Texoma – The Real Story – Maybe

| June 5, 2009

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It’s hard to forget how fast and furious the action at Texoma – below Denison Dam – was in 2007. And now, I feel pretty safe in positing a theory about that 2007 experience, one that could go down in the annals of North Texas fly fishing history.

If there is such a thing as Landlocked Striper Mecca, that was the time and that was the place. Once the flood waters receded, water that ran over the spillway, and once the release of the remaining froth was done, it was ON. We would wade out to the rock piles and proceed to slay. Slay in quantity, sometimes in size, and just simply slay. The message boards lit up with information, overnight Striper experts, selling their magical flies in the Dam parking lot (what a joke), and rods, lines, leaders, flies, technique … on and on it went when in fact it almost didn’t matter what you did. These fish were hungry, if not starving.

A sizable number of Stripers had been thrown from a lake custom tailored for their existence, down into a river where movement, habitat and feeding was entirely different. Once flows were normal, the daily water generated by electric generation was like a dinner bell. If you could time it right, and be there when the horn sounded, it was ON. And that makes sense doesn’t it. Large numbers of young Stripers in the 12-to-20 inch range were being caught (and released by fly folks) in the slippery rock gardens. Even the huge Buffalos were hungry; one chased down my Clouser in the current on a particular occasion.

Then things got back to what was most likely normal. Fewer fish, and larger fish residing somewhere out in the middle depths. The larger Stripers became rarer and mostly stayed in the middle, eating early and not often. These Stripers would hit early, and shred slabs, and be done for the day by nine in the morning. If you were fortunate enough to be floating near the middle during the morning feed, you could possibly take hold of a real fish – thirty or thirty four inches, even more.

Virtually all of 2008 saw limited water releases, and once the population below the Dam had been harvested, silence gripped the new Striper experts. It became more difficult, and by the middle of the year (if memory serves) it was an afterthought. The message boards wondered “what happened”, and except for some Chamber of Commerce propaganda, it was OVER. While guides and knowledgeable types looked for upticks, and kept photographs coming (supposedly proving they could catch fish at will below the Dam), it was obvious the emperor had no clothes.

Now, in 2009, surprisingly there is another large volume of water coming through the gates at Denison Dam. Make no mistake, there is no water running over the spillway, and from what I saw today, there are not incredible numbers of Stripers being dumped in the Red River. However, the dynamics are definitely changing from desert to oasis. I did see stringers of respectable fish coming out of the tailwater yesterday, caught by bait casters.

If we can learn from the past, look at the chart for water levels at Texoma in 2007. Now take a look at the charts for 2009. Although there will not be a repeat of 2007, perhaps we can predict a bubble – a bubble of Striper activity below Texoma at the Denison Dam.

I think we are about three weeks into the same phenomenon, on a smaller scale, that led to the Striper frenzy of ’07. That said, when do we get that bubble of high Striper activity below the Denison Dam?

It appears that now they are cutting the releases every three days. But the release numbers are huge right now. Qualifying that, the numbers are huge compared to 2008. Basically the 2008 numbers, the lack of rainfall and release, explain why there has been virtual silence when it comes to easy access fly fishing for Stripers at the Dam.

If the situation in 2007 is about to occur within a smaller scale, and the highs are lower and the release is shorter and drops faster, I think we are looking at about three weeks until there are some very hungry fish with an reduced food supply. To really put the pressure on here, I will put an outer limit at five weeks. Texoma is a huge lake. Texoma takes in a lot of water for a very large area of Texas and Oklahoma, and if it rains somewhere within the shed, these numbers can push back. When you see the rocks in the middle again, you better be ready to scramble out there and hit them – AND HARD. All things being equal, all disclaimers in (and boxing myself in), look for the first full moon after July 4.

For those of you calling in from all over the State – not now, but get ready, start saving your pennies for that three dollar gas. Tie Clousers, and remember that these Stripers like a size match, more than a color match – two to six in natural colors and some flash. If you want to fish the generation, you will need heavys, and during “low tide” shallows are best to keep from hooking the rock gardens. Floating lines are just fine during “low tide”, while I use intermediate during the generations or during big releases like today. The fly dictates the rod, and you will want to go to bat with something in the six to eight range.

For whatever reason, fishing the riffles and back-flows yesterday afternoon wasn’t happening for me, but I did manage a small LMB in the big flows. That just proves these fish can hold, and when this LMB took off, he used the current exactly like a trout in a stream does, fighting a lot harder than a pond bass could ever hope to do. I finally got into the Eisenhower State Park, and drove around the grounds there. It is lush, green and beautiful, and since it was a weekday before summer officially gets underway, it was not crowded at all. The winds were still howling from the north, so fishing from the south side of Texoma was out of the question.

One interesting find were the ramps, and pseudo launch area next to the Dam. I am beginning to be able to comprehend the idea of kayaking out on the lake from one of these launch points, but still the sheer size of Texoma, its ability to turn on a dime and generate massive waves, gives the timid reason to pause.

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Category: Fishing Reports, North Texas

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

Comments (5)

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  1. Cindy says:

    private river access, but you have to come to wimberley first.

  2. shannon says:

    Thanks to SB for this via e mail = Hi Shannon,
    Large concentrations of Stripers need to be in the dam area in order for them to pass thru the flood gates. The flood 3 years ago happened later in the year and lasted much longer. Large schools of fish were in the dam area. This year most of the fish were located mid lake during most of the flood. I have heard some fish are moving into that area recently. Not sure if the gates are still open. I have been spending all my time fishing the lake on bait trips.

    No doubt some fish have passed thru the gates into the spillway. Numbers like 2007? I doubt it. But who knows? Time will tell. I can tell you this. The lake is loaded with fish. Lots of fish in the 16 to 24 in. range. A few running 24 to 32 in. If they move into that area while the flood gates are open it could spice up the river a bit.

    Predicting Stripers is very difficult. They never seem to do the same thing year after year. Or even day to day.

  3. shannon says:

    Yup. I will take a couple of those at that price. So what about that wallymart heb? And, what about that private water you have access to on the ???? river?

  4. Cindy says:

    next time i get a break. you really want a discount pfg shirt? i’ll get you one. san marcos is the nearest wal mart/heb from here.

  5. shannon says:

    Attention Shoppers – be sure to check out Gander Mountain in Sherman if you are going that far. They moved the fly tying merch., but it’s still and the hard to find stuff – hooks, purple feathers, etc.. are still there. Also they have all their fishing shirts at 30-percent off which is great since their price is already the best around. TFC