Saturday, December 26, 2015

2015 Year in Review

We'll Mother Nature blessed Texas with some water this year. Most would probably consider the amount of water we received more of a curse. Unfortunately a lot of lives were lost with people getting caught up in the flood waters. We have been in a fairly severe drought for several years and almost all Texas lakes where several feet low, boat ramps and docks were out of the water and unusable. When it rains it pours as they say and this year was evident of that.

There were a lot of trips that I had to postpone do to high water that resembled chocolate milk. I was suppose to be down there the weekend this flood happened fishing Lake Dunlap. At the last minute I rescheduled the trip. I'm glad I did. I-35 flooded in San Marcos Texas.

This was a common scene across Texas in April, May and June. 

Denison Dam flood gates releasing 45,000 Cubic Feet a Second. 
That's equivalent to an Olympic size swimming pool every 2 seconds.
Total water coming out of Lake Texoma at one point was 180,000 CFS
That's nearly 3 times the water coming over Niagra Falls. 

Pedernales Falls before and during pic.

2015 is in the rear view mirror and hopefully 2016 will bring more stable conditions and water levels. No big trips planned at this point for 2016, defiantly will make an annual trip offshore and hopefully a few trips to Colorado as well. Would like to fish some of the local kayak tournaments as well if the schedules line up. Hope everyone had a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. 

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Texas Trash On The Fly

Trash fish, rough fish, and non-game fish are some of the bleak references made in regards to carp. But for anyone who has chased them with a flyrod knows how much fun they can be. To me its all about stalking carp on foot. Closing the distance and delivering a well placed fly to unsuspecting fish. A few things that will put the odds in your favor to closing the distance. Don't step on sticks, there is nothing more that alerts a carp to your presence than a stick snapping under your foot. Don't wake the water, you'll want to move fast enough to cover some ground but don't move so fast your pushing water with each step. Don't get caught just looking at the water you can clearly see into. What I mean is generally you will be able to see clearly into water that is 5-10 feet in front of you. As you look further out visibility starts to diminish. As most the carp you will catch will be in the 20-30 foot range it is important to look for signs of fish out to 100 feet. Look for shadows, tails, and mud clouds from feeding fish. And one last suggestion, put your fly rod behind you. You'd be surprised how much a 9ft rod waving around distracts your eyes. Your looking for movement, flashes and other signs of fish. You don't need your eyes to continually be distracted by flashes, glare and movement from your flyrod. I move my rod to the side out of my immediate view. When you find feeding fish, slow down, its not uncommon to have fish just appear in front of you. Carp will routinely come out of hydrilla mats or other vegetation right in front of you. When the fish get to tight to you they are tough to catch. Normally if you can see their eye they are aware of your presence as well. A flick of a fly rod or any sudden movement will normally blow these fish out. Its best to remain still and let these fish get a little distance from you before making your attempt. There's a happy medium of about 20-30 feet that seems to be the sweet spot where you can see the fish and fly and detect the take while the fish is still unbeknownst to your presence. Which brings me to the next most challenging aspect of carp fish; detecting the take. At times carp will hit a fly with enough of a jolt to be felt. However most the time they will just swim over and suck the fly up. I won't lie, half the time I set the hook just because. Sometimes you see gills flare, their bright lips flash, or they bull rush the fly, or make a sudden movement towards the fly. Mother nature likes to throw her curve balls in with glare from the sun, ripples on the water and lake bottoms that make your fly disappear. Sometimes its hard to tell what is going on, all you have is your intuition to rely on. In my opinion its better to set the hook when in doubt. As far as flies go, anything buggy looking in size 6-8 seems to work best. Smaller is typically better from what I have found. You'll want a fly with enough weight to get down to the bottom quickly but not so heavy it gets caught up in vegetation and debris on the bottom. For sub 10lb fish a 5-6 weight rigged with 8lb tippet is a good all around setup. For larger fish you'll need to step up to an 8 or even 9 weight if fish are pushing high 20's. Other than that you just need to get out there and get a few fish under your belt. Once you've seen these fish take a fly a few times and observe their body language things get a lot easier. You'll have good days were the fish are very aggressive and there is no doubt when they eat the fly. Other days due to high pressure or just lethargic fish they just seem to sip the fly up and spit it pretty quickly. Those are the days you have to be on your game and have a little luck on your side.

