21 October 2016

Personal Bests

Steve Hollensed
Cody wanted to me to enjoy my week's Fall Break, so he booked a Lake Texoma trip with Guide Steve Hollensed of Flywater Angling Adventures.  Originally planned for Thursday, the high winds, tall white caps, and crazy weather pushed our trip back a day to Friday, which turned out to be a beautiful, clear blue sky, and almost no wind day.  Those conditions meant we had to be on top of our game, because the fish could see us and our zinging fly lines long before we saw them.  Choosing to fish with our 7# rods loaded with Generation 3 Class V Streamer Stripper lines, we cast to rocky shorelines and stripped our lines in quickly, then pausing briefly to let our flies sink, we resumed stripping quickly, and cast again.  Our retrieves imitated the abundance of bait fish present.  Our numbers of fish were not high but the quality of fish equaled personal bests on many catches.

We set out on the water prior to sunrise and watched a beautiful morning dawn.  Heading to where Osprey were resting in trees, I cast to a shoreline lined with big rocks.  Steve told us we were going to move after this cast, so I cast towards a small tree about three feet prior to the point, and on the second strip, a fish hammered the chartreuse and white Half and Half Fly.  Then, the fish leapt completely out of the water, and Steve and Cody were hollering, "Whoa, Smallmouth!  Smallmouth!" and "That's a nice Smallmouth!"  "C'mon, Miss Julia, bring her in."  As it neared the boat, the fish headed under the boat by the motor.  At one point, I thought I lost the fish because the line slacked as it swam back toward shore, but another strip eliminated the slack, and I reeled in the excess line.  The leader was at my tip guide, and the fish swam alongside the boat avoiding the net.  While the fight lasted a little over two minutes, when it kept swimming away from the net, I thought I wasn't going to land the largest Smallmouth I had ever caught.  However, Steve netted it, and Cody helped me weigh, 2 1/2 pounds, measure, 17 1/4 inches long, and take my picture with it before releasing that beautiful fish back to its home waters.

Cody began fishing after an enjoyable lunch.  Using a fly Cody learned  to tye from Jen Ripple during her September visit to the Texas IFFF Convention and the Dallas Fly Fishers meeting, Cody caught his personal best Smallmouth and Striper.  We were fishing a rocky embankment, and Cody cast his fly about two inches in front of the rocks.  The fly was barely in the water when his line went tight.  About  two feet from the boat, the fish surfaced just enough for us to see its back so we could identify it as not a Striper.  A few more strips, and Cody's rod tip doubled over.  Cody worked his rod tip under the boat, as the fish swam from one side to the other.  Once back on the shore side of the boat, Cody stripped the fish in, and Steve netted another large Smallmouth.  Cody's fish weighed 2 1/4 pounds but was 21 1/4 inches long.  I really don't know why the fish was skinny, because it was healthy and fought hard.  I enjoyed snapping his photo with the longest Smallmouth I had ever seen!

With waters as smooth as glass, we headed back to a previously fished shoreline.  Graciously, Cody let me have the front of the boat.  Continuing to cast his shad-patterned fly towards the shore while an Osprey watched, Cody's line went tight about five feet from the shore.  Cody reeled, and the fish pulled line off, and Cody reeled and the fish fought back.  We knew Cody either had a Striper or a White Bass.  When he landed the fish, I thought that it was a Hybrid, but Steve told us since these landlocked Stripers don't have a wide gene pool variance, that sometimes their stripes are broken, so looking at the their tongue confirmed the fish identity as a Striper or Hybrid.  Cody's catch had a double tongue, so Cody caught a 4 1/4 pound Striper.

All-in-all, the day's totals were two Smallmouths, two White Bass, one Striper, and because the bait fish were so incredibly thick, five Threadfin Shad.  We also saw many Blue Heron, Osprey, including seeing one catch a fish and fly off with it, and a Bald Eagle.  We worked hard for our catches, and enjoyed a most beautiful Fall day on the water!

