Aye the Trout
The trout release happened on March 10th at the Possum Kingdom tailrace in the Brazos River. Bound and determined to fish for "trout," even if it had to be farm raised trout," I set out for the river on Monday, March 13th, 2006.
The drive was mostly uneventful until I left the small town of Palo Pinto, west on Hwy 80, where somehow I ended up being the creme filling in an Oreo cookie situation of petrol-carrying semi-rigs. This wasn't an immediate concern until we truly entered the hill country and I was forced to enjoy the scenery between the two rigs at 60 mph uphill and 80 mph downhill, whether I wanted to or not. Breaking out in cold sweats during the downhill runs would have been much more fun if I had just known in advance I was going to live through the situation. I was fortunate that Hwy 16 turns North off of Hwy 80 in a flat spot on a four lane portion of the road or it would have been interesting to say the least. I safely arrived at the Brazos River Bridge and found a parking spot among thirty or so other parked trucks and canoe trailers. I parked somewhat legally and began to suit up into my fishing waders at about 11:00 am.
This was one task I'd never done. In the past my wading had been in warm enough water that I had worn only a swimsuit, but the air temperature was 58 degrees and the water was how do you say?... COLD, FRIO, CONGELAR! Anyway, I commenced to unpack my brand new, and extremely rare, Canary-cloth "cheep-cheep" waders, carefully donning them one leg at a time. When shopping for waders - being the miser that I am - I could not resist this rare piece of fishing regalia after reading the price tag, and did purchase them post haste, especially when I noticed that they were also in my size - extra-extra big waist, and. purty-dang-big everywhere else! I did indeed need to be careful with this rare brand of waders as they are extremely difficult to put on without damaging, though according to their Canary language "cheep-cheep" tag, they claim to be among the best in the "breathable" variety.
I think it is only because of their "lack of thickness" that they might "breathe" at all, or maybe because they are alleged to have been treated by the "Bore-tech" worm, guar-own-teeing their breathe-worthiness. Of course, you might know that I did not think to ask the proprietor of the store if the reference to the "Bore-tech" worm had anything to do with how many years the waders had been sitting on the shelf, or the Ajax Exterminator van parked outside.
Once outfitted, I made myself some cram sandwiches. That's what we called them when we were Boy Scouts. You know what a cram sandwich is? It's when you take out your pocket knife, dig it into peanut butter, smear the peanut butter on two slices of bread and then cram both slices together. Now - you can't make a cram sandwich any other way. It is verboten! It must be made with your pocket knife, or it won't taste right. I don't understand it, but it's true.
I also don't understand why, but my wife won't even taste one of my cram sandwiches. She says my pocket knife is gross and gaggy! I don't know why she'd think that. She washes my pants, she dries my pants, and my knife goes from one set of clean pants to the other set of clean pants sometimes the same time as the pants go from washer to dryer, (since I occasionally forget to take it from my pocket) so it must be clean. She says something about lint in the knife. Well - the lint comes from the washer and dryer too - so the lint is clean right? What's the problem? I've never heard of anyone dying from a little bit of lint, have you? Lint is a little bit of cotton dubbing, and nothing more! And, besides that, I take good care of the knife. It's real sharp and I don't use WD40 on it but once or twice - okay, maybe three times a month, so I clearly don't get her complaint. Anyway, that's what a cram sandwich is. So I made myself three "Deluxe" Cram sandwiches. That means they also had jelly, and maybe just a pinch of dubbing.
