Sunday, December 09, 2007

Sardine sized trout? Not for me thanks!

This past Wednesday, Texas Parks & Wildlife stocked San Gabriel City Park with approximately 2,500 rainbow trout. I decided to go yesterday afternoon to check out the scene.

While there were several folks there fishing from shore, there were a couple in canoes. I decide to just paddle around and investigate. The water was clear yet I didn't spot any schooling rainbows or see anyone pulling any fish out. So I just paddled back and decided I would fish a spot downstream from the park past the retention dam/falls and a low water bridge. On my way out someone cast an in-line spinner across my bow and I barely avoid getting hooked. This was confirmation that it would not only be nicer fishing somewhere more secluded but safer.

Below the bridge, you can wade and paddle downstream and it becomes really scenic and sometimes feels quite secluded. On my way down, I spotted what looked like a rainbow trout no longer than 7 inches long. It looks as if some had made it over the falls. However, having caught some that size last year, they were all not that impressive fighters so I decided to pass. I headed further downstream to fish below riffles and rapids for bass and brim instead.

The water was so nice and clear and the temperature seemed to be in mid 60s. It was cool but not really cold. A lot of the algae was gone and the rocks below the clear water looked like granite to me. Before, with silt and algae clinging to it, I wasn't sure if they were just limestone or not.

Long story short, I caught several feisty Guadalupe bass, Largemouth bass, and some nice brim. I caught one beauty that was 9 inches long and it fought hard in the rapids and put a nice bend in my 4wt.

On my way back out, I found a young fly fisher wading near where I saw the small rainbow and he was apparently catching and keeping them. I circled wide behind him to the opposite side of the river to avoid disturbing him and the the rainbows. I wanted to tell him that when he got tired of catching hatchery fish that he could wade downstream and tangle with some wild bass and brim and have more fun but I was in hurry to get home to get ready for a Christmas party so I let him be. Maybe I'll see him out there again.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Twenty four hours to fish

On Monday afternoon I left the Rio Grande Valley and traveled north to Corpus Christi to once again fish with my cousin. I basically had about 24 hours or so to fish as I had to get back on my way in order to be home to make preparations for Thanksgiving day.

On Monday evening we set out in the kayaks to fish around Nueces Bay and the causeway there. Normally, the fishing is excellent when there is a strong outgoing on incoming tide. However, the tide that night was not quite that strong and might be considered somewhat slack and so the fish weren't there in large numbers. I caught three trout no larger than 14 inches and so after a few hours we decided to leave to rest for a trip out in the motorboat the next day.

On Tuesday morning we cleaned up our gear from the night before and loaded up the boat and set out to fish Nighthawk Bay. We took along live shrimp to fish under a popping cork. We spent about 3 or 4 hours out in the bay and I caught only one keeper trout at about 17 inches.

After cleaning the boat and gear we rested a little and decided to go out in the evening and try our luck with the sail line. Once we got to Bird Island Basin and set out the sail line, the first time we brought it in it had seven keeper trout on it! It looked as if this night might make up for the tough day but alas it was not to be. We made three additional runs up until midnight and only caught one undersized trout.

Despite the lack of a lot of fish, I am thankful for the 16 fillets of trout that I was able to bring back which will be on the menu this weekend after everyone is tired of Thanksgiving leftovers.

Pier fishing in Port Isabel

I traveled down to the Rio Grande Valley to visit family and while I was there I promised my younger two children that I would take them fishing. We were staying with in-laws in Los Fresnos which is about 20 minutes from Port Isabel and South Padre Island.

On Monday I got up early but it was raining so we had to wait until 9:30am to get going. I went to pick up my niece to take her along and then we all headed to Pirate's Landing fishing pier near the lighthouse in Port Isabel. I bought some shrimp and walked out to a section of the pier the kids and I have been to before. We noted the color of the water was a gorgeous light green.

I had rigged each rod with a carolina rig and a circle hook on which I put one shrimp and set it out. My son was casting my baitcaster rod and reel setup which he really enjoyed and the girls had spinning rigs.

Gabi was the first to catch a fish and it ended up being an 18" or 19" ladyfish (skipjack) which is sometimes referred to as "the poor man's tarpon". We photographed the catch and released it.

Next to catch something was my niece who caught a small stingray which I didn't photograph and released quickly.

My son by this time was getting frustrated as he had not caught anything yet and the girls had. The girls decided to leave their rods on the railing and play on a bench together.

While I was checking on the other rods my son noticed that my daughter's rod was bending over and grabbed it before it got pulled over the railings and I had him reel it in and it had a fairly sizable croaker on it which is related to redfish. We photographed and released it.

By this time, all three kids had caught something and we were running out of time as we only had an hour to fish. They insisted I take one of their rods and catch something before we left and I ended up catching a puffer fish which was interesting as we all ended up catching a different species.

At this point we left but I promised to bring them back the next time we came to visit to see what else we could catch.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Vintage reel brings back memories

Last night I was going through my fishing stuff in the closet looking for some lost lures and came across a box containing a vintage Shimano baitcasting reel. The reel was a bit dirty and had one screw missing for the level wind but otherwise was intact.

The reel used to belong to my father and I received it from my sisters when my dad was placed in a nursing home to get round-the-clock care due to his affliction of Alzheimer's.

The reel brought back memories of my cousin and I as young boys taking it and the rod it was attached to without permission one morning to go fish a canal down the road from where I lived. I also remember my father coming over the berm down into the canal and grabbing my cousin and I by the shoulder and taking us back home ending that fishing excursion mighty quick. Needless to say the rod and reel where off limits the rest of that summer.

I decided to clean up that old reel as best I could to place it in my office so that I don't forget my family's passion for fishing. My dad collected and fixed up rods and reels but didn't have much time to fish though.

My grandfather was a devoted fisherman. One of my earliest memories of going fishing was when I was probably three or four years old and going with my grandpa and my dad to fish the Brownsville ship channel. I remember they caught either a ribbon fish or some sort of eel that startled me. I also remember walking off and stumbling into some cactus and getting needles in my palms and my knees and my dad pulling them out while I bawled my eyes out. My grandfather kept on fishing of course.

My grandfather was an excellent fisherman. I remember eating fresh fish he would bring home that my grandmother would skillet fry after battering the fish in corn meal. That fish was delicious! My grandfather was also very partial to flounder.

My cousin often says that he and I inherited our grandfather's passion for fishing. It's in our blood though for my grandfather a big part of it was also to simply put food on the table.

My grandfather passed away when I was about 14 and most of his beloved fiberglass rods and Penn reels and other saltwater tackle got dispersed among uncles and son-in-laws. Several years later my grandmother found one tackle box that she allowed me to have that belonged to him. I still have it though I don't use it.

I hope one day I can pass on some of my gear to my son, son-in-law or grandchild and it will remind them of our love for this sport.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Veterans Day

Today is Veterans Day. God bless the men and women who served and defended this great country of ours. My favorite cousin who I fish with every chance I get is a former Marine and veteran of the first Gulf War. I wish him and all others in the military a great day today.

The color green

Green is the color of bass. Sometimes, colorations vary depending on the season and the depth the fish is to be found but in the end they are still green. Today I saw a lot of green.

I set out this morning to fish my favorite river, the San Gabriel, with my dark green Sage XP 5wt rod and tied to my tippet, an olive green Bonker Zonker (BZ). The rabbit strip and pearl cactus chenille that compose the BZ fly simply drive bass wild. I have caught a bunch of bass with this particular fly and would again today.

I paddled and waded about three miles upriver to a very narrow section of the river that had emerald green water that said "bass" all over it. I worked the BZ fly from the opposite bank into the deeper water and current and then out to the light green shallow water were I was.

My first strike came from a very healthy largemouth that felt strong in the current and made the XP's light tip dance around.

Soon after I caught another bass though this one was a bit different and by the tough fight it put up, it felt like a Guadalupe bass, and a trophy size one to boot (12 inches is a trophy Guad). After photographing and releases the Guad, I proceeded to catch additional bass (all green of course).

