Friday was warm, upwards of 70 degrees. It was overcast and there was a bit of a southerly breeze. The water temperature in the river was 50 degrees. Cold enough that the fish might not bite, warm enough that they might.
I debated with myself about wearing waders. 50 degrees doesn't sound cold, but it is, it is bone jarring flesh numbing cold. Cold enough that waders are a good idea. Except I don't like wearing waders. I have decent waders, it is not the quality of them. I just don't like wearing them. Even at that it was a close thing. But I went in shorts and sandals, as usual.
My reasoning, and it is pretty good reasoning, is that I first wade across the river at half way to knee depth, then I walk in shallow water and/or no water all the way down to the hole I want to fish. That's why I cross over, on this side of the river it is wading in half knee deep water all the way. It is a decent hike, about half a mile or so, in the "dry" so to speak. Then when I get to the hole there is a shelf of rock that I stand on that puts me in knee deep. So I never get more than knee deep. Not when the river is as low as it is right now that is. And wearing waders for just knee deep water, that just seems like a weak thing to do, or so I told myself.
Halfway across the river I was re-evaluating the not wearing waders theory - but going back was too much trouble at that point - I nearly did though, weak thing to do or not. But (largely out of laziness at this point) I pressed on.
I got to the hole with numb (and bright red) feet. I waded out to the knee deep ledge at the edge of the hole, and my shin bones commenced to aching. I even thought I could hear them popping like a tin stove as they shrank, but maybe that was my imagination. Maybe not though.
On my first cast I caught a huge bass. He put up one hell of a fight on the 5 weight. He made hard run after hard run and came up airborne shaking his big magnificent head twice. I weighed him at 7 pounds although he looked a lot bigger - I have to recheck that scale some day - took a quick picture, and watched him swim away after release. I was all smiles. First cast after nearly a month of not fishing and I get that monster? Awesome!
You know what? That water wasn't the least bit cold from the moment the bass took the hook. It just warmed right up. Over the next hour I caught four more bass in the two to four pound range, one behemoth red-ear, and missed several hard strikes. And that water was Caribbean warm the whole time. I'm talking pleasantly warm water. The kind that comes with drinks in a pineapple.
Then the fish shut down. Not a single bite for the next hour. The water got colder and colder and colder and my feet were numb but burning and my shin bones were aching and complaining and creaking and wading on numb feet became all I thought about. Other than how good an idea waders would have been that is. I saw an Eskimo go by on his dog sled and that decided it, it was time to go home. Plus I was out of bait.
Funny how that water warmed up for a while though. I didn't know it could do that.
I live on the edge of the Brazos River. I walk out my front door and into the river and - boom - I am fishing just like that. For me the river is fascinating. The mile long stretch I fish is a microcosm of the river, I have it all in that one mile. Trying to figure out where the fish are, what they are doing, why they are doing it, what they are biting, if they are biting - this is what keeps me in the river casting flys.
I fly fish almost exclusively. It isnít that I am a fly fishing snob, itís that fly fishing works Ė itís effective - and it has added benefits. I carry all my tackle in a vest, no tackle box needs to be dragged along. The casting itself is fun, even when I donít catch fish Iíve enjoyed the experience of casting.
Fly rods enhance the experience of bringing fish in. I like the hands on the line feel instead of the feel of line spooling up on a reel and muted down through a gear and crank system. Fish fight better and feel better on a fly rod. Fly fishing just feels better to me than other methods.