Thursday, December 31, 2009

Last fish of 2009

I've been on vacation for just over a week and a half now. Time seems to have gone by pretty quickly with family visiting through Christmas and right before the new year. The wife said I should get out and do some fishing so I did.

Since I had not fished around my favorite section of Lake Travis in some time, I headed to Arkansas Bend to see how things looked. When I got there I noticed the boat ramp was still closed and even though we are finishing December with a 2" surplus of rain, the lake still looks awfully low. I drove down along the shoreline which is typically several feet underwater and launched my kayak.

The coves I usually fish felt much smaller as I paddled around. I fished a few points, large coves and finger coves for a while with not much luck. I spotted what looked like a carp rooting but then noticed it swimming rapidly into deeper water while still on top and proceeded to follow it.

Normally, if you get close to a carp and it spots you, it will high tail it out of there but this carp must have been sick or injured because I was able to paddle right next to it and it didn't submerge or try to evade me.

I should have known better than to down some coffee before heading off to paddle around and fish as I had to find a suitable beach to land on that had no homes around to relieve myself as I was about to burst! Whew!

After I paddled off again, I saw a splash that gave away the location of a bass and that turned out to be the only fish I was able to catch. It also turned out to be the last fish I caught for 2009. It was a spunky little bass though.

I hope 2010 brings more fishing time and better catches and I hope it does as well for anyone else reading this. Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Pier fishing across South Padre Island

Last week, just before Christmas I went to visit family in deep South Texas. I had a couple of hours to spare so I took my son to the Pirates Landing fishing pier in Port Isabel just before the bridge that spans over to beautiful South Padre Island. We would of course try and do some inshore saltwater fishing.

Driving through Port Isabel we looked at the landmark lighthouse and my son asked me about it. I remember as a kid climbing up the spiraling staircase during a school trip. It is really narrow inside but kind of cool. Some other time we'll come with the rest of the family and take our own tour of it. Today we were going to fish.

The pier has a restaurant and bar next to it and it has the biggest rod and reel I have ever seen there. Interestingly enough, it is a fly rod. Here is a photo of it.

Is that a 200 weight you got there?

It was a bit cold out so of course not many locals were on the pier and we had our choice of where to fish. According to the guys working the counter, sheepshead was the species most likely to be caught.

I haven't seen a sheepshead in quite a while. It is wide bodied fish with silvery white color and large convict black stripes across the body. It's a good fighter and quite tasty.

Sometimes you see them in Chinese or Vietnamese restaurants at the buffet, broiled whole. If you look at the skeleton you can see why they are called a sheephead. Their mouth and teeth look a lot like that of sheep and other grazers. They are mostly mollusk feeders so I expect they use those teeth for scraping off barnacles and such.

In the distance my son noticed a barge along the channel heading towards the bridge. As we were watching it slowly passing through the center of the bridge, I mentioned to him a tragic accident that occurred right there back in 2001. A barge struck a couple of columns late one evening which later caused an 80 foot section of the highest point in the bridge to collapse leading to the deaths of four people that drove off the missing section into the water below. This was just a week after Septemeber 11 when folks were still dealing with that tragedy. When they repaired the two sections of the bridge above, they look to have reinforced it with steel, I supposed to help avoid a similar issue in the future.

We rigged up a Carolina rig and cast it out tipped with shrimp. However after an hour and a half we didn't catch a single fish. It was also dark now and getting colder so we left. I was quite disappointment not to have been able to have my son get into any fish. In the past, we had fished at this same spot and had fish on almost every cast so that is what we were hoping for but it wasn't to be. The sunset was beautiful though.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Maiden voyage on Brushy Creek Lake

Brushy Creek Lake is a small lake located in Cedar Park near the town of Round Rock. Before it was opened to the public by the city of Cedar Park, people used to trespass and fish the lake illegally. There were rumors of big bass in it and when it first opened, I was there with other fisherman and indeed some large bass were caught (but not by me). I did manage to catch some decent bass, crappie, catfish and even carp there but after a while it seemed "fished out" and it got significantly more difficult to catch a bass though folks on occasion still caught some decent bass over 16".

Due to the small size of this lake, lack of any significant current and lack of motorboats, it seemed an ideal place to take my son so he could continue learning how to maneuver and fish from a kayak.

We got there fairly late in the afternoon. We carried our kayaks to the canoe/kayak launch and then paddled out to a particular spot I wanted to stay in that is popular with a lot of folks.

My son worked on figuring out how to position his kayak and set anchor. I fished close by but let him figure things on his own and explore. He found a small island with what looked like bird houses set aside for owls. There was a mayfly hatch and the sunfish were going crazy but we were here for the bass so our hooks were in the 3/0 size.

We hung around for a while, not really catching anything but enjoying the water nevertheless. As the sun was starting to quickly set, we started to paddle back to the launch in order to get home for dinner. On the paddle back you could hear some classical music, Bach's Brandeburg Concerto I believe, coming from the nearby golf course. The water was glassy smooth and the air was cool. A great way to end the day.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Quick trip on Lady Bird Lake

This afternoon I continued my quest to find a spot I could fish with my son and this time drove to downtown Austin to check out Lady Bird Lake (previously known as Town Lake).

I parked near the high school and launched from the canoe launch and headed downstream to the entrance to the spring fed Barton Creek.

The water was fairly clear and flowing nicely. The day however was windy. I worked my way upstream and in one location I had a bass trail behind my fly but no bite. That was actually the only fish I was able to see. I kept moving upstream avoiding the inexperienced folks that were trying to paddle the rented canoes from the canoe/kayak rental shack upstream.

