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Brazos Fishing Trip turned Eco-Challenge...

PostPosted:Sat Aug 15, 2009 8:19 am
by fishtl1
Again my normal disclaimer: If you don’t like to read, stop here.

Many times in preparation for a fishing adventure, the planning of the trip, organization of tackle/gear/rods, and creation (and check and then re-check) of an itemized checklist are what helps to build for the excitement and anticipation. Frequently if you are lucky, the results match or exceed the expectations and make you yearn for the next adventure and repeat performance. However, sometimes the actual events of the adventure do not follow script and deviate from the path originally pre-conceived.

After having experienced 2 prior trips on the Brazos with the initial encounter based upon the tutelage of YaknYota, we again yearned to get on the water to experience the beauty that the Brazos has to offer. Discounting the triple digit weather and lack of Stripers in Shane’s published reports, we still wanted to go and do a pack/fish trip. A couple of the prior companions Knot at Work (that lame, “I have a job” excuse) and Angler_Josh (ball and chain factor) weren’t able to make it but fortunately, John L and CatchnKeepers filled the roster and plans started weeks in advance. Maybe this warning sign exchanged during our PMs on the forum ruined the chance of a reunion of the encounter I had described in prior reports.
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And thankfully, John L and CatchnKeepers had no plans for playing the surrogate…BaffinBay and my target species on the Brazos tends to be Stripers and Catfish as I personally do not have an affinity for those green “skip-on-the-surface-fish” called “Largemouth Bass”. :lol:

Plan was solidified to float from the 16 to the 4 while utilizing Rochelle’s Canoe Rental service to drop off upstream. Cars would be parked at their site and we would paddle down without the need to paddle back up with gear against the current and potential threats of wind. Conceptually, it sounded like a better plan. I had my OK Scupper Pro, BaffinBay had “The River Queen”, John would rent an aluminum canoe, and CatchnKeepers would rent a Sit in 2 person Kayak. We would have plenty of room to pack gear. We would paddle down and fish 3 areas we had fished before before camping for the night. Day 2 we’d try to paddle far enough and camp so that hopefully, we would be able to do a little fishing on Day 2 and Day 3. I was wanting to get back to Rochelles by 1:00 PM but no later than 3:00 so that I could make it back in time for my soccer coaching duties. Well atleast that was the initial plan… :shock:

As we had learned from prior trips, bait preparation was ultra important. Our modus operandi on all of our fishing trips seems to be to gather an abundance of different bait types so that we can be ready for whatever wets the fish’s appetites. We passed on Black Saltys but had live bluegill and shad ready to go in our tanks. Additionally, we would net the natural forage of these river fish by getting those minnows that run in the riffles and the other bait that I was calling “fathead minnows” (not sure if that is accurate) which tend to inhabit slower moving, warmer water shallows.

Plan included camping 2 nights so that meant we needed to collaborate on our individual camping gear as well as that which would be communal in nature. Since weight bearing load had to be considered in our kayaks/boats, minimal yet sufficient amounts of items would have to be considered. Cooking gear, firewood, etc. would be brought down. Paddling down to the initial site wasn’t the problem but further packing, transporting, and rowing would be a challenge and BaffinBay and I had never done a 16 to 4 trip. My sleeping arrangements would again be my chair and mosquito netting and while I’d bring some food/snack items just in case, I was hoping to live off the land in terms of my bigger meals.

My fishing tackle was trimmed down a bit (only 5 rod/reel combos this time) with the though of more drift fishing besides the Day 1 trolling and night bank fishing. Historical reports on this board tended to narrate stretches of water that were devoid of stripers downstream and other than the phantasmagorical pictures that YaknYota had published of the glorious Flathead Catfish, I figured I could only dream of such a catch and would realistically be targeting lesser desired species. The beauty/scenery would be my bounty. I would be bringing my fish finder this time on the trip to check out certain depths in fishy-looking water. My newly rigged battery pack would be tested for the first time and a separate battery pack would power up my bait tank.

