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Category Archives: Warm Water

Fly Fishing, Bass, and the Sick Wildebeest

Bassmaster Elite Series pro Kevin VanDam is without a doubt the most successful bass tournament angler of all-time.

If you don’t already know the following, consider these facts about the Kalamazoo, Mich. native: he’s the winner of four Bassmaster Classic titles; the owner of seven B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year titles; the winner of 20 B.A.S.S. events; has 96 B.A.S.S. “Top 10” finishes so far in his career; is owner of one FLW Angler of the Year title; and is a tournament pro with more than $5.6 million in combined career earnings.

When Kevin VanDam talks about how to be a better bass angler, it pays to listen closely and take notes. Even if you are a dyed-in-the-wool fly fisherman.

Put simply, KVD is the undisputed king of modern tournament bass angling.

Big deal you say? Yeah it is.

The man is a bona fide bass catching machine no matter where he fishes, the time of year that he is on the water, or what the conditions are like while he is there.

And believe it or not, KVD can teach a fly fisherman plenty about gaining more hook-ups with black bass.

As long as you’re willing to listen to what he (and other bass fishing pros) have to say and then figure out how to transfer that information to the skill set that you need while you are on the water with a fly rod in your hand.

Take, for instance, these tidbits I gleaned from angling writer Steve Price and the story he authored in the April 2010 issue of “Bassmaster” magazine

During that piece, Price queried KVD about whether or not irregular lure movement can be critical in triggering a bass to strike.

KVD’s response is one that both a lure fisherman and a fly fisherman should take to heart:

Absolutely. Bass are very much keyed to any irregular movements out of their prey, so I either use lures like tubes that have this irregular action built into them, or I add it myself.

“I’m going to jerk it, twitch it, stop it, start it, speed it up, slow it down – all the things I can do that are out of the ordinary. And I do some of them on every cast or flip. When I can combine an irregular action with speed, it’s even better.

“I’ve seen so many times when bass don’t show any interest in a school of baitfish or bluegill unless one shows a weakness, and that’s the one they pick. It’s no different than a lion chasing a wildebeest; the predator is looking for something that offers it an advantage, and bass are very good at using their habitat and the existing conditions to do that.

So how does that play out for a fly fisherman?

Simple. Don’t get caught up in the motions of making a rhythmic cast, laying your fly into a “bassy” looking area, and then methodically retrieving it back with a steady “strip, strip, strip” motion.

The same retrieve that 99% of all fly anglers seem to fall into by default.

The type of retrieve that a bass looks in the direction of before offering a yawn.

Instead, follow KVD’s advice.

Or my paraphrase of it: let your fly become a sick wildebeest.

Get the fly in tight to the places where a bass might lurk. Get the undivided attention of a big old mama bass as you strip the fly back erratically like a drunken sailor. Bang the fly into objects. Stagger it. Stop it. Start it. Rip it, pause it, and let it fall down. Vary the speed of the retrieve, fast one minute, slow the next, then somewhere in between.

In short, do all that you can to make your fly look like an easy pickings meal that a big predatory bass simply can’t refuse taking a swat at.

Do that once on an outing and you might hook a good bass.

Make that type of attention grabbing, strike triggering retrieve happen often enough and you might have an outstanding day on the water.

Learn how to incorporate such tactics into your arsenal each and every time that you take to the water and maybe one day, you’ll be known as the KVD of fly fishing for bass.

If I don’t beat you to that title first, that is.

Thanks to figuring out how to make my flies look like the sickest of all wildebeest.

 

Bass: Poppers, Porcelain Thrones and Bowling Balls

I cast a big Near Enough deer hair froggie to the edge of a five-foot-wide pothole of open water, let it sit there for two, three, maybe four minutes and then gave it a twitch. The fly went down in a rise that looked like a toilet flushing. That’s what bass fishers say. It’s not the prettiest analogy in angling, but, I’m sorry, that’s exactly what it looks like.” — John Gierach, “Texas” essay in “Dances with Trout”

There is just something terribly satisfying about watching the chug-chug of a bass popper get violently interrupted by a falling bowling ball.” — Louis Cahill, “The In-Law’s Bass Pond” essay on GinkandGasoline.com

—–

What is the take of a bass hitting a topwater popper like?

