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Category Archives: Texas

John Gierach on a Texas 10-Pound Fly Rod Bass

In keeping with my primary blogging topic of this week, I turned to the great John Gierach today for a little perspective on landing a 10-pound bass in Texas.

Here’s an excerpt from his essay “Texas” pulled from the book “Dances with Trout:”

10 Pound Bass Release

John Gierach provides insight into landing – and losing – a 10-pound largemouth on the fly in Texas.

I never did land the ten-pound bass on a fly rod — which you can do in south Texas — but I had one on. At least that’s what a gentleman named Dan said from the seat next to me in the big red bass boat one day. I was fishing some kind of a streamer on a sink-tip line and had gotten a little lazy, as you can do on a hot day fishing from a plush seat, roll casting with your right hand and holding a cold Lone Star in your left.

The fish hit, I struck and had him on for about as long as it took for him to come to the surface, jump and throw the hook. “That would have gone about ten,” Dan said casually. “You should have set up harder.”

I was trying to fix in my mind that fleeting glimpse of the biggest largemouth bass I’d ever seen alive and I almost said, “How the hell am I supposed to set up harder with a beer in my hand? but of course the answer was obvious. You can fish and drink at the same time, but you can’t do both well.

Later I told Ed about the big bass that had gotten off. He said, “Well, that’s another one you can think about for the rest of your life.

Losing a 10-pound bass on the fly rod? Yep, I’d think about that for the rest of my life too.

Morals gleaned from this Gierach story?

1. Fly fish in Texas – 10-pound largemouth bass do exist here and can be hooked on the fly.

2.. Don’t get lazy when you fly fish because that will be the moment that a fish of a lifetime will strike your fly.

3. Leave the beer cooler back in camp. You can’t catch the fish of a lifetime and guzzle Lone Star at the same time.

4. Set up harder.

5. Have a fly fishing friend named Ed Engle who can help provide a little perspective when the fish of a lifetime strikes your fly, gets hooked, leaps into the air so you get a good visual image of how big the bass really was, and then gets off by throwing he hook.

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Just How Big Is That Fly Rod Bass?

If you follow the drivel in this space, you’ll remember that a few days ago I penned something to the effect that one of the Holy Grails of warmwater fly fishing is the catching of a 10-pound bass on the fly.

That accomplishment – which so far eludes me – is definitely on my bucket list of things to accomplish with the long-rod.

Which begs the question – for me at least – of just how truly big a 10-pound largemouth bass really is on the fly?

World-class largemouth bass weighing 15-pounds or better are rarely caught on the fly. John Lindsey, Jr. got close to the coveted mark in the fall of 2000 when he caught this 14-pound, 14-ounce largemouth bass while fly fishing in Texas. (TPWD photo)

For the answer to that, let me turn to a once-upon-a-time conversation I had with a fishing friend when we tried to quantify just how big a really big largemouth bass is on the overall scale of things.

To get an idea of where a truly big bass falls on the list of outdoor accomplishments, we turned to a scale of sorts that many of us in Texas (my home state) are familiar with each fall, the pastime of deer hunting.

With big antlers as our backdrop, we tried to compare what a certain sized bass would equivocate to in the world of free-range typical whitetails roaming across North America.

I’d say that relative scale goes something like this:

* A 10-lb. bass is the equivalent of a 160-inch typical deer (meaning, it’s difficult but it can be done if you hunt/fish long enough).

* A 11/12 lb. bass equals a 170-inch whitetail (it’s very difficult and your odds of accomplishing this feat are starting to go way down).

* A 13/14 lb. bass is the equivalent of a 180-inch whitetail (only a few ever succeed at this level each year).

* A 15/16 lb. bass equals a 190-inch whitetail (only a handful succeed at this level…EVER).

* A 17/18 lb. bass is the fishing equivalent of tagging a 200-inch whitetail (this is very rare territory indeed, a place of rarefied air where only a dozen or so people ever know the feeling of securing this accomplishment…EVER).

* Anything at or above the 18/20 lb. mark or above 200-inch barrier is moving towards world record territory (getting to this level of accomplishment is all but non-existent for most and happens only once or twice in a generation).

So just how far up this relative scale can a fly fisherman climb?