At one point, I cast out to the opposite bank and hooked a redbreast sunfish when all of a sudden something charged it! It was a three pound largemouth! The little stunned sunfish lay on its side on the top of the water and floated downriver while the largemouth remained just below it yet not attempting a second charge. I expect it saw me on the bank and thought twice about taking the bait.

I tried repeatedly to find that three pound green river monster but to no avail. I ended up calling it a day after a while. All in all, I probably caught about 10 or more bass and a couple of brim.

On my way out I ran into a kayak angling friend of mine that was intent on catching carp on the fly. However, I mentioned to him that I hadn't really focused on carp today but they seemed awfully skittish.

I told him I had concentrated on bass upriver. He responded that he had caught quite a few 1 to 2 pound bass just 300 yards from where we both put in. Oh well, I guess I got my exercise in today and got to see a lot of green. What more could I ask for?

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Bass in the carp hole

This morning I got up late and got together my kayak and fly gear to try and fish the San Gabriel river for a couple of hours. My hope was to find some carp wanting my flies.

The paddle upriver from Mankin's Crossing wasn't bad at all. The water was flowing but nowhere as fast as the last time I was there. I could see the water was fairly clear in some places and a little bit greener in others.

After passing the first rapids which were very traversable, I started looking for signs of carp feeding. I saw lots of them cruising thanks to the high sun and I thought I saw some bass as well. I did see one beautifully spotted gar on the paddle towards the rapids that was around three feet long.

I had first tied on my favorite carp fly of mine which is a crawfish orange Gotcha type fly. I had one carp pick it up and spit it out. I waded around for a bit and crossed to the other side of the pool to try my luck there.

On one side of the pool below some trees I could see shadows moving out of the shade. They were carp and after a few casts I had one pickup the fly and spook as I tried to set the hook.

I decided to switch flies and moved to a large fly I got in a fly swap. I think it was meant for bass because on my second cast, a bass hit it hard. I was a chunky little bass around a pound and half and fought well. I brought it into shallow water, photographed and released it. I would end up with two more in less than 45 minutes after catching the first one that were the same size.

I continued trying to hook a carp but it was not to be. On my way out I briefly spoke with a angler in kayak heading past me about the carp/bass hole ahead. As I was taking my kayak out at the put-in point, I spoke with another angler that asked me several questions about the river.

I forgot to mention that I donned waders though the water wasn't as chilly as I figured. Better safe than cold and miserable.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Full moon over the bays

I spent last Thursday through Sunday in Corpus Christi on a fishing trip. As it turned out, this was to coincide with the peak of the full moon cycle. This and the post-cold front "bluebird" weather would indeed have an effect on the fishing and not all for the best...

So, the first day at about mid-afternoon my cousin and I set out on our kayaks in Oso Bay to a power plant water discharge area. However, there was little water being discharged. In the past during cold weather, the trout and redfish migrate up to the discharge area to stack up in the warm water released. My cousin did catch one keeper trout in the first half hour and I landed my first flounder this year though it was just underneath the minimum length limit (MLL) so I released it. This would be the theme for this trip; plenty of fish but most a hair below the MLL.

I ended up hooking up with a large trout using a Corky Devil plug but I lost her before I was able to land her. We continued most of the afternoon and caught a couple more undersized trout but no other keepers.

As the sun started setting, the moon rose as bright as could be and the northeast wind started to die down and the water took on a glassy smooth appearance. There appeared to be a ruckus at the opposite bank, possibly some redfish attacking some mullet but we got no hookups. Switching to small top water plugs drew a couple of strikes but again no hookups.

During the evening, we had a young game warden stop by and check our catch and licenses which were in order. He mentioned having stopped by the night before and caught some fishermen there with some undersized black drum. Shortly afterwards we decided to call it a night and rest for an all day fishing excursion the next day.

On Friday afternoon we set out in motorboat to fish Nighthawk Bay. The water was cool and clear. We started of throwing top waters and I was the first to draw a strike from a large trout that chased the plug and we saw it clearly pull it below the water but I was too slow on the hookset and lost it! We did a couple of drifts in the area and had a few strikes but I was only able to land one undersized trout. Eventually, after having a couple of boats run in front of our drift, we decided to leave to rest for a night of fishing in the kayaks.

That evening, we set out on the kayaks to fish under the causeway that spans across Corpus to neighboring Portland and separates Nueces Bay from Corpus Christi Bay. There were 10 to 15 mph winds and there was good tide movement so we anchored up and shortly afterwards started catching trout. I eventually switched to my 5wt fly rod and tan colored shrimp patterns worked very well. I caught a lot of trout but most of them were 14 to 14 1/2 inches long which was just under the 15" MLL. Still, it was a lot of fun. In total we probably caught six keeper trout so at least we caught something.

On Saturday night we decided to head to Bird Island Basin on Padre Island and put out the sail line. It was possible with the Northeast wind but if the wind switched from the North then it was not going to work. While there we said hello to three elderly gentlemen that had two sail lines out before we set ours out. They had indicated that the lack of wind the nights before had made for slow fishing.

As we set out the sail line and the moon came up, the wind started to die a bit but there were enough gusts that kept the sail going out albeit slowly. It also felt colder compared to the previous nights. It was a good thing we had waders on to keep off the chill.

Sometime during the evening, a couple of fishermen stopped by on their way to wade a neabry point. One had waders on and the other just had a pair of sorts on. He was young so maybe he could take it. I was glad that wasn't me.

We were bringing in the sail line after my cousin detected there were fish on it. After checking it there was only a hardhead catfish and a small trout on it. It looked as if there had been a larger fish on it that got off since one particular drop was all twisted up. We had another drop that had the line broken off.

As we were letting the line back out it stopped and checking it found that a large crab had grabbed one drop baited with shrimp and had caused it to tangle badly. It took almost an hour to untangle the mess. About as soon as my cousin was done fixing it, the wind switched to out of the North. *sigh*. This was a sign that we were done so just before midnight we packed up and left.

Even though it may seem like this trip was a wash, I actually had fun and did catch a few fish. I have had much worse trips so I was grateful for what I caught. That morning, we stopped at a TPWD Shrimp Research location as they were selling shrimp at $2.50 per pound which was a very good deal. The shrimp were not that big but at least it was something I could fry up with the fillets I did bring back.

I hope I can get out to the coast just one more time before the end of the year.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

South San Gabriel

This morning I tried to see if I could wade a section of the South San Gabriel river near where it joins the North San Gabriel river in Georgetown. I decided against taking the kayak as the South San Gabriel has less water than the northern arm.

The water in the section I fished was very clear and running well. The water was also fairly cool though not really cold. The fish were a bit spooky so it took finesse to catch some of them. I saw small bass but didn't land any. I did catch plenty of green sunfish, bluegill, and redbreast sunfish. I was really hoping to find a Rio Grande Cichlid but not in the couple of hours I was in the river.

I, however, wasn't able to wade all the way down to where the two sections of the river join together. There were some sections that were deeper than I wanted to wade. I may consider next time taking the kayak since most of the section was deep enough to paddle and the water was moving slow enough that paddling back upstream wouldn't be bad at all.

I am reading reports from friends that Lake Travis is on fire at the moment with schools of white bass feeding around points. I would have gone to Travis this morning except the wind was a good 10-15mph and so it would have been a bit choppy on the lake. I need to consider a night trip though as the whites would be located along lighted docks and so it wouldn't be too bad then if it were a bit windy.

I am planning a saltwater trip to the coast in two weekends from now so not sure if I will get a chance to fish Lake Travis next weekend. I may. We'll see.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Micro tools

Not much to report as of recent as I have not been fishing lately but with Autumn now here, I will hopefully get out to the lake soon. In the meantime, I ran across a knife maker in Massachusetts that keeps a blog on that makes some really innovative tools. These tools are tiny though; key chain small but very usable and inventive. This tool/knife makers name is Peter Atwood and his blog can be found at and from there you can find his retail web site from which he sells his wares. Be prepared to see the word Sold Out a lot as his tools are in demand and sell quickly once he makes available a new batch.

Maybe it's the 8 year old in me, but pocket tools still fascinate me. Years ago I bought a couple of Leatherman multi-tools that I used to carry with me but eventually found too heavy and bulky for every day carry and now keep in some gear bags that I take camping or to the gun range just in case.

