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.