Monday Morning and The Street Lights are Back On

| August 26, 2013

HOME TOWN MUSINGS

Sunday night they literally rolled up the carnival here in Denton, Texas, and Monday morning signifies the rolling out of the streets – as students return to their rooms, in neat little rows, and do things as simple as blow their noses on their teachers, and as complex as contemplating the meaning of everything. UNT and TWU students are looking wide eyed and mostly lost, and if they’re not freshmen, they’re still asleep.

The street lights are being turned back on, and the roads smoothed, and the restaurants and bars are stocking up. Lighting is brightest when it first strikes, and students are the same. They come back loaded to get loaded. Flush with somebody else’s money, they want … want to party, play and eventually get settled in to the “university life” little old Denton, Texas, has to offer. Some get settled, and some never do. I still remember when I arrived, to stay, in this sleepy good-old-boy town 33 years ago. I’m not so sure I’m settled in yet.

Denton is still one of those places where we can’t live without “them,” and we certainly can’t live with them year-round. We get big when they’re here, and we exhale big when the 45-thousand students are gone. Yeah, I said 45-thousand, and that’s probably a little low. Students provide the fuel that makes this town go. And to quote a fine old man, long dead now, “Denton wouldn’t a made a town if not for them schools.” At least that’s how I remember Mr. Willock of Celina, Texas, saying it. Never a truer word was spoken.

Now, the locals regroup, watch for drivers going the wrong way down the one-ways, and live with the dual reality that is Denton. I had a close call before noon today, and plan on taking cover the rest of the week. Gone are the days when I would swerve right into a head-on coming at me the wrong way up a one-way just to get them to stop and think. THe FJ60 was good for that, but this other vehicle … it’s not the same freight train.

Truth be told, UNT has topped out their enrollment numbers and an insider says enrollment is down for the second straight year. They’re lowering requirements for graduates, and parents are raising a big enough stink that UNT is even considering bringing back Ph.D’s and tenure tracks! Imagine that.

FALL FLY FISHING

Around here, fall fly fishing smells of the doldrums, a stale refrigerator with nothing in it, and nothing in the offing. Neither hot nor cold – room temperature at best and worst. While the saltwater sings its siren song on the south winds, locally the freshwater drought continues unabated, taking tolls yet to be tallied.

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It’s rather impossible to ignore the difficulties of fly fishing in freshwater lakes, ponds, rivers and ditches of North Texas these days. Things were certainly made easier this past Saturday, as I was once again the guest of a new friend who wanted to chase carp on Lake Ray Roberts from his Gheenoe Custom. You will remember Jack Bookout (JB) from our trip on Lake Ray Roberts on his Spear technical skiff a few weeks back. The outing Saturday not only had JB poling me around, but my first stint on the platform poling him around as well.

A WORD (or two) ON SKIFF POLING

Okay, you want to know if poling a flats skiff is easy, or difficult in the broadest sense? It a’int easy. The learning curve isn’t steep, but perfecting could take a long time. Going round-and-round is quite easy, and going straight is as difficult as Elton John’s sex life. Fortunately, the wind was non existent on Saturday and we found some fantastic areas on Ray Robert’s northern reaches, all of which made my first lesson on the poling platform great for me, but slightly unrealistic.

What’s so great about being up on a platform five feet above the water? It’s “that vision thing.” Think Roger Daltry (of the Who for those of you) singing, “I can see for miles, and miles …” That is the absolute truth. From the platform on the Gheenoe, I could see way out ahead, and spotted buffalo, common carp and some sizable drum as well.

From the platform, I could call out the distance and clock the direction of the shots that came with great frequency. We were into the largest and highest concentration of fish I have seen on Lake Ray Roberts this year. They are still way deeper than they have been in the past, but that’s mainly due to the drought’s effects on the location of the submerged vegetation.

It’s an interesting dance that develops between someone on the front of the boat and someone on back. On a boat, like the Gheenoe, communication of movement (before you move) is paramount if the fisher wants to keep the person on the poling platform high and dry. The Gheenoe is certainly prone to tipping someone off due to sudden unexpected shifts of weight. Fortunately, JB and I are already on pretty good footing when it comes to communication.

On the other hand; it would be pretty easy to throw the other guy off, like a lumberjack logroller, if you really wanted to get rid of one or the other.

I didn’t spend any time on the platform of JB’s Spear Skiff, but it was pretty obvious from the start that the Gheenoe has nothing on the Spear. The beam on the Spear just gives so much more lateral stability. I was still quite impressed with the Gheenoe, and for an old surfer like me, I was pretty comfortable handling the rock-and-roll from the front of the boat, nothing like closeout three-to-fives at the Oceanside pier.

THE FUTURE IS CLEAR. The ultimate way to fish the flats of Texas lakes is the same way to fish the saltwater flats of Texas – on a skiff. I started nibbling at the edges of this idea a year or two ago, and the only questions were; how would carp react, and how easy would it be to get around on a Texas freshwater lake on a saltwater flats boat. At a time when fish are skittish, and have been for weeks, it’s no surprise that we spook them as we float right over the top of them, but the shots are good at a normal distance, and the sheer number of shots … well, I can’t even keep count. I shudder to think what a skiff will do when conditions and fish are normal.
Now, the fundraiser begins. More on that later.

FLY FISHING CONDITIONS NORTH TEXAS

If you’re still trying to go it alone, and targeting carp, I wish you luck. The habitat is pretty complicated, and the beauty of a boat, or kayak, is there are now roadbeds all over Ray Roberts that are surfacing. You won’t be able to walk to them, but they are WHERE YOU WANT TO BE if you are looking for carp. Shoreline walk/wade will find you in two to three feet of water, which favors the carp much more than it does the angler. It can be done, but it’s a heck of a challenge – especially solo.

FLIES ARE GETTING duller too. I had less positive reaction to glittery flies, and better reactions to bright, but not metallic, fly patterns. Some of the classics are still too dull.

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Category: Adventure, Culture on the Skids, Flats Boats, Fly Fishing For Carp, TECHNICAL, Technique, Writing

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I write. I photograph. I fish, and I live.

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