Recently, I had been looking around for a small, lightweight replacement with just the essentials such as flathead screwdriver and Phillips head screwdriver and maybe something else that I could carry with me every day. I considered a Swiss Army Knife (SAK) which I have yet I already carry a knife. After much research I came across Peter's tools.

What fascinated me about these tools was their simple yet useful designs. I believe Peter started with one or two original designs for small prybar/flathead screwdriver tools that could go on a keychain to new and innovative designs that added other features yet still maintained a small and flat profile.

I ended up deciding on the BottleBug tool which features two prying tips/flat screwdrivers, bottle opener, 1/2" wrench, 1/4" wrench, O- ring retention system and a #1 Phillips bit. The driver bit is a standard one inch 1/4" wide bit that fits into the 1/4" wrench hole and is held in place by one of the O-rings which usually cover the area in which the bit is stored. This is an elegant, economical design and is pure brilliance! What is cool, is that you can replace the bit with say a Torx bit that is the one inch long 1/4" wide standard or any other standard bit if you prefer.

Now, as I mentioned before, Peter's tools are in high demand due to the fact they are so well designed and made by Peter himself. Since they are made by this one man, it takes time to produce enough to sell over time so any time they get posted on his website as available, they quickly sell out. I was fortunate to have seen one of these times and seized the opportunity to purchase one of the last in a recent batch of Titanium Bottlebugs (Peter also makes Bottlebugs in a CPM 154 semi stainless premium cutlery steel). The Ti Bottlebugs have a wonderful heat anodized finish that is not only tough but gorgeous. They are also extremely light.

Now, all I have to do is find something somewhere that needs tightening or prying and I am ready. I suspect I may also attach this tool to my fishing lanyard and thanks to the titanium material will be excellent even in and around saltwater trips.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The minimalistic approach

As a kayak angler, I evolved to become somewhat of a minimalist with my gear. I tend to just carry one fly box, a lanyard with nipper, clamp, tippet and knife and of course, my fly rod. The less things I carry the less I have to lose. I have also attempted to attach what I can to my lanyard so it doesn't get lost and is close at hand.

This approach has also spread to the my EDC (Every Day Carry) items. Not long ago, I replaced my old leather wallet with an all plastic Jimi wallet. Since I really only have a couple of credit cards and a debit/check card and don't really carry paper money, this wallet suits me just fine. I really love this wallet and how it helps me identify what I really need and avoid clutter.

I always carry a pocket knife. I have a bad habit of biting my fingernails and without a knife I sometimes would not be able to open simple things. I have bought some nice folders made by Benchmade in the past few months. My current favorite being a Benchmade 525 Mini-Presidio. It is an essential tool.

I also carry a small LED task flashlight since my night vision isn't all that great and it also helps when walking around the house at night without having to turn on all the lights.

I used to have a keychain with eight or nine keys on it, most of which I didn't use. The ones I did were my truck key, mailbox key, house key and key to my office. Eventually, I ended up removing the mailbox key and simply keeping it on its own ring with a fob in the center console in my truck. I also removed the office key and placed it on my badge lanyard since it only needed it with me for work just like my badge. This left just my house key and truck key. Perfect.

One other thing that changed in recent years is that I don't wear a watch anymore. My phone has a clock display on it so that allowed me to eliminate one more item. In a month or two when I am able, I will be replacing my current flip phone with a slimmer and lighter Motorola Razr phone.

Recently, my wife started teaching me how to take paracord and create fobs and lanyards that I can use to attach to my stuff to make it easier to pull out of my pocket or attach to something so I don't lose them while on the water. I also come to appreciate making them and am thinking of making many more intricate ones that I can give away as presents.

Related to this new hobby of making lanyards from parachute cord, I ran across a fellow blogger who has a wonderful blog simply called Stormdrane's Blog that has some great photos of fobs and lanyards he has made as well as a lot of information about making them. I intend to learn how to make some of his cobra stitch lanyards.

I remember once at work, we had one motto that motivated us to create simple to use products which was "Simple - good; Complex - bad" and it feels good simplifying things. I think I will extend this motto to other things in my life.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Granite Shoals night fishing

Last night I went to fish the underwater lights of Lake LBJ in Granite Shoals about one hour west of where I live. I went with a fellow kayak angler and his 12 year old daughter.

Dennis had read some reports about white bass being caught there at night and was anxious to catch some of them. Since I had been there a couple of times before, I decided I would go and provide assistance with information about the area plus gets some night fishing.

I brought along my 4wt since I knew the bluegill sometimes get in a frenzy around the lights and some tend to get pretty big. I also brought my 5wt with a sinking like for any bass.

I was very impressed with Dennis' daughter. She is on her way to being a very experienced kayak angler. This was not her first nighttime fishing expedition. She and her dad have fished Lake Travis before at night and they were prepared with the required 360 degree light on their kayaks along with flashlights.

Once the sun had set and the underwater lights came on, we found only a half dozen lights on. Usually there are twice that many on in the cove we were in. Finally, we found one lone light on the deeper side of the lake that appeared to have some white bass.

We all caught some fish that night and had some good conversation as well. I probably landed 5 white bass and lost just as many. I also landed a nice largemouth that was around two pounds. In addition, I caught a dozen or so bluegill with several of them around 8 and 9 inches.

It was a nice night to be out fishing with friends. The wind was light which was good because this particular cove is not all that protected and can be difficult to fish in windy conditions.

Dennis and I discussed coming back in spring during the staging before the white bass run. We also discussed doing some fishing in Lake Travis since he lives along the lake and has access to several private parks that offer some prime launch spots to avoid too much paddling from where I normally launch. If I can, I may take him up on these offers.

After packing everything up to head out and driving through the neighborhood, we spotted a really fine buck. The neighborhood in Granite Shoals is literally infested with deer. Hopefully, in the spring the underwater lights will be infested with whites, too.

Monday, September 03, 2007


When I got back from fishing the lake in the morning, my youngest daughter asked me to take her fishing. So, after lunch my son, daughter and I went to the local park pond.

We brought along my daughter's Barbie rod and some small weighted plastic minnow lures.

The water was oily, likely from runoff from rains last night. We had a few bluegills chase the minnow but it was difficult fishing. We also found a lot of large crawfish bodies along the shoreline.

There is a walk bridge that separates a channel that leads from one pond to the other and we spotted some live crawfish on the intake side. So for the next 15 minutes my kids took turns trying to entice the crawfish to attack the lure. A few times the crawfish pinched the lure but as soon as it exited the water, it would let go.

They seemed to be having fun so I let them do that and then they later played on the tire swing at the park and then we headed home since the afternoon was pretty hot and humid even with the cloudy sky overhead.

It looks like my kids invented a new fishing sport; crawfishing.

Retro bass fishing

I really like fishing for largemouth bass but in the summer, it can be a little tougher to catch fish on the lake with fly fishing tackle. I reserve the fly tackle for night fishing where the target is lit and doesn't involve lots of casts to search for fish. I find I am also more successful when fishing rivers with fly tackle. Anyways, I thought I would go "retro" this morning.

So out came my seven foot medium action baitcasting tackle. My wife asked me when did I buy the rod since she hadn't seen it before. I told her I've had it for years except because I tend to now lean towards the fly rod, she just hasn't seen it in a long while. I got all the stuff together and took my 6wt with me for "backup".

I started off casting some medium diving crankbait plugs along ledges and also tried a hard plastic jerkbait and I had a couple of small bass chase it with one little one taking a nip at it right at the kayak but not hookups.

The water conditions were OK, clarity to maybe four feet which may be fine is some lakes but in Travis it should be better than that. Seeing as things were going fairly slow, I switched to a soft plastic worm, the trusty Gary Yamamoto 5" Senko in watermelon red rigged weightless Texas style on a 3/0 wide gap hook. Now I was ready!

The Senko is a magnificent lure. It has been my favorite soft plastic for bass fishing and also a very successful one. I've even tried some in saltwater for the heck of it though not enough times. The lure has a wiggle to it and a can be rigged to drop nose down or horizontal with that enticing wiggle or pulled through the water like a fluke jerkbait. Lots of possible techniques and riggings work wonders with this lure.

