"Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore."
-André Gide

Friday, February 26, 2010

Home and Office Decor

Ordered a custom mouse pad and calendar from http://www.zazzle.com/ about a week ago and just received them the other day. I have no affiliation with the website, just a happy customer. Great products and fast turnaround. Pictures don't really do the products justice because the clarity is a lot better in person than what my camera was able to take.

Custom Mouse Pad

Calendar made up of pictures I took while out on the water

Favorite month for trout fishing

Mansfield Jetties: Epic PINS trip in May a few years back

Favorite month for redfish

Back Cover

Here's a shadow box I have hanging in my room. I start putting retired lures in less than a year ago. A lure must pass some rigorous criteria to make the cut; only three have made it thus far. These three lures have accounted for five of my eight biggest trout up to 28.75" and one of them has accounted for close to a hundred redfish up to 30". Look forward to adding more lures to my shadow box this upcoming year.

The Shadow Box of Retired Lures

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Dabblings with the Vise

Came across some pictures the other day on my computer of some flies I tied over the last few years...

First fly I ever tied about three years ago

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Measure of Success

If you think catching fish is the only gauge of a successful fishing trip think again. My number one measure of a successful fishing trip is determined by whether I learned something new or not. Not only from a fishing standpoint but life in general. I got the opportunity to fish this past weekend with a very good friend, Sam. We haven’t been able to spend much time on the water together since he entered the “real world”.

I enjoy fishing with Sam for a number of reasons not the least of which is the amount of fun we have on the water together; we just like to have a good time. Our fishing trips are part philosophical, part comical, and the remainder is somewhat serious fishing. We probe each other’s brain on certain topics trying to figure out life’s nuances and mysteries. No subject matter is off-limits, including women and religion. The insight produced from our encounters on these trips is invaluable.

I think I mention previously that fishing this time of year is hit-or-miss and I can assure you I’ve had my fair share of misses throughout my winter fishing career; this past trip was no exception. A few things I’ve learned from my very limited winter fishing experience is if you’re catching numbers of fish you usually aren’t going to catch very big trout. Another lesson I’ve learned is most places that consistently hold big trout are usually places where you have to grind for a few quality bites.

We also managed to stumble upon a pattern the last couple of winters, which has proved to be successful for a species that not very many people target during the wintertime, the delicious tasting flounder. There are plenty of flatfish that fail to make the run to the gulf and reside inshore throughout the winter. The areas where we’ve had our most success at are not typical destinations when you think of potential locations where flounder might inhabit during this time of year. A majority of these locales are located miles away from the closest deep water retreat.

The pattern we discovered is fishing deep water, around six feet or deeper, adjacent to marshes where you normally find flounder during the fall months when they stage to make their annual run to the gulf, but not just any deep water. A few key characteristics to look for to reproduce this pattern is a muddy bottom, scattered shell, and a lack of easy access to deep water. Not all characteristics are absolute necessities but your chances to catch these resident fish increase exponentially with each attribute you find. Almost all of these resident fish will be under the 20” class but keepers should not be hard to come by.

Flounder reside in the areas for two reasons. First, these areas are the closest places of refuge when the first few cold fronts blast the coast during the fall. Second, the baitfish that blanket the marsh during the fall also take shelter in these areas for the same reasons flounder do. You combine both ingredients together and it produces areas where flounder remain cozy and well-fed for the duration of the winter. These same areas can also hold some fairly good size trout and redfish. My favorite lure for targeting these tasty creatures has been a Texas Tackle Factory Flats Minnow in liquid shrimp. Slow presentations with short bumps along the bottom seems to work best.

Detecting flounder bites is almost an art form in and of itself but braided line and a sensitive rod can help even out the odds. Most of the time the bite will feel like you’re hung up on shell or some other debris because flounder have a tendency to hang on your lure without completely eating it. I’ve experimented with different hook set procedures and waiting several seconds after the initial bite has produced the best hook-up ratio. We’ve been able to reproduce this pattern at a number of locations including East Bay, West Bay, and a few other places.

The Nitty-Gritty:
We landed a couple of small reds, a handful of trout up to 23”, and fair number of flounder up to 18”. I caught all my fish on a Gambler Flapp’n Shad in morning glory and Sam caught his on a Yum Money Minnow in hologram shad. All our fish came in water deeper than 7’ over mud and shell. Water temperatures range from 46 to 50 degrees.

This past trip I learned a little about both fishing and life. Success on the water may have to be reconsidered for some but for me every day on the water is a triumph.

Sam with our combined stringer

Limit of Flounder

One of the flounder I caught coughed up a bunch of these tiny minnows and I also found a bunch of these fry in their stomachs as well

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Good Times with Good Friends

I've contemplated countless times my underlying motivation that drives my insatiable hunger to always be in the outdoors and on the water. Why do I fish in some of the worst conditions imaginable? Why do I slave over weather reports, fishing reports, wind predictions, and tidal predictions? Why do I go through the measures I do just to catch an unintelligent little creature with the brainpower nowhere near the capacity of my own? Why am I chasing a feeling that only fishing and the outdoors can supply me? Why do I have such a strong passion for fishing, even though not a single person in my family fishes or reverberates my sentiment for fishing? Why? Is it catching fish that brings me so much enjoyment or is it something else?