16 October 2016

South Llano River Riparian Habitat

Cody spent a part of Sunday flying his drone over the South Llano River, so we could see how the river has been changing since the 2010 heavy rains followed by the devastating 2011 drought and fire.  An area typically deemed as an easy, short float, the section of the South Llano River between the First and Second Road Crossings, had been a typical favorite section for day trippers and novices alike, as well as those who like to explore.  This section of river nestled between two different US 377 low water bridges is 1.4 miles in length and is identified by its locale on one's drive from Junction.  The Second Road Crossing is deemed the 0.0 mile put-in, but the First Road Crossing is more popular because it is the crossing closer to Junction, possesses easy access for cars to offload water craft, and provides easy watercraft launching areas.  Therefore, not as many river runners have experienced the South Llano's rapid changes over the past five years due to bypassing this tell-tale section.

In this section, clearly defined flood plains exist, banks and floodplains are storing water, both new-growth trees and established trees are present as well as healthy riparian grasses and plants, and a number of features which provide roughness and channel obstructions so that additional energy dissipation and floodwater retention exists.

While river runners' acclimation to these changes may take some time, it is good to see the river recovering from such a devastating drought and 2008 and 2011 fires.


Oktoberfisch 2016

Cody and I attended the Fredericksburg Fly Fishers 13th Annual Oktoberfisch Event, which was held at a new venue but still on the South Llano River.  We had the pleasure of RVing next door to our friends the Egglestons as well as being their Friday evening dinner guests.

Since the 2011 drought, this river has changed annually, but this is the most drastic change yet.  What was once a wide river with long deep pools with the occasional Class I and II rapids no longer exists.  Taking its place is a true, riparian corridor where a much narrower river has emerged.  Cody floated using his pontoon boat, and I floated in my kayak.  We each caught our fair share of species:  Redbreast Sunfish; a few Rio Grande Perch for each of us; Guadalupe Bass (the original State Fish of Texas); a few Largemouth Bass; a Smallmouth for Cody; and one Warmouth for me! One fish I had trouble recognizing and was a first catch for me, was a Largemouth Hybrid.  It took reading Steve Quinn's In-Fisherman August 2012 article, "Hybrid Black Bass" to figure it out. Additionally, the Rios that Cody caught had no sores, while the two I caught had those sores.  I can not remember what Kevin Hutchison told us about the Texas Cichlids and these sores, but I do remember him saying they were harmless and disappear on their own.  Going where the flows take our vessels, we had a great day on the water, launching at the South Llano River State Park and taking out at our campground, just upstream of the Loop 481 truss bridge.

For the Saturday night Event dinner, we opted not to buy raffle tickets but tried our luck on the float tube; unfortunately for us, the 8 of Clubs was the winner, and we held the 9 of Diamonds.  We enjoyed our long, beautiful, and fruitful day on the water, as well as seeing good, fly fishing friends.

Guadalupe Bass

Largemouth Bass

Smallmouth Bass

Rio Grande Perch

Redbreast Sunfish


Hybrid Largemouth Bass

09 October 2016

Urban Fly Fishing

I submitted my 18 page Master's Thesis paper on my practicum project two days early, so I decided I would go fly fishing and geocaching, as today was International EarthCache Day.  I found the perfect spot in Fort Worth on the Trinity River alongside Hulen Street south of I-30 and north of I-20.  The EarthCache, Craving Sea Levelness, brought me to a natural weir along the Trinity Trails,
N 32° 42.866 W 097° 23.272, so access was very easy.  I fished my floating 2# and sinking 5# below the weir and landed Green Sunfish, a Channel Catfish, a Spotted Bass, and foul hooked a Pumpkinseed Sunfish.  The fish aggressively hit the flies, rust-colored crawfish, a beadchain black and orange crawfish, and the GirlieBugger, and there were numerous hits from small, healthy fingerlings.  I loved the Earth Science caching and fly fishing treat, and if I could have convinced Cody to join me, the day would have been perfect!

