It’s a small world. I was kayak fishing on the upper Brazos and ran into a couple from Fort Worth that was paddling downriver on a three-day trip from the Highway 16 bridge to the take out at Rochelle’s at Highway 4. The couple, Frank and Amy Blaustein, stopped and we chatted a little. I’d actually already met Frank a few weeks prior to that when he caught me eyeballing his racks–the kayak racks on his truck, that is—at a gas station in Fort Worth (it’s a kayaker thing). Anyway, coincidentally we bumped into each other again, only this time on the river. I asked them about their float plan and they asked me how the fishing was, and I mentioned this blog and somehow that led to Amy agreeing to write a piece about their trip. We said our goodbyes and they continued down the river to enjoy the rest of their trip.
I remember thinking about them the next day, when an expected cold front arrived a day early. It got butt cold and wicked windy the next day and it concerned me a little because I knew they were still on the river. I hoped that they were prepared, but there was no way to check on them. It wasn’t until a few weeks late that I confirmed they made it off the river safely, although the cold front forced them to cut their trip short by a day. But they caught lots of fish and had a good time despite the change in plans.
More importantly, Amy made good on her promise to write a piece for the Chronicles, and it is my pleasure to post it for your reading pleasure. Her account is not so much about that float as much as it is about their love affair with the Brazos River, and also about how kayak fishing changed their lives, just as it’s changed mine. So I’m excited to let you read her first post on Lone Star Chronicles. She’s a rare find: a lady who loves paddling kayaks, camping on river banks and fishing for bucket mouths; and if that wasn’t enough, she can write too.
By Amy Blaustein
My husband and I just recently celebrated our one-year anniversary on the Brazos. However, this was not a wedding anniversary that we celebrated; instead it was one year since our first kayaking adventure on the Brazos.
Kayak fishing might be new to me but fishing is not. I started fishing when I was barely old enough to hold a fishing pole. I grew up fishing on Lake Travis located outside of Austin and spent some time on Lake LBJ in Marble Falls. My family had a “lake place” on Travis and I spent many weekends there fishing with my father. We had a canoe with a trolling motor and he loved to take me fishing all over the lake. I grew up on that lake and loved being surrounded by water. Even at our house in the city you could always find me in the creeks behind our house looking for crawfish or turtles. I was always out and about adventuring and discovering.
When I met my husband ten years ago, he quickly discovered my love for fishing when he noticed my tackle box was bigger than his. Not only was mine bigger but I had more lures, hooks and anything you might need for a day of fishing. While we were dating we did not do the fancy dinners on the weekends instead we went out fishing. Daytime, nighttime, anytime it did not matter we would spend our time fishing. Frank quickly learned that not only was my tackle box bigger but I could catch more fish. He enjoyed our trips and would always tell me he loved watching me fish. We are both very busy in our jobs and under a lot of stress so the time on the water is always relaxing and peaceful for us.
Our first big investment as a couple was a 15 foot canoe from Dick’s Sporting Goods. We loaded it up on my car, not knowing one bit about how to secure it, and almost lost it while heading home on Loop 820. But, we got it home and started using it right away. We fished any chance we could and living near Marine Creek was an added bonus. We enjoyed fishing small ponds and our bass honey hole outside of Hillsboro. Out there on most days you are guaranteed a load of bass no matter what you are fishing with.
After a few years of having our canoe, Frank started talking about getting a sit-on-top kayak. Apparently, he had seen a fishing show on TV and had fallen in love with the idea of getting a kayak. Thank you Chad Hoover! Frank and I were working different hours at that time and he a lot of spare time to himself. He thought a kayak would be a great way for him to get out on the water alone. But you have to understand something about my wonderful husband. He is the type that has to do all the research first, then go look at all the options and then do more research before he even thinks about making a purchase. So, needless to say, I heard all about kayaks and the types and sizes for what seemed like a very, very long time. But then one day he finally made a decision and bought a Wilderness Ride 115 kayak from Mountain Sports in Fort Worth.
As soon as I saw his new toy I was jealous, but I did my best to not let him know that. Thankfully, after having his kayak for a while and going out fishing alone he realized that he missed his fishing partner. So for Christmas 2011 I got a Wilderness Ride 135.