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Sunday, August 9
5:45 am BaffinBay makes the hour drive to meet at my house and load the kayak and my gear. Drive from my house would be about 1.5 hours to the 16. BaffinBay and I dropped off our gear/boats at the 16 first and while I waited with the gear, he would drive to Rochelles to meet John L/CatchnKeepers. Bluegill made the prior night were still kicking but the Threadfin and Gizzard shad would have to be cut bait. This time I brought my bait tank and was able to keep them alive without having to employ a bait keeping apparatus that would create drag in the water.
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While they were doing their thing en route to/from Rochelle’s, I netted some of the targeted minnows and was able to meet some other TFFers like Warrick (and a couple others which I forgot their names). Nice to meet you guys and I hope we can fish together in the future.

9:45 am they arrived and we proceeded to offload their gear into the water. Plan was to float to “the cove” and catch some minnows on the way. Hopefully we’d get a couple stripers out of that first spot. Catching minnows was highly productive but trolling for stripers wasn’t on for us. There were a couple blow ups on the baits but nothing to show for it except for 2 of those “green-skip-on-the-surface” fish that I caught and released. One was a 4 lber though that engulfed a live bluegill of decent size.

We paddled to our next spot in hopes of netting some shad for the 3rd spot. Just like our last trip, we were unsuccessful in our attempts and we would be empty in our fish holds with the candy bait. Fishing this area was also mainly uneventful with perhaps a couple gar hitting our bait.

Making it to the main “Striper Channel” would be our last stop and we would also make camp here much like we did on our prior trip. (Sorry for the poor quality pictures. I take my ancient camera on these trips.)
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Weather was nice with minimal wind and it made for some nice trolling runs that led to myself, John L, and CatchnKeepers hooking/landing some stripers. I believe this was CatchnKeepers first Striper to date!
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No whoppers to mention but thus far, the trip was proceeding nicely with no hiccups. No shotgun blasts of water snakes although they were continually present and not shy in making a close appearance. If Josh had gone, we would have seen this again (inside joke since last time Josh saw a snake, I swear he tried to run on water to get away from it):
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Tired from a full day and early start, I was too beat to fish the night catfish bite that had been so successful last time. Weather was great and I didn't even need my fan to make it comfortable. In fact, it was a bit chilly in the morning to me. The marauding racoons woke us all and they were able to defeat us at times by consuming some of the baits that the fish didn't seem to have a proclivity for that day. Bugs weren't too bad either although when I awoke, I had large ants and several spiders trying to get in. Luckily the netting worked.

(To be continued)

Re: Brazos Fishing Trip turned Eco-Challenge...

PostPosted:Sat Aug 15, 2009 8:30 am
by fishtl1
Here was Mary Poppins (aka BaffinBay) from Sunday on the River Queen. :lol: Yes I'm sure the umbrella can be handy but...
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Thankfully, John L had brought an extra trolling motor for the River Queen that would be a savior in the following days. OK I'm thankful because my ice chest/cooler was in his ride but no it wasn't the 1960s-style Coleman antique...

Day 2 and time to break down camp:

We fished a bit for the morning bite with not much success except for the gar that were hitting the live ones.
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Dam thing tried to jump in my kayak and my legs quickly got out of the way without turtling.

Prior night had left only a couple catfish on the stringer for me and a couple more of the gato pescados were caught in the morning on my favorite bait (cut shad). After deciding that the bite wasn’t going to produce, I cooked some sausage over the leftover coals for breakfast and John L’s percolator hit the spot. Fresh camp coffee always tastes great to me. :)
It was time to pack up and start the travel downstream. I was thinking we were only 3 miles or so around "Flint Bend" but I wasn't certain. I brought my portable GPS from my car but the details on trails, river, and surrounding scenery wasn't perfect. Thing was made for the road. There were thoughts that perhaps were were farther downstream as in perhaps Garland Bend. Nice paddle down past the big rocks on the left which showed depths of up to 15 feet.
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Unfortunately no stripers here and only gar were hitting on top again. Time to get ready for the long paddle ahead and search for a suitable campsite.
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There were a couple spots that had low water and "rapids" that were pretty fun to run down in the kayak. They weren't too rough but were fast enough to make me yearn for more or longer stretches. I'm not sure BaffinBay and the River Queen (now with a new moniker "The Floating Brick) would agree with me.

"Sweet, it's the start of the rapids"!
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Uh oh, I'm spinning...
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Can you say 90 degrees?
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Hey isn't it harder to go backwards?
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"If only I knew that we have to wait for "The Floating Brick" each run...
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Stuck and I hear grinding noises
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(To Be Continued)

Re: Brazos Fishing Trip turned Eco-Challenge...