I’d like to believe that in the right place and at the right time – for instance, a rainbow-trout stocked clear-water lake in California; a big bass lake filled with tilapia in Mexico; or a stateside water body brimming with gizzard and threadfin shad like Lake Falcon or Lake Fork in Texas – an angler could land a bucketmouth bass on the upper end of this scale.

But practical reality might suggest otherwise. That’s because the historical record from the International Game Fish Association (www.igfa.org ) suggests that anything at or above the 15-pound mark is dicey territory for a largemouth bass angler toting a fly rod.

In fact, I can only find one record of a 15-pound bass ever having been successfully landed by a fly angler.

And that bass was caught by Larry Kurosaki on Feb. 26, 2009 when the fly fishing guru landed an IGFA 8-pound tippet class world record fly rod largemouth bass in California. The fish tipped the scales at 16-pounds, 12-oz. and was caught as Kurosaki fished at Castaic Lagoon.

While I’ve occasionally seen a photo here or there – not to mention hearing a rumor or two – reporting the catch of a similar sized bass, that one lone IGFA mark above stands as the only documented time that a largemouth bass weighing better than 15-pounds has been successfully landed by a fly angler.

(Editor’s Note: Other IGFA fly rod tippet class world record largemouths of note include: 6-pound tippet record of 14 pounds, 2 oz. caught by John Lindsey, Jr. at Lake Meredith, Texas, on Oct. 20, 2000;  12-pound tippet record of 14 pounds, 8 oz. caught by Larry Kurosaki at Castaic Lagoon in California on Feb. 24, 2007; and the 16-pound tippet record of 12 pounds, 11 oz. caught by Dennis Ditmars at Lake Dixon, Calif. on April 30, 1998).

If you’re a student of the bass fishing game, you’ll note that all of those records above fall well short of the current shared world record mark of 22-pounds, 4-oz., a pair of behemoth largemouth bass caught more than 70 years apart.

(Editor’s Note: The first WR bass was caught by George Perry on June 2, 1932 in Georgia and the latest WR bass was caught by Manabu Kurita in Japan on July 2, 2009).

Why is landing a truly world-class largemouth bass so hard on the fly rod?

For starters, such bass are rare creatures to begin with anywhere in North America. That’s true even in places blessed with an abundance of giant bass waters like those found in California, Florida, Texas or south of the border in Mexico.

Second, the few specimens that do grow to such sizes are rarely caught by anyone including conventional anglers whizzing about the water in $60,000 bass rigs decked out with the latest 250 hp motors; high-powered trolling motors; and down-imaging, side-scanning electronic sonars.

Those same fishermen toss a variety of realistic looking and scented hard and soft-plastic lures, baits that are flung on baitcasting rod and reels filled with space-age super monofilament lines, fluorocarbon line, or 65-pound braid.

And these guys rarely catch such behemoth bigmouth bass despite probing the water column from shallow to deep and everywhere in between during the annual 24/7/365 cycle.

Third, giant largemouth bass are rarely found in shallow water. And when they are, it’s at best for a few days each spring during the yearly spawn.

Quite frankly, that fact puts such gargantuan bass almost out of reach for fly anglers unless they are adept at probing deeper waters with full sinking lines or sink tips and large-sized flies.

Fourth, merely hooking such a giant bass on fly tackle is one thing. Successfully landing it on fly tackle is quite another.

From line-nicking timber to heavy submerged vegetation to rough-edged rocks to the pure brute strength of a world-class bass hooked by an angler, many things conspire to work against a fly angler being able to successfully land a real mossback bass on the fly.

Take my friend Rob Woodruff for instance, the Orvis endorsed Lake Fork fly fishing guide (www.flyfishingfork.com ; (903) 967-2665) who annually puts clients on dozens and dozens of fish in the five to eight-pound range.

Each year, RW has a small handful of clients that successfully hook and land bass from Lake Fork that approach the 10-pound mark on a Boga Grip scale. For a little perspective, Lake Fork’s overall lake record is 18.18-pounds (a fish that is the current Texas state record largemouth bass) while it’s fly fishing record sits at 9.52-pounds.

And each year Woodruff has an even bigger number of anglers who hook such bass but for a variety of reasons like those noted above eventually fail to land those fish.

With his own personal best bass on the fly at Fork being 11.75-pounds and his clients’ best fish weighing in at 11.25 pounds,  few guides are better qualified than Woodruff to discuss the art of landing big bass on the fly.