Porcelain thrones and bowling balls.

As in the former flushing and the latter falling from the sky.

This morning, yak fly fishing on one of my local bass waters, I got to experience both methods of take.

Early on, fishing a shad colored Bob’s Banger over a submerged laydown that fell off the end of a main-lake point, the fly was there one minute before totally vanishing the next.

With a commotion and sound that could only be compared to…a toilet flushing.

What’s the take of a popper like as a bass comes calling? It’s like porcelain thrones and bowling balls.

By a big bass.

I’m sad to say that I was so surprised by the sudden turmoil in the water and unexpected absence of my fly that I failed to get a proper hook set.

Which was more than enough for a bass that was probably four to five-pounds or better to dive into the flooded jungle, gain some leverage, and throw the hook.

I won’t lie – it took a while for my jangled nerves to settle down after that furious swing and a miss. It was a big fish, the kind that rattles you for a spell.

But a half-hour later, I had settled down as I plied the shaded waters of a likely looking area – shallow water, a little vegetation, some timber, and a deep-water escape route nearby.

This time, I was more than ready when a bowling ball fell from the heavens and smacked the smithereens out of the black-and-gold popper that I was now tossing.

With a good solid hook-set, I was quickly buttoned-up to this bass no matter how much he protested. He jumped once, then twice, then tried to make my kayak swap ends a couple of times.

All the while as I smiled and remembered yet again why I love playing this grand game of fly fishing for black bass.

The fish showed plenty of courage – especially for one only pushing the scales to just under the three-pound mark – as I battled him to the ‘yaks side.

Once there, I admired him, slipped the hook from his jaw, and then let him slide away from my grip back into the dark oily water surrounding this shady spot.

Not a bad morning of popper fishing.

Complete with flushing toilets and bowling balls falling from the skies.

Which brings to mind a few other memorable takes of bass determined to turn my popper into their next Happy Meal.

Years ago, while fishing Lake Fork with my friend Rob Woodruff, the Orvis endorsed guide who knows the East Texas giant factory like the back of his hand, I tossed a frog-hued popper towards a wall of vegetation standing in three feet of water.

There was a soft plop as the fly found its mark. A brief pause to let the rings ripple away. And then a soft tug on the fly line.

That was followed by a ferocious splash as a solid four-pound bass decided it was breakfast time in the early morning gloom of a cloudy and humid late spring day.

There was a brief but intense fight during which the deep green bass vaulted skyward a couple of times and thrashed around as it desperately tried to throw the #1 hook on the Orvis bug.

On its second leap into the air, the bass flung its head in the direction of Rob’s Skeeter bass rig and  did just that before returning to Fork’s timber-choked depths.

Noticing a pattern here? Wait – it gets worse.

A couple of springs ago, I was kayak fishing on Fork as the evening sun made its way towards the western horizon. I had enjoyed a fair day of bass fishing but had never made contact with the big bruiser I was hoping to hook-up with.

That changed suddenly as I threw a big white popper near some flooded timber next to a small drop-off in the bottom contour. One minute the fly was there, the next minute it was gone as the darkening water swirled around viciously.

I’d like to tell you that I landed this big bass, one that I estimated at eight-pounds or better. Unfortunately, I did not.

But at least I had a good two-minutes of hand-to-fin combat as the big bass pulled this way and that, tried to jump into the air despite its jumbo girth, gave me a pretty good kayak sleigh-ride in the process, and put a deep-bend into my eight-weight.

Just before I reached for my net to land the fish, the bass dove again and the line suddenly went limp as my popper came unbuttoned.

