Thursday, April 26, 2007

Field trip to San Antonio

I went on a field trip today. Well, a field trip with my son's 4th grade class to San Antonio to visit the Institute of Texan Cultures (ITC) and the Alamo. I like going on field trips with my kids. It was also a very pretty Spring day for a trip.

The ITC is a small but fascinating place to learn about all the cultures that had a hand in shaping Texas. Besides the Spanish, there were French, German, Polish, Czech colonies and eventually Swiss, Japanese, Chinese, Lebanese, Scottish, and other immigrants from the world that made Texas their home. Lots of fascinating facts about contributions by each of these immigrants can be found at the ITC. Neat place.

We had lunch nearby under the 750 foot Tower of the Americas and I took this photo of it between some oaks up into the clear blue sky. We didn't go up into it though as going to the IMAX theater to watch a 45 minute movie about the battle of the Alamo was our next destination.

The IMAX theater is located in the Rivercenter Mall along the San Antonio river and within walking distance of the Alamo. The movie was fine and reminded us of the sacrifice by brave men that set in motion the eventual independence of Texas from Mexico.

After the movie we walked over to the Alamo for a one hour visit before getting back on the charter buses for the return trip home. Although the Alamo and surrounding buildings are small, it was interesting to visit it and also to be reminded that it is a shrine to the fallen heroes of the republic.

Being a native Texan (4th generation), I love this state. I love the history, the land, the people. I've visited other countries and not surprisingly, I usually introduce myself as a Texan rather than American. It was good to be reminded today of it all again. I really wouldn't want to live anywhere else.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

A morning on the San Gabriel river

This morning my wife made a delicious breakfast of breakast tacos filled with potato and egg. I'm glad I had a good breakfast since I didn't know it but it would give me the energy I'ld need to traverse the San Gabriel river.

I put-in just below the low water crossing at the end of the San Gabriel City Park in Georgetown. This is the same area I had some nasty surprises last year. This time the water was flowing quite well, probably around 100 cfs, and fairly clear. The temperature was in the low 60s so I donned my breathable waders.

It was a pretty easy float down the river thanks to the increased water and flow. Still, it was difficult finding anything but small bass, tiny brim and small carp and gar. There weren't large numbers of fish. I however caught a couple of small bass and brim just to avoid getting skunked.

I encountered lots of rapids in places that usually don't have water. I floated down about 3 miles and since the fishing wasn't as outstanding as normal I made the trek back upriver. Boy, that was work as it took me about an hour to get back to the put-in. Usually, it takes me only about 30 minutes. I think the increased flow also made it more difficult finding fish in areas where it's usually a fairly calm pool but instead is flowing fast. I'm sure the fish were right up against shore cover.

Eventually, I made it out. I think I will check the flow on my next trip out and hopefully hit it when the water is slightly warmer and the flow is below 60 or 70 cfs.

I do have to say that even though there weren't many fish caught and it was work going back up river, it was a beautiful morning and the river was beautiful. I hope the next time out, it's equally pleasing and relaxing.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Quick camping trip

We decided to do an overnight camping trip on Friday given the nice weather with mild night temps in the low 60s. I loaded up the family SUV with the tent, sleeping bags, cooler, portable grill, etc. and of course the family and headed out to a small park on the shores of Lake Travis.

I set up the camp quickly on a campsite we all agreed upon and while putting up the tent I had a little vistor scamper up the side. It was a small Texas Tree Lizard. My son loves lizards and has a terrarium in his room with a Green Anole and Bahamian Anole that he takes care of. The little Texas Tree Lizard blends in really well with oaks and is really fast on the ground but on that tent he was fairly easy to catch. We studied him a bit and then let him run off. These little guys are one major reason why Texas roadrunners run so fast.

We had hot dogs and beef fajitas for dinner and took one of the trails down to the lake to watch the sunset and skip rocks on the water. I think the best I could do was get 4 skips on the water. I'm not all that good at skipping rocks.

Once back at the camp, I lit the Coleman lantern and we went into the tent to basically just goof off and then fall asleep under the clear sky and stars.

In the morning, I made some pancakes on the iron skillet then went down to the lake to cast plastic worms in the water for a little while. Even my wife cast one of the spinning rods for a short while. I got only one bite so after a few minutes we did some exploration of the trails around the park. I did note that with all the recent rain, the lake level has risen dramatically. While it's still not full, it's now only 2 feet below the average for the month. I also noted the water was quite clear. I think I'll be out there in the kayak one of these weekends for some night fishing.

Since my oldest daughter has to ride a horse we lease several times a week, we decided to go back before noon so she could go ride. I packed everything back up into the SUV and we went back home. My kids acted like we were on our way back to the civilized world though I can tell they really enjoyed the short, camping trip. Next time, we may head to Bastrop State Park to camp there one weekend.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

After work pond fishin'

I left work early around 4:30pm and went to a nearby park that has three retention ponds and a small spring fed lake. I brought along my TXL 2wt since the target was going to be brim.

There was quite a bit of algae in the retention ponds but I could still see some brim and occasional bass moving about. I was able to catch a couple dozen redbreasts and greenies up to about 6" and caught a few small bass up to about 7". I walked around the larger pond and saw several larger bedding bass but none would take anything I dropped in front of them. I also saw some really large brim but only managed to hook one which I lost on a log.