Woodruff wryly notes that he’s all but certain that he has had even bigger fish on himself and with clients. Perhaps even at or above the coveted Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s 13-pound ShareLunker mark.

But again, landing such a bass in a timber infested lake like Fork is a chore that is rarely accomplished.

Even by the best in fly fishing.

“I heard someone say once that fly fishing for big fish requires grace and that grace is earned,” notes the Texas A&M grad. “It doesn’t come easily in fly fishing.”

But that won’t keep Woodruff from trying again.

Me either.

After all, somewhere and someday, an angler will probably eventually land a bass in the 20-pound range while toting a fly rod.

And that might as well be me.

Or you.

 

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Texoma Striper Blues…

Lake Texoma is experiencing low water levels not seen since Jimmy Carter was in the White House.

October is normally a great month in these parts.

The first flashes of color on the Creator’s canvas.

Cool nights, mild days.

Waterfowl, shorebirds, and Monarch butterflies migrating south through North Texas.

And some great fly fishing action for Texoma striped bass.

But this year isn’t normal, far from it in fact.

Why? Newsflash: Texas is experiencing a major drought.

If you didn’t know that already, the current dry spell is the worst since the mid-1950s.

And that was a Lulu.

So is the current dust bowl, leaving the Lone Star State parched, burning, and left for dead.

Speaking of left for dead, that’s the status of the home water these days, the used-to-be 89,000-acre Lake Texoma, now at its lowest level since Carter was prez.

609.95 is the current level, 617.00 is the normal level.

Throw in a blue-green algae outbreak over the past month (Note: fishing and boating are still open but the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is prohibiting contact with the water) and I’ve got a serious case of the blues.

Of the want to go kayaking and fly fishing blues.

But that ain’t going to happen anytime soon.

The latest tests from Uncle Sam say that the algae levels remain at warning levels. More cooler weather and rain – something that isn’t in the forecast – are needed to reduce the algae bloom and bring the toxin levels back to safe levels.

That all but puts off any kayak fishing plans I might have.

Now if you have a boat, all is good on Texoma. (Full disclosure: I don’t have a boat though I am always in the market for one. The wife and yours truly are negotiating a boat deal as we speak. No final deal as of yet, but we’re making progress since we’re only about $40,000 apart!).

Aside from the difficulty of launching a rig at some boat ramps, for those fortunate souls who do get on the water, Texoma is the big empty these days, all but devoid of any traffic these days.

And the stripers are still there by the gazillions. While it is commonly known that Texoma is perhaps the nation’s best sweetwater spot for catching a linesider, the current fishing is nearly epic.

Seriously.

In fact, one local guide complained on the Texas Fishing Forum a day or two ago about having a “sore arm” from catching dozens of striped bass at Texoma. Another boasted of an 82-fish day this week.

And their reports are the norm right now for those who can get on the water.

Amazingly enough, despite a horrid summer of triple digit heat and dry weather that produced lake temps in the mid-90s late this summer, Texoma’s famous striped bass population is in robust shape.

They have been chowing on shad all year-long and are fat, happy, and tough to land. Especially on an eight-weight Temple Fork fly rod.

Maybe one day I’ll remember what that feels like, a striper trying to expose the backing on my Orvis fly reel.

In the meantime, I try in vain to shake a serious case of the Texoma striper blues.

Algae, drought, and otherwise.

 

The Happy Meal Principle

If you can find a salty place free of oil – thanks for nothing BP! – early summer is a great time to fly fish the brine.

Wherever your ocean-going fly line finds you the next couple of months, the key to finding inshore fish now or at any other time of the year comes down to a couple of basic principles. 

Want to see more fish at the end of your fly line this summer? Then follow the "Happy Meal" Principle.

First, successful saltwater fly anglers understand the basic biology that drives the fish. 

Second, they also understand where the bulk of the fish that they seek are getting their daily and/or seasonal needs met in the most energy-efficient manner.

“It ain’t rocket science,” says my pal, the now retired Texas Parks and Wildlife Department coastal fisheries biologist Dr. Bill Harvey.

“Good tournament anglers, they’re always talking about fishing a pattern. What they’re actually searching for is that optimal intersection of oxygen, temperature, food, and light.”