PostPosted:Sat Aug 15, 2009 8:39 am
by fishtl1
Day 2 Continued
I was able to fish as I paddled quite frequently and tried casting topwater crankbaits or some of the leftover live bait I had. This fish was 17-18 inches and I"m guessing 5 lbs. Bad angle on the camera shot though.
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I definitely discovered that the hot spots for those green skippie fish were by boulders or trees along the banks while channel cats lurked along the banks that tended to be grassy with an undercut.

We came across a second set of rapids further downstream and this time, BaffinBay took the reins to his wild pony and walked The Floating Brick down. :clap:
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Seth and I were able to make it down no problem and John L did awesome standing/paddling the aluminum canoe with little problems.
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If I recall correctly, wind became a factor later. :horse: CatchnKeepers was always up ahead being the young buck in the group. Must be nice to be 20 years old.
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Because of that, he was able to relax and/or fish more than us for those green skippie things. Actually John, myself, and CatchnKeepers were able to get a couple fish while waiting.
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Because of the wind, the paddle became very tough for The Floating Brick and we would periodically stop and wait for BaffinBay. We finally saw some others on the water as a pair of canoe guys passed BaffinBay. I know it's mean but I would visualize his struggles and probably spin-o-rama events as his trolling motor started to lose some of it's juice. THe Mary Poppins umbrella had to be stowed away although I'm sure he tried to use it as a sail at times. White caps occurred occasionally and is it me or did it seem like the wind was in my face for 90% of the time regardless of whether we were heading N,S,E, or W.

John kept telling us, "campsite is just around the next bend" every bend based on his prior river experience (20 years ago!!!)...:) I kept reading that we were less than 1/2 way to the 4 and the canoe guys even said that we weren't at the 10 mile point yet. There goes the hopes that we would make camp so that we would only have 5 miles or so to paddle the next day. John decided to motor ahead and secure a campsite while we waited for Mary Poppins...err...the now "Dorothy-like" spinning rower... We passed a dock/pier that had a couple boys going out to fish and I'm sure that the thought passed through Baffin's head to beg the kids for a tow or maybe offer $50 to take him home...

Finally we found a nice gravel/sand island that John had secured and we were able to make camp. I think it was around 6 PM and we were pretty beat from the paddle thus far( reality it was 7 miles).

Camp dinner was awesome. John brought some pre-cooked potatoes that quickly were fried to make some crispy fries. The fresh caught stripers and catfish were thrown into a Zatarans type coating and came hot off the oil. Again maybe it is the scenery, the company, or simply the fact that fresh caught/cooked fish tastes awesome. A can of beans rounded out the meal. Post-dinner conversations were comical with reminiscence of past experiences in both life and fishing. We knew we had a tough paddle ahead of 10 miles and I was ZZZZing by 11:00 pm. BaffinBay and John played with the gar and again another band of raccoons made our campsite their home. In the morning, only a head was left on the stringer of catfish and what was left of the bait had fear in their eyes...

Day 3 plan was to get up real early and paddle with an estimated 45 minutes-1 hour per mile pace. It wasn't looking too good in terms of me reaching my time deadline so I left a message with the home in one of the few spots that Baffin's phone got coverage.

(To Be Continued)

Re: Brazos Fishing Trip turned Eco-Challenge...

PostPosted:Sat Aug 15, 2009 8:48 am
by fishtl1
Day 3

Well the plan on waking up early and hitting the water didn't exactly pan out. Rather than leave at 6:00 am or something like that, we awoke around 9:00 and after breaking camp, proceeded to the takeout spot.
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Little did we know that the weather elements would be fierce and create opposition that we weren't expecting.

Thank god for the trolling motors on John's canoe and Baffin's aluminum skiff or it would have been close to impossible to have gotten where we stopped the prior night. John seemed to still have some juice in the battery but it was definitely slowing down. Baffin had been relegated to trying to borrow my solar panel trickle charger as some sort of last resort to create a 1 RPM type of turn on the motor. I'm not sure if the prop was turning from the wind, the current, or the battery but it wasn't moving him along.

