31 December 2012

2012 Fly Fishing

Well, as I look back on 2012, which I am not going to miss--a rough year for us personally, I did not meet many of the goals I set for myself.  I also realized that I forgot to publish my July Louisiana Redfishing trip and my August Cimmarron River Trout trip, so I will have to add those to the blog.

I did not come close to catching a Sharelunker, not that I didn't try in the spring.  Work got in the way of much of my fall fly fishing, so I can honestly say I put little effort into the fall bass fishing.  I looked at some freshwater IGFA records, and I attempted a couple, but the 2011 drought really affected the fishing holes I had come to learn, so it was more difficult than I could imagine.

I began the year with 25 followers and added only eight more, but dropped one before the year ended, so I fell way short on that goal.  I can't say as I blame folks, though, because I tailed off on my writing when the real-world stepped in the way.

Cody and I placed fourth in the Lake Fork Bass on the Fly Tournament, catching three 1-2 pound bass, so we tried but came up short.  Personally, we find Lake Fork tough, but we still don't mind trying.

I attempted to build my 1# rod, but the reel seat hardware sent from Mud Hole was the wrong size.  The reel seat insert was perfect; I was pleased with my color choices for the wrappings, decided upon a design for the butt section, but Mud Hole sent the wrong hardware, because even Cody's 14# reel would not fit securely in the uplocks.  I am waiting on replacements.  With that frustration, I never even bought nor decided upon my 3# rod.

I added two species to my list--a Warmouth from Springfield Lake at Fort Parker State Park and a Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout at Latir Lakes, New Mexico.  We didn't leave early enough for Daingerfield, today, so the Chain Pickerel that was to be my last shot at the third species didn't happen.  (I am hoping it is the first fish of the year for 2013, though!)

I did manage to learn to tye excellent deer hair flies.  Diane Blair taught a six weeks Deer Hair spinning class, passing on fly tying in the Mike Verduin tradition.  I tyed many more flies after the class and tested them regularly.  I think my favorite pattern was the mouse pattern, and I have enjoyed tying them.  I would love to tye some really big mouse patterns and take them to Mongolia to skate them across the Eg-Ur Watersheds for Taimen and Lenok.

I don't know what fly fishing goals I'll have for 2013, except to fish more places and to fish more often, which is not a bad place to start, I think.

Here's hoping each of you have a wonderful, happy, healthy, and richly filled 2013!  Happy New Year!

26 October 2012

Fall Fishing in the Hill Country

The third week in October finds Cody and I and many DFFers in Junction, Texas.  For nine years, the Fredericksburg Fly Fishers have hosted the event Oktoberfisch on the Llano and South Llano Rivers.  I have attended seven of the nine and loved every one, including this year’s event.

The river was characteristically different this year.  I think the 2011 drought affected the South Llano more this year than last.  The river flowed well at both 377 crossings, but farther downstream at Boone’s Crossing, it was a little low, compared to years' past.  The levels seemed a little higher than last year at the South Llano River State Park crossing, because it would have been difficult to float under the bridge on the upriver side.  However, from the state park to Shady Morgan Campground (now owned by the Meachems), the river ran low and narrow.  

I did not see the usual carp cruising the riverbed, nor did I spot any of the big bass I have seen and  discussed in the Jul/Aug 2008 Southwest Fly Fishing.  There were very few deep pools.  Typically deep, swift chutes did not exist, including last year’s spot where I caught a ¾ pound Rio Grande Perch.  The downed tree near where the pipes have been exposed by calving banks did not hold the fish it held in years’ past.  One year, Cody cast four times and caught four species on an amber Bonefish Bitter.  We saw many, very small Bluegill, but that was it.  There were more and larger downed trees that must have succumbed to the drought and died resting in the river.  I thought these would be a haven to fish, but I guess the acidic content of the decaying trees have affected the nearby waters.  The fishing was good for the smaller species, and Cody did catch a nice Largemouth Bass on his newly finished 3# rod.  Cody also hammered the Rio Grande Perch, even naming one area the RG Tree!  We ate the sirloin supper cooked by the Limestone FFA men, enjoyed cake, won the two raffle items we wanted to win, and enjoyed the company of many friends.

Having taken a long weekend, Cody and I left the South Llano and headed south to Lost Maples SNA.  Thankfully, we had booked our RV spot many months ago.  While the maples aren’t their gorgeous reds, yet, they have begun changing colors and are beautiful.  We hiked along the East Trail back to the ponds and fished there, catching Largemouth Bass, Channel Catfish, and Bluegills.  The canyon was bathed in the dusk light and fall has definitely arrived in the Sabinal Canyon.