I was casting to a ledge in an area between diving platforms that I haven't ever really consider and as I was bringing the Senko back, out came a flash and hit that Senko hard! At first I thought it was a white bass from the flash but it turned out to be a nice largemouth!

I had almost forgotten how nice a good size largemouth can pull when it wants to dive deep. Really good feeling. The hook was right in the corner of the lower lip so the bass wasn't going anywhere. I finally lipped the bass and brought him in the kayak for a photo. It measured about 16 3/4 " long and weighed about 2 1/2 pounds. Nice!

I had one "tap tap" after that bass but no further hookups. With all the ski boats and jet skiers on the lake, I decided to leave at 10:30am.

If I get out to the lake again soon, I will try the Senko one more time for that "retro" feeling of catching bass on conventional tackle.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Paddling up the ol' San Gabriel river

I love having a kayak. It is the ideal pack-up-and-go watercraft for river fishing. Last night, I told my wife I was going to try the San Gabriel again and see if it was more fishable than the previous time I tried a month or so ago.

I headed out to Mankin's Crossing outside of Georgetown around 7:30am and was in the water paddling against the upstream current by 8am. It wasn't too difficult and while I was glad there was no wind to make me work harder, it was pretty warm already since this is, after all, August and it is Texas.

My first obstacle to get to my first carp hole was a set of rapids that are normally walkable but this time they were really roaring. I had to try a couple times to follow between the inner seam of the two sides of the rapids so I could land in a patch of dirt then walk up through it without getting in the heavy stuff. I took a short video clip of it with my camera so you could get a feel for the rush of water but the video is no comparison to the real thing.

Once I got past this section I paddled across the pool I normally find carp in and beached the kayak and did some wet wading in knee deep water. Did I mention the water was cold? It was cold at first but refreshing after getting hot from paddling against the current. I found a few carp but spooked them with my misplaced casts.

I then moved upstream a bit to some limestone humps sticking out of the river through which rapids and chutes were and found a cool "wave" caused by a sudden drop then rise in a chute. It was so cool, it must have been three feet high and you could see clearly though it and the swirling bubbles within.

I did find some mudding carp and had one pick up my fly but it quickly spit it out as I tried to set the hook.

I also saw about six people paddling kayaks down the river. They probably putin at San Gabriel City Park upstream earlier in the morning. I bet it was a fun float though I can't see being in my kayak without a fishing rod.

I noticed there were lots of dragonflies and damsel flies around. They kept landing on my fly rod which I hear is good luck. I found a stone that had what looked like emerging damsel flies and nymphs on it so I took a photo of them. I had some of my carp flies with me but the damsel nymphs were in a different fly box.

I also noticed the water was full of spotted gar. I was able to hook one of about 19" but it jumped and broke my line. It's always iffy taking the fly out of their toothy mouths anyway.

I started my way back downstream which was way easier than paddling upstream and stopped at the first carp hole to try my luck before heading out. Within a few minutes I spotted a mudding carp and dropped my crawfish fly about 6 inches from the side of its head. I let it fall to the bottom and then twitched and it went for it. Fish on!

The carp fought well although it was likely only 3 or 4 pounds. After about 5 minutes I brought it to hand and released it and headed back to the putin which again was much easier than the paddle upstream.

All in all, it was a memorable trip even though there were not a lot of fish caught. I hope to get back on the SG later when the temperature starts dropping just a bit and see how it looks then.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Socializing at the range

I was getting restless this afternoon, so I headed to my favorite gun range, Eagle's Peak, to get some practice in with my XD. My logic was that since it was 100F degrees out the range should be close to deserted.

I arrived at the range around 5pm and there was just as many folks there as usual. I've been there now several times so I've gotten to know the range officer at the desk, Ron. who is a heck of a nice guy. As I was going in an older couple was talking to him. The man was telling Ron that he bought a new Springfield Armory XD compact and that it shoots better than his Glock. Cool! I told the man I also have an XD and he smiled.

I then proceeded out to the pistol range as usual. While I was out there, two young men set up in the next stall and were shooting a .45 auto and then one of them pulled out a rather large automatic that had a scope on it. Impressive looking pistol and then he shot it. Holy smokes! The thing was a cannon! A very accurate canon! It kicked up a ton of dust on the backstop and made a rather large hole in the target. I had to ask him what it was. He said it was a Desert Eagle in .50AE. He asked me if wanted to shoot a couple of rounds through it.

Now, at this point I felt like Ned from the Three Amigos! movie as he's about to face "The German" in a duel and Jefe says to him, "You'll want to die with a man's gun - not a little sissy gun like this.". So I put down my XD and picked up the Desert Eagle. I loaded two rounds in the magazine that were huge! They are so big that the double stack magazine only holds seven! The pistol was almost four and half pounds in weight and was almost 11 inches long! Each round cost about $1.25 so it's a pretty expensive pistol to shoot. What would you shoot with it normally is anyone's guess. A rhino?

I fired one round from the Desert Eagle and surprisingly it had a smooth push back type recoil rather than a kick, reminiscent of a .45's recoil. He mentioned the heavy weight plus that it has two recoil springs helps with the recoil. He said that he's shot a revolver in the .50AE and it kicks like a mule! Again, I am reminded of Ned after he fires the revolver that Jefe gave him! :-)

The guy offered the half dozen others at the pistol range a chance to shoot the handgun and it certainly had a wow factor. It was a conversation starter for sure. And that got me thinking that being at an outdoor range is a lot nicer than the indoor ones. You get to interact more with other people, at least from my experience. It's not as noisy as the indoor range and so you can talk easier even with ear protection on.

Later, I commented to the guy next to me that he was a very good shot. He was tearing a large hole in the center ring of his target. He showed me his .40 S&W custom race pistol that he said he built himself. As it turns out, he works for a local company called STI that handcrafts competition pistols. He had put almost 98 rounds into that target! Only one was outside the 8 ring. Almost all of them were in the center bullseye!

He said that the race gun was built specifically for competition and that the light trigger and 5 inch compensated barrel made for a very flat shot. He let me shoot it a couple of times and I was astonished at the almost lack of recoil. My XD has a pronounced snap to it but then again it has a 3.9 inch barrel which is not compensated and is nowhere as expensive as this $3,300 competition pistol. It was very nice!

I ended shooting only 150 rounds and then headed out. I stopped in the office to talk to Ron for a little while then I left. I like this range a lot. I forgot to mention that it is only a 10 minute drive from my house.

I'll be out there again for sure.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Early morning on Lake Travis

Since the rivers are still not ideal for traversing, I thought I would try the lake early in the morning. I headed for Lake Travis just before 5am.

When I got down to the boat ramp at Sandy Creek Park, I found a car and a pickup truck parked near it. It looked like a couple of people were asleep in the bed of the truck. It seemed uncomfortable so I tried not to make much noise unloading the kayak to launch. It's likely it was some teenagers that came out to the lake at night to party. It hasn't been the first time I've encountered partied out teenagers. They're harmless enough.

I was hoping to fish one of the green lights located in front of a floating house but apparently there was a party going on that must have started the night before. Dang! So I tried a few lighted boat docks and didn't have any luck.

The wind was still and the air was slightly humid but not uncomfortable. The bug repellent was doing the job keeping the mosquitoes away which I was thankful for.

Since I wasn't having much luck I decided to wait for sunrise so I could see better. While lying in my kayak looking up at the sky, I caught sight of three shooting stars (meteorites) in less than an hour which was pretty cool. I also heard the flapping of ducks flying overhead in the quiet morning. Strange that I couldn't hear the frogs after a while just as sunrise started to show.

I continued looking for fish around submersed vegetation. My sinking line would occasionally get tangled in the underwater brush. I switched to a yellow Gurgler fly that the sinking line could suspend below the water line and would bob as I retrieved it. I had fish follow it but no takes. I also had small bluegill peck at it but the size #2 hook was a bit too big for them. I also saw lots of fingerling bass but no adults.