Find such a spot and you’re likely in business, at least when it comes to catching redfish and speckled trout on the fly.

“For fish, life is all about energy in and energy out, or finding the maximum amount of energy intake with the least amount of energy being expended,” Harvey said.

“In other words, they must maintain a positive energy balance,” he added.

“If I’m not catching fish, I start thinking about that. That place where fish will have that positive energy balance will be at the intersection of those four variables of oxygen, temperature, food availability, and light.”

Just call it the “Happy Meal” Principle.

“I could run to McDonald’s and get one French fry and run home and eat it and then come back and do the same thing over again,” Harvey said.

“But I’d probably starve to death because even though there are plenty of French fries there, I’d be expending far too much energy to get them and eat them. It would make far more sense to stay in the parking lot closer to the supply of French fries.”

Where do you find such a fast-food line for specks and reds?

“In saltwater, first of all, I’m going to look for tide movement,” Harvey said.

Why?

To start with, because it’s a conveyor belt for the steady supply of small marine fish and organisms that sea-trout and redfish enjoy dining on.

But such tidal movement can also help keep inshore fish a bit cooler during the warm weather months and toastier during the cold weather months.

Since game fish lurking in shallow saltwater are especially sensitive to water temperature changes, Harvey has spent the last few years keying on plumes.

And these plumes aren’t detrimental to inshore fish like the toxic oil plumes currently marauding through portions of the Gulf of Mexico.

Instead, these are thermal plumes of water.

While such plumes are harder to find in warm weather months, slightly cooler water can be found on tides flowing from shady areas, deep water areas, or current filled areas.

And all it takes is a degree or two of cooler water to make a difference that the fish will notice.

This is why fly fishing near rock jetties like those at the east end of the Port Mansfield Cut, at Port Aransas, or at Port Isabel can be so effective in summer months.

Ditto for fishing near the Intercoastal Waterway or the Brownsville Ship Channel.

Redfish, trout, flounder, ladyfish, sharks, snook, and even tarpon can be caught in such places during the summer months.

But these thermal water plumes are also found on the opposite end of the spectrum in the winter and early spring as fish seek warmer water profiles. 

“Say you’ve got a big expansive flat where the water is 55 to 60 degrees,” Harvey explained. “On a day where the temperature is 67 to 70 degrees, sunlight warms that water rapidly.”

“As the tide falls off, you’ve got that warm water moving off that flat into the cooler water, particularly where the water has to funnel. That water will form a “heat plume” and the fish will find that plume.”

Just like you and me will find the warmth of a fireplace or wood burning stove on a chilly winter’s day.

Or how we’ll find the chill of the air conditioner on max blast when the mercury is threatening to blow the top out of the thermometer.

Either way, we’re going to look to get comfortable.

And so are the fish. 

Locate such thermally advantageous places where you are fishing this summer and you’ve likely located saltwater game fish, particularly where falling tides funnel food and bait-fish down to those fish waiting for their next meal.

“You can get on the edges of those heat plumes and just whack fish in the (fall) and winter,” Harvey said.

 The same principle applies in the summer time months too as fish work the edges of cooler water looking for an inbound “Happy Meal.”

Case in point was a few years back while I fished the Lower Laguna Madre near Port Mansfield.

Wading with Capt. Jeff Waugh, we were working our flies along the edge of a small underwater ditch that was funneling the slightest flow of water with the day’s tidal movement.

Before we were done broiling in the hot July weather, we had caught redfish, black drum, and flounder working that edge.

But Waugh topped things off by landing a spectacular eight and a half pound gator-sized speckled trout from that slight current edge.

Along with locating thermal plumes that make fish more comfortable and funnel bait-fish in their direction, Harvey says that there is a final key to angling success in the brine.

And that is to simply pay attention to what actually produces that first fish of the day at the end of your line.

“Pay attention to where you catch fish in one place,” Harvey said. “It’s likely that there will be another one in a similar place.”

“Where there is one, there’s often more than one.”

 Like kids in line for a “Happy Meal.”

And with a little luck, especially along portions of the oil-free Gulf coast this summer, maybe it will be redfish and speckled trout looking for their own version of a “Happy Meal.”

At the end of your fly line, of course.

 

Essay: Chrome, Plastic and the Big Empty

When the alarm clock rudely lives up to its name, I can think of ample reason to groan, roll over, and drift back into dreamland. 

