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.