Cody had never been to Garner State Park, just 16 miles southwest as the crow flies, so we drove over to spend a nice day on the Rio Frio.  I was amazed at how few people there were.  I have seen this state park filled to capacity, and today, there were maybe 15 occupied spots!  First, we set out on a hike, a 360 foot ascent in .4 miles, to White Rock Cave and the nearby park geocache.  The cave was cool but humid.  After finding the cache, we headed back to the bank of the Frio, picnicked under old, beautiful Cypress trees, and with gorgeous, green water clarity similar to saltwater colors, we spotted Largemouth Bass 130 feet away.

After lunch, we fished the river below the dam hiding behind the Cypress trees.  The fishing was difficult, so we eventually packed up and moved to other areas of the park.  Cody picked a great spot and we caught all kinds of Redbreast Sunfish and Largemouth Bass.  Having fished that spot thoroughly, we moved to a new area suggested by park staff.  We found a gorgeous, small waterfall, deep pools, and fish.  We fished until dusk before leaving the park.  We ate at Mama Chloe’s in Leakey and made it back to Lost Maples.

Having not given the Sabinal River in Lost Maples its proper respect, we chose to fish its pools near the campground and entrance finding Largemouth Bass, Catfish, and spawning Bluegills and Redbreast Sunfish.  We fished topwater flies and Cody and GirlieBuggers all with fun and success.  We checked out and headed for home, leaving the Hill Country behind until next fall.

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.

22 April 2012

Spicewood Springs, Colorado Bend SP

Many places in Texas hold our attention, and while Colorado Bend State Park's White Bass Run boasts many nice-sized fish, the river is often too crowded and packs fisherman along the Colorado like sardines in a can.  However, a nice little 1/2 mile hike east of the boat ramp, yields the hidden crown jewel of CBSP, and that is Spicewood Springs.  Many park-goers just stop at the pool, but Spicewood Creek extends for 1.2 miles upstream, and the overall trail is 5.2 miles.  This year, we chased the creek to its origins for the first time, and we were not disappointed.

We caught sunfish of various species.  We fished our 1 and 2 weight rods (Spicewood is the perfect excuse to buy Mr. Pope's 1/2# rod; I'd love to field test it here).  We tested our casting skills.  We found the GPSr I had dropped out of my front waders pocket (whew, I am too young to die just yet).  We celebrated Spring in true, glorious fly fishing fashion!

Longear Sunfish

Green Sunfish

Casting around a log and into a cave

Green Sunfish underwater

Pumpkinseed Sunfish, possibly

Spring headwaters that forms Spicewwod Creek

09 April 2012

Striper Time

Bright Monday (the day after Easter in the Christian calendar) was a holiday for me.  Cody had promised we would go fishing Monday after working hard Easter Sunday afternoon pulling weeds, vines, and cleaning out the flowerbed.  (Seeing as to how sore we both were, maybe we should have fished first and done yard work second.)

Taking Steve Hollensed's advice, we took big rods, sinking lines, and white flies.  Cody fished his 10# 475 grain line, and I fished my 8# 350 grain line.  Having that heavier line really made the difference.  Cody fished an all white, red-eyed, size 4 Clouser Minnow, and I fished my size 4 Bass Brunch--Gizzard Shad pattern.

Getting on the water around 4:15, we thought we would be pressed for time, so we put in at Eisenhower State Park to put us a little farther up the lake.  We didn't have to travel far.  We hit the first cove, fished it pretty intensely, and no fish, no bites, no takers.  We worked the shore line heading east towards the next cove, when we talked about moving farther up river/lake to chase those spawning ladies.  As Cody maneuvered the boat, the depth finder lit up like a Christmas tree.  So, we stayed and fished and hooked in to one Striper after another.  Cody out-caught me, with a total of 18 fish for the boat in a little under four hours; Cody boated 12 and me six, and I can't remember how many more hook-ups we had, but there were plenty, some just 1 - 2 feet from the surface--hard hit-and-runs.  Also, this was the calmest day I have ever spent on Lake Texoma.  The wind was anywhere from 0 to 3 miles per hour!  I did not know this lake could even be calm, but calm the seas were--a first for me.

The best Striper of our day was a 3.2 lb fat girl ready to pop!  I wish I had videoed the fight that fish put up.  That Lady Hybrid bent Cody's 10# TFO TiCrX double several times, and did she ever put the zing in his reel when she dove and ran.  I love fights like that, and these fish didn't just eat the flies; they were inhaling them.  Many hook-ups occurred at the back of the tongue past their tooth patches.  Even with barbless hooks, we had to be careful removing them.  One even was hooked in the gill plate.  Careful hook extraction saw that boy swim away.  On a personal note, this was the first time I fished my Bass Brunch fly targeting the fish for which I designed the fly, and it worked well, so I was really pleased.