Going into today's outing. The lake is still a little high as there is a lot of flooded brush that makes spotting fish difficult. I was spooking lots of fish as I was stepping on a lot sticks walking through some of the brush to get to openings that would be fishable. Road beds are your friend, it seems carp really like to travel them you'll see fish going down the edges or just crossing over them. I was surprised at the number of good fish I saw. The average fish was 5-7 lbs with a few pushing 10 or a little better. I was surprised I landed any of them, once hooked they went right into the nasty stuff. Some how none broke me off. Over all it was a much better day than I was expecting. Once the lake drops another 2-3 feet it should be game on. Probably wont be out again till next year but defiantly glad I got one day of carping in this year.

An old road bed that I spent 
most my time fishing.

Tough to fish this. Once the water drops
another 2-3 feet it will open up more 
fishable water.  

Unhappy fish in shallow waters 
is always exciting. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Roaring Through Colorado

Spent a few days fishing the Lower Roaring Fork River in Colorado over the long weekend. The fishing was as great as the scenery and weather. A san juan worm with a pheasant tail dropped off the back seemed to be the preferred fly choice. I caught a lot of great fish with about 75% being rainbows and 25% browns. Wild fish are so much more rewarding to catch then the hatchery fish I am accustomed to. 

Not much you can do with 5x and a size 20 pheasant tail. This fish headed down stream quick and ended up breaking me off. Sure would have liked to have seen him.

The release. 

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Tour of Texas; Llano River

The Llano river is a great little river in the hill country filled with a variety of sunfish, largemouth and Guadalupe bass. It has great fishing in the Llano and Mason Texas area. Besides the fishing there are a lot of other cool things to do. Just south of Llano is Enchanted Rock State Park where you will find the largest exposed granite rock formation in the world. And there is James Ekert  Bat Cave just outside of Mason for a front row seat to millions of bats as they leave the cave every evening. And if you want to do some hunting check out Star S Ranch they have a wide range of African game, common exotics and monster whitetail. And you can't miss out on the several Pit BBQ joints in Llano and Mason.

Some great floats on the Llano are from FM 1871 to FM 2389, and FM 2389 to Simonsville Rd. You can stay at Dos Rios Camp Grounds for this float. There is also great fishing around Llano and Castell. I recently stayed at Castell Cabin in Castell Texas. The cabin is right on the river and can be used as a base to float down to Schneiders crossing. I didn't do a ton of fishing on this trip as it was more of a family get away trip for the weekend. I did catch some nice red breast sunfish and some small Guadalupe bass in the few hours I fished. One of the best books on access and fishing locations regarding Texas Hill Country Rivers is Kevin Hutchison book Fly Fishing the Texas Hill Country.

Playing in the shallow
waters of the Llano.

Little Guadalupe Bass. 

Average Red Breast Sunfish.

The rain even found us.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Tour Of Texas: Port O'Connor

Scott and I took our annual trip down to Port O'Connor. We fished with Capt. Steve Barnes like we do every year. The fishing was a little slower than normal but we both still caught plenty of fish. The first couple shrimp boats we came up to didn't seem to have any fish on them. Third times a charm I suppose because the third boat was covered up in fish. Scott and I both caught a nice shark and some King fish. There were a few Bonito swimming in the chum but we could't get hooked up to any. We had a few Remora's swimming around in the chum and while I had my fly hanging over the side of the boat stripping out line one of them grabbed the clouser. They are a small fish and don't fight but it was cool seeing one up close. The rest of the day we fished deep looking for some AJ's. They seemed to be a little finicky today. I landed one and had another one break me off in a wreck. Scott never got a bite and even the Capt dropped some live bait down several times and never got hooked up. We landed several Red Snapper along the way. I think one of the things that was making things a little difficult was the current was going one way and the wind and waves were going the other way. I don't think we where able to get down as deep or keep our flies down deep. Even though the fishing was a little slow we still caught plenty of fish and had a great time. Looking forward to next years trip.  

