With All Due Respect

| April 19, 2009 | 2 Comments

Fly Rod Catch and Release Ray Roberts State Water Body Record
“The sun even shines on a dog’s ass some days.” — White Men Can’t Jump

What a great phrase, “With all due respect …” followed by an inflammatory opinion, contradictory viewpoint or in some cases – truth. However, sometimes the phrase can be used in the proper frame of communication.

As I documented in earlier posts, there is an ongoing pursuit of Texas fishing records at places where there either a) no record, or b) the records are made to be broken – with fish that are, with all due respect, small’ish. Texas Fly Caster believes in fishing for pleasure, and record pursuits are a (respectfully) “tongue-in-cheek” endeavor to bring attention to fly fishing records for Texas water bodies, and add another dimension to fishing on such a regular basis. The complete lack of interest in records, by readers, I take as a sign that texasflycaster.com is actually on the right track. Why cloud your waters with “noise”?

About two years ago, I mentioned these records on another site, the boards at Texas Fly Report. There was an immediate reaction to the realization that there were little nuggets (ego fruit) of recognition just sitting there on the ground waiting to be had. And some mega-posters, and there are a few on Texas Fly Report, took this to heart with nothing less than record crusades. Of course there’s no need to name names, as they are a matter of public record. Some records, some by the mega-posters are even … made to be broken. Not by me mind you, but I am just saying …

We are beyond the middle of April, and 2009 has been a spring of mixed piscatorial messages here in North Texas. We have seen large swings in temperature with extraordinary cooling followed by short warmups. We have seen, and are seeing, what is now being called “a drought of epic proportions” – even being described as something from a “disaster movie”. These dynamics combine to confuse anglers and spawning fish, providing a legitimate excuse for fly fishers to scratch their collective heads, curse, and walk away from spots that once surrendered fruits of our labors empty handed, cursing more and swearing off fishing “that spot” until someone else makes better of it.

There is this one spot I have been plying for about a month now, with nary a nibble. It is a little cove at Ray Roberts that just has a look that says FISH!. The low lake levels have shown the channel into the cove as never before, sandy flats on either side, and a forty foot wide channel of green drop off that runs about 100 feet into where the cove opens up to wider flats and the channel ends in a cul-de-sac pool about 75 yards across. It has all the ingredients – ambush spots for Black Bass, flats for Carp, and a virtual swimming pool of calm for bait at the back end – all the ingredients except fish. When I dropped in on Friday afternoon, I immediately spotted Carp wandering the inner flats, and knew things had changed. Along with the Carp, there is a visible increase in vegetation and the water level had come up an inch or two since the rains earlier in the week.

I switched focus from plumbing the ambush, and potential bedding spots, to sighting Carp in the short sticks. It was still very cloudy, and for the most part the Carp had the advantage. Most disappeared in clouds of mud before I had an opportunity to cast at one. The fly, a new variant called the Coyote Carp fly (by JH at DFW Fly Fishing), finally got put to the test against a Carp with the end result being a loose Carp and a bent hook. Note to self – rethink those Gamakatsu SC-15’s.

I lost faith in my CC fly, and switched over to a shallow #4 Clouser in tan/white to see if it had any appeal to the growing number of Carp pulling out of the channel and into the flats. But, with increasing clouds came the loss in ability to sight these fish before being sighted by them. Game over.

It was becoming obvious I needed to move on to a different location, and since it was already after five, I knew time was running out on this day. I made my way back around the cul-de-sac pool, casting blind and trying to entice anything into a fight. One last cast, slow long spring strips in, lift … bam, a silver-green flash just before I lifted the fly out of the vegetation, and say goodbye to 30 feet of line – immediately. The color and run told me Black Bass – big Black Bass, and it was looking for something, anything, to wrap around. I applied side pressure just to get a change in direction, and made it to my reel. Zing, and out goes twenty more feet on the drag. Now is the time to hold on, pray the hook is going to hold, and try to think like a fish. I managed to take some back, and she jumped twice from about fifteen feet away. Now that I knew she was a she (the jumps revealed a huge distended, egg laden belly), and the largest Black I had ever hooked, the adrenalin began seeping in. We’ve probably all been there – the war without now has the added dimension of being a war within, as you battle yourself for calm, and a fish for cooperation. All you have to do is lose one, and all is lost.

Finally, she gave in, and with two hands worth of side pressure on my 6 weight, I slid her into six inches of water sideways. I lipped her, and realized on lifting her … this is a Ray Roberts Lake record. Forget the fact there are no records for fly rod at Ray Roberts – this is actually a record that may stand for a little while. This is where the dazed confusion of formalizing these kinds of things kicks in and I realize how difficult the rest of my day has now become.