I spent some time fishing along a large drain emptying into the creek but without any luck so I started my paddle back since I wanted to get on my way long before rush hour started.

I am considered just going with my son tomorrow to a small lake near our house that I rarely ever fish called Brushy Creek Lake. That's right, it has the words creek and lake together. It is a place I once caught a 16" crappie on the fly there. However, it was heavily overfished and so I stopped going there. Like Lady Bird Lake, it is a motorboat free lake and so kayak friendly. We'll see how this trip works out.

Quick trip on the San Gabriel River

I am officially on vacation this week so I am trying to catch up on fishing as it has been quite some time since I have been out.

With the rain we have had lately, I decided to head out to one of my favorite spots on the San Gabriel river. I wanted to check it out to see if it was good enough to take my son out on a subsequent trip. I got everything loaded in my truck and left around mid-afternoon.

When I got to the low water crossing, I noticed the water was indeed high and flowing fairly fast. It took some careful planning to get in at the low water bridge and start paddling upstream.

I got to a narrow section in the river with a bend and had a hard time crossing it so I had to beach and drag my kayak a short way over to some slower water so I could continue upstream.

I saw some backs popping up which were obviously carp feeding but by the time I got within casting distance they all disappeared. I thought I had been quite stealthy but apparently not.

I continued upstream towards the rapids and the current was quite strong to where I simply couldn't get close enough so I started drifting back. As I drifted, I cast along promising spots.

I passed a section where a small creek was emptying into the river and decided to try here. I let my fly drift and felt a hit and I had a fish on. Unfortunately it came off after a brief fight. I am positive it was a catfish from the way it fought.

It was a quick drift downstream with the increased flow. It didn't give me much of a chance to fish many spots. I only caught one small sunfish on the way before I finally ended up back at the low water crossing.

All in all I fished maybe for just over an hour. I decided to try a different spot the next day as this spot, while plenty of water now, was a bit risky to bring my son along.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Traditional knives

Case XX 6332 Stockman (circa 1940-1964)

I came home feeling I should write about something yet I haven't been out fishing since my last trip a few weeks ago. We have thankfully been getting rain almost every other day so I am sort of excited to see what the rivers will look like soon. Maybe I can finally get out to target some wily carp! But until then I think I can talk about another favorite subject of mine, pocket knives.

Much in the same way that some time ago I gravitated from conventional tackle to fly tackle, in recent years I have gravitated from the one-handed "tactical" knives to the more traditional type; slipjoint knives to be more exact.

Case XX U.S.A. 6318 stockman (circa 1965-1969)

Nothing wrong with one-handed knives but just like there is a indescribable satisfaction to casting a fly and then some close quarter combat with a fish that just ate it, there is a satisfying feeling in using a traditional multi-bladed carbon steel slipjoint to, let's say, handle a mundane task such as slicing up an apple. The patina that develops on those blades along with the natural handle materials such as jigged bone also gives the knife a sense of "soul".

When I was 10 or 11 years old my dad got me my first pocket knife, a small Buck stockman. I loved that knife and one day I broke the main blade in half trying to use it to dig out some dirt clods.

Several years ago when we moved my dad into a retirement home, I ended up with the last pocket knife he carried which was an Schrade Old Timer 8OT stockman he purchased in the late 1980s. I cleaned the old knife up being careful not to remove the dark gray patina, sharpened and oiled it and placed it in a knife box for safe keeping though I have carried a couple of times for nostalgia sake.

I have several production traditional slipjoints from makers such as Queen, Case, Schrade and Great Eastern Cutlery. Most are three bladed stockman knives and some other patterns like trappers and canoes in carbon steel and one or two in stainless steel. All are users. I am also on the waiting list of a custom knifemaker now to get my first custom slipjoint made. I can't wait!

Charles May FireAnT fixed blade knife

Being outdoors when I can, I have also seen the need for a good fixed blade knife. I have had a couple of them but I recently received my first custom from a great knifemaker by the name of Charles May from Mississippi. I was looking for a small, high quality pocket sized fixed blade knife for every day use as well as for attaching to my lanyard. He had a model called the FireAnT that was perfect. I communicated some of my requirements (such as S30V stainless steel for when around saltwater) and waited over a year for my turn to come up. Besides being a great knifemaker, Mr. May is known to be a great outdoorsman, hunter and fisherman. I highly recommend his well thought out knives.

My hope is that one day I will pass on some of my well loved traditional slipjoints to my kids or grandkids and hope they experience the satisfaction of carrying and using a lovely old tool.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Grateful for the rain but ...

I was in South Texas this week to visit family and get some fishing in. I spent Wednesday in Harlingen visiting my parents and then in the evening drove up to Corpus Christi to meet up with my cousin to prepare for fishing on Thursday and Friday.

I woke up at 3am to the sound of heavy rain. By 3:30am there was thunder and lightning. At 5:30am when I got up to head out with my cousin to pick up a friend who was going with us, it was still raining.

We kept watching the radar for a break in the weather. By 9am we headed to the boat ramp. It was still raining but no thunder or lightning. No other trailers at the boat ramp either. This was either foolish or we are hard core.

Since my cousin is a USCG certified captain, I trust him when he said the rain would let up in time for us to fish and that in case it didn't, he knew what to do if the weather got worse.

After an hour of being out on the water, the rain eventually subsided and I took off my rain suit. The afternoon was fairly nice with cloudy skies. The bad part is that we threw everything but the kitchen sink and only ended up with a couple of small trout to show for it. We think all that fresh water getting dumped into the Laguna Madre did something to the fish.