If I measured my success in the outdoors by how many fish I caught on each trip, I think fishing would have lost its luster a long time ago. I’ve lost count, a very long time ago, of how many dates I’ve had with the solid black, white-striped furry animal. In my eyes fishing is about gaining knowledge, sharing experiences, and having fun, in that order of precedence with the last being the paramount. The wealth of knowledge that’s out there and yet to be discovered is what initially drew me in. I enjoy the challenge of going out any on any given day trying to beat the odds handed to me by Mother Nature.

Fishing is such a beautiful pastime because it incorporates all my senses and gives me an innate sense of freedom that can't be replicated in many other arenas in my life. Fishing also appeals to my sense of adventure. Every new day on the water resembles a different adventure from every other previous day; no two days are exactly alike. There’s also something about fishing that’s primordial and simplistic in a caveman-like sense because it goes back to the instinctive roots of civilization. Even with all the intricate new technology the simplicity of the sport has an allure all on its own.

Fishing is also a hobby that can be done with a group of friends or in complete solitude. At times privacy is just what the doctor ordered; at others group therapy is more enticing. Most of the people I’ve met over the years through fishing have been first class individuals. Some of my good friendships have been formed by sharing a day on the water with practically a complete stranger. The only thing that brought us together was our shared passion for fishing.

Last and most importantly, fishing is about having fun. If I wasn’t enjoying myself on the water, I don’t think I would have stuck with fishing as long as I have. You will rarely see me without a smile on my face or in a bad mood while I’m on the water. It’s very hard for me to be upset when I’m fishing because I can think of a whole slew of other places where I wouldn’t want to be, and I know how fortunate I am just to be out there. It's weird how easily reeling in a few slimy creatures can put a smile on someone’s face or change their mood completely.

Me and my roommate, Austin, experienced one of our best days of fishing this past weekend and we experienced it together. He's had a rough time as of late and he hadn’t been able to get on the water much this past year. He was severely in need of some time out on the water. I got as much enjoyment out of seeing a good friend get some saltwater therapy and catch fish as I got myself. Why do I fish? Good times with good friends, what more could one ask for?

The Report:
Me and my roommate, Austin, made a trip to the Galveston area looking to find some fish to properly slime his new kayak and put a rod he built several months earlier to the test. We arrived in town Thursday afternoon and were greeted with 2’ above normal tides and strong east winds. I’ve never had any luck fishing this time of year with flood tides but I was optimistic because the front had just pushed through, which led me to believe the fish should still be deep.

We both struggled to get a bite Thursday evening and both ended the day on a date with the solid black, white stripped animal. The tides subsided slightly overnight so we switched locations hoping to find some fish. Friday morning started off nearly as slow as the previous evening and it was colder than we expected with the overcast skies. As soon as the sun peaked through the clouds around noon we started to see baitfish activity. We saw a few mullet jump in an area and almost immediately started getting bites.

We stayed in the area where we saw the activity for a few hours and we managed to catch a few solid trout and flounder, and undersized redfish. The tides eventually subsided substantially over the course of the day dropping down to more appropriate winter levels. We moved locations again in hopes of finding a more consistent afternoon bite. After grabbing a bite to eat we arrived at second location with only about an hour left of daylight. Water was in extremely good shape with a few feet of clarity and the tide was slowly outgoing the entire evening. In short order we landed quite a few trout up to 19” and solitary slot red.

The tide graphs for Saturday morning showed very low tides with a strong incoming tide most of the day. With our success getting better with each passing day we decided to try a location I hadn’t had much success at and hadn’t been to in nearly a month. We arrived at our spot at little later than we anticipated and although the water was extremely dirty there was some activity with the occasional mullet jumping. We started catching fish immediately and had a steady bite for the next three hours. We managed to catch multiple limits of trout up to 20” along with a handful of redfish.

We had plans to meet up with a friend at another location where we previously had located some better quality fish. We left the fish biting in hopes our next location would produce a big girl or two. We fished for about an hour with only a couple of bites, which made our minds wonder if we should have left our previous locality. There’s an old saying “don’t leave fish to find fish” and it began to resonate in our psyche. Right around sunset the bite picked up and became fast and furious for a 30 – 45 minute period. Between the three of us manage to land a few limits of trout up to 23” in addition to numerous undersized to lower slot redfish.

We caught a majority of our fish deep over scattered shell and mud with the most productive areas being places with 8’ to 12’ of water. Dirty water with a few inches of visibility and baitfish activity seemed to be the key component. In areas where we saw the occasional mullet jump were the most productive areas. Water temperature ranged from 48 degrees Thursday afternoon to as high as 54 degrees Saturday afternoon. We caught the bulk of our fish on Gambler Flapp’n Shad and Norton Sand Eel Jr’s in morning glory but we did catch a handful of fish on Texas Tackle Factory Flats Minnows in liquid shrimp and morning glory.

Austin with a "tater chip" flounder

One of numerous doubles

Added bonus mid-slot

Trout were so thick Saturday evening I managed to foul hook one near the pelvic fins.