I also experienced another first.  At dusk for the first time in my 29 years and 10 months of owning a fishing license, I was finally asked to show it.  We were leaving the fishing for another day, when the third boat of the day bore down on us.  Being in a flats boat and only having one engine, it does get a little intimidating, especially when the other boats change their coarse at the last minute.  Unlike the other two, though, this one had blue lights, meaning it was a Texas Game Warden.  I don't know about other states, but in Texas, the Game Warden is the most powerful law enforcement official.  They need no warrant to search your boat, vehicle, person, or property.  Boundary lines are non-existent for them.  They can seize your property without a warrant.  They are some great folks, but they mean business.  Of course, we had our licenses, boat registration, life jackets, and fire extinguisher, and Dale Moses was a really nice fellow, but still, if you're smart, you give a Texas Game Warden all the respect; they can make your day or ruin your day.  After saying good night, we boated back in, loaded up, and headed for home.  Being with the Game Warden, kept us out on the water an extra 45 minutes, so we arrived home later, but the fishing was all worth it, regardless how tired I was today at work.  Full and near-full moons make for excellent fishing, hands down!

28 March 2012

Sea of Sunfish

Lake Springfield has been a haven for Sunfish--Largemouth Bass, Bluegill, Redbreast Sunfish, Pumpkinseeds, and Warmouth--this spring.  With the Warmouth, I added my first new species of the year and was really excited, as it was the last fish of the day.

I have been hoping to catch some Rainbow Trout, seeing as this is a TPWD stocking site late in February, and is also a natural, spring-fed water-body.  However, I have struck out in the 'Bow department.  (I guess I should have never cut my hair short!)  (-;  Where I have had the best luck is with Rainbows is their by-product.  They get warm, too warm, die and sink to the bottom of the lake, which is very high due to the wonderfully, plethoric spring rains, and are eaten by the other fish, turtles, crawfish, and other creatures.  With warmer spring temperatures, the Sunfish are spawning earlier, and boy are they fat, colorful, and fun on a 2# rod.  Every third cast, I had FishOn, and from a float tube, there was no other way to have fun this fine afternoon.  I'm glad the rain held off until I walked back to the car and loaded my stuff.

27 March 2012

XS = XL Fun

I attempted to catch supper but with no success.  I am told there are still stocker Rainbows living, but even with a sinking line, I did not find them.  I did catch a Bluegill and small Largemouth Bass, but the fish were particularly picky, so I left the Raptor Center.

A new book was supposed to be released today, so knowing that I'd be going to Barnes & Noble across from Northpark, I ventured a little farther west and hit Caruth Park.  What a genuine treat.  I fished my 2# Finesse, used a spider and then a Pheasant Tail Nymph, and caught tiny, tiny Sunfish.  I love catching these small fish as much as I love catching behemoths.  These fish were absolutely beautiful and emanated great coloring detail.  I enjoyed catching them, and I also enjoyed the young children who came over to where I was fishing asking questions and curious about the fish.  It's difficult to decide who was more entertaining.  Not the day I expected, but what a great day it was!

26 March 2012

Fat Girls Are Running

The Girls are running up the Nolan River!  Now getting to them is going to take some walking or boating. With the rains earlier in the week, the Nolan River is even higher than it was 10 days ago, and according to several fisherman lining the shore, today's water level was a foot lower than yesterday's level!

Leaving the Nolan River Park Boat Launch
This time, we took the Mitzi, but the difficult part was finding a place to launch her. We went to Nolan River Park, and besides a beautiful drive overlooking the plateaus to the west and the gorgeous Bluebonnets, it is a waste of time.  Once at the so-called boat launch, there is not much room to maneuver, it is partially submerged under water, and the likelihood that the good 'ole boys block you in is great.  ACOE, not that it is the institution it was during Robert E. Lee's day, poorly maintains the place, if maintains is even the right word.  Just don't go there; it is a ratty, little place.  The Kimball Bend Park boat launch road is under water, so it is closed.  In between the road that leads to Nolan River Park and Kimball Bend Park is Chisholm Trail Park, really about 1/2 mile from the Nolan Bend Park Road.  They have a decent boat launch, but the put-in is farther north than Kimball Bend by at least two miles, and it is on the Brazos River side.  By the time we navigated through the abundance of driftwood and avoided the once-shoreline trees that are now submerged and part of the riverbed, we had boated 11 miles to reach just north of Rock Creek, which is the creek running through Adair Springs Park.  It was worth it, though.

We found the Fat Girls, nice roe-filled she-White Bass, and they are some hungry mamas-to-be!  We could have driven to Adair Springs, parked, and hiked the two to two-and-a-half mile trek north to where they are feeding and bedding, provided they aren't being caught and hauled out, but the boat ride was really pleasant.  Plus, if we had arrived earlier, we could have fished for the abundance of B-I-G Gar, one was four feet long, hanging around near the extremely wide Nolan-Brazos River confluence, and the short, but fat Common Carp.  It was a fun afternoon with warm, cloudless skies, no wind, fun fish on the fly (White Clouser), and an ever-changing riverbed.
Submerged ledge, no island

I was standing on the island

 @Mouth of Rock Creek looking south
Island is visible
Island submerged 2 1/2 feet

1 1/2 miles NE of the Confluence

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