Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Calgary Work Trip

You know how it is - work, work, work.

Every now and then though a work trip can have it's memorable moments.

I recently went to Calgary, Alberta to attend a work function and on one day of the meeting there was a choice between golf and a float trip down the Bow River with representatives from several companies.

I thought about golf and concluded that there were already enough golfers in the world.

Calgary is a nice city - too bad I'm not a city guy. I feel trapped when I'm surrounded by tall buildings, traffic, and masses of moving people.

I finally began to relax when we were on our way out of town to the launch site.

Our guides were organized by Bow River Hookers a guide service run by the Windsor brothers.

We saw some fish on the surface and offered them a Caddis imitation and a hopper or two but for most of the day we fished the "wire worm" below a strike indicator.

The three boats launched about 10AM with one guide and two fishermen per boat.

The leaves had already changed in this part of Canada but our weather was picture perfect.

The Hyde drift boats provide a stable fishing platform and the guides were knowledgeable and kept us in the fishy water.

We found lots of willing rainbows and a few browns during the morning float.

These fish were smart and experienced. When hooked, they would head straight for the shadow of the boat which made keeping them on the barbless hooks a challenge. "Strip! Strip!"

The shore lunch included a salad, rolls, and a hot meal (beef stroganoff) prepared by our guides. We had time to swap fish stories and compare notes before loading back up for the afternoon.

Bill Windsor had a well stocked fly box and the know how to go with it.

The scenery on the Bow was beautiful if you could pick your head up once in a while to see it. Since we were fishing subsurface most of the time we had our eyes glued to the strike indicator.

Our guide John took good care of the fish we caught even though he gave them a good talking to to convince them to stop falling for the wire worm. "Somebody will put you on the BBQ if you don't mend your ways!"

As the sun got lower in the sky, the scenery became even more stunning.

At one point in our journey down the river, John asked if we were up for a challenge. He said he knew a spot where the big fish lived but to catch them we had to get out of the boat and do a little wading.

My boat partner Darren and I were game so we beached the boat and headed out into the swift water. John lead the way breaking the force of the current and positioned us in the spot. "Now things get technical" he says. "Cast around me upstream as far as you can right into the swift water, then immediately throw a roll cast to get your line above the indicator, strip strip, strip, while keeping your rod tip pointed directly at the indicator and when you see the least little wiggle - set the hook. Oh yeah - all this happens in three seconds or less." He was not kidding. It took me three tries but when I finally got it all together I hooked up with this 21" rainbow.

After I landed my big one it was Darren's turn. The look on John's face tells it all.

Hooking a big fish in swift water can be challenging enough - fighting one can be a real test. If these fish make it to the main current it could be game over. Here Darren is trying to turn his fish towards the shore.

After a tough fight this beauty comes to hand - then is released to fight another day.

It was a tough day of work but we made the most of it!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

From Hero to Zero

After last week's meat haul we thought fall fishing was here to stay.

We hit it early armed with live bait and the belief that we would soon be filling the ice chest with fat fall fish.

We caught some small fish and one nearly-big-enough trout seen below but had to settle for a day of fun with out anything to show for it.

What's that saying about a bad day of fishing?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Boat Full of Reds

The stormy weather continued as hurricane Karl was coming onshore in Mexico. There was some lightning during the night but when we got up it seemed that everything was looking pretty good and that the storms had calmed down.

I had cast netted some mullet the previous evening and picked up some live shrimp from Russels' in the Matagorda Harbor on my way to get the boat.

When we arrived at our usual spot the high tides had moved the sunken timber around so much that the mouth of the cut was blocked so we crossed the diversion channel and fished a new spot on the opposite bank.

It wans't long before Tracy connected with a nice red. This guy has some shoulders!

The early morning light really shows off the beauty of the fish and the fisher!

You might mistake this for the same fish but if you look closely you will see two spots on this slot red.

Tracy had the hot hands as she here shows off another keeper. She filled her limit of three and helped me with mine as well! Tracy preferred the shrimp and I think the fish did too!

I managed to catch a couple for the box on live mullet. We both caught several other species including gafftop, hardhead, black drum, sheepshead, croaker, and Tracy's new fav - ladyfish.

Once we filled two limits we were able to release several more reds before calling it a morning.

The weather started to turn late in the morning and we dodged a couple of storms before finally heading in just ahead of (well almost ahead of) the heavy stuff. We had to stay under cover for one storm to pass before loading the boat.

Tracy had a great day catching more than her share of reds and even some small trout.

Not a bad stringer for a couple of weekend anglers!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Everybody has a Limit

Even me!

I have been pretty vocal about how I'm not bothered by alligators while kayaking in the salty marsh. Since Tracy was a little under the weather, I decided to leave the Second Honeymoon in dry dock and launch the plastic navy for an early morning assault on McNab Lake. It has been a while since I have paddled all the way in and I was looking forward to finding some willing reds or maybe a flounder or two.