I paddled into the back of a deep cove lined with trees along its steep banks. I finally got one bite which I promptly pulled the hook out of the fish's mouth. I headed back out just before 9am since the morning was starting to warm up and I had had only one bite all morning.

All in all, it was good getting out for a paddle. I need to paddle some more as I think lack of a weekly paddling has gotten me out of shape!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Dog duplex

I have been itching to go fishing and with no real rain in about three days, I decided to check out my favorite river, the San Gabriel, to see if it would let me fish it.

Well, the low water crossing I usually launch from is closed due to high water. The waterline is just about an inch or two below the bridge and the flow is high.

I went to the San Gabriel park in town to see what it looked like and the walking bridge was closed and had trees and debris piled up high on it. There was even something that looked like a rusted out trailer piled up on it and a car!

So, I ended up taking on one of those weekend projects my wife wanted me to do that usually is put off to go fishing. I started building the dogs a new doghouse. I picked the corner of the rear of the yard in front of the storage shed to build it on since there is a large oak tree that would give additional shade there. There is also no grass there but rock fill I placed there that was meant for the storage shed.

I didn't get to finish it but it's almost there. It has a floor, roof, and two walls along with two doors (one for each dog). I need to put the back wall in and a little awning in the front as well as cover up the side that looks into the "attic".

I will try and finish the job during the week so that my wife can paint while I hopefully get to go fishing. We'll see...

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Thoughts on new carry knives

I spent the week carrying the new HK Ally and BM Mini Griptilian and have some thoughts about them to jot down.

First of all, I found the smooth metal body of the Ally and the clip together have a tendency to cause it to slip out of the pocket. Not good since I have a feeling it is going to get lost. In addition, the glass breaker point was something that I kept poking myself with. I also tried carrying the Ally inside the waistband as an alternative to the pocket. This worked OK with the exception that once again, the glass breaker point would occasionally poke my love handles. It is also not as smooth to open as the Mini Griptilian and the smooth metal handle is a bit slippery. Even though the Ally is still a nice little knife, it looks like it will end up in the console in my wife's Suburban for her to use whenever she needs it.

On to the Mini Grip. This knife is about the same size as the Ally and my Leek but it has a non-slip stippled polymer handle that feels really good in the hand. However, the handle tends to really rub my pant pockets when clipping it or removing it. I have heard of people complaining of excessive wear on pants from the sandpaper action of removing and clipping the knife to pockets. I haven't had it long enough to notice wear on my pants. Only time will tell. If it does occur, my solution will be to carry the knife in a sheath.

Another thing about the Mini Grip is it opens really smoothly. The Ally is cumbersome to open compared to the Mini Grip. Plus, that Axis locking mechanism is rock solid. I am very impressed by it and how well the blade cuts. So much so, that I ordered the larger brother, the 551 Griptilian, after inspecting one at REI. The larger model will likely replace my Kershaw Blackout. The 551 I bought has a similar type drop point blade to my Mini Grip but with a sand colored handle which is a striking contrast to the black coated blade and clip. I am sure I am going to enjoy the 551 just as much as the 556 Mini Grip.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

A pocket knife

Ever since I was a kid, I found knives to be essential tools to have with you in your pocket. I think my first knife was a cheap rusty Schrade folder that I promptly broke the blade in half trying to dig out some dirt clods from the ground. My mom got me a cheap hunting knife with a leather sheath that I loved but I left it all the time in the sheath and so it of course rusted as well. I eventually got a Buck folder that I really liked and it had a stainless steel blade that held up better than the earlier models. I wish I knew what ever happened to that knife. I could've given it to my son for his first knife.

Since then I have had several knives. Most recently, I've also picked up some Victoronix Swiss Army knives and Leatherman multi-tools but I still need a good daily carry knife.

My brother-in-law turned me on to Kershaw knives a few years ago and I became a fan. Kershaw makes high quality American made knives. My current every day knife is a Kershaw Rainbow Leek. It is an assisted opening knife that is light, thin and sharp but a bit dressy with the titanium oxide rainbow coating. I also have a Kershaw Blackout that is a spare for fishing adventures now that I got the Benchmade Instigator.

I was really impressed with the quality of my new Benchmade Instigator. So much so that I picked up two new Benchmade knives to rotate as my every day carry knives. I bought a new model called the H&K Ally which is actually made by Benchmade for Heckler & Koch, a manufacturer of high end firearms. I also got a Benchmade Mini Griptilian that is a somewhat nicer knife. Both new knives have black oxide coated partially serrated blades though the steel is different and the handles are of different materials. The blade lengths are also less than 3 inches and both weigh under 3 ounces. So in these respects they are close in size to the Kershaw Leek I currently carry.

So, I may carry the Kershaw Leek for dressed up occasions and the Griptillian or Ally otherwise. I'll have to put the new knives through their paces before I finally decide which to carry.

Water for chocolate

We continue to get rain just about every day. By now, this July will likely go down as the rainiest July in Austin in recorded history. The rivers and creeks look a lot like rivers of chocolate yoohoo though I suspect not as tasty (if you think yoohoo is tasty).

I talked with my cousin yesterday and the coast isn't much better. He has talked with some folks from TPWD recently that had done some gill net studies and found carp and blue catfish in Nueces Bay! It seems the normally saltwater bay is not quite as salty now from all the fresh water being dumped into it by the Nueces River.

So, needles to say I have not done much fishing (zero) in my favorite river, the San Gabriel. To avoid going completely stir-crazy I've taken this opportunity to practice at the range with my XD-40.

I've now placed 750 rounds through the XD-40 and continue to get better with it. I am seriously thinking of next year picking up an XD-45ACP Compact model.

I also participated in my first fly swap. I haven't participated in one before because I figured I wasn't good enough. However, this swap was on woolly bugger variations and I submitted some Cactus Buggers so it wasn't too hard. The flies I received from the swap were all excellent but I have so many flies in reserve that I am not sure if I will ever fish them.

While I still think it's been great getting rain instead of being in a drought, I hope some time in the next month it slows down long enough to get a chance to fish the San Gabriel minus the chocolate of course.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Unidentified insect

In the past month I have spotted a grasshopper that I have never seen before in the parts of Texas I have lived in for the past 41 years. I've seen one of these grasshoppers three times within my half acre lot. It is black and yellow with red legs and is also very small. I don't personally know any entomologists that may be able to identify it and tell me if it is a native species or not so I am going to post a photo of it here and see if anyone knows. I'm also going to post a question about it in any forums I can find.

Update: I had two folks tell me this was a Post Oak Grasshopper based on information here. I sent an email to a Texas A&M Professor/Entomologist and he responded that it was not a Post Oak Grasshopper though he didn't know what it was. I am pleased it is not a Post Oak Grasshopper since I have a large Post Oak in my front yard that according to the information on this particular insect, could get devastated by this insect in short order.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Cast and Blast

I got all of my yard work done on Friday evening and Saturday morning. I also replaced the kitchen fluorescent lights with a newer, larger, nicer set of lights (though my wife wanted recessed lighting). So, since I had several weekend work out of the way, my wife agreed I could do some things on Sunday afternoon while she watched the Argentina vs Brazil Copa America soccer finals.

The Blasting

I arrived at the outdoor range around 2:30pm and found an open pistol bench so I started loading my magazines with CCI Blazer Brass FMJ 180gr rounds. I had gone last weekend to complete 500 rounds in the new XD pistol and afterwards found it to be highly dirty after placing 250 rounds of Winchester USA ammo. Both my thumb and trigger finger had black soot on them which was really bad. I scrubbed and cleaned the XD thoroughly and thought there should be some other ammo out there that is cleaner burning but still inexpensive to allow me to shoot at the range.

I started looking through forums and lots of folks recommended CCI Blazer Brass ammunition not only for it being cleaner but also cheaper than the Winchester ammo. As it turns out, the CCI BB was much cheaper. I bought 150 rounds of the CCI BB to see if it was decent.

