White Bass on my fly, and Cody continued to catch them on his Clouser.  Finally, after a continual chorus of FishOn!, Cody gave the five-minute call. 

Our sweet friend, fellow fly tyer, and DFF member Harvey Stahl passed away on Wednesday 6 April 2011, and Harvey's memorial service would be Monday, so before my last cast, I called the final fish of the day in memory of Harvey.  I was rewarded with a rather nice White Bass.  Cody also called his Last Cast in Harvey's memory and was honored nicely, too.  We missed the White Bass run on the Sabine and Colorado Rivers, so stumbling in to the White Bass on our first fishing trip to the Nolan--wonderful.  Designing a successful fly--superb.  The fact that we were the only two on the river--priceless!

My "Harvey" catch

Cody's "Harvey" catch

09 April 2011

A Whole Lotta' Firsts

Today was the first outing for the Mitzi Skiff in 2011, and what a fine outing Cody and I had!  We had heard several weeks ago that Lake Athens was chalking up a nice White Bass spawn, so we decided to give it a try.  Lake Athens was a new destination for us, so we talked with the gentleman in the Marina.  Unfortunately, he told us the fishing was very slow and a few Crappie were being caught on the beds in about 5 - 6 feet of water and that was it.  We talked about going next door to the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center Outdoor Fools Day or sticking with fishing Athens.  Decision made, Cody and I studied their map and chose a cove that would buffer us from those SSW 19 mph winds and headed off.  (I really am despising these frequent, high winds!)

With the high winds, we left the smaller rods in the car.  Cody chose to take his TFO TiCrX 7# and St. Croix 4#, both rigged with sinking lines.  I chose my brand new TFO 7# Professional rigged with Orvis' 300 grain Depth Charge line on my brand new Nautilus NV Reel, and my CfR 5# rigged with Jim Teeny CfR floating line.  (I finished building my 7# back in January, but every time we planned a trip, bad weather interfered.)  I was tyring out my new fly, bream pattern, in lake waters to see if the results I experienced on the small ponds would hold true.  New lake, new rod, new reel, new line, new fly--WHEW! the pressure was definitely on!

Okay, I know everyone says front-of-the-boat is best, but when Cody and I fish, our little Mitzi Skiff has a polling platform, and it's easy to spot the fish from there, and when your feet tire, you can sit and fish.  When you're up front, stand, stand, stand is all there is and it's a hard surface.  As a result, we like back-of-the-boat fishing.  I drew the short straw and got the front. 

Like all other Texas water bodies right now, the lake level was down about 4 - 5 feet.  We hit a cove and struggled with the headwind, but we did see lots of Spotted Gar and some Largemouth Bass, who were too spooked to take anything we would offer.  We worked our way across to another cove, and Cody Bell had FishOn! his 4#.  That 1.75# bass loved his CodyBugger!  The fish was healthy and fought hard.  Some pressure had been relieved.  The cove was active but shallow, so I switched to my floating line with our Bonefish Bitter pattern.  I tried to catch a gar and had several lookers and one chaser but no fish.  Most of the bass we saw were hovering near beds, so we didn't pester them.

The wind died down to a reasonable 10 mph, and so we wind-drifted along the shore using the drift sock to help keep us aligned and fine business was had.  I really got to work my rod and Orvis Depth Charge line, and let me say I am in love.  It is a smooth line that really loads the rod well, and it does not feel like I'm throwing a 300 grain line.  A backcast, a double-haul, and line just slips through the guides.  Now, when it hits the water, it sinks every bit like a 300 grain should.  I have sinking lines and sink tip lines made by Rio and Scientific Angler, but from here on out, it is definitely Orvis Depth Charge that I will choose. 

In my rods, I like medium action.  I want to feel a tug on the back cast and have some time between forward and backwards motions.  Cody let me cast his TFO Professional last year, and I really loved the feel, so that is what prompted me to build 6, 7, and 9 weight rods from that TFO line.  The 6# debuted at Unalakleet, Alaska, and so now, the 7# needed its debut.  Knowing that I will be using the 7# for fresh and saltwater fishing, I chose a Nautilus Reel NV.  Maybe a little hefty for lake fishing, but the look is awesome.  I build my rods with a color scheme in mind and then name the rod.  The 7# is my homage to my alma mater, Texas A&M University, and is aptly named WHOOP!

Whoop I did when the 1.25# Largemouth took the Bass Brunch.  The pressure was completely off.  Everything worked and worked well and felt great.  We continued to fish this cove catching more Largemouths, but we were really surprised that we'd had no Sunfishes.  Having fished most of the cove's shorelines, we moved and fished a more developed area, and Cody caught two nice sized Bluegill--a .5# and a .75#.  For  3.5 hours, the boat netted seven Largemouth Bass and two Bluegill, mostly because of Cody and his CodyBugger.  I would say Lake Athens, et. al. was a great firsts spot and is fishing better for the fly fishers than bait chunkers.

05 April 2011

Bass Brunch--Fluke or Fact

Since Friday's test went so well, I decided today would be Test Day 2.  Cody bought clams and veal for supper, so my test wasn't going to last long.  I also heard some advice about fishing, and I wanted to test out the theory.  Yesterday, Monday, was a rather cold day, with the nighttime temps getting in to the mid 30s.  Today warmed up to 72 degrees, so it was time to get the fishing going. 

