11 April 2016

Day 2--Bass Contest, Lake Athens - FFF

  After Jordan Spieth's Masters debacle, there is no need for 
any more suspense--neither Cody nor I
won the Bass contest.  However, we enjoyed the day tremendously; Cody went catching, and I went fishing. 
   With our lovely boat motor that moves water at an awesome rate of 25 hp, we try to avoid the crowds at the boat ramp, and since there were a large number of participants in the LAFFF, combined with the fact this was a Saturday, we waited until the tourney start time to launch our skiff.  We were enjoying a little spot, fishing topwater flies before the sun crested over the trees, when [insert derisive epithet here] bait chunkers sidled right in the area where we were trolling and impeded our progress. I really deplore bad manners, but on the water, it is an even greater sin.  Cody and I quietly, though I thought about stomping loudly on the casting platform and banging the trolling motor a few times as I was bringing it in, moved on to another area of the lake.  That served us well. 

   Not all our catches were bass, but we were catching beautiful fish, large-sized species, and using flies we created and tyed, cast from rods we built.  Cody landed a Green Sunfish that was 10 inches in length and weighed 3/4s of a pound.  If only he could have hooked that monster, Friday.  We caught Black Crappie that would have made for a nice fish-fry, had I not been around.  Mind you, I am an omnivore.  I love meat--red and white; I love vegetables; I love fruit.  However, when I pluck the fruit and vegetables from the garden and the trees, the plants and trees don't die.  It is difficult for me to even keep TPWD's stocker trout, which don't live past a Texas March, or salmon that have apoptosis programmed in their DNA.  When it comes to seeing the animal alive in its environment, then killing it to eat it, I can't do it.  Call me a coward, I don't care.  I love to eat meat, just as long as I didn't see it living, especially in its own, natural habitat.  So, we threw the crappie back to the waters and continued trolling along.

   Due to grad school, it's been a while since I have been able to fish for any extended amount of time, so I haven't caught a nice-sized bass in a couple of years.  It took me awhile to figure out the right setup, which meant I had a lot of retrieves bogged down with grass, or salad, as we joke.  About every third retrieve, I had to pull moss, leaves, hydrilla off my hook, so when we were casting to this particular shore that had a nice drop off flanked by a sandy incline, my tip bent and my line went tight.  Cody asked if I had a fish, and I replied that I just had a clump of grass, until I got my hook about five feet from the boat.  The "grass" tugged back--one time.  In amazement, I laughed and told Cody that I was wrong and I did have a fish on my line.  Cody grabbed the net, and we landed her.  Not the biggest Bass I have ever caught, but certainly the most subtle one.  I caught another, smaller one, and it was the same way--subtle take, no fight.  They just kind of short inhale--whsst, bloop--and that's it.  I don't know if it's due to the upcoming spawn, or that's just the way Lake Athens Bass feed.  Either way, it was interesting fishing.

   Tea-stained as the water was, up in the sandy shallows, we saw several pairs on their beds.  March just has to be a gorge-fest for fish.  We watched the frenzy with which the female and male swam around, across, and to-and-fro guarding their bed.  I had a Bass Brunch--Bluegill fly on my line, and I swam that fly over the bed, curious to observe the fish behavior.  I thought they would eat the intruder, but instead the fanned their tail fins at it, hid in the surrounding reed brush, swam hard at the fly, but they never opened their mouths to eat.  Burning that amount of caloric energy without replacing it, lets me know that chunking big flies in March will surely produce some significant catches.  The problem there is Texas' March weather is usually a difficult time to be out on the water--high winds, rain, hail.  I guess that's Mother Nature's way of keeping the populations healthy.

   Cody ended up catching about 20 fish--on one fly, the CodyBugger, while I had nine.  I always try really gargantuan flies, especially topwater, before the sun breaks over the treetops.  Since it was a continuously cloudy day, I fished that beautiful popper longer.  It was fun, but I had no takers, while Cody had a fish nearly every third cast.  More than the crawfish pattern, my Bluegill fly ended up being the most successful.  I have heard crawfish should not be eaten in months spelled with an "r," and it seems to make sense.  The crawfish are not prevalently abundant during those months, and so the fish seem to recognize that this is not a food source for this time of year--a definite "Match the Hatch" principle.

    Johnny Martinez and his friends worked hard to sponsor this fun event.  We were given--a shirt, a hat, TPWD info bag that had a really decent measuring ruler, Kind bars for snacks while out on the water, a Friday fish dinner and beverages, a Saturday BBQ of chicken and pulled pork and beverages, and opportunities to win competition and raffle prizes.  Cody came in third in the distance casting competition.  While Cody did not win any competition, the Accuracy and Distance casting winners and Big Bass and 2nd place Most Bass winners each won a fly rod/reel/line combo. The kayak/shore division and boat division Most Bass winners each won a Yeti cooler.  The only thing we bought were our Saturday raffle tickets, which netted us a day's guided trip for two on Lake Athens with JohnnyontheFly.com--a nice return on a $10.00 ticket, especially since there are an abundance of quality fish who take a fly quite admirably.

08 April 2016

2016 Lake Athens Fly Fishing Festival

Cody and I are participating in the 2016 Lake Athens Fly Fishing Festival hosted by Johnny Martinez of JohnnyontheFly.com. This is the second year for this free fly fishing tournament.  Today's event was the Sunfish contest where participants in two divisions--boats and kayak/shore--were tasked with catching five species of sunfish--a Bluegill, Redbreast, Redear, Green, and a Rio Grande Perch.  After catching a species, participants had to photograph their catch on a measuring board along with their tournament ID and text the photo to Johnny; incorrect IDs disqualified that catch!  Tiebreakers were determined by total length of fish.

In the boating division, Cody was one of six anglers who caught three of the five species.  Unfortunately, Cody's total length did not put him in contention for the win.  The winner had a total of 24.6". Afterwards, participants could choose to compete in an accuracy contest and a distance contest, as well as receive free casting instructions.  Cody had the lead for distance when the evening ended.  I hope it holds through tomorrow's participants.

For supper we had fried catfish, grilled Italian sausage, cole slaw, potato salad, fried onion rings, and cookies.  We received a neat, free t-shirt and raffle tickets with our entries, and during dinner, raffle items were given away.  Cody won dinner for two, and I won a t-shirt.

Even though we didn't win, we had a great time catching fish!

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