Summer Bassin’

The rainy weather is keeping me from going to the marshes so I’m going to make the most of it by staying local and fishing for bass and bream. Oh, and I’ve been tying a few flies too. I’ve been venturing away from my deer hair bugs and I’ve been tying with foam lately to target bluegill.

So, this report will cover two morning fishing trips. One in my neighborhood lake and the other at my buddy’s private lake. The private lake is my go-to spot when I really want a quiet morning that us going to be 90% productive. So Monday, my body clock woke me up at 5:30 again and I walked my kayak a block-and-a-half to our neighborhood lake. I’m really blessed because we actually have two lakes that are adjacent to each other…separated by a small concrete dam. We call them the “upper” lake and the “lower” lake. To get a change of scenery, all I have to do is either fish the upper lake or the lower lake. I find that the upper lake, which is more shallow, provides a better fly fishing experience (mostly with poppers). The lower lake is deeper, it is much larger, and it has more numbers (and probably has larger fish). I have heard reports of local kids catching 8-pound bass in both lakes though, so there are probably big fish in both. However, I find that the bass can be more challenging to catch on flies in the lower lake. Well that theory went bust, if you read my previous post. I caught five nice bass in the lower lake.

I was wanting a change of scenery Monday, so I slipped my kayak in the water around 5:50 in the upper lake. I noticed that the shad were no longer spawning near the banks but I still had confidence that I could get a couple of takers on poppers. Much to my surprise, it was a very slow morning. I did catch a nice bluegill on a size 1/0 popper and two 12-inch bass.

This was a very ambitious eater!
Just under 12 inches
Right at 12

I decided to hop the levee and fish the lower lake, the one where I had success on the previous trip. I didn’t even manage a bite. All was quiet. My biggest catch of the morning was this. I always pick up any trash I find in the neighborhood lakes and dispose of it appropriately. Hard seltzer and Coors Light?? You’ve got to be kidding me! 🙂

Does no one in my neighborhood drink good beer???

So fast forward a couple of mornings. I had the kayak loaded in the back of my truck and I was armed with two 5 wt rods; one with a deer hair popper (to imitate the crawfish the bass have been eating) and the other with a Musicdoc shad. I made the 35 minute run to my buddies lake and I slipped my kayak in the water just before 6 AM. Immediately, I saw some bait working the shoreline (spawning shad) and a few big swirls of fish feeding. After a few misguided casts, I finally was able to get a nice one to eat. It was a healthy 14-inch bass that I released. I had to work the shoreline pretty hard before I caught my next bass on the popper.

crawfish imitation deer hair popper worked on this 11-inch bass

My buddy has instructed me that if I want to continue to fish his lake, I have to harvest everything under 15-inches. He wants to make it a trophy lake. So, this little guy went on the stringer. I noticed that the herons and egrets (I wish I would have taken pictures because I saw at least 4 different species) were having a lot more success than me and were gorging themselves on the shad that were flittering and fluttering near the shore. I decided to switch to my rod with the shad streamer on it and I soon had a nice hookup.

This one ate the Musicdoc shad

I kept looking to see if I could identify a specific pattern. In previous trips, I’ve been able to sight fish for the bass by watching for them as they work in groups of two or three to “herd” baitfish up against the bank. I never saw that this morning. I did see an occasional single fish eat near the bank but by the time I paddled over there, it had most likely either moved or gotten its fill. It has been well documented that summertime bass fishing is tough. Large bass seem to know that they have to get a lot of bang for their buck. They need an easy meal, one that will fill them up so they don’t have to feed as aggressively throughout the hot day. I figured that was why I was only catching smaller fish. Most of the bass were in deeper water. I began to fish my shad fly about 10-15 feet from the bank and that’s where I had my most success.

Even this chunky bluegill was eating shad today.
Another one that ate the Musicdoc Shad

I managed to catch seven bass, which is normally a good morning. However, this lake usually produces double-digit numbers of bass for me. I decided to call it a morning around 9:30 and I headed home to get some work done for school. I did catch an 18-inch fish that had the mouth of a 4 -pound fish but the body of a 2-and-a-half pound fish. (I actually weighed it)

I did harvest six bass in all and I was surprised to see that all of them had empty stomachs. I guess the summer heat has them lethargic. Oh, well, you know what that means, right? More research! 🙂

Tight loops and tight lines!