Fly Fishing from the Weir
Downstream of the Weir

Small Green Sunfish

Green Sunfish on the 2#

Channel Catfish on the 5#
Spotted Bass Spit the GirlieBugger

17 September 2016

Fly Fishing Skinny Freshwater

Jerry Hamon guided the small gathering of Texas Women's Fly Fishers on the Brazos River, Saturday. Bad weather spooked many away, but the day dawned clear and proved to be a fantastic day of fly fishing. Having not fished in three months, I wasn't sure how I was going to fish.  Cody headed downstream and I headed upstream, but not for long.  I walked my kayak downstream and began fishing shorelines, shelf dropoffs, and channels.  Cody fished large boulders and a creek confluence with the river.  For the day's total, we ended up catching Bluegill, Channel Catfish, Hybrid Sriped Bass, Largemouth Bass, Redbreast Sunfish, Spotted Bass, and some hybridization of a Redbreast due to the red eyes.  We also hooked up with Gar and Carp but could not keep them on our lines.  Cody flew his drone down the river system where we fished, and seeing the bird's eye view of the river's depth and open exposure amazed me with the number of fish we caught, especially in a half-day's time frame.

Hybrid Striped Bass

Spotted Bass

Channel Catfish

Hybrid Redbreast Sunfish

Hybrid Redbreast Sunfish


Redbreast Sunfish

Largemouth Bass

Spotted Bass

Spotted Bass

18 June 2016

Mariner Sails' Women's Only Kayak Fly Fishing Tournament

I participated in the Mariner Sails Women’s Only Kayak Fly Fishing Tournament held at Lake Athens.  Cody and I spent the night, since we were awakening at 4:30 to check-in at 5:30 and be on the water at 6:00.  However, prior to going to the tourney, we assembled my birthday present, a Malone Kayak Trailer!!!  It was something I really had been wanting, as it is easier to haul, load, and I can operate it by myself.  We had a good time assembling it, until we ran out of shade.  It is a little hot with no relief scheduled for the tourney—ugh!

We got out on the water, and I fished some areas that looked fishy but just weren’t producing.  So I headed to our Sunfish spot in the hopes of finding some Largemouths.  No such luck, but I kept working my way down, and eventually, I found a nice topwater bite.  I caught one Largemouth, but then the topwater action died down.  I made my way all around the lake fishing to shorelines and eventually ending up at the dam.  I caught some really nice Sunfish weighing just under a pound, but I needed weedguards on my fly, as the grass was out of control!

I placed 7th with my one bass, and even though the tournament ended officially at 2:00 pm, ladies started heading in early due to the heat.  I fished up until 2:00 and had not realized the announcements were already beginning, because I was the only who didn’t show up early.  Come to find out, most fish were caught prior to noon with three caught afterwards.  Big Bass, a hare over 10 pounds!! was caught around mid-morning under a dock in all kinds of grass and brush.  I ended up winning a pair of gloves and a cap.  All-in-all, it was fishing, and I did catch fish, just not enough of the right kind.  Glad to take a break from school, fish, get out of the heat, and head for home.

07 May 2016

6th World Championship Bass on the Fly Tournament

This weekend it was Cody's turn to take the prizes.  We fished in our fourth Ted Warren tournament, but instead of using the Mitzi (our flats boat), we decided to enter the kayak division.  We also registered late, so we ended up staying at the new Lake Fork Resort, just west of Lake Fork Marina. Ted has worked really hard in growing this tournament, and with 70 registered participants, this was the largest turn out yet.
Cody reclaimed his distance casting title from the first two tournaments, besting his own record by launching an 80 foot cast and taking home a TFO Rod, Reel, and WF floating fly line.  Next, we both participated in the accuracy contest, where Cody ended up in a three-way tie for first.  Unfortunately, Cody's name wasn't drawn from the hat for him to claim that title as well.