I took a little bit of adjustment but the BB performed well enough to make the switch and after 150 rounds, my fingers were clean. I had no failure-to-feed (FTF) or any other problems with the BB. With the Winchester USA, I had at least one FTF in the previous shooting sessions but this time it may simply be because the gun is pretty much broken in already. I haven't cleaned the pistol yet but it didn't seem as dirty as with the Winchester USA ammo. Looks like a winner!

While I was testing out the BB, there was a gentlemen next to me firing a large framed .44 magnum revolver. Man, was that thing loud! It was a heckuva cannon that's for sure!

After an hour of being at the range and expending the new ammo (this is with breaks and slow reloading mind you), I headed home and rested for a short while and then put together my 2wt.

The Casting

I arrived at the park pond around 5pm and cast a #16 humpy under the shade of a tree hanging over the water. I had some swirls and some missed strikes but finally landed a bluegill. It had been a while since I had done this. For some reason, the humpy was difficult to get a good hookup so I switched to a #14 olive hare's ear and that worked a bit better and started catching bluegill, green sunfish and redbreast sunfish more consistently. I also caught a small largemouth. The best fly, however, turned out to be a #14 red San Juan fly which caught larger sunfish than the other flies.

While I was fishing quietly I spotted two "rodents" swimming towards me which turned out to be baby nutria. They swam into some vegetation along the shore next to me but eventually swam out and hung out about three feet right in front of me. They didn't seem all that scared and as if they wanted something from me but I didn't know what and eventually they swam back among the weeds. I know in Louisiana the state pays a bounty on nutria since they damage the the root systems in the wetlands and marshes. I've seen otters in the lakes before but this was my first encounter with nutria here.

After an hour and a half at the pond I went home to find I'll be building a dog house for my two dogs next weekend. Yet another weekend project. Oh yeah, Brazil won 3 to 0! I thought for sure Argentina was going to win.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Sure! Catch a red after I leave!

My cousin sent me a photo of a redfish he caught this weekend while out on the Laguna Madre. He also sent me a video but his fishing buddy holding the camera was so excited that he held it sideways! A photo is easy to rotate but I don't really know how to rotate a video clip so I won't post it.

My cousin landed a fat 26" redfish on a gold spoon casting and working it to a spoil island. Apparently fishing was tough that day with the wind blowing a constant 25 mph but looking at his photo he must have found some protected water because I don't really see many white caps.

Next time I visit him, I hope I get a red like that!

Got knife?

One of the things that happened on my last trip to the coast that I failed to mention in a previous post was that I accidentally dropped my Kershaw folding knife in the water and lost it. I had taken it out to cut some mono line that had tangled in my line and then I placed it in my pant pocket rather than in my zippered PFD pocket. While I was fighting a fish, I heard a *ploop* and realized it fell into the water. Aw man! I also broke my spinning rod on the last night by dropping my anchor on it. *sigh*

When I got back, I decided that my next kayak knife would have a fixed blade with a sheath that I could attach to my lanyard (so it has to be lightweight) when wading or to my PFD when in the kayak. My daily carry knife is a Kershaw Rainbow Leek which is a great knife (lightweight, easy assisted opening, holds an edge and is pretty to boot) but I was open to other quality knife manufacturers for the new kayak knife.

I did some research and decided on a Benchmade Instigator tether/neck knife. I was able to find a new one on ebay for less than $35. Benchmade makes high end knives and the Instigator is part of the lower end made in their factory in Taiwan to their specs and not in the USA factory. Still, it is the gem of the lower end and a real nice value. I just hope I don't lose this nice knife on my next trip. I may have to attach some parachute cord to the knife to keep it around my wrist just in case. We'll see.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Texas Trout Bum

My cousin in Corpus Christi quit his job not long ago at an IT company after having spent several years working for them as a network specialist. He was on call every other weekend and sometimes on holidays. He routinely worked 80 hour weeks and in my opinion was getting little respect from his company. After having worked an 80 hour week before the Memorial Day weekend and then asked to work 30 hours on the weekend without Memorial Day off was the last straw. He happens to be an former Marine that served in the first Gulf War so that sort of disrespect to a veteran was just too much. He quit a week later.

So after that I had several conversations with him about going fishing as he was now free to do so anytime. I made plans to stay and fish with him from June 27 to June 30. I anointed him a trout bum due to his unemployed status though of course I meant it of the Speckled Trout saltwater variety as opposed to the cold water variety.

Day 1 fishing with a Trout Bum (June 27)

I arrived in the afternoon and after having a great dinner we prepared for a night of fishing under the Portland causeway bridge which spans between Corpus Christi and the adjacent town of Portland. The causeway also separates Nueces Bay from Corpus Christi Bay. It is also an excellent place to take the kayaks to catch trout, redfish and flounder underneath the causeway lights.

This was two days before the full moon on Friday and the winds were blowing above 20 to 25 knots gusting to 30 knots so it was a bit rough but we managed to anchor and waited for the trout to show up under the lights from the causeway above.

I did bring my 6wt out but the wind and current just wouldn't allow me to use it. I had brought along my spinning rod and it ended up being the right tool for the situation. We found shrimp jumping around and this seemed to be what the trout were eating though we were also catching them on three inch minnow soft plastics.

In the dark section below the bridge where we anchored you occasionally saw green glowing lights as the lure or your anchor rope touched a jellyfish which seemed to be plentiful in the area so care had to be exercised when hoisting the anchor or the stringer for the trout so as not to get stung.

Most of the keeper trout caught were in the 16" to 17" length but we lost some larger trout to the concrete bridge supports. In fact, we probably lost two thirds of the fish to break offs which was frustrating but at least we were catching fish. We caught lots of undersized "schoolies" as well. At around 2am in the morning we called it a night.

Day 2 fishing with a Trout Bum (June 28)

After sleeping until 11am, we got up and had breakfast/lunch and cleaned the previous nights fish. We stopped at a couple of fishing stores to purchase more soft plastics and stock up on shrimp type lures for the night.

This night we decided to try a different spot. It was the JFK causeway bridge that spans the Flour Bluff section of Corpus Christi over to Mustang Island. The situation here was very different. While there wasn't as much wind, the channels here were too deep to anchor and so we had anchored away from the channel in the shallower water near the bridge lights. There was also a lot of floating grass at this location whereas Portland bridge was clear of grass (though it was loaded with jellyfish).

The shrimp were here just as they were at Portland bridge yet the water was full of ribbonfish that were eager to eat our plastic shrimp imitations. These ribbonfish have some mouths full of needle sharp teeth and so releasing them takes some delicacy. I did add another species to the list of fish caught on the fly as I was able to catch an 18" ribbonfish on an orange cactus shrimp fly. I also caught one 17" trout on a plastic shrimp. Unfortunately, the catching was very slow so about 11pm we decided to head once again to the other side of town to try our luck at Portland bridge.

Once at Portland bridge, we found a couple of kayakers in the spot we were in the night before and they indicated they had caught 6 keeper trout but that it had turned off and so they were leaving. They should have stayed because it seemed that the bite turned back on for us. I caught three 18" redfish that I released since the minimum legal length is 20" but they fought hard, particularly in the current.

Again, we lost quite a few good fish and we had to work for the few keeper fish we landed. Since we got a later start we ended up quiting about 3am and headed back and got to bed at 4am.

Day 3 fishing with a Trout Bum (June 29)

After getting up at noon, it was basically a repeat of the day before. Lots of preparation buying replacements for the lures that were working (mostly shrimp soft plastics). We did go for a couple of hours in the afternoon in my cousin's motorboat but didn't have any luck where we went in the Laguna Madre so we decided to save our strength to fish Portland bridge one more night.

We started fishing the bridge around 10pm and for the third night the shrimp were there and so were the trout. This night the moon was out in all its bright glory and I did better than the two nights before. None of the trout I kept were larger than 17" but they were all very fat and aggressive.

My cousin brushed a jellyfish and got stung while grabbing his anchor line but he missed most of it though I am sure it was still painful.

Sometime before 2am, the water level seemed to rise instantly by a foot and the current started really ripping as you could see eddies form behind the bridge supports. You had the wind blowing hard from one direction and the current really moving from the opposite direction that if you raised anchor, you didn't move. That was very strange and we took that as a sign to leave. The paddle back to shore was difficult due to the strong current but we managed to make it to shore, loaded the kayaks and gear and headed home.