Leaving me to sit there in a trance-like state for several minutes as I soaked in one of the bigger disappointments I’ve had in warmwater fly fishing.

Notice I said one of the bigger disappointments I’ve had.

Because I’m not sure anything will ever top the close-encounter I had with a bass dubbed “Orca,” a big bucketmouth that came calling several years ago while I was fishing on Glass Lake in deep East Texas with Rob Woodruff.

We had already enjoyed a memorable day landing several good bass between us, most on topwater poppers. By mid-afternoon, I was feeling smug as we continued to work poppers along the hard edge of a weed-line.

So I was a bit unprepared for what happened next as I pulled the popper from the water, let it sail behind me on the backcast, and then propelled it forward as the fly line completed its unfurling journey.

In the exact millisecond that the fly touched down upon the water, a huge geyser of erupted to its side as a huge bass leapt out of the water.

Like a Discovery Channel shot of a killer whale arching above the H2O, “Orca the Bass” came up out of the water, turned hard to its right as it sailed up-and-over the popper, and then turned quickly downward as it sledge-hammered its way home to pile-drive the popper well below the lake’s surface.

Remember the old antique Heddon Lures sign of a bass doing exactly the same thing?

Well, as Woodruff looked on in amusement, I got to see the fly fishing equivalent of that tin advertisement.

After the initial shock of that explosive take wore off, I tried a half-second later to set the hook with bug-eyed wonderment. And for the briefest period of time – 10 seconds or less – I actually had the bass on.

Before the line suddenly went limp, leaving me with my jaw gaping wide-open once again.

Notice a pattern here?

I guess I’ll just call it field research as I continue to try to figure out which topwater take I like better.

The porcelain throne flushing.

Or the bowling ball suddenly dropping out of the sky.

I’ve had plenty of practice over the years as I continue my obsession with catching bass on flies. There have been plenty of catches. And more than enough spectacular failures.

So it it’s all the same to you, please excuse me from this space.

Because I think I’ll go back out in the morning and see if I can figure this whole thing out once and for all.

If you hear a big early morning yell from Texas, it will probably be me.

 

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.

 

The Best Big Bass Tip I Know…

Suffering from a bit of writer’s block today, not to mention my still too sore to fish back, I went looking for something to write about.

And I found it, sifting through the long forgotten recesses of my old e-mail files.

That’s where I came across a message from my friend Rob Woodruff after a trip he had guided on Lake Fork three April’s ago.

Now I must confess that I don’t know the client’s name nor do I mean him or her any disrespect with this post.

But if I understand correctly, after a tiring day on the water, the exchange in the boat between the guide and the guided went a little something like this.

“Rob, you fish for a little while, I need to rest my arm.”

With a nervous glance – and being fully aware of what could happen – Woodruff reluctantly complied.

One cast…nothing.

Two casts…still nothing.

Three casts…and a 9-pound, 12-ounce bruiser of a largemouth bass on the fly.

Which leads to the best big bass fly fishing tip that I know of.

And that is simply this: keep your fly in the water.

At all costs.

At all times.

Because you never know…you might only be three casts from the lunker of a lifetime.

Want to catch a bruiser bass like this? Then keep your fly in the water at all costs!

 

 

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.

 

Bucketmouths

Grasping a pot-bellied largemouth by the maw, I queried out loud to anyone who would listen.

“Why wouldn’t anyone want to do this?”

Catch a bass on the fly, that is.

Especially at Lake Fork, the best little bass fishing hole in Texas. 

Orvis fly guide Rob Woodruff shows that Lake Fork bucketmouths and fly rods are a match made in East Texas heaven.

Fishing on a windy spring day, a guide’s day off guinea pig outing for my Orvis endorsed pal Rob Woodruff, the two of us were looking to prove wrong a couple of subtle assumptions that most Texans make about bassin’ on the fly.

The first being that such an endeavor is seriously fun…as long as you like catching dinks, that is.