Happy 5th of July :)

That’s not a typo…Happy July 5th…well.. I mean, I had a happy trip to my neighborhood lake this morning. My body clock woke me up at 5:30 so I grabbed a cup of coffee, put my kayak on wheels, grabbed two 5 wt rods and my 3 wt. and I carted my yak a block and a half to my neighborhood lake. My goal was to relax and just catch fish. I began with a hare’s ear nymph under a strike indicator and I started catching small bluegill.

It was a bit foggy and there was a slight mist on the water. I heard a few splashes from some feeding bass, so I switched over to a deer hair popper in one of my frog patterns. I was working some water near some overhanging brush in the water when I caught my first bass, a feisty 10-inch fish. I quickly released that fish and began to wonder if maybe a pattern would develop. Two casts later, I was fighting a very feisty 14-inch bass that went airborne several times.

This feisty fish went airborne several times. Notice the frog pattern popper by its tail.

If you take a closer look at the photo, you can see the overgrown brush by the water’s edge. I began to think that the bass were sitting in the shade, waiting for an easy meal. So, I continued to work that stretch of water. After about 10 minutes or so, I found myself stripping my popper parallel to the edge when a massive explosion of water struck my fly. I set the hook hard and I knew right away it was a big fish. This bass dug down and took off for deeper water at first. It started pulling my kayak and then it doubled back toward the cover where it probably was initially hiding in wait for an easy meal. I tried to turn it but it dug down into a bunch of cover and my line had wrapped around the branches of a sunken tree limb. You know that sinking feeling when you know you’re about to lose a good fish? Well I had that feeling. I’m sure at that point I started talking to that fish, calling it a few names I won’t repeat here. That son-of-a-gun was a smart fish! I didn’t quite know how to approach this. If I tried to horse it out, it would surely break my tippet and the fish would be gone. So, I gave it some slack, thinking it might unwrap itself and head back out to open water. That didn’t work. My third idea was to reach my hand down and grab the limb and pull it up toward me. I thought I could land the limb and the fish. I started pulling the heavy branch up but the best I could do, was get the fish closer to me where I could see its size. I nearly tipped my kayak over a couple of times trying to pull the limb up while I kept tension on the fish. Finally, I worked my fingers down the tippet until I found the branch it was wrapped around and I was able to snap the branch. The fish took off…still hooked! By this time, one of the the people who lives on the lake had seen the commotion and he walked over to the water’s edge to see if I would land it. As long as I could keep it in open water, I felt like I had a chance. Finally, what seemed like forever (well maybe 5 minutes), I lipped the fish and brought it over the side of my kayak.

This was a very healthy fish.
It’s hard to get a perspective on just how big its mouth was. Here, you can see how this 1/0 popper looks tiny in its mouth.
This fish measured 20.5 inches.

I wish I had a scale with me. My last digital scale got soaked and it doesn’t work anymore. I would conservatively estimate that it was between 4 and a half to 5 pounds, but I’ll never know for sure. Maybe I’ll catch it again some day. By now, I thought I had found a pattern. I had caught three bass in a 50 yard stretch of water within a half hour of each other. I continued to work the same bank and 15 minutes later, I had caught another bass. This one wasn’t as big as the last one but it was a descent fish at around 14 inches.

It was around 8 AM now and the sun had burned through the early morning fog. I wasn’t getting any more action with my popper, so I switched back to my hare’s ear nymph. I continued to catch bream and must to my enjoyment, I was able to catch bluegill, a red-ear sunfish (chinquapin) and a pumpkin-seed sunfish.

Close-up of the bluegill
Close-up of the pretty red-ear
Closeup of the pumpkin seed, the prettiest member of the sunfish family (in my opinion)

I had a few more areas I wanted to try, in search of bull bream but the big bluegills and chinquapin just haven’t shown themselves since the flood of 2016. Since I had caught three different species of sunfish (well 4 if you call a bass a sunfish) I thought I’d try to see if I could catch a crappie and make it five different fish. I tied on a chartreuse and black fluff butt and began working some downed timber and the posts to a bridge that I have had some success in previous trips. I didn’t get any crappie to hit but I did get another descent-sized bass to eat my fluff butt.

This one was long but wasn’t as fat as the others I had caught this morning.

Well, It was nearing 10 when I decided to call it a morning. I had grass to cut and other honey dos to get to before the rain comes this afternoon. It was a “happy” and productive morning. I hope yours was too.

Tight loops and tight lines to you all!

Happy Fourth of July. Catching new species on the Fly Rod.

Wow! We have already gone through the month of June and I haven’t added much to this blog. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been fishing…well not that much. I did manage one trip to Delacroix with a buddy of mine and I managed to catch two 21-inch redfish. Not a new species for me, but I had these two pictures I had to share. 🙂

One of two redfish that I was able to actually land 🙂
Pretty pumpkin color on these fish.