Last Day (June 30)

Being it was my cousin's birthday party this day we didn't fish and instead prepared for a little party in the evening and finally to get a normal night's rest. We also cleaned the fish and I realized I hadn't taken any photos the previous three days so I wanted to take a photo of the limit of trout while they were stacked on the fillet table except there was so much humidity in the air that my lens was fogged up and all the photos were coming out foggy. By the time it cleared up, my cousin had filleted all but three trout of which I took a photo before they got cleaned as well and so that is why you see a trio of trout though there were more of his fat buddies that are now in my freezer (three bags of them actually).

At the birthday party we enjoyed some BBQ brisket that my cousin made along with his wife's delicious potato salad. We had a few beers and some conversation and then everyone left fairly early and I showered and was in bed by 9pm but fell asleep around 10pm.

The next morning, I wished my cousin a happy birthday, had some coffee with them, said my goodbyes and thank yous for an excellent stay and headed home to Austin.

I intend to go back possibly in September or October if I can and just hope it's at least as good a trip as the three days of being a trout bum with a fellow trout bum.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

A couple of hours at the range

I finally got to go with brother-in-law to the pistol range and fire my new Springfield Armory XD-40. I put about 250 rounds through it and think it's a great pistol. My brother-in-law liked it as well and thought it was very smooth overall. He also liked the additional features such as the visual and tactile indicators indicating when it is cocked and chambered. He also liked the stainless steel high capacity magazines.

I compared it to my brother-in-law's Glock 27 and while I do like the accuracy of his Glock, they are fairly comparable at 10 yards though my XD-40 is a bit larger since his Glock is a sub-compact. I took along different rounds and got some good groupings and results from the Winchester USA 180gr JHP bullets. We'll probably go back out to the range to put another 300 rounds though the XD and break it in further. I'm pretty pleased with this pistol.

When we went to his home to clean the pistols afterwards, the XD-40 was very easy to disassemble, clean and re-assemble. My brother-in-law had a little bit of trouble in disassembling the Glock.

Fixin' to get a salt fix

I talked to my cousin on Friday and it's time to get salty again. I'll be heading to the coast this week for three or four days and hope to get into some reds and trout. My cousin mentioned taking his boat down to Baffin and fishing there and then possibly camping out at the Mansfield Cut. I'll have a full report when I return. I will take my 8wt an 6wt XP fly rods along with my favorite Kistler Helium med-light casting rod.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Finally hit the lake

These past few weekends have been spent working on the house with projects such as replacing the carpet in the bedrooms with laminate wood flooring and cleaning out the storage shed out back which has meant no fishing...until this weekend.

I took care of mowing the yard during the week since the days are now longer so that I would have the weekend free. I took out the kayak yesterday and cleaned off the cobwebs and drained water it held inside from all the rain we've been having lately.

Speaking of the rain, I was eager to see what the lake looked like since all reports indicated that due to all that rain, the lake was now 102% of full pool. They were finally releasing water from the dam downstream to maintain pool level. Back in a December post I mentioned that Lake Travis was 37 feet below pool level and after that post before the rains really started in March it had dropped to around 40 feet below full.

The days lately have been warm and muggy with temperatures in the high 80s to low 90s making it feel much warmer so I decided I would do my fishing at night. I got all my gear together and went to bed at 9pm on Friday and set the alarm for 2:30am.

Well, 2:30am came around and I just couldn't get up! So I reset it for 4am. I did get up later, had breakfast and headed to the lake and was in the water by 5:30am. The water level was right up to the top of the ramp! I launched and headed to the boat slip I wanted to fish since it was usually surrounded by lots of bright lights. Denied! The lights were not on so I had to find something before sunrise. I found one set of green lights with baitfish and some predators and had one hookup with my black Bonker Zonker fly but it came unhooked a few seconds later. I had a couple of other short strikes but didn't land anything by the time sunrise came around 6:30am so I moved on.

I again got a strike but no hookup near a swimming platform. I saw some splashing around me but some of those spashes were from carp and some appeared to be from bass pushing baitfish to the surface. I noticed one splash on the opposite shore and I headed directly to it and cast in the same spot.

I was stripping the fly back to me when the line got heavy about 8 feet from shore and then it dove! Fish on! It was pulling very nicely and when I got it up near the surface I saw it was a nice bass! I played the fish and I'd almost forgotten what a nice fight a keeper size bass puts up on the 5wt especially when it wants to dive into deeper water! I think I've been fishing for brim on the 2wt for too long.

I landed the fish and it was a nice, healthy 15" largemouth. I released the fish and kept paddling around the back of the cove. Sections of this cove were high and dry not long ago. I explored some of the area and fished it with several more bites but no other fish landed.

I decided to head back just before 8am as it was starting to get pretty warm and muggy with light winds. As I was walking up to my truck after leaving my kayak at the ramp, I saw a rather large spider strolling across the road. Since I figured last night I was going to be night fishing, I didn't bring the camera with me. I got really close and it looked like a Texas Brown Tarantula but it could have been some other kind of tarantula. I found a photo that best looks like the spider I saw on wikipedia which I have linked to this post. It was a beautiful tarantula. It was heading for my truck and since I didn't want to accidentally run over it, I gently redirected it with my shoe. Boy, can those tarantulas move fast when they want to! It scurried for the wooded area on the other side of the road and it was gone.

Even though I didn't land a bunch of bass, it was great being on the lake again and catching a nice fighting LMB as well as seeing the lake back to full level again. I also enjoyed seeing the wildlife. Besides the tarantula, I spotted a Jackrabbit and diamondback water snake as well as some herons. I'll hopefully be out on the lake a few more times this summer.

Friday, May 25, 2007

I could kick myself!

I had an early dinner today and told my wife I was heading to the pond before it started raining again. I grabbed my 2wt and few flies and out the door I went. I forget to take my digital camera and my cell phone. This would be something I would later regret.

I tied on a #14 red ant and did well with it catching lots of green sunfish. Nice ones. I then switched to a #14 BH Flashback Pheasant Tail Nymph. I walked around to a low hanging tree and tried practicing a skip cast under it and caught several bluegill and greenies. I also caught a small red ear turtle which wasn't happy with a nymph in its mouth. It would retreat its neck into the shell but I was able to remove the fly. The turtle thanked me with a bite on my finger which was more like a hard pinch. That was one lost photo opportunity to show the fly in the turtle's beak.

I lost count of the fish caught and it was just over an hour's worth of fishing. On one of my last casts I got a good hit and the fish felt sizable but it didn't jump so I figured it wasn't a bass and for a second thought small catfish but I've never seen one in this pond. As I directed the fish to a clearing it looked like a green sunfish but a BIG one!

I landed the mutant greenie and I was astonished how big it was! It had a huge mouth and I placed it next to my rod and remembered exactly where it stopped from the bottom of the reel seat to the top of my cork grip which is 9 1/2 inches! This sunfish was bigger than the 9 inch coppernose bluegill I caught on Lake Travis a couple of years ago. I'm sure this trophy fish (that nobody will believe me due to no photographic evidence) was close to one pound. I quickly let her go and kicked myself for not bringing a camera! Gah!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

A great deal

I love to fish and at times when I make trips to remote or secluded areas, I also run the risk of dangers outside the water. For example, camping out 60 miles down the beach on North Padre Island can have potential encounters with wild hogs, rattlesnakes, drug traffickers, etc. and for a while I have been considering carrying a sidearm with me for personal defense. While on the water once I did run into some wild hogs at night and I stayed in the water until they left. My cousin has also had close encounter with wild hogs. He sometimes brings a rifle along but I find that not suitable to carry when walking around the camp. It's probably been almost three years since I shot a firearm though. I don't consider myself a gun nut though I've shot enough pistols to not consider myself a novice plus I did join a local gun range several years ago (I can't find my membership card though).

For almost a year now I have been doing research on polymer frame pistols and shot a Glock and H&K USP but ended up deciding on a Springfield Armory XD-40 yet spent my money last year on new fly rods instead. I considered the polymer pistols because of the weight and their ability to resist harsh saltwater environments that I sometimes find myself in.

