We have lovely winters here in my area of Texas. We are below the snow line where we rarely get frozen precipitation. We don't often dip much below freezing in fact. Today is fairly typical, sunny, not windy, a high in the 50's and a low of about 31. The 31 will last about an hour, right at dawn.
The water I fish, the Brazos
, is thin water. It comes down from Lake Whitney
dam, nine river miles away. On average it is knee deep over that nine miles. It is relatively thin water and can cool or warm quite a bit in one day. Given a week of warm weather and the river can become quite fishable. Given a week of cold weather and it goes the other way.
My experience has been that if the water is too cold to comfortably wade bare legged, then the fishing is going to be slow, at best. Or in other words, if I need to pull on waders then I'm likely to get skunked. But not always of course.
Last week my good friend David Coulson
was in the area on his rambles across our great nation. I had the pure pleasure of fishing with Dave for three days, and brother did we fish. We wore waders because the water was cold. In fact the river had just gone down after two months of being near flood stage.
Because of the recent high water the fish were not acting normally, and because of the cold water they weren't biting much. Except for Dave. For Dave they bit, and bit a lot. My fishing style is to use whatever works best to get fish on the hook. Consequently I use live bait, flys, plastics. You name it and I'll try it to get a fish on. I fish with a fly rod because they are versatile and fish feel so much better on them.
Dave is strictly a fly fisherman, an extraordinarily skilled fly fisherman. So we had something of a face-off to see what would get the most fish - flys or nightcrawlers. We were fishing my water, a place he'd never been, so I had live bait and home field advantage. To even the odds up a bit I pointed out to him the places that I knew to hold fish and insisted on him fishing those spots first.
And Dave outfished me something fierce. We didn't keep an actual count but I guarantee he caught a whole lot more than I did. From day one. In fact he caught so many more than me that I switched to flys - and still he wildly outfished me. It was a valuable lesson to watch him doing his thing. He fished with two flys at a time, always pushed the envelope of putting the flys in danger of being snagged on underwater brush and limbs, and he did lose a lot of flys in the process.
But by doing what he did he pulled out fish after fish after fish while I only pulled out one here and there. The fish we caught were mostly smallish but Dave did hang a couple of river monsters that snapped his leader. There are some huge fish in the river - thirty pound catfish and buffalo and carp are not in short supply. Hang one of them and for a few seconds the fish pulls around and you feel the serious weight - but the fish hasn't realized it has been hooked yet. After a few seconds it does realize and makes an instant powerful surge and just like that, there goes your leader into pieces.
It's happened to me so many times that I now use a tapered furled leader and tie twenty pound test mono to that, and then that to the hook. These fish are not leader shy. And I've had the twenty pound test snapped on me too. Dave was using smaller leader.
If I had to guess I'd guess that Dave caught about fifty fish in three days. I might have caught six. Yeah, he's that much better. He's also a great teacher. Dave caught way more fish, but I was the definite winner because I got to see, up close and personal, how he does it. Lessons I won't soon forget either.