I was hoping to fish some on Friday from the kayak but the morning ended up with more rain and so I headed back home earlier than planned. It rained all the way back to Austin.

I am grateful for the rain but wish it would have rained the week before or after I took vacation to go fishing. I'll get those reds and trout next time.

Monday, September 07, 2009

A little fishin' and a little rockin'

My son has been asking me all weekend to take him to the local guitar music store for their big labor day sale. He got a Gibson Epihone SG for his birthday in July and probably plays it every day. He invited a guitar player friend of his, John, from school to go with us. But before the store opened we were going to the local pond to fish.

We got to the pond around 9am and my son started off with foam spider fly. John was fishing with a small spinner lure on his baitcasting outfit. I could see some decent bass in the shallows and we saw fish jumping out of the water several times attempting to catch dragonflies. However, catching was a bit slow.

As I was reminding my son on casting the fly, I dropped the fly near a bass and as I stripped, a small bluegill hit it instead. I had not brought a large selection of flies and nothing to mimic the dragonflies so I tied on a size #6 yellow foam gurlger fly and showed my son how to strip so that it would pop and gurgle and I handed the rod over to him. While the fly lay there, I suspect a bass was eyeing it so on his first strip he got a bite and we landed it.

We could see small bass here and there but the boys were eager to head to the guitar store. I did take about 15 or 20 minutes to give John a lesson on the basics of fly casting. He was good at using the baitcaster reel and so I told him that just like he learned to use his thumb in controlling his cast, he would have to teach himself not to break the wrist when casting with fly rod and that it would take practice. Lots of practice.

The boys were done and we came back home to pick up my youngest daughter and we all headed to the guitar store. The boys really like this store because there are plenty of amplifiers and cords to plug the guitars in to play them. There is also a room for the acoustic guitars as well as a room with drum equipment. We spent more than an hour in the store then stopped by a burger joint for lunch before heading back home.

I have to rest for a bit since my oldest daughter and her boyfriend want to borrow my kayaks this afternoon to paddle around a small local lake. I also have to start getting my gear together for a trip I am taking to the coast in the middle of the week.

Have a relaxing Labor Day y'all!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Fishing recession

Other than taking my son for an hour of fly fishing at a neighborhood pond, I haven't really done much fishing lately. My favorite river is pretty dried up. The nearby lake had its last public ramp closed today due to super low water levels. The lake is over 31 feet below the August average. Sad really. We need rain, and lots of it, badly.

I do have a week of vacation in late September and I hope to be able to go to the coast for a few days to fish for redfish and trout.

I hope my fellow fly fishers in other locations are fairing better than I. In the meantime, I'll hang in there and hope this fishing recession ends soon.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Video of four-wheeling through the pass

This is a video I shot with my cousin last week when we drove through Yarborough Pass from the beach side to get to the Laguna Madre. We first checked to see that the pass was clear before he revved up and powered through the sand and the pass. I always feel like we are going to flip the truck but of course that doesn't happen. Enjoy...

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Potlickers and secret spots

I got the opportunity to head to Corpus Christi for a day and half to do some fishing with my cousin.

I got there on Thursday afternoon and we decided to fish the lights from one of the bridges. We got to the bridge just before sunset and loaded up the kayaks and paddled out to anchor before the lights from the causeway turned on. There was a strong outgoing tide and the wind was blowing from the opposite direction and so it was tricky anchoring in the right spot but we finally settled in. Nobody was around.

The lights soon turned on and we proceeded to fish. I caught a nice 16 1/2" speckled trout on shrimp fly that I had tied. I also caught a big ladyfish that jumped out of the water several times. My cousin caught a small snook and lots of small trout. At this point is when I noticed a small jon boat with two guys come by and then anchor in the next stall right in the center of the light. Aw man! Potlickers!

That word, "potlicker", needs some clarification because it can have many derogatory meanings in contexts other than fishing which is not the one I want to convey. That is not to say in the fishing context it isn't a derogatory term as it actually is. The best definition I found is from and old fisherman by the name of Earl Humphreys from Corpus who used it as far back as the '30s.
"A potlicker in fishing is a man who is too lazy to go find fish on his own, so he looks for someone who is already on fish and then he moves into that man's spot. He potlicks, he's a lazy bastard who depends on what others find or leave him."
His definition is exactly correct. These are the same folks that anchor in front of you when there are dozens of square miles of water around you and nobody else around and drop a line right where you are fishing. Sometimes I think they are plain ignorant and don't really think they are doing anything wrong. Sometimes I think they do know and are taking advantage of fisherman that did all the work to find fish.

The guys in the jon boat would cast where we were and after a while we told them to let us fish and go cast somewhere else. They pretended not to hear but eventually they just fished their stall and when I moved to a different spot, they took my spot over.

Anyways, I could go on and on about the many potlickers we have run into but that post would scroll off the page. Suffice it to say, we left after a while to leave these guys to fend for themselves. It seemed that after they moved in in the center of the light, the bite stopped.

The next day we decided to fish a remote "secret spot". It is actually not all that secret but we like to use code when speaking about where we are going while out in public. This time we were going to wade an area as opposed to kayaking.

After driving along the beach for an hour or so we saw a couple of signs which were interesting.

You better believe this sign!

This was one of the reasons that I got my CHL.

We got to the spot around 4pm and there was one truck there with two other wade fisherman. They had gone left so we went right.

The water looked good but was bathwater warm. We fished for about two hours with only one small red and a few small trout. We headed back in to drink something and rest for a few minutes then go back out.