The second being that bass fly rodding is almost always a quaint topwater affair, a method truly viable only at a few select times of the day or a few certain times of the year.

That might be the so-called book on fly fishing for bass, but on this particular day, as we tossed a couple of sub-surface offerings, we were mounting a case that said otherwise.

Not long after our getaway from the easternmost 515 ramp, a three-pound buck bass served as “Exhibit A” as he took exception to the bluegill hued “Rob’s Patassa” fly that I was tossing near shoreline cover.

A hop, a skip, and a jump later, I was admiring a bass in Woodruff’s Xpress bass rig that someone else had admired once before.

How so? The fish had a clear mark in the corner of its jaw indicating that it had been previously caught…and released.

Too valuable a resource to be caught only once, score one for conservation.

After that encouraging start, Woodruff and I ducked in and out of east/west facing coves and creek channels to stay out of the gathering southerly gale that was rolling big white caps on the main lake body.

As I found the rhythm of my Helios eight-weight rod, our conversation drifted to the excitement of the night before when the NCAA basketball tournament capped its run in dramatic fashion.

Suddenly, all thoughts of Butler’s near-miss buzzer beater shot against Duke were gone.

“Oh my gosh Burkhead!,” Woodruff gushed aloud. “That’s a MONSTER bass!”

Sure enough, the nine-pound class fish was a monster, even by Fork’s lofty standards.

For those unaware of Lake Fork’s amazing reputation, allow for a brief history lesson.

Impounded in 1980 when the Sabine River Authority of Texas dammed its namesake stream, Fork was a lake built from the ground up for trophy largemouth bass.

Unlike other reservoirs constructed in Texas during the same era, the 27,264-acre water body in Hopkins, Rains, and Woods counties wasn’t scoured clean of its East Texas timber.

Instead, with the exception of boating lanes cut out of the forest, virtually every precious bass-attracting stick was left in place in the reservoir.

In addition, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department pre-stocked ponds and small lakes in the future lake bed by removing undesirable fish and replacing them with Florida-strain largemouth bass adults and fingerlings.

By doing so, by the time Fork’s timber choked waters began to gather in earnest, the lake was already well down the road to producing Texas-sized bucketmouth bass.

Ask Mark Stevenson, a Dallas based fishing guide who set the Lone Star State’s bass fishing world on fire on Nov. 26, 1986 when he pulled a new state record largemouth bass from Lake Fork, a fish that tipped the scales at 17.67 pounds.

The first bass to ever be entered into the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s innovative ShareLunker program (which accepts bass weighing 13-pounds or better for selective breeding efforts and to promote catch-and-release of big fish), Stevenson’s catch started a veritable big bass revolution.

Dubbed Ethel, the big momma largemouth went on to became a mainstay attraction at the Springfield, Mo. Bass Pro Shops location for many years until her death in August 1994

In both life and death Ethel has been the cornerstone of modern Texas bass fishing, followed to date by 500 additional ShareLunkers ranging in size from the program’s entry point of 13.00 pounds all the way up to Barry St. Clair’s current state record mark of 18.18 pounds.

While 60 other public water bodies and more than a dozen private lakes have produced ShareLunkers since Ethel’s historic catch, her home waters have never wavered in occupation of the state’s big bass throne.

As of this writing, thanks to its combination of perfect big bass habitat, superb genetics, and strict angling regulations, Lake Fork has claimed a staggering 246 of those 501 ShareLunker entries including St. Clair’s current benchmark bass.

And that’s not to even mention the legions of trophy bass ranging from eight to 12 pounds that are pulled from Fork’s hallowed waters every month of every year.

Woodruff and his clients have landed a number of those trophy largemouths down through the years including the guide’s personal best bass, a behemoth approaching nearly a dozen pounds.

Unfortunately, on this particular morning in question, try as we might, neither the Quitman-based guide with his white-hued salamander imitating fly nor yours truly with my bluegill imitator could entice the nine-pound bass in front of us to join that list.