As the sun was setting I walked over to the main lake and cast about the shore until I got to a bend and start getting hit after hit by fingerling to 6" bass. The area must have been loaded with them because for the next hour it was almost a hit on every first or second cast. The longest I went without landing one was four casts. I must have caught 40 small bass on a #14 bead head nymph.

I did determine that while the TXL is great for short easy casts up to 30 feet, it was a chore casting that weighted nymph on that 2wt line farther than that. Luckily all the baby bass were pretty close to shore hidden among the algae.

During a point where I was unhooking a small bass, a really big bass made a wake up to shore possibly chasing some of the fingerlings for a snack.

I ended up leaving them biting which was a good feeling in a way. Next time I need to take the TXL on a trip to the San Gabriel river and find pools with bigger bass to test it on.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

A day at the zoo

The family and I went to San Antonio today because my wife had put together a baby shower for my sister-in-law who lives there. I decided to take the youngest two kids to the San Antonio Zoo rather than just hangout at my inlaws house.

One thing about a zoo like this one is they have man made ponds and streams throughout it full of fish. In the case of this zoo, they have catfish and lots of tilapia and carp/koi everywhere.

What I wouldn't do to be able to bring a 6' 6" 3wt and some pellet flies! This place would be a blast but alas I would probably get booted out the front gate or arrested. I had a great time with the kids though. Lucky fishes!

Friday, April 13, 2007

TXL ultralight rod first impressions

The UPS man came by and dropped off my new Sage 7' 10" TXL 2wt today. My son took the box before I knew about it and opened it thinking it was a wooden sword I had ordered for him and instead shouted from the living room in a somewhat disappointed voice saying, "Mom, it's ANOTHER fishing rod for dad!".

I proceeded to inspect the new rod and reel and put it together. The TXL comes in a black aluminum tube with a black rod sock. I feel like a professional hitman for some reason carrying the tube though the rod itself is a wispy thing with a beautiful golden olive colored blank. The micro-stripper guide is tiny but then again so is the line that passes through it.

The little Lamson LS1 reel was a good choice as it balances very well on the rod.
The dark gray Hard Alox satin finish on the reel is much nicer than the light gray Guide finish on the pre-2007 Litespeeds.

I took the kids with me to a park they like that I'm not too keen on because the pond there has too many trees surrounding it and far too many ducks. The ducks are one reason they like going there. Regardless, the kids and I were there to hopefully have some fun.

While at the park I talked to a spin fisherman who pointed me to some logs in the water that he said held a lot of bluegills. I had to cast at a 45 degree angle to it from shore in order to avoid too many trees around the log and behind me. I wanted the line to fall as close and parallel to the log as possible to increase the chances of hooking up to a gill.

Casting wise the TXL is amazingly easy to load and shoots line effortlessly. It tracks very well and can lay the line just where you want it. Even though the day was pretty windy and gusty, I had no problem laying the line where I wanted it. I was very impressed!

I originally tied a #16 Humpy but it wasn't drawing strikes so I switched to a dark helgramite (kind of black/olive with red highlights) colored #14 BH Hare's Ear nymph. I wasn't sure how the rod would cast the heavier fly on the 5X 7' tapered leader but it had no problem.

After a cast or two, I felt a subtle strike. I really felt it! When I swept the rod, I could really feel the flutter of that sunfish as it tried to get away. When it came closer to me, I could see the tip of the rod whip around as it continued to fight. This was the feeling I was wanting from a brim rod! It truly heightened the experience of catching a 5" fish to a level I had not experience before! I'm really wondering now what a 8" or 9" fish will feel like!

I only had 45 minutes at the pond but I did catch a few more brim that were all about the same size but even the smallest one was truly enjoyable on the TXL. I intend to give it a good workout at one of the other ponds that I catch bigger fish and I expect more fun then!

So, to summarize the first impressions, this is one sweet rod! It was worth every penny and I will post additional impressions of the rod as I get to fish with it more. I think my XPs will be jealous that I will be spending a lot more time with this new rod!

Monday, April 09, 2007

An ultralight fly rod

This weekend I sold the SLT 4wt I had recently purchased. It wasn't because it wasn't a nice rod but because it simply wasn't what I had hoped or expected. It was basically very similar to my 4wt XP except much "firmer" even though it has a medium-fast action. It was gorgeous and could sling a line 70' with ease! Still, I was really looking for a short ( around 8' ) rod with a medium action to get the most out of catching small brim.

I had been reading quite a bit lately about ultralight fly rods at Bill Byrd's website. I thought skipping a couple of weights down from my 4wt would provide a visible difference so I chose to try a 2wt.

I decided to test cast a Sage TXL 2710-3 which is a 7' 10" 2wt 3-piece rod. I cast it on a fairly windy day and was surprised with its short range accuracy and casting ability for a 2wt! The rod was so light as well weighing in at only 2 1/8 ounces! It also had the "feel" I wanted in a brim rod so I decided to buy one. I ordered one with the complimentary Sage Quiet Taper II DT2F line and I bought one of those new Lamson-Waterworks Litespeed Hard Alox LS1 reels to complete the rig. Sure, a reel like this may be unnecessary for such a small rod but I'ld like to know that if I ever "accidentally" hook a bass, catfish or carp that I could take it on with a reel with a nice drag.

I'll be writing up a more detailed review after I get to fish the new rig hopefully on the weekend. The local ponds have been showing evidence of brim around nests and I've seen some really big Rio Grande Chichlid also around these nests.