As we got to the truck so did the other wade fisherman. My cousin went over to talk with them. We found out they had caught a few nice trout and where and on what. We also found out that one of the wader's blood sugar was dropping quickly and was diabetic. He asked us for soda but all we had to offer was some cold Gatorade. My cousin gave him one and one for his buddy as they left. Hopefully he got better because it was a long way from medical help where we were. There is no cell phone coverage that far out.

We headed back out to fish some more after they left. It was getting to the "magic hour" before sunset. Sure enough, the trout start getting aggressive and we had some steady action and some keepers. Before the sun hit the horizon, we started walking back because we had seen lots of stingrays in the area and they are harder to see at night.

After leaving and driving down the beach my cousin helped pull a Chevy SIlverado HD that had gotten too close to the water and sunk in the soft, wet sand.

As always, I had another set of fishing adventures with my cousin that we can reminisce about on some future fishing expedition. I am looking forward to the next one.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Lake is low and fishin' was slow

I got to Lake Travis around 6:20am and found a fellow kayaker already at the boat ramp. We exchanged hellos and he continued fishing from shore. He said he was waiting for a friend of his that also fished from a kayak. After a brief pleasant exchange, I paddled off and started fishing.

Water visibility was fairly good. I could see between 3 to 4 feet below the water. In the past clarity has been far better (up to 8 feet or more). The water level was even lower than I recall. I believe the lake is now about 21 feet below the historic June average. Dang drought.

For the next hour I caught zip, nada, nothing. I switched flies to a #6 gray bead chain clouser tied with EP fibers and then caught a small bass.

Fishing was still slow. I caught a couple more bass. One was tiny at about 8 inches long. He was an aggressive little fellow though. As I was putting him in the water, I felt it clamp on to my thumb and after letting go with my other fingers he held on for a minute; enough time for me to snap a photo of him. He finally realized he could spit my thumb out and split and so he did. Good thing bass are not man eaters. I think this one liked the way I tasted.

I then paddled back to the ramp and passed the kayaker from this morning and his friend and I introduced ourselves. He indicated he fishes the surf and bays around Corpus Christi often but mostly the surf.

After I got to the ramp and brought my truck down, the first kayaker also came in while his friend continued to fish. About this time, a park ranger walked down to the two of us. We all started talking about how low the water was noting the ramp would likely be closed for motorboats if it fell another four feet. We could pretty much see the end of the ramp below the water.

As I left the park and headed down the winding country road, passing cyclists, I saw a glimpse of a deer crossing the road ahead and then saw a young fawn that as I approached decided to lie down on the road so I slowed and stopped. Upon getting out to try and get it off the road, it stood up and bolted for the fence and was gone. A couple of cars were now behind me so I got back in my truck and went home.

With June heating up like it is July already, I think I may start fishing the lake at night. I may have better luck then and hopefully it will be slightly cooler, too.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day Fishing

First of, God bless all those that have served and kept this country free!

I got up around 5:30am to prepare to be on the lake by 7am to get in a couple of hours of fishing before heading over to my brother-in-law's house for a Memorial Day cookout.

As I was turning into Jonestown Park I noticed a mini van following me. When I parked, it parked next to me and a guy came out telling me that he was a fellow kayaker and he knew a spot where I could drive the truck to the water's edge to be able to launch quicker. We talked for a bit and he was a fellow member of Nice guy and it was good to talk tackle and kayaks with a fellow kayak angler. He also pointed out a couple of fishing spots I could try. I wished him luck and paddled out to some boat docks across the lake.

About the time I paddled out, a heavy fog set in. I cast around the docks and up against the rocky shoreline. I caught a small bass on a red and yellow seaducer. I later switched to a purple and black crystal minnow. In all, I caught five spunky little bass before paddling back to the put-in to talk with the fellow kayaker before packing up and heading home.

My friend mentioned he had caught a small spotted gar on a bass popper which was interesting. He promised to upload a photo he took on his phone to when he wrote up his fishing report.

I enjoyed the short time fishing and also getting the chance to meet a new fellow kayak angler. Hope to fish with him in the future.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Smells great to me

I took a vacation day today from work in order to go fishing. It has seemed like ages since I have been fishing. Since we had gotten some decent rain last weekend I decided to see what the San Gabriel river looked like.

I got to the low water crossing just before 8am and noticed a little algae and the smell of, well, zoo water. You know the smell from the man made streams at the zoos. That smell. No matter, it smells like the outdoors; take it in!

I headed upstream and found some muddying carp and spent what seemed like twenty minutes trying to get a take. Nothing. I moved on further up the river.

I fished above some rapids and eventually landed a small bass. He looked like he had some sort of skin problem as it had red sores on the body and tail. I spent some more time at the pool but nothing. I moved on further up the river.

Traveling upstream I could see lots of silt on the limestone bottom. It seems that the river keeps getting nastier and nastier every year. I recall when the river looked so pristine (and didn't smell like zoo water).

On some flats I found a tailing carp and started stalking it low to the water. I took a shot and my leader touch it. Spooked the carp. :-(

I found a couple other carp in the shallows but kept alerting them and so they would just swim off out of range.

Continuing on I ran into schools of spotted gar. Most less than a couple of feet long though as I paddled quietly I spooked one that was at least three feet long and looked like a fat torpedo. Whoa!

I finally made it to a narrowing in the river and beached the kayak. This area has always been great for bass and catfish. After a few casts I had a bass. For the next hour it was brim and bass at a good pace. I caught more than a dozen bass with a couple over 2 pounds. One of the bass regurgitated a baitfish when I started removing the fly. Smelled good!