Next, I rigged my rod and line exactly the way our faithful president told me to. That way, if I didn't catch anything I would have "something" & "someone" to blame. (He wasn't with me today, but he'd given the instruction. Just kidding Stephen!) Then I walked down to the river. That's when I saw it! Uh - "Them!" Hmmm, it's Monday. Shouldn't be a crowd here on Monday. Shoot, it's spring break Monday. Where in the world am I going to fish among these 10,943 people bait-fishing and knocking around in all different shapes and sizes of canoes and kayaks? The way I cast, I might catch one of those blonde headed, 2-year old bipeds over there with soggy diapers, orange horse collars around their necks and icicles hanging from their noses. "Hey lady, those blonde icicles have blue lips!" They're cute to look at, but I don't wanna carry one home today, diapers hanging down all soggy like that. Gross and my wife worries about my pocketknife. I think I just might walk downstream a while, a looonnng while!
I crossed the river taking care not to squish a couple of the mini-bipeds, and remembered from the map that the river took a clockwise bend to the right, so I angled across country away from the water, hoping I would come out where there weren't so many somebody's fishing and splashing in the water. After about a 15-minute walk, I heard what sounded like water running through a small rapids. This is where I started making my way toward the water, and there it was. The river, almost all by itself, so I entered the water, waved at a fellow fly-fisher about 50-yards upstream, another about the same distance downstream, unfurled my line into the winds, and began casting. What I had tied on was this small black and white fuzzy thing at the end of my leader (oh 'bout a size 16-18,) then about two feet below that I had tied on an even smaller itty-bitty bead-head-hares-ear something or other ( 'bout a size 20 something) with the help of an electron microscope.
Just how trout get their electron microscopes to focus fast enough to see what they are eating is beyond me, but I guess they do because on about the 153rd cast into those ripples, something took hold of that itty-bitty bead-head-hares-ear thing and the fight was on! I couldn't believe it. This little half-smoked cigar sized fish was jumping out of the water like he thought he was a 5-pound Bass. He dashed upstream and he darted downstream, and he jumped and flipped over and over again like a bottle-nosed dolphin at Sea World. After he tired out a bit, I got him into the palm of my hand.
He flipped around so much that he managed to snag the microscopic bead-heads hook into my sun glove and make his escape. Oh well, so much for the Kodak moment! He was no longer than the pocket on my shirt and no bigger around than my thumb. Giant rainbow roe! How funny. A couple of casts later something much bigger hit my line, and the reel-drag singing was on! I was hand-braking the spool to slow him down just like you see them do it on all those fake trout fishin' DVD's that you buy. Soon this fish also broke the water surface spinning and flipping like a Tarpon, he looked to be over a one-pounder, maybe even two, and I'm guessing 15 to 17-inches long. I stuffed the end of my rod into the water attempting to keep him from jumping, but this stubborn fish wanted to fly, and kept jumping-flapping his flippers like a bat. No matter what I did this trout would jump. On the sixth or seventh jump and after a great battle that last about 45-seconds, he spit out the hook like a chaw of tobacco... Oh fiddlesticks, he got away! This was by far the best battle of the day, and as always, the "Big One" that got away.
Both of these fish were hooked around 2pm. I'd been fishing for about 3-hours and for the next 2-1/2 hours there were many exciting strikes. I couldn't count how many times I felt something hit the line, but did not react in time to set the hook, or maybe I set the hook too strong and pulled it from their mouth. I just didn't know. It was as if they were mocking me. I talked with a few other "skunked" fly-fishermen as they walked by from down river. They had been experiencing the same thing. For some reason, the trout had been taunting them and their flies for hours.
So far I had not 'landed' a fish; not counting the half-smoked cigar; and I was growing doubtful that I would land anything. It was becoming hard to talk myself into staying the remainder of the day because of the gusting cold wind, and standing up to my "crouch" in cold water. I was shivering, and at times feeling like those diapered bipeds had looked. Furthermore, the wind I was casting into was worse than any wind I have encountered at any time in my life while fishing on the Texas Coast.