Not the least of which is the prospect of spending a goodly portion of my day perched upon – or cramped upon as my aching back is bound to proclaim – a 12-foot piece of rotomolded plastic being tossed about on a wind-swept inland sea in North Texas known as Lake Texoma. 

Ignoring an assortment of bodily protests, I will myself out of bed and move towards the day’s objective: the catching of sweetwater chrome, striped bass on the fly.  

Chrome, both from a Chrome Clouser fly and a kayak caught striped bass, both have a way of restoring the angler's soul.

 

If pursuing a pelagic fish species by way of a sit-on-top sea kayak and a fly rod seems a bit unconventional, I suppose it is. 

But then again, when it comes to outdoor pursuits, I’ve rarely been called conventional. 

The challenge is the thing, the central aspect that brings to me the allure of fly fishing, bowhunting, and kayak fishing. In short, the more difficult the outdoor pursuit is, the more sweet the rare reward when it comes. 

Today, however, what I am seeking isn’t just the chance to hear my Orvis fly reel sing as a well-shouldered striper peels line out into the deep. 

Thanks to the uncertainty of these times and a run of misfortune, I’m hoping to lose myself – figuratively, not literally – upon the “Big Empty” expanse of the 89,000-acre reservoir that separates Oklahoma from Texas just miles from my back door. 

A day of little if any problem solving, a dearth of contemplative thinking, and a minimal amount of cerebral energy spent is the goal. 

Instead, what I come to the lake actively seeking is a day in which to lose myself in the grand wash of physical senses as I see what the Creator’s daily canvas has to offer in the way of restoring my soul. 

And of course, to catch a striped bass or two in the process. 

If there is a fish made for the fly-rodder’s non-trout game, then it must be the striped bass, a sleek and muscular predator that prowls relentlessly in pursuit of its next meal. 

On Lake Texoma, that is shad, either threadfins or the larger gizzards, whichever species happens to be the most handy to these rockbass at the time. 

Like my guide pal Steve Hollensed says, “On Texoma, it’s always a shad, shad story.” 

While reservoir stripers in the southern Great Plains may in fact be distant cousins of their wild northeastern kin, the linesiders in my home water have made themselves quite comfortable in these local environs that mimic the current filled, wind tossed, and rocky waters of New England brine.     

With similar internal metabolic engines that rarely stop churning, the book on Texoma striper fishing success has routinely been to chase them over the vast acreage with a big boat powered by a large engine consuming many gallons of petrol. And when the on-board electronics show stripers below, toss over a live shad speared on a 2/0 hook and hang on. 

My 2/0 Chrome Clouser (a silvery Krystal Flash filled version of Bob Clouser’s original fly, tied up this way by a Texas Hill Country fly-rodder named Casey Smartt) will have to do. 

And so it does as I trail the fly behind my Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120 and bear down on the paddle for a distant point. 

As sudden as a Texas spring storm, a linesider is on. 

Brought quickly to the boat, or my flimsy excuse for one, I unbutton this unexpected fish and admire its sleek form and simple chrome beauty as the warm springtime rays of early morning sun sparkle. 

I then release it to delight another angler on another day. 

Or terrorize a school of shad, whichever comes first. 

As I float bobber like in 60 feet of water, I come to realize that there is a minor point lying immediately in front of me, a blip in the lake’s bottom contour that I was about to speed by, admittedly a relative concept in any craft powered by muscle alone. 

So while a known commodity of past angling success lurks in the distance, I decide to turn my exploratory instincts loose and to see what this nearby structure might hold. 

It holds plenty of striped bass and white bass it turns out, both species reacting to the underwater topography that is allowing a southerly breeze to push the phytoplankton/shad/striped bass food chain into motion. 

Soon, I’m attached to another striper, a lean and mean 20-incher that puts a serious bend in my Temple Fork eight-weight fly rod. Brought to the boat and released, another linesider, and then another, and then another are all caught by the metallic looking creation tied at the end of my 15-lb. leader. 

In the process – and without realizing it –  the frantic pace that I hit the water with earlier is down-shifting into a lower gear as I adjust to the rhythm of the wind, the waves, and the fish. I do my best to intersect with that rhythm by the methodical casting of my fly line. 