Third times a charm.

My shark for the day.

Scott battling a nice shark. 

Scott got his Shark beat pretty quickly. 

 Nice King from behind the shrimp boat.

Scott hooked up with a King. 

King fish is getting a little mad. 

Only AJ for the day. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Colorado: Continued

So when Robert and I pulled off the Gunnison we where trying to figure out where to go fish. We decided to head south of Montrose to the Pa-Co-Chu-Puk tailwaters. We had a few hours left in the evening to try our luck. Needless to say this place wasn't what we were looking for. Its pretty much Beaversbend State Park in Colorado. Lots of people and a very artificial fishery. Robert and I knew we didn't come to Colorado to fish this type of water. That evening we had dinner at an Applebees, tried to figure up a plan and headed back east towards Gunnison to spend the night. That morning we got up and headed to one of the local flyshops asked around and tried to come up with some fishing spots. We weren't really feeling any of the options. Robert knows the Conejos River pretty well and we figured that was our best bet. It was about a 3 hour drive but we got there pretty quick and were able to get on the water and into a few fish by evening. The next morning we got up and hiked into some high mountain ponds that were loaded up with cuttthroats. We fished to early afternoon, loaded up and headed back home.

I don't want to call it a bad trip but a lot of things just didn't seem to want to fall into place on this trip. High water, close calls, oil light in the truck coming on and worrying about car trouble 900 miles from home. Broken rods; ya somehow on the last day my BVK just snapped in the middle of a cast, Getting a new star on the windshield from a rock getting kicked up by the truck in front of me. Not seeing a large piece of tire tread laying in the road at night; luckily the only damage was to the step up on the truck. I'm sure there is other smaller annoyance that I have forgotten about by now.

Nice little brown from the Conejos. 

"Fly Fishing Only"
You'll never see that in Texas. 

These guys pretty.

How they got their name.

 Robert had the only working rod, we switched 
off every few fish. 

They sure are pretty.

Biggest of the bunch.

Trout meal. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Gunnison Gorge: Day 2

Not sure where to begin the story about day 2. The night was mild, not nearly as cool as I thought it was going to be. I guess that was a good thing since my sleeping bag and all my clothes were wet from a leaking waterproof bag. Note to self, double check your bags for any holes or tears that may have happened during the pre-trip packing phase. We only had to go a few miles to reach camp for the second night which was camp # 22 Boulder Garden. Needless to say it didn't take long for us to realize that the high water was limiting our fishing time and pushing us down river much faster than we anticipated. Within just a few hours we where passing by the designated camp. Robert and I decided to go ahead and push through the Gorge and take out a day early. The rapids were getting gnarly many strong class III and IV and frankly they were pretty intimidating. All the research I had done about the Gorge everyone kept saying the only rapid we really needed to worry about was the one called Cable. On the map Cable is rated as a class IV, needless to say the anxiety was building as we approached this rapid. We skirted, lined and even at one point unpacked the raft and carried it over a set of boulders to avoid some rapids like Boulder Garden, S-Turn and The Drops. When we approached Cable we scouted it on the right hand side, there was no way around it and we knew we couldn't safely run it but had no other choice. Not sure how Cable got its name, maybe because its like there is an imaginary cable running across the river just waiting to clothes line you. Before we even had a chance Cable through us like a rag doll. I don't remember much after that, I remember coming up from under water and watching my glasses flutter away. I was on the upstream side of the raft trying to hang onto the side handle, Robert was hanging onto the front handle on the raft. The raft was upside down and at one point I tried to climb on top of the raft. With a paddle in one hand and heavy wading boots I didn't make it to far. The current was still strong and pushed us through 3 more sets of Class III rapids which I don't even really remember. I know Robert and I were in shock and panicking, with several times I had to tell my self to consciously breath. It was tough because we couldn't abandon the raft and head to shore since it was our only way out and we still had several miles to go before reaching the take out. We were pretty much in the heart of the Gorge and the banks were very steep, the water was deep, cold and the current was swift. I don't really know how long it took us, probably not nearly as long as it felt but we finally got the raft and our selves to the bank and out of the water. The sun was beating down on some black granite boulders that were retaining some heat for us to rest and warm back up on. We had all the gear tied down good so the only things we lost was a paddle, sunglasses and hats. The rods were stored in some PVC rod tubes that I had made. The good news was that was the last of the rapids and we were pretty much home free. I don't know if this was a nearly lost my life moment or not. It wasn't like we got sucked into an undertow or anything. I will say I have been in a lot of pucker situations over the years in the outdoors but always felt I still had control of the situation. This situation was completely different, it was the most helpless I had ever felt in the outdoors. Absolutely no control and at the mercy of God and it could have been a lot worse than it ended up being. We exited the Gorge and had a few files to the take out. Those last few miles were some of the best water we had seen on the entire trip. Unfortunately we had passed a lot of it up. We were done and wanted out at that point. We did stop and fish some of it. and within just a few minutes we landed some nice browns. We got back to the take out, pulled the truck down to the river and haphazardly just started throwing stuff into the bed. I do know there wasn't anything we could have done differently and I don't know anyone else I would have rather had paddling with me than Robert.

 The SOAR packed and ready for day 2.

A nice brown on a streamer above Boulder Garden.

Can't remember was set of rapids this is.
Pictures don't do any justice.

 Robert with a nice Brown on the lower stretch.

One of the fish I caught. 

Robert fighting another Brown.

That concludes the Gunnison Gorge.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Gunnison Gorge: Day 1

Day 1 started at Gunnison River Pleasure Park. They where running the shuttle for us to the trail head of Chukar Trail. Its roughly an hour drive to the trail head from their location. Their location will also be the take out. After getting signed in we started the 1 mile hike to the river. It required several breaks to let our legs rest and recovery but I think we made it down to the river in 35-40 minutes. We decided to rig up some rods and do a little fishing before getting the raft and other gear ready. No fish were landed but we each had a couple of bumps. We started our journey down river, taking our time, fishing and scouting the upcoming rapids. We only had 4-5 mile run to where camp was located for night one. The water was running at 2,000 CFS which is about double what it normally runs this time of year, late snow fall in May still had the water up. The scenery, experience and pleasure of being there was great but the fishing was a little on the slow side. I hooked into a large brown that was easily 20+ inches on a streamer. He jumped once and then went deep into a run and settled towards the bottom. I think I put to much pressure on him as the hook pulled loose after a quick 30-40 second fight. I would say that is my biggest fault in fishing for trout. I am use to putting a lot of heat on fish like striper, bass and carp. A trouts mouth is just to soft to put that kind of pressure on them and I have lost several big fish over the years by putting to much pressure on them early in the fight. Some of the rapids were pretty gnarly, strong class III's. We were able to skirt around most the bad stuff but the raft handled great. This was the first run for both Robert and I in the SOAR so we were both getting adjusted to how the raft handled. We made it to camp for the first night. Ute II is camp #17 and has a great view over looking the river on what would be a beautiful run at normal flows. At current flows the water was pretty high and flowing fast. I got a couple bumps swinging a streamer across the current but no hook ups. We had a mule deer doe and her fawns play across the river most the evening. Overall Robert and I were a little discouraged because the flows were high and it made fishing pretty difficult. Our drifts were quick and it seemed the fish were spread out do to the flows. We each caught a few fish but they were making us earn it.

Hike down into the Gorge from Chukar Trail.

Looking upstream from Chukar Trail.

Robert working the first pool.

Great scenery.

 Robert landing the first decent fish. 

 More Scenery.

Pictures do no justice.

 My first decent fish.

Ute II, Camp #17 for night one.