That ain't no tongue with eyes mister!

It started getting pretty hot around noon and knowing I had a long paddle and wade back to the low water crossing I headed back out. As I paddled back under the shade of the huge trees along the shore, I would hear the loud buzzing of swarms of bees working the flowering plants. I also saw a large deer dash into the thicket ahead of me. Cool!

Too bad y'all can't smell me now (especially after pulling the kayak out through that nutrient rich black river mud). It smells like I've been fishing!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter fishing

Last night we went to Easter vigil mass and today on Easter Sunday we spent the entire day with family, had a great lunch, and the kids had the traditional Easter egg hunt. Later that afternoon I took my son and youngest daughter out to the YMCA lake for some more practice with his fly rod.

Not surprisingly there were some families out there enjoying the park as well as fishing. We found a spot in the shade and my son proceeded to cast and fish. During all of this, I tried offering advice to correct issues I saw but otherwise he was fishing. It didn't take long before the first bluegill hookup!

He caught another fish and we moved around a bit and worked on the casting in the meantime and tried a few different flies.

After discussing some strategies about fishing the edges of weed lines, my son caught his third little bluegill. This one was the smallest of the bunch and this is the one he wanted a photo of to show just how small it was.

Check out my cool fish bone polo shirt!

We started getting hungry so after walking around the park for a bit checking out future fishing spots, we headed home for dinner. It was another successful and fun trip.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Son's first fish on the fly rod

I went with my two youngest kids out to the small lake by the local YMCA to give my son some additional casting lessons with his fly rod.

While my youngest daughter ran around and played, my son assembled his two piece 5wt and I showed him how to properly pass the fly line through the guides and we selected a fly and tied it to the end of the leader.

It had been some time since we had last tried casting and we had to focus once more on the pickup, sudden stop, line control, keeping the loop intact, removing slack and stripping. Lots of things to remember.

One lesson that was learned was to mind your backcast as the first fly was lost to an oak tree behind us. We then moved to a small fishing platform along the shoreline.

The platform offered better casting and we decided to cast towards the shore where we saw small baitfish getting spooked. As I was showing him to how to get the line right up to the shore, I got a nibble so I was positive we would get a hookup.

After a few casts my son hooked a small bluegill! First fish on the fly! He was pretty happy and so was I.

We spent some more time casting but we received no additional bites. He started jigging the fly along the edge of the platform and we could see brim approaching the fly but no commitment. We tried several different flies yet nothing worked for him.

It started getting dark and I rounded up both kids and we headed home. Both declared they had fun so that made me happy. I would love it if we could get more rain so that I can take my son on a river trip where he try for some bass on the fly. That would be very nice.

TV Fishing Personalities I like

A while back the guys over at Fat Guy Fly Fishing brought up a TV outdoor person, that well, wasn't quite liked by a lot of folks. It got me thinking of who out there in TV land I do like. Here is my short list:
The number one guy in my book for the best TV fishing show personality has got to be Bill Dance. The guy has a great sense of humor. He's incredibly knowledgeable when it comes to fishing for bass, a species I really enjoy going after. Oh yeah, he's had his show since 1968 for goodness sake! More than just watching him fish, the guy gives you a serious and professional education on all the variables that go into fishing. His tips are gold in my opinion. I have watched his show for years and am kind of interested in seeing his new saltwater show where he will be targeting saltwater species such as redfish and speckled trout that I also like to go after.

Another guy that explains a lot of what he is doing and looking for while fishing is Al Linder. However, as great a guy as he is, I just don't get the same vibe as I do with Bill Dance. Maybe it's his Minnesota accent. I don't know. He also fishes for species like musky and walleye that we don't have here in Texas so I don't really have much interest in those shows. I still think he is great instructor though.

Larry Dahlberg is a world class fisherman. While I am not as interested in the big fish he goes for, I am more in awe of his tenacity, versatility and inventiveness. He is a guy that will throw a plug from his baitcaster at one point and then switch it up with a fly the next moment. Of course he invented some of the best big fish flies like his famous Dahlberg Diver. I have seen him create molds and pour his own top water plugs. The man knows his stuff. He is a great guy to watch fishing. I just wish he would speak more about what is going on in his mind. I know the guides he goes out with learn a lot from him.

What can I say about Roland Martin? He's a really likable guy. He has a cool song about him on his show. He is of course knowledgeable about fishing. You could have a drinking game based on how many times you catch him saying "Son!" and be drunk my mid-show. He is also an excellent fisherman. Though his show is mostly about bass fishing, he has ventured out into saltwater fishing from time to time which is cool. I also have seen him cast a fly a few times on his show as well. He is another guy that gives good tips though some of the products that he pushes are sort of weird (like the Rocket Fishing Rod for kids). His son, Scott Martin, is trying to follow in his steps with his own show though I have seen it a few times and it really isn't as good as his dad's. One thing about Roland that I really like is that he is truly an old time gentleman.

On the saltwater end, I really like Flip Pallot. He is also an amazing saltwater fly fisher. I dig watching him go for sharks, tarpon and billfish. These are fish I have never personaly gone for. It is just neat watching the guy. He reminds me of the old weathered salts I sometimes come across at the fishing table when I am at the coast that are fishing machines. They have so much experience and know precisely when to go out and when not to and where they can find the fish and what the fish want. That's what I think about when I watch Flip.

I know I missed a few such as Hank Parker as I haven't really seen his show all that much. One thing I know about Hank is that he has fished out of a kayak before. I wonder if Bill Dance would ever go kayak fishing with me? It would probably be another infamous blooper opportunity as I expect he'd flip it or paddle right into a hornet's nest or something. On second thought...