Distance champion with rod, reel, and line

I find Lake Fork very difficult to fish; I have hooked up with species I haven't hooked anywhere else--Bowfin, Gar, but I have yet to land those fish.  Friday was no different, and I caught no Sunfish for that contest, though I did catch Bass.  Cody took second in the contest with an 8 1/4" Bluegill, and I enjoyed the cap Jerry awarded him.
Jerry awards Cody with a nice logo trucker's cap; they are the Bluegills Brothers

I liked Cody's plan for Saturday's fishing, and we were on the water at 6:00 a.m.  With each of us having Native Slayer Propels, we could be really mobile, especially for kayakers.  Cody had a really nice day on the water netting three Largemouth Bass, five Crappie--four White and one Black, and a nice Striped Bass.  Cody's three Largemouth put him in 4th and netted him a $100.00 prize reward.  I caught three Largemouths as well, one on my second cast of the day, but I only netted two, one was particularly small, and a nice-sized Channel Catfish.  Along with some of the entrants from the boating division, the Dallas Fly Fishers also reclaimed the team trophy!
Cody takes 4th place for a total of $100.00!

My first catch of the day

To round out the very good mojo Cody was generating, on the last raffle draw, Cody won the full-day guided trip for two with Brian Nims.  Talk about lucky; we now have a trip with Johnny Martinez on Lake Athens and a trip with Brian.  Along with all the goodies each participant receives just for participating, entrants really walk away with an abundance of goodies, thanks to Ted.  We were tired after a half-day on the water, but we enjoyed seeing good friends and being out on the water.  We made our supper stop at A.J.'s Steakhouse to celebrate a good time fishing before heading home.  One day, we'll be dialed in to Lake Fork, but until then, we'll just keep trying.

01 May 2016

Bud Priddy Any Fly Contest

Cody and I love fly fishing the rivers and streams of the Hill Country.  Now that I am retired from work (but not from grad school), I have tried to attend many of the events work prevented me from attending.  As Bud Priddy is a Texas Legend, I really wanted to attend this event co-hosted by the Alamo Fly Fishers, the Texas Women Fly Fishers, and Project Healing Waters.  Cody had it on his calendar, so I worked on my class papers, lessons, and projects to be able to attend.

We drove down state highway 55, which meant we drove right through the heart of the Nueces Canyon.  I had never heard of nor been in the Nueces Canyon, and so this was a real treat, especially since everything was so green from the last two years' worth of rains.  We were delighted at our first glimpses of the Nueces River, as it was flowing and crystal clear.  We decided to bring our float tubes since the river is long and meandering and kayak access is not always readily available.
We stayed at Big Oak RV park just inside Uvalde County, and what an accommodating and upscale place this campground is. While there is river access, it's a bit of a hike to the river.  State Highway 55 follows this section of the Nueces, so we did some scouting of the upper sections on Friday night, after checking in with TWFF and AFF, and eating the best hot dog I ever ate in Barksdale.
Even though fishing began at dawn Saturday morning, I had a little gut rot to overcome, so we did our usual, awake when awake.  It took us awhile to set up and outfit our tubes, but once we got that settled, we headed north.
Officer Max gets a fly fishing lesson from Cody

Cody was casting to some Sunfish, when a peace officer pulled up.  We thought we were going to be asked for our licenses, but no.  Officer Max wanted to know about fly fishing, so Cody gave him a really nice lesson; I continued to rig up.  We found the least treacherous way to the water, and I put in at the end of a nice set of class-II rapids--overhanging rocks, trees and grasses, and nice eddies meant there were some hungry, unsuspecting fish to be caught.  However, the first order of business was to target the fish in the middle of the river, about 12 feet down.  Cody stood up top and guided my cast to where the Sunfish were hanging around an unoccupied bass bed.  Good direction, decent cast, and FishOn!  At first I thought I had a Bass, but instead, it was a nice Redbreast Sunfish with late spawning colors. She measured 9 inches on the board!  Start the fish count on the scorecard with the first catch of the day!

