NOTE: Pictures courtesty of Brett and Kobe-san (click them to enlarge) as numbnutz here brought a camera full of dead batteries.
After years of droughts and floods and other interruptions, it was once again time to visit the Hill Country of Texas for the annual white bass run. The "run" is when the white bass leave the relative safety of the deep water Lake and head up the river to spawn in the shallow and fast running waters. So, I packed up the Toyota and headed out Saturday for Plain Dealing, LA (love that name) to stay over at Brett's: it's a good halfway point and who makes better crawfish etoufee?
We headed to Bass Pro Shop on Sunday and got a dusting of snow while in Shreveport. Among other supplies at BPS, I grabbed a 3-pack of "Red Head" socks (I can't get any of the real, so I might as well buy the socks...) on sale, and so did Brett. Later at the house, Brett was checking out all his gear on his bed when he discovered the socks he grabbed were low cut. "Shit, I didn't want the low-cuts!" I said well, you could always play golf in them (knowing full well Brett is not a golfer), at which point I was on the receiving end of a look no one but Brett can deliver. At this point, his son says "I'll take them - give em to me Dad!" and Brett replied why the hell should I give them to you? And Keelan says well, at least split them with me." And Brett, being the ff he is and without skipping a beat says, "OK son, I'll take three and you take three." Pause. Much laughter.
We headed out to the river Monday morning. The spring breakers had left, the campground was mostly vacant (and beautiful), but it was also readily apparent the spawn was coming off a little late this year due to colder weather (or at least that seemed to be the consensus of us "experts"). So, we were a little early and the fish were smallish and still down in the deeper water. This made them a bit harder to catch on a fly-rod and I struggled (compared to past years) the first couple days.
Will showed up on Tuesday with venison sausage and birthday beer in tow (thanks bill!). Kobe showed up Wednesday with more venison sausage so we fired up the skillet and had some for breakfast Thursday morn.
Wednesday evening a norther blew through and the temperature dropped about 15 degrees in 30 seconds (I kid you not). Kobe-san, Will and I hit the trucks and I yelled out to Brett (who was inside his new Kelty tent) "hey bud, you might want to ride this one out in the truck!" He either didn't hear me or (being his first trip here) may have underestimated the potential of the storm. Anyhow, all hell broke lose for awhile with lots of rain and lightin but not so much wind. I had the Irish foresight to grab one of the bottles of Jameson's off the picnic table and was high and dry in the truck listening to the Grateful Dead. I noticed at the height of the downpour Brett had his flashlight out and was meticulously following every seamline on his tent. I was like, uh-oh, leak city? After a half hour or so the rain slowed to a drizzle so I jumped out to check on Brett:
"You OK in there Brett?"
"Yeahhh mannnnnn, I'm fiiiiine."
"You need a lil snort of Jamesons?'
"Noooo Miiiiike, I got a bottle with me riiiiight here."
"So how was your first storm at the river?"
"Well, except for a few involuntary sphincter contractions when those lightening bolts and thunder claps hit, it was really pretty cool."
"You have any leaks in the Kelty?"
"Nope, every seam is dry."
Good action. I on the other hand, was thinking the river water would be muddied by the rain and that the cold weather would put the fish down. So much for my expertise as the water actually cleared up by morning and we busted the shit out of some white bass and limited out (25) by 10:30am. The fish were still rather smallish compared to years gone by, but the action was great. Even had a few occaisions where, after throwing the hook back into the water to string a fish up, you'd find another one on the line as soon as you picked up the rod tip.
The small males typically leave the Lake and head upstream first. Then the bigger males. Finally the females come and church is out! As usual, the females control everything and when they are ready to go, it's gone. Anyhow, usually the small males this time of year will squirt all over ya when you're taking the hook out. I've had years when the front of my waders were completely white. I've had em squirt in my eyes before. This year, they weren't even squirtin yet so I knew it was early. Plus, I wasn't catching many females at all in the shallower water. But, we caught alot of fish and, for once, I retied my clauser minnow fly every 8-10 fish and never lost it. I bet I caught 100 fish on that one fly.
Hard to beat non-stop white bass action on a bamboo fly-rod using clauser minnows. I had Beasley took off the last 4 inches of the bamboo "trout" rod I made (that couldn't land a dry fly without scaring off every trout within a tri-state area) and it now makes a great white bass rod!
Caught a bunch Thursday night too and on Friday morning we again limited out in no time and the fish were starting to get bigger. Saw the first signs of tailing on Friday. Up at the cleaning tables Brett said he had to head back; Kobe-san and Will had already left, so, I left too (begrudgingly). I could have easily stayed another week and next time I won't keep any fish until the day before I am ready to scram. But, my cooler was full to my limit and it was time to hit the road. Love this place.
A note about the picture at the top of this post. Kobe took it, and said some religious folks had moved in. Sure enough if you zoom in on that photo, you will see a woman in a long dress out in the middle of the river. I am reminded of Bill Maher's comment: "whenever you see women dressed in Little House on the Prairie costumes, you can bet there is some weird shit going on". That said, there's nothing weird about wanting to catch white bass on this beautiful river. On the far right of this pic, on the opposite bank, is area of the ledge we fished. Saw some wild goats over there too.
When I got home, I was doing some springtime chores when I noticed this reflection on the door to the upstairs. It came bouncing off three different windows and converged into the pattern below. It came and was gone in just a few minutes. I noted the time, and checked again the next day (sunny as well). It did not reappear then, and I haven't seen it since. I can only conclude that this is a figure of a white bass, and that the fishing gods are with me this year...