A short while later, our failed efforts were forgotten when Woodruff abruptly drove the hook home as a solid eight-pound largemouth pounced on his offering.

“That’s a big fish!,” he grunted as he leaned hard into the eight-weight.

Despite a brief tail-walking show, we never got to see exactly how big the bass might have been on the Boga Grip since the sowbelly became unbuttoned en route to her CPR session – caught, photographed, and released.

No matter, on Lake Fork, there’s always another big bass opportunity lying somewhere down the bank.

A short while later, as the ripples from Woodruff’s deftly placed weight-forward “Bass Wonderline” gently disappeared, another largemouth proved that point.

When the fly met sudden resistance  Woodruff reared back into the fish, this time a bucketmouth that put on a fine show all the way to the boat where the Boga revealed her weight at a solid 5.25 pounds.

So much for dinks on the fly.

Stepping back from our quest only long enough to put away a couple of sandwiches and diet soft drinks, I peppered Woodruff with a series of questions concerning big bass on the fly including the late spring and early summer opportunity that exists to catch Fork’s post-spawn bruisers on full sinking lines.

But that’s another story for another time.

Because this day’s tale of bucketmouths on the fly wasn’t quite complete.

After wolfing down the last of the cola, a short boat ride put us into one of Woodruff’s big bass honey holes.

After working our way down a couple of shorelines, the guide pointed out a pair of sizable largemouths hovering in the shallow water.

“See that bass right there? She’ll go at least five pounds,” Woodruff said. “See if you can lay that fly in there.”

My first attempt was just off the mark.

But my second attempt was in the wheelhouse as the hefty female reacted angrily and swiped at the fly.

“She’s on it! Set! Set! Set!” Woodruff instructed.

Unfortunately, I pulled the trigger a second too late. As I tried to come tight to the fish, she had already spit the fly.

“Ok, she’s agitated, so lay that fly in there again,” Woodruff told me. “Not a bad shot Burkhead, now get ready. She’s looking at it…”

Burned once, this time I didn’t wait to feel the weight of the fish against the fly.

When I saw the sow move on the fly, I strip set and came tight to an angry bass.

“She’s on – you got her!” Woodruff shouted, drawing attention from every nearby metal-flaked bass boat.

With an audience of unsuccessful baitcasting anglers looking on in contempt, Woodruff’s alarm raised the stakes in the bay that we were fishing: could “Fly Boy” seal the deal and bring home the bucketmouth goods?

A couple of tailwalking jumps later, I was able to do just that as I eased the glowering largemouth to the boat where Woodruff scooped her up.

Moments later, after some CPR action, the Boga pronounced her weight at a solid 5.00 pounds.

No, not a new state record. And no, not another ShareLunker entry.

But as the big gal splashed her huffy goodbye a moment later, the grin on my face and on Woodruff’s gave simple credence to the point of our endeavors on Lake Fork that day.

A couple of pot-bellied five-pounders were proof positive that fly rods and bucketmouth bass are made for each other.

Especially on the best little bass fishing hole in Texas.

 

So You Want to Be a Guide?

Orvis endorsed fly guide Rob Woodruff wonders when all of Texas' bad weather will stop.

Orvis endorsed fly guide Rob Woodruff wonders when all of Texas' bad weather will stop.

If the thought ever crosses my mind to become a fly fishing guide, I’ve got a good reason not to cross over to the dark side.

And that reason is my good pal, Rob Woodruff of Quitman, Texas (www.flyfishingfork.com ).

Now don’t get me wrong – this Orvis endorsed fly guide is one of the best in the business.

A unique guide operating in both cold water and warm water environments, Woodruff is at the pinnacle of his profession with a bevy of superb fisheries near his home and loyal customers who bring plenty of repeat business.