Monday, March 09, 2009

I own a fleet!

OK, a fleet of plastic boats but a fleet nonetheless.

I met Roland from Lakeline Watersports at the shop this afternoon and he kindly installed the extra Scotty rod holder mount I had and also the anchor trolley system I bought from him.

The anchor trolley is something I am really glad to have purchased since it will allow me to face in the direction I want when fishing regardless of which way the water current is flowing. This was always difficult with the old setup I had since I had a pair of cleats in which my anchor line was wrapped so I was sort of limited to the position in the current.

I got home with the new kayak and showed it to the family. My wife likes the brighter yellow of my old kayak. I admit that the golden yellow sort of looks like baby poop yellow color but I still like it.

My son came over and sat in "his" kayak and one of our dogs came over to congratulate him.

I have a fishing trip to Corpus Christi late next week where it will receive a baptism in saltwater and hopefully some speckled trout slime.

I may also take it out this weekend in Lake Travis if the weather cooperates.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

A kayak with character and memories

I was out by the shed out back where I keep my kayak trying to figure out how I am going to stow two of them now. While planning out how I would screw two by fours to the wall to stack them, I took a good look at my old kayak. The thing has character.

The bottom of my kayak is a series of scratches. There are a few deeper gouges here and there but otherwise the hull is sound. That polyethylene plastic sure is tough stuff.

Even then, I had to repair the keel a couple of times as it had worn thin from dragging it on concrete, oyster shell, and limestone rock. It looks pretty bad but should be fine for a few more years.

The cockpit has a few blood stains here and there that don't ever seem to come out. The bungee cord is weathered and doesn't stretch much anymore. The hard plastic pieces here and there have cracked and the bungee that holds my seat back has broken.

The interior has algae from where water occasionally still gets in it. The reflective tape on the stern that my cousin added five years ago so he could spotlight the dark to find me at night is barely there.

The rubber cup behind me that holds my C-Light for night fishing is crumbling apart.

I don't think I can count the number of speckled trout I have caught in this boat. Hundreds. Maybe more. Lots of bass, too.

All my kids have paddled in it with me from time to time.

It's been a good boat and I am going to miss paddling that kayak but will try to still get in it from time to time. It is a nice thought to know that my son will be paddling it alongside me sometimes.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Buying a new kayak

My wife went out of town with my son to visit her parents this weekend so I stayed to take care of our two girls. Even so, fishing wouldn't have been possible anyways given the high winds. Instead, I took this opportunity to take a look at some kayaks that I was interested in. In particular, one was the latest 2009 version of the Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120 that I have owned for the past 6+ years. The other was a very similar boat by Native Watercraft called the Manta Ray 12.

The new Tarpon 120 has had many improvements to it. This topic on the forums provides a good review of the '09 models. It describes major upgrades to the hatches, improvements in the seat, gear packets, and paddle holders as well as other improvements. It is a very nice kayak and I got to see a couple of them at REI (I wouldn't purchase it from them but it was the closest place that had them).

The second kayak, the Native Manta Ray, was one that I had been reading about for a while now. It is a boat that a lot of folks really like. It has a comfortable seat, tracks well, well thought out storage options and so on. I wanted to see this one at a shop since it reminded me so much of my own trusty Tarpon 120 except a little nicer.

I wanted to stay with a 12 foot kayak. The 14 foot ones are roomier and tend to track better, are more stable in choppy water and paddle faster but are not the best choice for small rivers. Rather than have one boat for lakes and the bays and another for the rivers, I wanted another general boat like my Tarpon 120 since the Tarpon was going to my son.

I went over to a nearby small kayak shop called Lakeline Watersports and spoke with the owner, Roland, about this model. He was very helpful and he mentioned he had two new 2008 models on closeout at a reduced price. One was red and the other yellow. My current kayak is yellow. I like high visibility colors like orange and yellow as opposed to colors that blend in to their surroundings. I do this so motorboats can spot me easily as well as when part of the kayak is hanging out the bed of my truck, it can also be seen by motorists behind me.

While I would recommend to anyone to paddle a kayak before purchasing it, the Tarpon 120 was already familiar to me and I had read the Manta Ray was very similar to the Tarpon. I did want to try the seat out and after adjusting it, it seemed quite comfortable. So, I pretty much committed to Roland that I would take the Manta Ray and for him to hold it for me. I just need to wait until my wife comes back tomorrow to get a Scotty rod holder mount out of my truck so that he could install it and also rig up an anchor trolley to it and I would pick it up on Monday or Tuesday. The price was just too good to pass up. While the new Tarpon 120 is very nice, I really couldn't justify the $150 to $200 extra cost. With the savings, I decided to order a new Stohlquist Fisherman PFD from REI that should get here next weekend. I'll review it after I get it but it is the type of fishing PFD that I have been looking to get for a long time.

So, I am pretty excited about this new kayak. My current Tarpon 120 will become my son's kayak. He already has a good Stohlquist kayaking PFD and a Carlise paddle that I had as extras for it. I hope it serves him as well as it has served me.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

More news on Fly Fishing the Texas Hill Country

Kevin Hutchison was kind enough to provide me with some additional information including some exciting news about kits that may be coming for tying the flies in the book. Thanks Kevin!

In answer to a few of your questions and statements.

First, I am very proud of the cover art, my Daughter did it. She is a Fine Arts major at North Texas State and she worked hard to achieve the "look" i was going for with the Sunfish. Working from a photo I gave her she did numerous test drawings until we were both happy with the resulting image. The original watercolor is a treasure that I will never let go of.

