Friday, July 28, 2017

The Maiden Voyage

There are some days you write home about and then there are days you just write about. I'm not sure which one this morning turned out to be-probably the latter-but either way it was a ton of fun.

As of April 15 Sharon and I are no longer traveling the country in our travel trailer. Of all places we settled down, for a couple years anyway, in Denton, TX. The reasons for Denton are numerous but but few are of any consequence. Since this is the part of Texas where I was born and raised we're close to family and that's inducement enough at this point in our lives.

From before the time we landed here I have been telling myself and Sharon that I was going to get a kayak so I can can get out on the local lakes, fish with friends across the state and just generally get on the water. Last week I finally pulled the trigger. I say that a bit tongue-in-cheek because it's not like I spent a ton of money and got a top of the line model or brand for that matter. The thing is I'm not one to spend big bucks, as a general rule, on any item when a regular model will do. Not that wouldn't like to have a Diablo, Jackson, Hobie or one of those other super cool brands but the truth is I think my $300 Lifetime Tamarack Angler will do just fine.

Before you tune out I should tell you I chose this one because I was fortunate enough to use a predecessor to this hull in Florida this past winter. I was extremely impressed with the stability and the amount of room for the size. As for the stability it is far more stable than any of the other kayaks I've been in; not exactly a ringing endorsement since that number now totals 4 different hulls designs but it is stable enough that I feel completely safe hitting open water after just one outing.

Being of the mind that once it's mine it needs to be branded the first thing I did was wash the warehouse dust off the hull and start applying decals. In honor of my time this spring in Rockport I deflowered the hull with a decal courtesy of my good friend Jeff Johnson owner, guide, head cook and chief bottle washer at Fly Fish Rockport then a bunch of others I happened to have around including a few from Cam at The Fiberglass Manifesto. You can bet there will be more as I can collect them, along with a mane for the vessel I'm calling "My-Yak" for now because that's just the kind of guy that I am.

This morning I took My-Yak on it's maiden voyage to Lake Ray Roberts north of Denton. One of the benefits of being close to family is that they are all is finatical (it's a pun) about fishing as I am and my brother Mark is in the know about Ray Bob as the locals call it. With the aid of an AID map (yes another pun, it's that kind of day, you'll see why soon) he directed me to a starting point which as it turns out would be fine in a bass boat but not so much for a kayak. Launching into the wind on a maiden voyage just doesn't seem like peaches to me, luckily I have the map, which by the way wasn't as easy to locate in stores as one would think but maybe that's a story in itself examining why local sporting goods stores only carry maps for locations other than the ones closest to them. Like I said, a story for another day.

So off I went with the aid of my AID map to another boat launch. Not knowing the lake I felt it best to stick with known workable locations rather than try and find some of the hidden gems Mark rattled off in a fast paced phone conversation. I could visualize him visualizing every detail as if I knew what the F&@k he was seeing in his head after spending years roaming the lake. I think we may need to sit down with the map or do some physical recon together so future conversations like that will mean something to both of us.

Wanting to keep things as simple as possible, and up my odds of landing a bass on the maiden voyage, I reverted to casting gear for the day. Yes gasp, gasp I used casting gear, freely admit it and I am writing about it on a blog devoted to fly fishing. Life is hard now let's move on because this is where things get a bit interesting. Feel free to let me know about it if you are so inclined.

Picking up casting gear after basically NOT for several years presents just as many challenges as a gear angler picking up a fly rod after a long hiatus. First item of note is that bass lure have far more hooks than a single hook fly. When you grab the rod watch out for the pair of extra sharp treble hooks they will stick to your thumb, or should I say into your thumb and subsequently into the index finger of your other hand while trying to extract them from the original stuck thumb!!! And that's what it's like to have battle scars before you even get started!

But wait there's more. Having not used my casting gear for several years it has been packed away without line, drags completely loosened and stored in a cool dry location. Last night while spooling new line, which by the way has increased substantially in price over the last few years.
Who knew? I tightened the drags on my reels enough to get the line in place. Now here's a little tip for all my fly fishing friends who may want to pick up a casting rod and reel. When you spool the line on the reel go ahead and tighten the drag to the proper tension. More about that later.

I was on the water just after daylight, prime time to try some topwater because  just like trout fishing I will eagerly forego catching numerous fish subsurface in order to catch one on top. That was a no go situation this morning. The sunfish were eager enough to oblige my desire to catch fish on top but try as hard as they did they could not get that 4" spook in their mouths and the two bass that showed themselves were quite half-hearted about it. I wasn't too broken up about it though because I was on the maiden voyage of my new kayak, which I absolutely love by the way. I can feel the addiction genes multiplying as I write.

Knowing what I do about bass fishing from a former incarnation of my angling career, after over an hour, with the sun peeking through the clouds it was time to go deep, Carolina rigged ringworm to the rescue which I rigged last night. Now as much as I absolutely prefer catching fish on top it may seem quite peculiar that my #2 for bass fishing is a Carolina rigged worm. For my fly angling friends it's the equivalent of Booby fishing but instead of using a full sinking line a 3/8-1 oz. weight is attached to the line above a large swivel and a section of leader is attached to the other end and tipped with a floating rubber worm on a light wire hook. I have long suspected that some bass fisherman somewhere, sometime got the idea from the English practice of Booby fishing but try as I might I have yet been able to find a definitive answer on the origins of the Carolina rig. Stories abound.

On the first cast I felt the familiar tap and pressure of a bass picking up the worm. I reeled down and set hard........kind of.  What you're expecting did not happen. I did NOT go over backwards. I've seen far too many blooper reels to let that happen. Remember the drag? You guessed it, I forgot to finish tightening the drag and the spool freely spun backwards. I frantically reeled and tried to set again but by that time a rather hefty largemouth had catapulted from the surface and threw the hook.

Slightly frustrated I calmed myself down and cranked the drag on the reel. Three casts later I felt the familiar tap and run again. This time I reel down and set to the feeling of the fish swimming toward me, the one down-side of Carolina rig fishing. The weight is so heavy that you can't tell if the fish is swimming at you or towards the other end of the lake. Oh and lest I forget, the drag still slipped, not free-spooling slipped but just enough. Repeat previous hook throwing sequence. The fish wasn't quite as big but it would still have made a fine model for the first photo shoot in my new kayak.

It was quite some time before I got another hit but the drag was tight enough to pull down a tree, instead I pulled up a dull gray Gaspergoo of about 2 pounds. Do we measure Gaspergoo? I'm not sure. Just so you are aware, no Gaspergoo were seriously harmed, it revived quickly and swam away with more gusto than I thought those fish had. Reeling one in is a bit of a let down but at least I didn't get skunked. I got Gaspergooed and that's just fine. As the old adage goes "A bad day fishing beats a good day at work" In my case, as a fishing writer, I think the two are the same right?