After a period of steady action, I commit an angler’s unpardonable sin – leaving fish that are willfully biting – to continue my quest elsewhere. 

After a fairly short paddle, I reach a cove that looks deliciously inviting to the unrepentant black bass fisherman’s soul that lies within me…largemouths, smallmouths, and spotted bass beware.  

Problem is, as tempting as the cove is, I can’t find a single piscatorial critter at home among the rocks, the ledges, and the stick-ups. 

So I move on, pausing at another minor point jutting out from the rocky shoreline. 

This point, however, is a bit more shielded from the wind and as a result, I can only find a couple of stripers intent on the Morone saxatilis version of a “Happy Meal.” 

After another session of pulling hard on the paddle, I arrive at my intended destination. By now, however, I’m nearly a couple of hours into my day and it remains to be seen if the fish I expected to find are actually there or not. 

On Texoma, active schools of striped bass can cover a dozen or more miles a day in their never-ending quest for protein-rich sustenance. 

I’m banking on the fact that not all game fish in this vast reservoir possess such a nomadic spirit. 

Some stripers, according to my guide buddy Mark MacNamara, find “shad-trap” structure to their liking and more or less set up shop, at least as much as a wild striped bass is prone to do. 

A couple of casts across this point yield nothing and I begin to fret. 

But then the Rio sinking line is greeted by a sharp jolt and a strip-set strike later I am fast to the best fish of the day. 

Like his earlier pals – or is it her pals? –  this fish reacts to the sting of the hook with an initial bull-dogging run. 

But unlike the previous fish, this fish has plenty of muscle and continues to sound for the deepest contours of the lake bed below me. I grunt, lean hard into the fish, and allow it to get onto the reel where the see-saw battle slowly turns towards my favor. 

Finally, I catch a glimpse of the fish and its 24-inch frame in the water, H2O that has been made disturbingly clearer in recent months after the undesired arrival of aquatic filtering zebra mussels. 

But any concerns about the long-term effects of these invasive exotics on Texoma’s sizable and shad-driven striped bass population are momentary at best as I finally bring the quarry to hand. 

As I hoist this fine fish up for a photo and an admiring glance, a smile creases my face. 

A smile made possible by the gleam of chrome, a piece of space-age plastic, and the big emptiness of my home water. 

Back in its liquid home and revived, the fish turns and swims for the depths of the point below. 

Meanwhile, I pause and instinctively check my fly and leader…and unknowingly smile once again. 

And not because of the epic day of fly rod action that will continue to unfold around me over the next several hours. 

Instead, that outward sign of inward peace arrives on my face thanks to the realized and simple joy of being alive and blessed by God with another day upon this spinning rock. 

As that fills my soul, I gather the fly line into my hand. 

And I cast again.

 

Thunder, Lightning and the Wet Bandit

In East Texas, this week's thunder, lightning, and the "Wet Bandit" articulated fly continue to produce big fly rod bass.

 Word from Lake Fork today is that the season’s best big bass fly fishing action is on.  

And so is the spring severe storm season.  

As tornado watches this afternoon caused East Texans to glance nervously at the region’s stormy skies, guide Rob Woodruff and his client Graham Sones hoped to take advantage of the falling barometer to hook a giant bass.  

A sudden cloud-burst interrupted those plans, forcing guide and guided to duck under a bridge in an effort to keep from getting speared by a lighting bolt.  

A half-hour later, with the stormy weather having passed safely by, the duo was back at it trying to conjure up a big jolt from a lunker largemouth.  

In one electrifying smash-mouth moment, mission accomplished.  

A nine-pound, four-ounce largemouth bass caught on the fly. 

“(This was the) biggest bass landed in my boat in 2010,” Woodruff said. “It was caught on the (Danny) Soltau Wet Bandit fly.” 

The client was obviously thrilled with a near double-digit fish on Texas’ best lunker bass water.  

And the guide was equally thrilled as warm weather, near perfect water conditions, a later than normal spawn, and an approaching full moon appear to all be coming together for a run of epic warmwater fishing on the fly.  

” Things are finally getting rolling at Lake Fork,” Woodruff said. “The next couple of weeks should be great.”  

After hearing this report, three thoughts strike me.  

First, while most anglers despise the passage of a spring front, the truth is that some of the spring’s best fishing action will often be on the pre-frontal side of things.  