In January of 2012 (yes, I said January), we took our first overnight camping and adventure trip. I had become a member of the Texas Fishing Forum and had read a lot about the Brazos and the beauty of the area. We put in at the Highway 4 bridge at Rochelle’s and went upstream not knowing what we were going to find. The Game Warden greeted us as he was getting off the river and told us that we would have the entire river to ourselves since he had not seen anyone on the water all day. As we began our trip, we quickly discovered that the water level was very low and we would have to do some dragging. Keep in mind we were brand new to kayak camping and since my husband likes to be prepared you can only imagine how much gear we had packed in our yaks for just an overnight trip. But after getting used to the dragging and finally enjoying open water I fell in love with the Brazos. We found a wonderful location to make camp and enjoyed a steak dinner as our reward.
As the sun went down that first night on the river, the wilderness around us came alive and the night sky opened up. We were blessed with a perfectly clear sky and I was in awe of how many stars I could see. The sounds around us were wonderful as well. We were serenaded by the owls and could hear the coyotes in the distance. As the night went on I was amazed at how active and vocal the coyotes were while on their nightly hunts. The next morning we were woken up by the morning turkey call. We enjoyed our overnight adventure and all that the Brazos had to offer.
We returned to the Brazos a few months later this time we went further up the river to see new things. Unfortunately, this trip we were introduced to what we later learned was Golden Algae. The devastation to the river was unbelievable and sad to see. Fish were bobbing on the surface trying to survive but one by one we could see them dying. We found a nice place to stay for the night and again were amazed at the night sounds and the wildlife stirring around us.
In October we decided to tackle the 20 mile adventure from PK dam down to Rochelle’s. The trout had just been released into the water so we were greeted by the trout fisherman when we first got on the water. I had never seen someone fly fishing before so it was really neat to see a few of the guys out there with their fly fishing gear in action. Since we had always put in at Rochelle’s and gone upstream this portion of the river was brand new to us. It was great to see new landscape and fall more in love with the Brazos.
On our previous trips we had done some fishing but didn’t really catch a lot. Well, this trip would turn out to be a great fishing expedition. The fish were active and biting hard. Almost everywhere we stopped to fish we would find 10 to 20 fish at a time. Not only did we find a lot of fish but we came upon a large group of pigs getting water from the river. Further down the river, as the sun was setting, we found about 20 turkeys who were trying to not become a turkey dinner for some animal we could hear scurrying after them in the woods.
We made camp near one of the areas that has some rapids and the sound of the water was so relaxing. During the night I got up for a little while and just enjoyed staring into the night sky and hearing the water. As I was getting ready to return to the tent I could hear something moving in the water below us. I turned on my head lap and was greeted by about 15 sets of eyes. The next morning we woke up before dawn and got ready for the final day on the water. The weather was changing on us and we needed to get off the river before the strong winds arrived. I couldn’t wait to do another 20 mile trip.
Finally, just a few weeks ago we returned to the Brazos to mark our one-year anniversary of discovering all the Brazos has to offer. We decided that we would take the same journey we did our first time on the water to mark our anniversary trip. This trip would again show us new things the Brazos has. We came across a large amount of migratory pelicans and their sea gull companions. They apparently liked the water near where we were going to camp out so they were with us all day and night. We made our campsite in the exact same spot we had done a year ago.
I got the fire going while my husband got the tent set up. As I was gathering fire wood I could hear fish jumping left and right, as if taunting me. The minute my project was done I told my husband I was going fishing. I grabbed my pole and within a few casts I had landed my first fish.
I continued fishing while trying not to hook one of the many gars that were around. Then I caught a good sized catfish. We normally catch and release but this felt special. My husband loves catfish so after I had landed the fish I hollered to my husband and asked him if he wanted some catfish with his dinner. He was thrilled that I had gotten a good catfish out of the river. We grilled it up and enjoyed our first Brazos catfish dinner while looking back at our adventures on the river.
Each trip has taught me more about what the Brazos has to offer and makes me appreciate what we have so near to us. We have already planned our next two trips and I cannot wait to see what we discover next time.
Lone Star Chronicles – Life, Liberty & the Pursuit of Fish