I'm on the mailing list for a couple of local outdoor sports stores which let's me get advanced notice of upcoming sales, private sales or unannounced sales. A week ago I got an email about a "balloon" sale. Basically, when you check out, you select a balloon and they pop it to reveal the discount written on a piece of paper inside. The minimum discount you could get would be 10% while the highest was 50% and they throw in a couple 100% discounts (purchase is free) in the lot as well. This sale indicated that it applied to all items in the store including firearms. I figured this was a perfect opportunity to purchase one since the sale was not advertised and the least discount would be 10% though there was a chance for a better discount. I got permission from the wife and she indicated that if I did make a purchase, it would be as a Father's Day gift.

I showed up about 30 minutes after the store opened and already the parking lot was getting full so apparently word had gotten out! I went to the firearms department and stood behind two guys, one of which was buying the same model pistol as myself although in a different caliber. I told the clerk that I wanted the same model except in a .40S&W and he said they still had some. I got through all the paperwork and picked up 150 rounds of ammunition and headed to the checkout. I asked the checker if anyone had gotten the 100% discount balloon which she indicated someone did but for a $7 purchase! Ah man! She asked me to pick a balloon and I told her my favorite color is green so I pointed to a small green one and she popped and read the paper inside...50%! Wow! The folks around me thought I was really lucky! I was able to purchase a $480 pistol for $240! Sometimes, I consider myself truly blessed. I know He watches over me and blesses me.

On my way out I called my brother-in-law who owns a couple of Glocks and he was flabbergasted on my good fortune! We may go out to the range together on Father's Day weekend to compare the SA XD-40 to his Glock. I hope it's a nice day since I'd like to go to the outdoor range. I'm pretty excited now!

Friday, May 18, 2007

I see upcoming fishing opportunities

I had a call from my cousin this week that there are big trout in the surf now. So, it looks as if I'll be heading down for some saltwater fishing within the next few weeks! Cool!

Also, the rain we've had the past few months is really bringing up the levels in the nearby lakes. Lake Travis is now almost 2 feet above the historical May average. Cool. The surface water temperature is now somewhere around 77 F degrees which means there will be some shallow swimming largemouth bass.

My 6 weight is itching to hookup with a 2lb bass that wants to dive deep. Then again, it also wants to hookup with a 6lb carp in the river that takes the line into the backing. Man, a 26" speckled trout sounds good though with its big mustard colored mouth and head thrashing back and forth.

This time of year decisions on where to fish start to get more complicated. Fish the rivers? Fish the surf? Fish the bays? Fish the lakes? Carp? Brim? Bass? Trout? Reds? I love this time of year! Sweet!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Yellow as the sun

Mother's Day weekend is a designated fishing-free weekend. The day after Mother's Day, however, is open season once again so this morning around 7:30am I ventured out to one of my favorite ponds to fish for about an hour before work.

The air temperature was a comfortable 62 F degrees so I started with a dry fly, a size #16 orange stimulator to be exact. That drew no strikes so I switched to a #12 black foam beetle and started getting swirls and smacks on it.

The sunfish I caught had striking golden orange/yellow to bright yellow or bright orange bellies. Some days I end up with a certain colors of fish and today was orange and yellow with a few more plain bluegill.

I did manage a couple of largemouth which I did not land but while I was playing a small 'gill a 2 pound largemouth started scaring the beejeebies out of this little 'gill as it's movement stirred an interest in a breakfast snack. I quickly pulled the little guy out before the LMB could make him breakfast.

This was my 6th consecutive outing that I have spotted a snake (harmless water snakes). It seems the snakes are out in force this year. On my last outing on the San Gabriel river I ran into four snakes on the water.

By 8:30am when I got ready to leave, the temperature was up to 72 F degrees. This afternoon's high was close to 90 F degrees. You gotta love Texas weather!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

The Sunfishes By Jack Ellis

I finished reading through my second Jack Ellis book, this one entitled "The Sunfishes". The first Jack Ellis book I read a couple of years ago was "Bassin' with a Fly Rod" which suggested some radical ideas such as the use of soft plastics on a fly rod rather than just purely flies to catch bass. In my opinion, if I am going to be using soft plastics, I'll use a casting rod to make it more effective.

While "The Sunfishes" does mention the use of plastic worms since bass are essentially sunfish; for the most part it describes using flies since Mr. Ellis would never use soft plastics with trout and he considers large bluegill to be discerning creatures like trout. Based on this attitude, I did like this book much better that the previous book of his that I read.

I also like this book for the intellectual level at which he pursues bluegill. This book is short but packed with a lot of insight into catching trophy bluegill and contains just the kind of careful tactics and technique needed to catch one. The book doesn't contain extraneous and unnecessary text about casting or a lot about tackle but just enough about those things to be helpful.

Mr. Ellis describes the ecosystem in detail that bluegill live in and what they eat and what they like and don't like. He mentions one thing I have known which is that bigger bluegill fall more often for subsurface flies than dry flies though he like I agree that watching a smashing take on a topwater fly is a heck of a lot more exciting!

One of the things I think I will take away from the book more than anything else is to observe the waters I fish much more. That is, slow down and occasionally stop fishing long enough to study the situation or not even start until I have observed my surroundings well. It's obvious that Mr. Ellis does that a lot which has provided him with a lot of data to make him the well rounded angler that he is.

If there were any negatives about this book it would be the lack of color photos of the flies described or the various insects and sunfish. Also, I have heard the fact that a lot of the tactics and tips he offers are localized for the East part of Texas but being I live and fish in Central Texas that to me was actually a positive thing but I can see that not being the case for the folks up north.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Striking sunfish

Late this afternoon after work I had 45 minutes to fish the local park pond. I tied on one fly, a #14 orange stimulator, and decided it would likely be the only fly I'd get to use.

As soon as I started walking up to the water I could see lots of brim near the shore cover. I kept my distance and cast a few feet into the water and *boom* I got a hit! It seemed the sunfish were in a biting mood this afternoon and I was able to get more than a dozen fish to rise to my fly.

I also noticed that the majority of the fish, actually all but one, were green sunfish. These particular fish strike hard and have large mouths and are beautifully colored with green and turquoise and sometimes orange as well. I think they may have been spawning because some of the fish were pretty plump around the belly. All were released carefully as always.

I took some photos of several striking examples of the green sunfish along with the picture of the one darkly banded bluegill.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Run and gun brim fishing

There is a term called "run and gun" fishing I remember hearing and seeing on a fishing show that involved going full throttle in a motorboat across a bay, spotting a school of fish, and then cutting the engine and casting immediately with conventional tackle and baits to the school before they realized what was going on. It looked quite hectic.

This morning I had about an hour free before going to work and I stopped at a park close to work that contains a small spring fed lake that has several smaller retention ponds near it. Each has different size, depth and water clarity. So, I decided to do a kind of "run and gun" of all of them, albeit at a much slower pace and sans boat.

I first fished the main lake which has very clear water and caught several nice fish. The fly they eventually liked most of all was a #14 olive hare's ear. The fish in the shallow were mostly small and pale.

I then moved to the back of the next lake which has green off color water and is only about an acre in size. I know from past experience there are some big fish in this water having seen some 6 pound bass in the shallows during their spawn as well as huge bluegill and rio grande cichlid. This lake is also surrounded by lots of weeds and shaded by trees. I cast in one spot in the shade of some trees and found some brim willing to take a black foam spider. I caught a few nice ones and had some smack the spider pretty hard. When I switched to a bead head olive hare's ear, I caught one really nice redbreast as big as my hand. Nice!

Next, I went over to the last retention pond which is about a quarter acre in size and very shallow. It is mostly clear and fish are spooky demanding long casts to the weedline in the center of the pond. I did manage to catch several good size sunfish and one nice fat yet short bass that I had to horse around with the 2wt as I didn't want him to bury himself in the algae and break off the 5x tippet.

This may not appear to have the heart pounding excitement of the "run and gun" fishing I saw on TV but it sure was fun and satisfying to stink like fish as I went into work today.