Second, we will be adding recipes for all the flies on the web site ( in the coming weeks and months. Along with the recipes you will be able to buy kits for each of the flies. Each kit will come with ALL the materials needed AND a DVD showing the fly being tied by one of my staff. I have always hated fly tying kits because they usually don't give you all the materials and they never have good instructions, ours will have both!

Third, I can't take credit for the spiral binding. Bud had the spiral binding on the first and second edition, it was lost, along with any integrity, in the third edition. I wish you could have stayed to hear the history of the book and that third edition. The Priddy and I have very strong feelings about that edition. I'll just say that it took me about seven years to convince the Priddy family that I would put the book back in it's original form and rewrite the content back to a useful form. The third edition was a train wreck...enough said.

Well, I hope that everyone finds the book as useful as you have. Remember, it will only get better if the entire fly fishing community tells me what they want and need the book to be. If there is a mistake or something that needs to be changed just let me know. If I forgot your "special" spot and you want to share that with your fly fishing brothers let me know that to. The book is "organic" and will change over time, that is truly what Bud would have wanted.

Kevin Hutchison

Saturday, February 28, 2009

New edition of Fly-Fishing the Texas Hill Country

We had a cold front come in through the area last night that put a damper on my fishing plans this weekend. This is not necessarily because of the cold as the highs are supposed to break 60F but due to the very windy conditions with gusts to 40mph during the day. In any event, Chris Johnson, owner of my favorite local fly shop Living Waters Fly Fishing, was holding an all day event today at his shop with some presentations from local guides on fly fishing for white bass. In addition, local guide Kevin Hutchison and now author, would be selling and doing a book signing of the long-in-coming 4th edition of the "Fly-Fishing the Texas Hill Country". Kevin is a very well known and respected fly fishing guide in the central Texas area and he's a heck of a nice guy to boot. Funny, too.

I have a dog eared copy of the 3rd edition of the "Fly-Fishing the Texas Hill Country" published in 2000 that I bought in 2005 after searching high and low until I located a few copies at a fly shop that Kevin worked at. They sold out quickly so I was glad to have gotten a copy.

The third edition contained some updates contributed by a variety of experienced Texas fly fishers. It still had a lot of the original knowledge from the original author, the legendary Bud Priddy, in those pages. The book is more than just a collection of access points about the local rivers and streams; it contains information on the species that can be found in each river, flies that are appropriate for each as well some guidance on techniques to catching them. The book is an invaluable treasure trove of information for fly fishing the Texas Hill Country. As good as it is/was, it had been some time since it had been updated and so of course, like the rivers and streams themselves, things change.

This latest edition took nine years to present itself primarily thanks to Kevin. I am not sure anyone else was better apt to make it happen. I've attended several presentations of his and he is a great instructor. He's personable, knowledgeable, witty and the one quality I think that is the reason for this new addition seeing the light of day...passionate. Passionate about fishing and traversing the area lakes, rivers, and streams. Passionate about the fish that swim in them. Passionate about providing fly fishers with the knowledge to make their experience fishing these waters all the more productive and memorable.

There has been a lot of anticipation these past couple of years about this book once word got out that Kevin had acquired the rights and permission to publish the 4th edition. I can only imagine the stress. I am sure Kevin is relieved now that the book is out. There are a lot of fly fishers looking forward to it.

I had several family commitments today so I couldn't spend more than an hour at the fly shop. Just as I was going to leave, Kevin showed up with a box full of the new edition. Chris laid them out on a shelf. I took the first one and asked Kevin to sign it and apologized for having to leave early. He made some joke about me probably getting bored with his presentation that afternoon but I really wish I could have stayed.

When I was finally done with all of my family commitments, I started reading the book at home. To begin with, the cover art is fantastic. It's a watercolor of a sunfish. For some reason it reminded me of another favorite book of mine, "The Sunfishes" by Jack Ellis, though the cover art is not at all similar just the subject.

The sections on the local fish species and techniques for catching them was improved quite a bit. In addition, now there are four complete pages listing descriptions of recommended flies along with color photos of each. Very nice though tying recipes would have been very much appreciated. Maybe they can be added to Kevin's website in the future. By the way, this is another appreciable difference in this latest edition which is the introduction of references to Internet web pages. It also opens the possibility to have a vehicle to extend the book and accommodate change.

Another improvement is the introduction of GPS coordinates for all of the access points listed. I have a handheld GPS unit that I have used a few times to locate some lake and bay fishing spots and for measuring paddling distance that I now have a new use for. Very practical improvement.

While I have not read every page yet, it is obvious that a large majority of the information across the book has been revised or completely improved upon. This is no small feat as I am sure it required a lot of verification in the field to ensure it was correct.

Lastly, one subtle but very welcome improvement in this edition of the book is that it is spiral bound. This make it possible for it to be placed flat on a table and the pages stay put while, for example, you are typing an entry in your blog on your laptop while enjoying a read or two of the book at the same time. :-)

In summary, this latest edition of "Fly-Fishing the Texas Hill Country" should be required reading for anyone wanting to get the most out of fly fishing this area of Texas. For those folks that don't have access to one of the local Austin area fly shops, I would recommend they visit the publishers web site at and contact them directly as to how to obtain a copy of it for yourself.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

No longer hardcore?

I haven't been fishing in over a month (no tears please). Last night the planets aligned and I loaded up the kayak to try and do some night fishing. I loaded my 5wt reel with Teeny T-130 sinking line as the hope was that I would get into some white bass.