Winner, winner!  9 inch Redbreast

I kicked back up stream, hard work, and fished the shorelines and caught three more decent size Sunfish--Greenies and Bluegills in the 7 inch range.  Then, Cody and I floated our way down to the low water crossing.  We pulled Bluegills, Largemouth, and Guadalupe Bass from the shoreline.  I politely waited for the snakes, mostly non-poisonous, to swim by before casting.
Float-tube fishing the Nueces River

Downstream of the Country Road 416 Lowater Crossing
After taking out, we decided to drive to other low-water crossings downstream, to see what the water quality and flow was like.  We had only a little luck at one spot around Co. Road 416, so we moved farther down.  Second jackpot of the day.  Cody waded upstream, and I waded downstream.  My day almost ended quite disastrously, as I was about a foot-and-a-half from stepping on a diamondback water snake, but thanks to my new, polarized sunglasses, I spotted that gullet-filled fellow, and gave it a wide berth.
The bulge underneath the moss by the head indicated it had eaten not too long before I snapped this photo
I fished the tail-end of a nice, wide riffle and caught two more Sunfish, and then headed to the other side, which was much deeper and quicker, and I pulled out three Guads.  They sure shone golden in that crystal clear water.
One of many Guadalupe Bass of the day

Earlier, some folks had been swimming in a deep water, swift current pool created by the culverts under the low-water crossing bridge right at the shoreline.  I couldn't really see any fish, but just couldn't pass up the opportunity to give it a try.  Cody had returned from his sojourn upstream and was watching from above on the bridge.  I had fished the first three culverts, when I decided to give the swirling eddy of the middle culvert a try.  My fly got down fast, and I thought I was stuck on debris.  Cody hollered and whooped and threatened me about losing the fish.  He came down and helped me land and measure my personal best on a Guadalupe Bass, 12 1/2 inches.

12 1/2 inch Guadalupe Bass

That was it; we were finished for the day, as it was time to turn in our scorecards.  After picking up some trash and speaking with a friendly Texas Game Warden for a bit, we headed back to camp.  Realizing that my 14 fish for the day, seven Sunfish, seven Bass, were not any where near competition standards, especially since last year's Total Fish category was near 200 caught fish, I just turned it in for show.
Winning Scorecard
The event hosted silent auctions, an excellent BBQ dinner, raffles, and awards, and Cody and I made a good show in several categories.  For the Tournament awards there were three categories:  Largest Bass, Largest Sunfish; Most Fish Caught.  1st, 2nd, 3rd places and an Honorable Mention were awarded in each category.  My 12 1/2 inch bass wasn't too far behind the leaders of 15 inches, 14 1/2 inches, 12 7/8 inches, and 12 3/4 inches, so I was pleased about that.  I didn't come close to the most fish caught, but Lo and Behold, my 9 inch Bluegill put me in a four-way tie for first!  Before the awards had been announced, we voted on how the tie-breaker was to be decided, which was by number of fish caught.  I ended up with the third place prize of a trophy and a Simms Waypoints Chest Pack.

Four-way tie for 1st Place

However, the steal of the night was our silent auction winner.  Lefty Ray Chapa had donated a first edition Bud Priddy Fly Fishing the Texas Hill Country book to the TWFF silent auction.  I told Cody I really wanted that book.  Cody agreed and let me price it to where there was no competition.  We later learned during the recognition portion of the night, that Bud's wife, Pat Priddy and all four of the Priddy children were in attendance.  Pat spoke briefly and thanked us for continuing this event in Bud's memory.  After our group photo, I asked Pat if she would autograph our newly won, pristine condition copy, which she graciously did.  Since there was enough daylight at the end of the night's events, Cody and I made the short drive over to the Camp Wood Cemetery and paid our respects to Bud.  This was a great event, funded by grant money no less, and one we hope to continue attending.  After all, I have a title to defend!

Pat's inscription reads, "Many thanks for letting me represent my husband--he would be so grateful for the honor of the tributes to him--..Pat Priddy"

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