I was looking through some old pictures and ran into this one of me and Dan from back in 2009 on our inaugural kayak fishing trip. We were with Shane Davies on the upper Brazos River slow trolling a honey hole near Garland Bend and Dan was paddling about 40 yards behind me. All was quiet when suddenly Dan yelled out something, and next thing I knew, someone shot off a .22 right behind me.
“Fish On!” yelled Dan, having just seen the largemouth hit my bait on the rise and launch herself four feet into the air. The loud pop I’d heard was the bulky bass crashing back into the water.
I started to set the hook but remembered that Shane had been adamant about letting the circle hook do its job, and so I reeled in quickly and held up the pulsing rod tip as best I could against the strain of the fighting fish. She jumped again and when I finally got a good look at her, I was shocked at her size. The fish pulled again against the straining rod and started turning the kayak, and then she jumped once more, but without the gusto of the previous one, which I took as a sign that she was tiring out–that is until the kayak started moving again and I realized she was towing me back upriver–my first Brazos River sleigh ride.
I’m not the most coordinated guy in the world, and I’d never caught a freshwater fish this size before (and certainly not from a kayak), so I’m pretty sure the fight looked like a comedy of errors. I eventually boated her, and I have to tell you, my heart was pounding and my hands trembling a bit; it was one hell of an adrenaline rush.
What I didn’t realize at the time was that even though there was a bass at the end of my fishing line, it was Dan and I that got hooked that day. I didn’t grow up fishing, nor did I take my kids fishing much when they were young, but somehow Dan managed to develop a love of fishing after he left home to join the Marine Corps. When he came home on leave one fall, the trip was booked with Shane and we’ve not been the same ever since. It was the start of a new chapter in our lives–one of a father and son enjoying a shared passion and the camaraderie that comes with being outdoors with family. Kayak fishing not only changed the way we fish, it changed the way we live, and for me, this fish was ground zero.
She was gently handled, photograph and released, and I think I have a video somewhere of her swimming off. There have been a couple of golden algae blooms on that stretch of the river since then, so I’m not even sure if she’s still alive. Fish don’t get to be that size, though, by being dumb and, sometimes, the fish find a way to survive despite everything we throw at them.
I’d like to think she’s out there still, hiding under a deep rock, biding her time and waiting to pounce on the next bait fish that comes down the river. Maybe she’ll take flight again.
Lone Star Chronicles – Life, Liberty & the Pursuit of Fish