I got to the lake around midnight and paddled out to a boat dock in water 8 to 10 feet deep and adjacent to a deep channel. The dock had several bright lights illuminating over the water. I could see baitfish nervously swimming about and then a couple of splashes. I tied on a #8 Cypert Minnow and made a poor cast. I let it sink, put the tip of my rod down below the surface of the water and started to strip it in. In that first cast I caught my first white bass. Cool!

In the next hour I proceeded to catch seven white bass, males between 11 and 12 1/2 inches long. From 1am to 1:30am not a single bite. At this point, the wind started to pickup and the temperature dropped as a week cold front started pushing through. My legs were still wet from the paddling and I was getting cold. My shoulder was also starting to hurt a bit. In the old days, I would have kept on fishing until dawn. I paddled back to the ramp and headed home. I was back in a warm bed just before 3am.

I got up four hours later as I had promised my daughter that I would take her and her boyfriend fishing today. We were back at the lake by 9:30am. The wind was a steady 15mph coming from the NNE. Air temperature was in the mid 40s and so it felt pretty cold. We found a spot somewhat sheltered by the wind where we fished for about an hour and a half and then we decided to come back home.

I filleted the fish I had caught the night before and we had them for lunch. I then remembered why white bass are more trouble than they are worth. The fillets aren't all that big and so it takes more fish for a decent fish fry. This means a long time filleting fish.

Once again, in the old days I would not have been complaining. I must be getting old and losing my hardcore fishing attitude. Man, I hope not!

Right now, after cleaning everything and putting it all away, I am dead tired. I think I am going to take a shower and go to sleep early. I am such as wuss! :-(

Oh yeah, Happy Valentine's Day! Hope you get some today! Fish that is! ;-)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

No Monster Fish but a few Monster Trucks

I didn't get any fishing in this weekend. My brother-in-law had invited my son and I to go with him, his brother and my nephew to San Antonio to go see the Monster Jam at the Alamodome on Saturday afternoon. This was our first experience at a monster truck rally.

We left around 3pm and got to the Alamodome just before 5:30pm when the gates opened for the 7pm show. The parking lots were full already and we were able to find a parking spot near a Mexican restaurant where they charged us $20 to park! No matter, it was relatively close to the Alamodome and it looked like it would give us better chance to get out of the area sooner than had we parked at the Alamodome.

After a short walk we found some of the trucks parked outside the south entrance and snapped a few photos. We then went in to look for our seats and get something to eat. The Alamodome is quite nice and the seats we had on the second level were quite good. My brother-in-law got my nephew a Monster Jam 2009 shirt and a "Grave Digger" cap.

The actual show was somewhat mixed. The first part of it were races which were somewhat boring. Just after intermission, they had these jet powered cycles come out that were really cool. They were also extremely loud but we had all brought along ear protection so the only way I could tell was by the folks around us all cupping their hands on their ears. When the riders turned the after burner flame on, you could feel the heat even up where we were.

The second part of the show was the really fun part with the freestyle competition where the trucks run the obstacle course jumping over cars and ramps. They had a couple of old buses that were a challenge to some trucks but the better drivers were able to handle it easily which the crowd loved. The "Grave Digger" truck flew over one bus and landed square on the roof of the other bus collapsing the entire roof and everyone went nuts! It was great!

After the show, it took us a while to get out of the area and we finally got home around 1am in the morning. Can you believe that seats for the 2010 Monster Jam go on sale today at 6pm?! Folks really like these shows. One piece of advice if you ever go and sit at the bottom level close to the arena, "Wear good ear protection". Those trucks and jet engines can get pretty loud.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Second casting lesson

Yesterday afternoon I took my padawan learner to a small pond to get some additional practice casting with his fly rod. This time, we tied on a leader and fly so we could also work on retrieve techniques.

Among learning how to retrieve a fly, we also worked on picking up the line from the water. We also covered the haul as we did this to increase loading the rod for a forward cast. In addition, I showed him how to use his index finger and thumb on his line hand to create a "guide" for the line to shoot through.

All in all, there was a lot of information provided and I let him soak it in and practice his casts into the water. He did quite well. The lessons will continue...

Commitment Issues

This morning I fished Barton Creek right off Lady Bird Lake in downtown Austin. The creek is spring fed and so is warmer than the main lake. I was hoping the warmer water in the creek would attract bass in from the main lake. This, as it turned out, would be the only hope I had that would come true.

Paddling along the creek was like paddling in a swimming pool. The water was gin clear. I could see down to nine feet deep quite easily. This, I think, was partially to blame for the difficult fishing.

First of all, between the pedestrian bridge and the street bridge that crossed over the creek, I found that the creek was absolutely loaded with bass. Most of them were in the 2 to 3 pound range but there were plenty there that were 4, 5, 6 pounds or bigger. I had never seen such a concentration of healthy bass in one small area before. I have also never had a school of bass in this size all follow my fly in such large numbers. I would have 5 to 8 bass at a time trail my fly. This is where the good news ended.

No matter which fly or which type of retrieve (slow, jigging, burning, start & stop, etc.) I tried, I could not get them to eat it. They would follow it until the leader itself passed trough my tip guide and then they would thumb their nose at me and swim off. Very frustrating!

I had folks on the bridge or the running trail yell things at me like, "Hey buddy! There's a huge fish right behind you!" and I would reply, "Yeah, thanks.". After three frustrating hours without a single bite, I decided I had had enough of these bass with commitment issues. I told them to all see a shrink and let me know when they were over their inadequacies so I could catch them all. I won't hold my breath.