Woodruff is first and foremost a bass bum, guiding fly fishing clients from all over the U.S. and from countries as far away as South Africa after Lake Fork’s legendary largemouth bass.

In the spring, clients flock to the boat of this Texas A&M educated entomologist turned fly fishing guide for a shot at double-digit bucketmouths that threaten to all but destroy eight and nine-weight fly rods.

Most years, the fishing is not only good from Woodruff’s boat, it’s downright epic.

How else do you describe a trip where fly anglers routinely land one to two dozen bass in the four to eight pound range, many coming on heart stopping blow-ups on topwater patterns.

And the bass do get even bigger.

Woodruff’s personal best fly rod bass so far from Fork is a staggering 11.75 pounds while his clients’ best fly bass to date  is slightly more than 11 pounds.

No wonder the likable guide has been featured on ESPN Outdoors programming twice along with inclusion in a number of fly fishing magazine and internet articles about this Texan’s unique fishing jones. 

While the spring is Woodruff’s standard bread and butter time – good luck getting a booking anytime between late February and early June – his other prime time comes in the early autumn as Fork’s bass population puts away the groceries in preparation for another North Texas winter.

While the double digit brutes of spring are few and far between in the fall, the catch rate goes up considerably as dozens of schooling fish in the three to six pound range inhale virtually any fly thrown into the frenzy.

Think Montauk, New York’s famous striper blitzes, only this time, deep in the heart of land-locked Texas with a distant cousin. 

So what’s the problem for Woodruff this year?

Simple – the weather.

Earlier this year, an unusually chilly spring with repeated cold frontal passages and cold rainstorms repeatedly drove Fork’s spawning frenzy out of the shallows.

When the weather was good, Woodruff’s clients caught a number of good fish.

But when the weather was bad – and it was bad every other day or so it seemed – the bass developed lockjaw and were difficult to catch.

Normally, that wouldn’t be much of a problem for Woodruff, who would simply reschedule or bump a trip to the nearby Lower Mountain Fork River in southeastern Oklahoma, a surprisingly good year-round tailwater trout stream only three hours from Dallas.

But 2009 has been anything but normal weatherwise in the southern Great Plains.

Buckets of late spring rainfall caused a massive rise on Broken Bow Reservoir that feeds the stream, resulting in a virtual emergency blow by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The resulting flood water discharge turned the picturesque trout stream normally running a little more than 120 cubic feet per second into an raging torrent with more than 8,000 CFS seething its way downstream.

The near Biblical flood altered hydrology in place for years, washed out roads and bridges, scoured some areas nearly free of rocks and gravel, and deposited mounds of gravel and huge boulders in other areas.

Amazingly, within a few weeks of the LMFR flood, Woodruff was back in business, reporting good to superb fishing for the river’s mixture of stocked and wild rainbows and browns that had somehow found places to hunker down until the flows subsided.

After a pretty normal summer of business, Woodruff was hoping to make up lost ground when Fork’s fall schooling action picked up in earnest after Labor Day.

Except that the excessive rainfall machine returned with a vengeance as strong early autumn cool fronts brought more flooding, rapidly cooling water, and unsettled conditions.

Coupled with floodwater discharges through Lake Fork’s dam in recent weeks, the up-and-down lake level hasn’t ended Fork’s fall run, but it has certainly crimped the reservoir’s fall blitzing activity.

Once again, no problem for Woodruff since the nearby Lower Mountain Fork beckons with fall colors, spawning brown trout, and superb fall dry fly fishing.

Uh, not so fast, Mr. Woodruff.

Thanks to the Corps of Engineers deciding to repair the electricity producing generators at Broken Bow Reservoir Dam over the next two months, more than 1,000 CFS will be rolling down the tailwater trout stream making fishing difficult once again for this popular Texas guide and his loyal clientele.

If you see a weather weary fly guide staring glumly into the northeastern Texas’ sky this fall, chances are that its Woodruff.

A fly guide wondering where’s all of this supposed global warming when you need it.