Good Moments

Good Moments
Rhodes with his first black drum.

The summer of '09 will no doubt go down as a landscape-changing smoker. My fence in New Braunfels nearly fell over from the cracks in the ground, and down in Floresville there were inland sand dunes forming around the fences. It was ugly. I was born and raised in S. Central Texas and have spent my entire life here mostly working outdoors. For the first time the unbearable temperatures made me wish I lived somewhere else, or at least some place it rained every now and then. But in spite of the heat, I have managed to get in some very special fishing trips with my boys Foster and Rhodes.

On one of our trips, Foster and I snuck out to Canyon Lake to try our luck with the catfish. He and I rigged up our rods and headed to an island where the blue cats congregate. It was hot and windy, so we pulled the boat around to the protected side of the island and beached it on a long gravel bar. I broke out the ice chest of Dr. B and Cool Ranch Doritos and Foster grabbed a bag of cut shad and our rods. We were set for some first class fishin'. We waded out into the crashing waves on the windswept side of the island and started working our popping corks in the froth. I love to fish for blue catfish that way.

Foster was the first to hook up with a nice channel cat. A few minutes later his cork vanished beneath a wave and he set the hook into a solid blue cat with a muscled back, fat belly, and beautiful metallic skin. After his fourth fish, Foster started to rub it in a bit. "Man I'm catching them all Dad. Why aren't you catching any?" As is usually the case when I fish with either of my boys, I was getting spanked. Why does it work that way? Why do our kids (or our spouses) school us when we take them fishing? It must be some sort of divine right of passage we are powerless to control. I used to do it to my Dad too.

Foster landed a half-dozen more, I caught none, and then finally the cats showed some mercy on me and quit biting. So, we loaded up and headed over to another island. Foster broke out a 5-gallon bucket and a dip net, and we worked our way down the shoreline turning over rocks and catching crawfish, darters, or anything else we could find. I haven't done that in years and had forgotten how much fun it was. There is nothing quite like the anticipation of turning over a big flat rock in shallow water. It was a great end to the day.

Several weeks after the Canyon Lake expedition, I had an opportunity to take my older son Rhodes kayak fly fishing in Aransas Pass. Rhodes is 12 years old and a strong paddler. He also can cast a fly rod well enough to hold is own on the front of a boat. But, combining a fly rod and a kayak in saltwater was something new and he had been looking forward to his first trip.

We launched along the Aransas Channel on a sultry morning shortly after daylight and paddled across the channel to a large expanse of flats. There was zero activity on the flats and no tide movement, so we headed back into the marsh for a little exploring. I let Rhodes lead and told him just to imagine he was either Lewis or Clark and we were searching for some sort of passageway to the land of many redfish. At first he kept looking over his shoulder but eventually he paddled out ahead and maintained a good confident pace.

After an hour or so of paddling it had become clear we were not going to find the passageway to the Promised Land. It also looked like the water was starting to drop so we headed out of the marsh and back to the edge of South Bay. As we moved into open water I spotted a large wrinkled spot on what was otherwise a smooth bay. The wrinkle slowly grew and started moving toward us. It definitely looked like feeding fish, and by their trajectory it appeared they would come right by us.

The water was only a foot deep so I told Rhodes to slip over his anchor, grab his fly rod and come with me. "You see that blade of grass sticking up there buddy?" I asked him. "Yeah" he said. "Strip out some line and make a few casts at it. If you can hit the grass you can hit these fish when they come by." Rhodes stripped out some line and dropped the fly right next to the grass. He looked ready.

As the large wrinkled area approached I could make out dozens of grayish black bodies below it. It was a giant school of black drum. Rhodes made a cast ahead of the school and let the fly sink for a second. He gave it three short strips and the line yanked tight. "Got him!" he said as he lifted the rod. The fish he hooked turned and bolted and the rest of the school erupted all around us. There were drum swimming everywhere. It was cool.

Rhodes' 6wt. rod was bent all the way to the handle and he quickly realized this fish was more powerful than any largemouth bass he had caught on a fly rod. After a few minutes of grunting and groaning he managed to get the drum up close and with a little coaching he got his hands under its belly and lifted it out of the water. It was a nice-sized drum and Rhodes' hands were shaking so bad he could barely hold on to it. He eased the fish back into the water and watched it swim away. "Let's catch another one!" What a great feeling it was for both of us.

And so in spite of the brutal drought of 2009, I have a lot to be thankful for.
Spending time with my friends and family, and fishing with my boys reminds me that regardless of how tough the times get, there are always special moments in our lives that lift us up and make us remember how lucky we are.