One of the theories I have on registering records is that it is such a necessarily involved process, that most fly fishers would rather say “there goes another record” and throw the fish back, than jump through all the hoops required to set a record. However, in the interest of going through the process for readers, and in the interest of practicing what I preached, I decided this was the fish to put on the books. “Houston, we have a problem” …

The first, most obvious problem was that, as usual, I was fishing alone. The only witnesses were weekend fishermen at the mouth of the cove, and I didn’t know them from Adam. The second, Texas Fly Rod Records kept by the Texas Parks and Wildlife agency, are confusing and seem relegated to an obscure afterthought. Some lake records (shown online) are catch-and-release which fits perfectly with the fly fisher, but can be caught by any method that keeps them alive – then witnessed released alive. The only measure for those records is length. Then, there are the fly rod records which contain length, weight by certified scales, and properly witnessed. Weighing a fish typically means the fish will die, and at Ray Roberts that is an extremely likely outcome because of the extreme distances to certified scales from certain areas of the lake. I was a long way from what passes for “certified scales”, and there was never any doubt this fish was going to live – no matter what. My first instinct, processed on adrenalin and all this static in the synapses, was to just throw her back and forget the whole formal thing.

I am not the best measurer. I am better at length than weight, that said, I only occasionally check my guess against a Boga when catching Carp and rarely Bass, and I like to believe I always guess on the small side. As I approached one remaining fisherman, I shouted a salutation and asked for the favor of being a witness to the catch, and putting her on a stringer until I could find a container to fill with water for transport, all of which he was more than willing to provide. I asked the second guy to guess how much the fish weighed, and he threw out the number 8, but with less confidence than me. I guessed five.

As I walked toward the Cruiser, I had no idea what I would do. Where would I get a container to fill with water, how would I aerate it, and where do I go for a scale? I opened up the back of the Cruiser, and there sat a plastic file box I had just purchased earlier that day to clear out my record keeping. It was the clear type, with a snap on plastic lid, and it probably held about five gallons of water. As I walked back to the water, I decided I would stop at the Park Station and see if they either had a scale, or would witness weighing with my Boga, and then go with me to immediately release the fish. I would not leave the park to look for a scale.

I asked Chris Payne, of Ennis, to take pictures required to successfully register a record, and write down his information since I didn’t have a form in my back pocket. We measured her at 21 inches and a shade over five pounds, loaded the fish in the “well”, and groaned my way to the Cruiser. I loaded the “well” – I AM SURE weighed 45 pounds – in the back, and slammed the hatch.

Driving out of the branch, I turned right on a hunch. Sure enough I crested the hill to find a TPWD truck down the hill in front of me. I caught up to him, and flagged him down. He called in to find out where the nearest scales were – a long, long way off. Decision time. Eric Anderson, TPWD Park Ranger III, Ray Roberts Lake State Park, agreed to go with me to where I caught her, weigh, measure and release her. If they accept it, they accept it, and if not the fish lives. I was good for the outcome – whatever it may be.

He suggested I take the lid off the “well”. We sloshed our way back to the spot. (The Cruiser is still drying out as I write) He went through the formalities and I shot video to help with the paperwork. She swam off at a whale’s pace, none the worse, and was gone.

In retrospect; fishing alone has (at least one) extreme downside, TPWD needs to clarify the vagaries of fly fishing records, all park offices need scales, and I still think with all these improvements – it comes awfully close to work.

If you are interested in registering your fish for a TPWD State or Water Body record, have a look at the forms, and find the State Records for Texas or your favorite water body, and tell TFC what you think of the forms and records. It turns out the 21-inch Black Bass is only 1.5 inches off the State Fly Rod record. I will let you know how the TPWD handles the information, and of course hang out the certificate should it be awarded. If not, well with all due respect, you and I know what happened.

Post Script – It looks as if a Boga Grip will actually work as a certified scale, as it is certified by the IGFA.

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Category: Culture on the Skids, Fishing Reports, Life Observed, North Texas

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

Comments (2)

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  1. shannon says:

    That’s what happens when there’s someone taking your picture who has no idea what he’s doing. It was pure comedy. Sent off the huge packet of information to TPWD yesterday. Photographs, a CD with video clip of weight and release, a NOTARIZED entry form … that should do the trick. Now off to go get that perch record! shannon

  2. Cindy says:

    I’m impressed with the picture, you’re actually giving a real smile!

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