Sunday, February 19, 2017

Good Intentions

I should have been home tying flies for my upcoming trips to the Devils River, Canada or any of the other trips that are planned.  That’s what fly fisherman traditionally do in the winter, right?  Not me, I would rather fish than tie flies any day.  

My intent was only to fish for a few hours one afternoon and get it out of my system.  There was really no way of knowing the impact that one afternoon would have on me. Two weeks later, all I can say is, “I had good intentions.” 

It was a last-minute decision to go.  One of those fishing trips where you’re just happy to be on the water.  With zero expectations, I paddled into an area I hadn’t seen in a few months.  What happened in those few hours has had a huge impact on my ability to think rationally.

There’s a mountain of laundry my kids are playing king of the hill on top of.  Its aroma is a nice addition to the funky fish smell I carry on me.  I’m pretty sure I took a shower this week but maybe it was last week.  There isn’t anything to eat in the house.  But the good news is, I saw food at Walmart while I was there picking up some lures.  It’s safe to say my family is ready for the pre-spawn bass bite to end (that’s the PG version).  I’ll spare you my wife’s, less than enthusiastic, state-of-mind.

In the past, I’ve tried to explain “pre-spawn” to those that don’t fish.  The message never gets delivered accurately.  I think it’s because I’m talking about fishing and they’re expecting a science project.  This year I went a different direction.   

Since pictures are worth a 1000 words, I showed everyone pictures of the bass I caught hoping they’d explain my situation.  This might be the one time when pictures were not helpful.  I went back the next day and guess who was in my fishing hole?  Now his family is mad at me!

I reassured everyone this was just a phase and it would soon pass.  It would be a whole year before I checked out again.  The message was returned to sender with a “failure to deliver” note attached.  What I’ve concluded is you either get it or you don’t.  There aren’t any words that can explain my affliction and pictures just infect others. 

I honestly wish there was someone to do the laundry, buy the groceries and keep the kids from falling off cliffs.  Until cloning is acceptable, the only excuse I have is, did you see the pictures…

Friday, February 3, 2017

40 on the White River

It’s a wonder I have any friends at all.  The kind that take off work for two days for your 40th birthday.  Those that know you well enough to understand that the party should be a fishing trip and nothing more.  Real friends who accept I’m not a birthday party guy or into social gatherings.  Let me explain why I’m amazed by all of this.

Sunday night, I was talking to my wife about a trip to Grand Isle, LA over the past weekend and how the fishing was decent and so on.  As expected, she was only mildly interested.  Her slight interest was mostly because her uncle and cousin were there fishing with me.  The last thing mentioned was how I needed to call my buddy and deliver some bad news.  She perked right up, “What happened?”

Her attention really caught me off guard.  The zombie from two minutes earlier was now all ears and super captivated.  Taking advantage of my newly acquired audience, I spun a great tale of a freakishly huge redfish and the ultimate sacrifice made by my friend’s 9 weight.  All she heard was, “you borrowed his rod and broke it?”  As I’m struggling to understand her concern and attempting to form a sentence, she interrupts me.  But not with the usual “you broke another fly rod” speech.  

Instead, I learned that the guy who owned the 9 weight had been planning my 40th birthday party for two months.  He’s been busy getting his boat ready and tying big streamers for a month.  And we’re leaving in less than a week.  Yep, I’m that guy!  Now you’re amazed I have any friends, right?

Fortunately, and unfortunately, we didn’t get the flows that are typical for late January on the White.   We had minimum flows on the White and the Norfork ran one unit for three hours on Monday.  The big sticks weren’t needed much but that had little impact on our decision to throw streamers.  We had traveled here to throw meat and that was what we were going to do.  Generation was more of a nicety at this point, but we did have a secret weapon; Angela Merkel.  Sometimes it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.   

We fished the White on Sunday and it rained all day.  Angela initially took her place beside the rear bench directly below my position on the Hog Island.  She hated the rain but loved my fly line.  Like a cat with a ball of string she grabbed it often.  Wasn’t long before Angela was moved to the back of the boat.  At the first shoal, Karma rewarded my buddy with a 22-inch brown.  Unfortunately, that was the only good karma of the day.   It was late afternoon when our sore arms demanded we drift indicators and stick a few fish.  A decision we would later regret.

My opinion of the water depth was, it was too deep to exit the boat.  Someone else, whose identity will remain a secret, saw it differently.  As, his name isn't Brad, departed the boat in what can only be described as a wet exit, we knew Angela was responsible.  About an hour later, while trying to free his midge from a rock, the dude with the broken 9 weight, broke his 4 weight.  Sunday was a tough day for us.  The only sighting of a 30-inch brown was hanging on the wall of a local burger joint, Taylor’s Freeze-King in Gassville, AR.  It became very obvious Angela wasn’t impressed with our group later that night.  While unloading gear, I stepped in cat poop and tracked it into our room. 

Monday, we headed out early to chase the limited high water on the Norfork.  Not wanting a repeat of the prior day, we relocated Angela several times before she found a spot she liked.  In the beginning, she perched on the right oar.  When the anchor line broke sending the anchor to the bottom of the river, we took the hint and started moving her on a regular basis.  She seemed pleased with the attention and in return kept the remainder of trip out of the ditch.     