There definitely wasn't much fishing going on and definitely not while trying to paddle from point A to point B. The wind was pushing white caps over my bow and again I swear the wind was always in my face. From the West, we could see clouds building and thunder roared as a storm front was approaching. In a low profile kayak like the Scupper Pro, it was still a tough battle. The prior day I was able to stop paddling occassionaly to cast a lure or bait along the shoreline. This time I couldn't afford to pause to even take a drink as a ripping wind would spin me around and I'd lose precious ground that had been gained with the full strength of shoulders/arms/torso/legs. I did my best to minimize wind resistance and even slunk to a lower profile to try and continue forward. While John was able to smoke me down the river the prior day with his trolling motor, he was now in the back of the pack as well. The magnanimous team player even helped to pull BaffinBay and The Floating Brick.

BaffinBay was in a battle and thoughts of quitting had to be omnipresent. Sight of a road must have brought on thoughts of getting out and walking which would have been easier. Sight of a house/shed/camp must have brought on thoughts of making a phone call, recharging the battery to the trolling motor, or asking for a ride. Heck if there was a car along the side of the river, he probably had thoughts of breaking in just to steal their battery (of course he'd leave a cash deposit for their troubles). The sleek man in the high profile rowboat was no friend to the wind... OK I know it's mean but twice as I was struggling to paddle, I would break the tension by thinking of the spin-o-rama row boat struggling and I would chuckle to myself or even out load uncontrollably... :lol:

By now the, "it's right around the next bend" comments went right past me as I monitored our progress in baby steps on the GPS. It wasn't until the final straight away where I felt relieved and was able to rest for what seemed like 45 minutes or so in waiting of The Floating Brick. That never ending straight away was like death row in terms of duration and length. I honestly had thoughts that maybe Baffin had quit but finally he came around that bend. I think he was relieved to hear from me (the Ninja Geographer) that we only had 1.5 miles left to go....and he believed me.

One last set of rapids and amazingly by the time that BaffinBay had finished the death march, the wind started to dissipate to a manageable pace. One last tow from John for Baffin and we were now making decent time so that we'd hit the takeout spot under the 4 bridge by the 5:00 pm deadline.

Post-Completion thoughts:

1. Yeah maybe I'd do the trip again but if I did, I would probably want to do it in 4 days/3 nights to allow for more fishing. However that would be to fish for more catfish downstream I guess and those yellow-fleshed fish are yummy.
2. There is no way I'd do this trip with the wife-o and my kids until they got much older. It was too much of a grind for them and I would have to make sure I had a good motor and ample battery power to do it.
3. Most likely I'm only in for the customary paddle down/paddle back trips that we have been successful on. This is mainly due to my targeted species that I like to fish for as well as the fear of the fierce wind that can channel through the river.
4. I don't need the weight of my batteries for the fish finder next time now that I know where the deep spots and fishy areas are I guess. Live Bait tank and battery that supported it were usefull.
5. I think I have the right amount of frozen water to support me now. I've tended to overpack being on the conservative side. While I consumed a lot of water on the windy day paddle (I think 4-5 32 oz bottles), I think Baffin had me beat. I think he said he had 2 1 gallon bottles before he even got to me and I gave him another 1/2 gallon or so...
6. (maybe TMI so don't read) SBC was succesfull again and I've still got it at the ripe age of 40. Supreme Bowel Control (which is completely a state of mind control) came through again and no deposits were left at the river. That's less to pack:)
7. Travel in packs. While we might not have been in any real serious danger, it was comforting to know that others were with you and if something happened in the extremely windy conditions, you'd have help.
8. If only I knew more about Flathead fishing or new the YaknYota secret spots. I would have loved to hookup with one of those.
9. Regardless how well you can plan to make a fishing adventure successful, the natural elements can make for the transition to an Eco-Challenge that you hadn't foreseen.
10. Fishing rules when you don't have a job!

Some random pics of the scenery from Day 2. Luckily John has a better camera:
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Forgotten pics from Day 1:
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I'm not sure when my next fishing adventure will be but it's off to San Diego so maybe I'll post a report on some offshore tuna fishing...

Re: Brazos Fishing Trip turned Eco-Challenge...

PostPosted:Sat Aug 15, 2009 10:16 am
by larry long shadows
That was a Book but a good one :D :D :D

Re: Brazos Fishing Trip turned Eco-Challenge...

PostPosted:Sat Aug 15, 2009 9:23 pm
by Maulwalker
Cool report. Thanks for taking the time to post it. Nothing is more discouraging than pulling in a fish head on your stringer when you're counting on it for food! I can relate.