I again chose the Streetman pond, and seeing as I had about 30-40 minutes in which to fish, I neglected the northern and eastern shores.  I fished along the western shore as I headed south, and in the southwestern corner, I had a hit.  Immediately afterwards, the fellow jumped out of the water.  Talk about rubbing salt in some wounds.  I fished the area again but with no luck.  I was fishing from about 40 feet from the bank.  I hit many spots along the southern bank, and fished pretty heavily where I caught Friday's fish.  No luck, though.  The wind blew from the northwest, so I let it push my tube easterly.  About 15 feet from where I caught Friday's Largemouth Bass, Bam!  FishOn.  I didn't set the hook really well though, and in his mid-air jump, he threw my fly off.  It could have easily been the same fish from Friday.  I continued to let the wind blow me to the southeastern corner with no other bites, but I was content that I had a fish take the fly.

I was feeling pretty good, two days, two fish, the Bass Brunch is working.  Now, I wanted to test out advice I had heard from two different people that the bigger fish are 8-12 feet, at least, from shore, not necessarily hugging the bottom in the springtime, but farther back than the spawning females.  Second 80 foot cast, about 1/3 of the line stripped in, and something grabbed my line and pulled hard.  I don't know why I always initially think that I'm hung up, but I do.  I was using my 4# rod, and I knew I had a big fish on the end of my line for that rod size.  Rob Woodruff gave some advice on landing bass, and it was to bring your hand perpendicular to the water line, which causes the fish to fight the entire rod and not just the tip section.  Why, in my excitement I chose to remember that, I do not know, but remember and apply that tidbit I did, and what a difference in the fight.  At one time the fish was pulling really hard to get away.  One time it jumped out of the water, shaking its head side-to-side, and another instance, it swam straight at me, but when it turned and I pushed my wrist down, the fish's fight subsided quickly.  I landed him in the net and began the picture taking.

I held the fish as far away from me as I could, and I couldn't frame the fish entirely.  I put the fish on my tube's bib, and I held the camera as high as I could over my head, getting 99.9% of the fish framed.  I measured, and he was a little more than 15 3/4" long and about 6" girth.  I don't have a Boga Grip, so I don't know how much it weighed, but I would guess over a 1 pound.  Fighting a fish in a float tube v. from a boat adds a new perspective easily.  I know the fight is a lot more fun in the tube.  I photographed him as best I could and let him go. 

Seeing as I had been on the water since 3:50, it was time to come off and head home for veal and a clam bake.  I love this field testing and will be trying out a different water body a little later in the week.  Hopefully, I will be like the Rangers' Kinsler and Cruz--3 days, 3 hits, 3 home runs, baby!

02 April 2011

Field Test

Bass Brunch--Bream pattern
I worked on tying more Bass Brunch flies this week, but with work, didn't give fishing too much thought, until Friday.  On the old 75 Dallas-Houston highway, which is now State Highway 75, I pass through a town called Streetman in northern Freestone County when I go in to the office.  In Streetman are three nice one-yhree acre ponds.  They look really, really fishy.  One day in May 2010, I stopped on my way home to briefly fish the southern shore of the front pond.  I wasn't dismayed, catching one Largemouth Bass on a small red and white Clouser.  As often as I pass these ponds, I have only fished one shore of one pond, once.

In trying to decide where to test out the new fly, I had several criteria I wanted to meet.  I want the fly to have a good profile in the water.  I want the fly to ride anywhere from 1- 3 feet in the water column.  Passionately, I want the fly to catch fish.  I knew if I went to Fort Parker and fished Lake Springfield, I would catch fish, but anyone could take a thread from a loose button, wrap it around a hook, and catch fish at Lake Springfield.  Thus, I decided I couldn't test Bass Brunch at Fort Parker, so I stopped at Streetman Pond for the field test.

I fished from the western shore, but seeing as the water is low and trees circle the bank, there just isn't much fishing that can be done successfully from the bank.  I got the float tube, the 4#, and the camera, because I was determined to catch fish.  The north and west sides were a waste of time, except that I got some practice in throwing the line.  I had Bass Brunch tied on my 150 grain sinking line.  There are some fishy spots, but they are very silty instead of rocky, so spawning is a little more difficult for the bass.  Since the pond is about six to seven feet low, there is an abundance of weed growth, and while the fly pulled through it okay, I did get tired of catching grass. 

Moving to the east side (and sunnier side), I cast in to this one little mouth where it was rather shallow, safe from the wind, and flat.  I immediately thought I was hung up in weeds, until the "weeds" pulled back heading toward the tree stump.  The bass fought nicely, but I brought her in to the tube.  I was the only person on the pond, but I hooted, hollered, and laughed joyously.  My fly creation worked.  I landed the Largemouth Bass, not a big one by any means, but it was a fish, nonetheless, and it was the species I was targeting.  I hooked up with four more, but they broke off in the grass and on a stump.

We tied flies at Bass Pro Shops Saturday morning, and I tied more of the Bream pattern.  I will work on the Shad patterns, and then test those out on Lake Texoma.  What a penultimate--a fish caught on a rod I built with a fly I tied, and a pattern I created!

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