I was greeted by a beautiful sunrise at the launch site. God is good! I saw two gators near the launch site but wasn't particularly bothered by them. There had been quite a bit of rain lately so they were venturing out further than normal.

I waited until full light before paddling out and was greeted by several more gators. In fact, I counted more than a dozen in the first two corners! I fished for about an hour and was contemplating going on to the lake when I spooked two more gators that were hiding on the bank just a few feet from the yak. (click the pic above to see two between me and the Jeep)

My better judgment finally kicked in and I realized that it would be foolish to risk a problem as I was paddling alone and the toothy reptiles were everywhere I looked. I turned back and started paddling for the launch when I got the real wake up call.

If you have never dug your kayak paddle into a submerged oyster reef and felt the jagged bite of the reef on your blade it probably won't seem like much but if you have, you can imagine how that felt when I did! I think I set a new record for sprinting to the launch with a fully loaded 14' kayak.

I wasn't going to give up that easily and after checking in with Tracy, I pointed the Mobile Tacklebox west and headed to Turtle Bay. Along the way, I did my good deed for the day by removing this little guy from the roadway and sure death.

From what I can tell it is an eastern mud turtle.

He looks quite content to stay hidden in his shell.

When I arrived at Turtle Bay the wind had picked up and I had a stiff paddle to the "tubes". The local sentry was keeping a close eye on me!

He and all his buddies weere perching on the old pier pilings which usually means there is bait close by.

I fished the strong outflow from the marsh with no success. This seemed pretty strange as this was almost identical conditions to the time earlier when Tracy and I had smacked the flounder.

I paddled down the shoreline to the small creek where I had scored on a flounder once before and I was rewarded with "supper" this time too. He took the Gulp Jerk Shad out in front of the mouth of the creek.

I went back to the tubes and fished a while longer and finally hooked up on a decent fish but he cut me off on the submerged rocks. I kept grinding and eventually landed a 19" red to call it a day.

Don't try lipping a flounder - you had better bring a net!

Monday, September 06, 2010

My Turn for a Slam

Holiday weekend...Monday off...usually that means lots of extra folks on the water competing with us for peace and quiet. We had some fun with the trout under the lights on Friday night but all were too small to keep.

We started out the day on Saturday early enough to see this sunrise at the ICW bridge.

Tracy hadn't been catching her share lately so when she hooked up with this nice red I had to get a picture even though he was a little short for the box.

That soon changed when the next hookup was with this nice two spot keeper! I don't know who was happier - Tracy or the guide!

I added my contribution to the box as well with this healthy red. The picture makes it look big but it was no match for the two spot already in the box.

Tracy was being pestered by something small and finally figured out it was needlefish that were chomping and chasing her live shrimp.

We boxed three keepers with Tracy's big one in the middle. Somebody will be eating fresh fish soon!

This was my nemesis - a bob tailed stingray. I caught this guy twice! The first time he took the hook deep so I just cut the line and later that day I caught him again in nearly the same spot and he was still sporting the mono leader from earlier.

We went back home Saturday night so we could attend services on Sunday with the church. After returning on Sunday afternoon, Tracy scored off the bank with another keeper redfish.

I was slow-fishing some live mullet and shad and found my own keeper - this nice 19" flounder.

The hummers were active and as the clouds began to build behind the trailer, Tracy enjoyed taking pictures of the tiny emerald aerialists from the comfort of the deck.

We put the light out again after dark and after a couple hours of little fish, I finally caught a keeper speck on a live mullet. Tracy had already gone to bed and I had to get her up to take my picture. All I needed now was a red and I would have a slam!

Before long I caught not one but two reds including this big bad boy. I thought he might spool me before I was finally able to convince him that he needed to turn back from heading across the river. It was a good fight and likely would have made a good video as I struggled with the net and rod while trying not to fall in.

Monday morning found us heading down the Diversion channel to the entrance to the cut where we normally fish. We stopped along the way and tried a new spot as we waited for a small rain shower to pass.

We didn't find the fish there but I did get some great early morning pictures.

We eventually moved back to our spot near the ICW and found a couple of keepers. Tracy always catches the pretty multi-spot reds.

I imagine one day catching a couple of keeper reds may not seem all that special but for now it is still a thrill and provides the reason to go back another day. God continues to bless us with fish and this weekend we had quite a haul. We will be sharing with others and thanking the Creator for his bounty.

Our little boat has proven to be just the ticket for some relatively quick and easy access to fun times together. It takes some planning and a little effort but the rewards of getting up early and chasing around in the saltwater has opened up a whole new world to us. I'm so happy that Tracy seems to enjoy it as much as I do. Fish on!