When the barometer falls, the opportunity to catch bass rises.  

One of my best days ever came in such a scenario as a powerful spring front approached.  

As the southerly breeze fueled the atmosphere with juicy Gulf of Mexico air, the day’s intermittent rain showers and clammy temperatures made for some uncomfortable conditions. 

But the lightning paced big bass action more than made up for that. 

Second, I’m becoming a huge believer in tossing articulated flies for big springtime bass.  

I’ve seen first hand this month how well the Danny Solatu “Wet Bandit” fly fishes for shallow water spawners at Lake Fork. 

This salamander like fly seems to infuriate skinny water fish with its wicked motion in the H2O. 

On the trip I chronicled in “Bucketmouths,” I watched this tan and white fly momentarily hook up with an 8-pound bass. 

Later that afternoon, the Bandit struck again for a 5.25 pound bass that was brought to the boat for a quick CPR session. 

This past Sunday, Woodruff’s Louisiana client Randy Street used a Bandit – in inclement weather conditions as a cold front approached, no less – to boat an 8.0 pound largemouth bass of his own at Fork.  

And after today’s stormy action, I’m betting that Mr. Sones is now a big believer in tossing the “Wet Bandit” fly when the thunder rolls.  

Why do articulated flies like the Bandit prove to be so successful in hooking bedding bass? I’m glad you asked – look for a blog column on that topic early next week.  

The third idea that leaps out at me from today’s report is that I’ve got to get to Lake Fork.  

ASAP.  

Pronto.  

Without fail.  

And you need to do the same – beg the boss, plead with the boss, bargain with the boss.  

Do whatever takes to get out of the office and onto this hallowed Lone Star State water body during the upcoming seven to 10 day period with an eight or nine-weight fly rod in your hand.  

Because my prognostication is that the spring’s best run of big bass action is about to unfold at the 27,264-acre East Texas toad factory.  

Call it a good week to be on Lake Fork, perhaps a great week to be there, maybe even an epic week to be there as another wave of late spring spawners moves up shallow on the April 28th full moon cycle.  

Sore back or not, I’m going to be there.  

Slinging “Wet Bandits” and praying for the barometer to be falling on the cusp of another round of Texas spring storms.  

And with a little piscatorial luck, maybe this time next week it will be my double-digit fly bass that you’ll be reading about.  

I can only hope so.

 

17 Pounds of Misery…

A load of pecan wood.

And a back that went out with the trash.

Thanks to that combination – care to supersize it mister? – that’s why I spent the weekend sucking down pain pills and lying in bed groaning like a man older than my three kids think that I already am.

Right in the heart of the Texas big bass spawn, mind you.

And right as the bluebonnets reach their glorious spring zenith on the Lone Star landscape. 

Laid up in the glory of a Texas spring...not a good time to be a fly fisher.

Not to mention just as the Lake Texoma striped bass begin to finally behave like they are supposed to.

So it was right on cue yesterday p.m. when word came from Rob, my fly guide bud from Lake Fork, that less than 15 minutes into a miserable weather day (often the best days to catch a big bass) client Randy Street had landed an 8.0 largemouth on a (Daniel) Solatu’s Wet Bandit.

Got to go Roberto, the back is calling you know.

This morning, I awoke to a back that seemed to be a kinder, gentler shade of unbearable.

Until the phone rang.

“Lynn, this is Steve,” confirming the wonder of Caller ID technology.

Instinctively, I reach for the Tylenol, knowing that this wasn’t a “How are you doing?” call from Steve Hollensed, owner and operator of the Lake Texoma based “Fly Water Angling Adventures.”

“Umm, I hate to ask this, but, umm, how is your back?” he queried as sound of a light spring breeze whispered in the background.

“Still sending me hare kari messages,” I moaned.

“Man, I hate to hear that. I was calling to see if you wanted to go fishing.”

Steady Burkhead, steady – here it comes.

“The stripers are going nuts out here,” he continued. “They are up on the bank and feeding like crazy. My third cast produced a 9.0 pounder – weighed her on the Boga.

“Well, I hope your back gets better. Just thought I’d call and see.

“Like I said, they are going crazy out here.”

Sure thing Stevo, just like I am back here.

Going crazy that is.

With a 17-pound gorilla on my back.