Now for the new species. For quite some time now, I’ve wondered why some fly fishermen travel hundreds of miles to remote areas to catch 5 and 6 inch trout. Some of these fish have names like Apache trout, Gila trout, etc. I get why they like fishing remote areas. I love people. I just don’t love having to share my fishing hole with bunches of them while I fish. As for new species, I recall the thrill I experienced three years ago when I caught my first Chicken Dolphin on the fly rod. I brought my 8 wt. with me on an offshore trip I made. You can read about it here. (https://kevinandry.wordpress.com/2018/07/02/redefining-the-word-epic/) But those fish were three-to-five-pound fish and they pulled hard. Well it’s taken three years since that trip for me to finally get got an opportunity to catch a new species on my fly rod..and while the fish were relatively small, the experience of catching a rare fish for the first time was totally cool. Last week, my family took a trip to the Texas hill/wine country to do some relaxing with my three beautiful grandchildren. We spent three days in a cabin on the Blanco River and I was able to “sneak” out with my fly rod one drizzly morning. I said, “sneak,” but I really had planned to do some fishing at least for a few hours one morning during this trip. I was having so much fun with my family, (I did mention Texas Wine country too so there was plenty wine consumed during this trip) that I didn’t feel the urge to wake up early without the grandkids and fish without them until the very last morning. To be perfectly honest though, the first two days I spent on the water with the grandkids provided me with opportunities to scout the area near our cabin for fish. We waded, swam with “floaties, and we even rented a kayak one morning to explore the area. By the third morning, I had a good idea what areas would be holding fish.

The morning I ventured out, the weather didn’t look too promising. There were lots of showers in the area and it was already drizzling. I knew this would be my last chance to fish the Blanco, so I wasn’t going to let a little rain keep me off the water. We had used all the ziplock bags for leftover food and such, so I had no way of keeping my phone dry and I definitely didn’t want to risk soaking it if I stepped into deep water (which I did) or if I slipped and fell (which I also did). So, I realized that any fish I did catch would not get photographed. I began the morning with a foam dry fly that a buddy of mine uses for trout and carp. I use the fly for big bluegill by my house and I figured I’d catch a few bluegill, and maybe a small bass or two on it. About five minutes into my fishing, I placed a perfect cast by a submerged log and I got a good eat from a feisty Rio Grande Cinchid. Although it wasn’t the first time I’ve caught a Rio, it was the first time I actually caught one in Texas.

This is what a typical Rio looks like. Mine was probably about 10 inches long, so I was quite pleased with myself.

My next species was a very small black bass. Not a new species either, but nevertheless, I was catching fish on a dry fly in the Blanco River. The next few fish I caught, however, were brand new to me. In fact, I had to look the species up on the internet to confirm what kind of sunfish it was. They were a type of sunfish called the red breast sunfish. This sunfish has a “long ear” but doesn’t have the beautiful coloration of the long ear. I also noted that the mouth on these little fish is quite large, somewhere between a regular bluegill and a warmouth (which we call goggle-eye in South Louisiana). I probably caught 8 or so of these fish which ranged from about 3 inches to maybe 7 inches for the biggest one.

Redbreast Sunfish

The most exciting new species for me, however, was the rare Guadalupe bass. I landed three of these little guys, with the largest one going about 11 inches or so. I’m so used to catching largemouth bass, the coloration of these guys caught me by surprise at first. I had read about people catching this subspecies of bass so I kind of had an idea there were a few of them in the Blanco. Plus, I had seen a couple large ones (probably 1.5-2 lbs) when I was in the kayak the previous day. The water was so clear, it was obvious they weren’t largemouth bass.

Here is a photo of a Guadalupe

I don’t know if I’ll ever find myself chasing Apache trout or Gila trout, but I can check the Guadalupe bass and the red breast sunfish off my bucket list. I have to invest in a waterproof phone protector because I don’t have any real “photo” evidence from this trip but there is a silver lining to this. We found a great winery in Fredericksburg and my daughter and her husband joined their wine club, so we have an excuse to go back soon…YES!!!

Now that we are in the thick of sweat-fest 2021, and the summer thunderstorm pattern has developed, I’ll probably have to limit my fishing to early morning jaunts out to local ponds and lakes. If the weather looks like it will be conducive to sight-fishing, however, I’ll probably head to my beloved South Louisiana marshes to chase the “spot-tailed Elvis,” as a good friend of mine calls him.

Happy Fourth of July! Tight loops and tight lines to you all.