Sunday, December 20, 2015

Winter Forays

It seems that this year, the cold fronts have coincided with the weekends. I have three sets of clients who are waiting to come down, and every weekend for the past several weeks has been too cloudy or windy or cold or too close to Thanksgiving. But the last two weekends have been fair to middling, for at least one day. So I've taken advantage of the weather windows to go out with my brother and son. Two weeks ago, Chip and I went out for big trout, only to find the tides too high to sight cast for big trout, at least in the areas where they were holding up. So we went to a back lagoon where I'd found big reds a year ago feeding explosively along a shoreline. We planed it a bit too far, and ran over an oversized red before we shut down. I poled into the lagoon, which was about 8 acres, almost landlocked. At first we saw nothing, and then I spotted the back of redfish along the far shoreline, glimmering in the sunlight. We donned our waders, and Chip got out to stalk the redfish, while I poled 200 yards down the shoreline and slipped overboard. Chip got a single shot at an approaching red--probably the same fish I'd seen. Meanwhile, I saw three feeding, and caught the second one--a 24" red. The last one would have been a photo-op. I saw it tailing and rolling in about 9 inches of water, so he was always in view as I waded closer. Finally I made a long backcast and dropped the Kingfisher spoon to a spot about 2 feet from him. I thought it was a winner. I let it sink, and stripped once, and whoosh, he spooked. Apparently, he'd gone over to inspect the noise, and then spooked when the spoon abruptly moved. Oh well, there's always a fine line between a perfect presentation and an insult, and the fish is only judge in the beauty contest. So it was an insult, simple as that.

Yesterday, my son Ryan and I went out after birding for the first three hours of the day. It had been so cold during the night that the last thing we wanted to do was venture out on the boat. So we grabbed out cameras and headed by car to Atascosa Refuge where we hoped to spot various raptors, and maybe be a photo or two. We were pleased to see the usual suspects--Harris's, Northern Harrier (Marsh hawk), Kestrels, White-Shoulder Kites, and huge hawk that I could not identify. The high point was spotting an Aplomado Falcon that shot across the road and took up position in a plowed field. Ryan had never seen one, so he was really pleased. 

It was getting warm around 9:30, so we went back to Arroyo City and launched the Stilt. We checked the East side sand, but there wasn't much to be seen, except for a few Sheepshead. It was the first day of a warming trend, and it's rare to find the gamefish on the sand that early. As a rule, one should target the second day (and beyond) of a warming trend, and skip the first day. So we turned south and headed for north Cullen's Bay. The tides were still a bit high for sight casting to giant trout, but I hoped that the full sun had warmed the shallowest areas, where mats of dark turtle grass warm the surrounding water in the midday sun. We made two long wades after seeing several trout in the 4-8 lb range, and a bunch of redfish fleeing from the boat. Alas, we didn't see much at all during the wade. The wind was so low that the surface glare restricted our view of the bottom; and because the water was knee-deep, which is deep for sight casting, we couldn't see very well. So we picked up and headed further west, and into shallower water. There we found greater concentrations of both species, so we stopped and went for another wade toward the west shoreline. Ryan quickly got a shot at a large tailing red, and then I got an opportunity at a trout in the 26-28" range. I should have caught it, but the fly landed just a bit too close to the fish, and it turned. Two feet ahead of a big trout can be much too close in calm conditions. My second cast was perfect--about five feet ahead of the fish, and just a hair beyond its path, but the fish was already too pissed off to consider it. As I was heading back to the boat, I saw an oversized red tailing vigorously about 150 yards away, and I decided to go for it. Once I got within range, it called for an 80-foot, cross-wind back cast, but I made the cast twice. Alas, the fish never saw the fly, given the thick turtle grass that surrounded it. Finally, it disappeared and I returned to the boat. It was a perfect day with a few good opportunities. Ending up with no fish is very crude measure of success. We will probably always remember the day for its quality of opportunity and fellowship, not its quantity.

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