Salsa and the Lost Fish

When Salsa’s not making movies, he’s writing one. But when he’s doing neither, he fishes, and that’s where our story begins. A day of fly fishing on the Upper Brazos River has so many possibilities, but sometimes the ones that materialize aren’t the ones you expected…

As told by Salsa…

My friend Tim and I departed from Cabela’s (which is where all great adventures begin)
about 0645 and arrived at the Brazos near Possum Kingdom two hours later. Thank you Fort
Worthingtons.

One of our compatriots, Justin, met us there and told us that
he spoke to the Trout Hatchery crew who said they released on both sides of
the bridge that spans Hwy 16 a few days prior. My friend would talk to anyone, in any of
several accents, in any stage of sobriety to determine the whereabouts of
catchable fish.

We put the trout on the “To Do” list because we were interested in white bass
and hoped a rogue striper or six may be amongst them. So we parked at the
Morris Sheppard Dam and descended the rocky hillside and began wading the
river. The current wasn’t too strong, site claims 72 CFS. Was cold, but not
frigid. Weatherman got lucky and it was the predicted 5-10 mph winds,
overcast.

So the boys went right to work. Buggers in case any trout had moved this
far north, but I was flinging chart/white clousers I’d tied that morning
with espresso inspired shaky hands (try tying cracked out on home brewed
Starbucks). Found a little seam along the far shoreline and fish on. Small
sandies and baby stripers started gulping my fly. Not a solid strike, the
short strip retrieve would just get slowed by the weight of 8-10 inch fish.
Once hooked, they did their best and found that current to disguise their
size. Or lack thereof. But it was fun. And it was on hand-tied flies, so
I was content. 

Tim and Justin rightly wanted bigger fish so they moved down river. I
sliced across every angle of that seam, adjoining channel and likely pool
and started stringing some keeper sandies. I went by shoulder size/fish
taco ratio vs. length because most were skinny. Easily a 3 or 4 to 1 keeper
ratio. With 4 on the stringer I shed a layer and adjusted the waders,
retying the stringer onto a 1 inch nylon belt, instead of the wading clips.
This prevented the stringer knot from really cinching down and precipitated
an all-out jail break. Never saw it. Just went to string another keeper
and found my stringer gone.

Now this does really bum me out because I hate to waste the resource and
wondered how if any of the escape artists would escape the stringer.
TexasFlyCaster had taught me to string them through the membrane-eous part
of the lower jaw, preventing gill damage and allowing them to breath/swim
naturally all day keeping them fresh and happy. ‘Til you toss em in the
Eternal Ice Box of Eternity for the drive home. After years of fishing I
had never thought of that.

So maybe they got away. I did scan the clear water with polarized glasses
for a long while, but the overcast day didn’t reveal my bright blue
stringer. If you find it in the coming days I’d like the stringer back, but
you can keep any fish still on it.

So I released the fish in my hand. As well as the next three I caught.
Figured this was ridiculous and bordered “responsible conservation” so I
moved on. Scrambled over the rocks to get as close to the “Don’t come close
to this area” signs/cable and started tossing deep for that rogue striper.
I figured if I nabbed mine it’d be worth lugging him back up the cliff to
the aforementioned ice box. No dice. Or bait either. Rocks looked a
little scummy, green slime and all that fun stuff.

I headed down river to look for the other two who had to have limited out and
started hunting rainbows by now. As I passed my first fishing area, I was
able to see a lot of thick bodied minnows up shallow. Noted.
Continued on. Saw a very fishy bend in the river, 7th cast pulled a drum.
Least the river is alive. Kept trucking. Found the guys sitting on the
bank in the middle of a smoke break. Busted! Justin had to head back and
shortly after got a bolt through his tire which goes to show: Always keep
fishing!

Tim and I decided to retry the first area near the dam before driving down
to 16 and targeting trout. We got into a few sandies, still most were small
and keepers were skinny. But they were hitting. For a while. Seemed to
turn off, but we noticed an occasional surface strike of various forms.

We were both reluctant to cut and retie, but figured we had to. Tim had a
little chartreuse popper and I had Todd’s Wiggle Minnow in white. And they
loved it. I loved it more. They’d strike and miss, knock it out of the
water, chase just under the surface. The whole show! Because of
the clear water you could really see the takes, too. Great fun.

Tim, and his stringer, were on the opposite side of the channel so I built a small
rock pool on the shore line and tossed my keepers into the Native Americans’
equivalent of a Yeti Cooler. It’s true: you could even stand on it.
This continued for a while and was a ton of fun. Made me contemplate adding
a small, upturned stinger hook to my wiggle minnow.

But, sadly it was getting late and with the threat of Fort Worth rush hour
looming just a few hours away we packed it in. For some reason, instead of
crossing safely where Tim had moved across to the opposite/truck side, I
decided to go up river and cross where I had at the beginning of the day. A
crossing, with fast current and slippery rocks. Overcast skies put a grey
mirror on the surface of the water and I wasn’t able to see the obstructions in the water.

As I crossed the river, the four fish on my missing stringer laid in wait to
ambush me. And at the opportune time they worked together like a pack of
blood raged Ewoks and stretched the stringer across my path and tripped me
so that I fell into the river. Both Polypro sleeves soaking wet, water into
the top of my waders, some past my ill-fitting wading belt, but the fly rod
was safe. Now some people would say that I tripped on a rock. But you and
I know better.

The Upper Brazos is nipply in December, especially when you fall in.

It was cold, I was wet, but as Tim mentioned: At least it happened at the
end of the trip. I wasn’t in fear of hypothermia, wasn’t even shaking yet,
but I’m sure I wouldn’t have wanted to go all day in wet gear. Supposedly
Ploypro material and wool is supposed to keep you warm even when wet.
Anyone have any experience with this?

We made it up the hill, the fish made it into the cooler and this report
made it to your favorite fly fishing report source.

Where are my fish!

It occurred to me much later that not everyone had already been to this
beautiful part of the river/Texas. I wish I had taken more scenic photos
(though I never do them justice) because this really is a gorgeous place and
back cast friendly. You should visit. Just make sure your stringer is
securely attached.

End…


Editor’s Note: When he’s not being thrown into the river by renegade sandies, Salsa has been known to fly fish from a kayak.

 

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  1 comment for “Salsa and the Lost Fish

  1. Shane
    February 29, 2012 at 10:11 AM

    Nice write up!

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