Once, when I made a cast into the wind, all 20 feet or so of the line stayed completely behind the rod, sailing like an Irish pennant for about 10-seconds before sagging. Absolutely no penetration loop! Another time, during an unusually calm moment and after 25' of cast line had straightened out and I was ready to casr to the targeted surface of the river, a gust came up and pushed the entire line back into a pile beneath the tip of the rod before it or the leader fell to the water. I admit being a novice at fly-casting, with but 2 years experience-but I have never had that happen, nor have I ever had a problem with wind knots. Today was a constant problem of wind knots, except I called them devil knots because I don't think the wind could have caused the type of knots I had. Only Satan himself could've tied these. I decided it must be time to have a couple of my famous cram sandwiches.
After a little food and spending thirty minutes in dry-dock, I felt warmer and rested. I had also taken the time to make a shorter leader hoping it would be a tad easier to handle in the wind. It was now about 5:30 pm and it seemed the wind might be dying off a tad, so after I'd used a piece of 4X tippet to floss some dubbing from between my teeth, (I guess I shouldn't have held the flies in my mouth while I made the new leader.), I went back to my little bend in the river which I had grown so fond of. Almost immediately I was getting strikes, but I still wasn't able to set the hook. Then, about 5:45 pm, the thing we all hope for started happening. They started rising!
I was standing almost precisely in the center of the river, and on both edges where the water was smooth the rises were quite obvious. I made a cast above a rise, and the wind blew the cast to hit the ripple dead center! No, no, above the rise, and let the fly float down to it, stupid wind! But, before I could think about another cast a fish rolled over the fuzzy fly. I quickly set the hook and the fight was on. What dumb luck! Did you hear that? The fight was on. Yes, Yes, Yes! She ran left, she ran right, she ran upstream, she ran downstream, and then she jumped, and then she started to tire, and then I started bringing her in... wooo-hooo where's the net? Got the net. Lead her into the net. Yessss.
I shouted, "I Landed the trout! OH YEAH, OH YEAH, I DID IT, OH YEAH, I CAUGHT A TROUT OH YEAH! Drum-roll... cymbal crash... Wait..." Shhh! It's all quiet except for echoes off of the cliff, of this pear-shaped nut, splashing around in the river, like a killer whale in a backyard pool! I looked around, listened, and I finally realized I was the only one on the river, and actually it was real quiet. I knew I'd over reacted, maybe just a little! I was a little less embarrassed now that I knew I was alone, but how was I going to get a picture of this moment? Oh well, fish in one hand, camera in the other, smile fishy, smile fishy - click. Better take one more just in case. Smile fishy, click. I hope I had the camera pointed towards us.
I wasn't feeling the cold at all now, and believe it or not, all that shouting and splashing around didn't stop the rising trout! Miracles do happen. The wind was even calmer and trout could be seen rising everywhere. Then I made the next cast toward a rise, strike and miss. Another cast... strike and miss. Another, strike and miss. (Beginning to sound like Texas Rangers Baseball isn't it?) Anyway, I was trying to figure out (casting to the rise) stuff and it just wasn't working, so... for the next 30 minutes I kept trying. Finally, I accidentally did it right! Wham, caught the fool and landed him too!
It was getting pretty dark, the wind had ceased, andI was working my way back upriver to the truck, casting to rises as I went. After the "accidental" time of doing it right, I "on purpose" did the same thing several times and caught more fish. I didn't land them all, but I was getting the timing down. Wow, now I had some real fun. The whole day was great, but the last 1-1/2 hours made the entire day a splendid learning experience.
So, I guess this is how you learn to fly-fish, even when you are fishing alone. You keep trying until you "accidentally" get it right a few times, enjoying the river and the unity of nature surrounding you. Then you kind-of get the hang of it, and you know more of what to do next time.
Maybe I'll do better more often next time and land more trout. At least I, and my Canary-cloth "cheep-cheep" waders, am hoping so. I don't know who is hooked more now, me or the trout! Now it's time to try for some river type, Sand Bass, or who knows what else. I sure did like that clear water fishing.
If I just could get thist dad-burn dubbing from tween these two teefths... Anyone goth a toofpict I kin borrow?
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