Bag of rocks is a good substitute for an anchor

The birthday ended at the confluence of the White river sharing fish stories and planning several future trips.  In that last hour of daylight, we worked out all the logistics and the world seemed to agree with our lofty endeavors.  It became clear that this trip was less about the pursuit and more about friendship.  Tomorrow we’ll deploy our secret weapon, Angela Merkel, in hopes of trying to secure permission from our better halves. 

Monday, January 16, 2017

Game time in Grand Isle

The 10-day weather forecast left lots to the imagination.  Depending on the time of day, it gave me visions of blue bird skies with calm winds, overcast days with flag straightening winds and a chance of severe fog on Saturday morning.  All of which were experienced in two days.  My strong desire to sight fish Louisiana redfish eventually become more than I could overcome and the plan was made to go regardless of the weather.

A cool breeze from the east greeted me on Friday morning.  It wasn’t the conditions that I was hoping for but I wasn’t discouraged.  The tides were low and the sun was going to be out.  More importantly, I was really hunting for one large bull red.  The kind of fish that would stand out in less than ideal conditions.

Foggy start to the morning

The winds were steady 10-15 mph.  It was a real workout to remain standing and scoping the flats.  In most instances, I would spot a redfish as it made its request for solitude.  The morning had shaped up to be slightly frustrating.  Fortunately, I was able to sneak up on several slot redfish but the bull red continued to elude me.

The first opportunity presented itself and dismissed itself at the same juncture.  I was pushing along a west bank when a 35” red moved between me and the grass line but heading in the opposite direction.  I tried to pivot the kayak and slowly chase it down.  But as quickly as it appeared, it was gone.  Almost like it hadn’t been there at all.  Were the wind and clouds taunting me?

Ironically, it was that sighting that kept me hopeful.  Indeed, there were some big reds stalking the area.  I paddled across a small bay to a western bank and immediately noticed something dark patrolling the edge of a shell lined island.  As I closed the distance, it too vanished in the shadows of a passing cloud.  At this point it was nothing more than a silhouette but it elevated my heartrate.

If it was a bull red, this was the best chance I had at getting a fly in front of it before it noticed a 12 foot kayak in its halo.  Then the silhouette took form as it swam on my starboard side and 15 feet off my bow.  Unbelievably, it had presented itself in the most ideal setting.  The kayak kept pace with the red while I seated the paddle and brought the fly rod to hand.  The fly landed softly.  One quick strip and the tan over white streamer paused right in front of the red.  It was now decision time. 

And yet it wasn’t, the red quietly turned and effortlessly sucked the streamer in.  It happened before my mind processed the action.  As nonchalant as the eat was, the next action was absolute brutality.  The water exploded as the redfish erupted in a rage of madness.  The huge gill plates flared in anger and the headshaking was tremendous.  The 8 weight was my conduit and the energy was pulsing into my hands.  Then the redfish buried its head and displayed an impressive burst of power.  The next few moments were a complete scramble as I tried to recover the line that was peeling off the reel.  With the line recovered the red looked ready to give up.  That was not the case.  Each time I tried to net it, it would dive under or around the net.  Three failed attempts to net the fish had my forearms screaming for someone to relieve the greenhorn behind the reel.  Thankfully the fourth attempt was a success because the hook fell out just as the head went into the net. 

I saw three more bull reds over the weekend but never got a shot at any as the conditions weren’t favorable.  The fog and winds were so heavy on Saturday morning the prime sight fishing hours were restricted to after lunch.  However, I was completely satisfied with the weekend because I had found that one good redfish.  

Monday, January 9, 2017

Timing is everything (A day on the Little Red River)

Sitting in my kayak eating lunch, thinking through the first hours of the day, I find myself questioning my decision to throw streamers all morning.  When I started, I was excited and convinced myself I was in search of one real bite.  But now I’m feeling foolish.  There have been zero flashes, misses or signs of interest in my offerings.

Peanut butter crackers and apple sauce, that’s what I grabbed as I ran out the door the night before.  Somewhere in the middle of the week my wife mentioned something about another sleepover.  I must have been preoccupied because I hadn’t prepared and wasn’t ready when she said they were leaving when she got home from work. 

Man, those extra special nymphs I tied earlier in the week would have been nice right now.  They’re kind of useless sitting beside my vise at home.  Thinking back, I was probably tying flies while she was talking about the sleepover.  Timing is everything.

It’s been raining off and on all day but it’s a steady mist now.   I can’t decide if I want to wear the rain hood on my jacket or leave it down.  Every time I put it on I get a shot of cold rain water down my back.  The last one was just enough to make me not want to do it again. 

With my hunger pains defeated, it was time to find some brown trout.  They must have sensed it was lunch time as well.  A few drifts through one good run resulted in several browns in the net.  I worked a few other areas that also held willing trout.  Sensing the day was ending and I had two-mile paddle back to the launch, I started to move back to my kayak.  There was only enough time to work one last area.  On back to back presentations I pulled two nice browns from that last run.  Timing is everything!

There is a short video I made from the trip here: