Monday, June 1, 2009

Fishing Holes and Strange Brew

As I've said before, I like to unwind by fishing and by musicianing. Lately, it's been more of the former than of the latter, but it comes and goes.

I'm always looking for a new fishing hole. It can be near or far. I prefer fishing in isolated spots on small lakes, ponds, creeks or rivers, but I've been known to fish big lakes if the spot is right. Of course, I love the entire spectrum of Texas saltwater fishing and do that every chance I get, which is usually 2 or 3 times a year.

But given my preference, a forgotten farm pond (or lake, as we always called them coming up), is one of my favorites. One never knows what kind of monster bass or catfish has been hanging out in older, underfished farm ponds. Generally, there are lots of eager to be caught smaller fish and a few grandfolks.

I found such a pond this weekend. Just five minutes or so from my house, it lies in the woods behind a business. I was visiting the business recently, and began asking questions about it. Ultimately, I was able to go fishing there. I didn't catch any fish, but saw rises from what I believe to be some largemouth bass jumping out from shoreline weed cover to nail a variety of insects hovering on the water at sundown.

I threw everything at em. I had five rods rigged with a variety of baits. A topwater Heddon plug in yellow, a proven producer for 30 years. Likewise, some of the thin, slab shaped plugs that dive then rise and rattle, again, a proven bass producer for 10 years.. A Mepps spinner on an ultralight rod. A weedless Creme rubber frog in green for tossing into the weeds. And an Orvis fly rod #6 with some black gnat looking flies that I got in the 80's from the long-defunct Austin Angler fly shop.

Nada. So I'm going to get one of my friends that has a canoe and hit that shoreline from the water side later this week. It's a small lake, perhaps an acre and a half or two, easily worked well from a paddled canoe.

And after seeing those largemouth bass nailing those bugs from the shoreline, I've got a pretty good idea of where to be fishing come sunset.

I'll take my fairy rod like #3 Orvis and use some more tiny gnat flies. This rod is so thin and whispy that it makes catching the smallest fish seem like a monster. Or perhaps the deadly rubber green spider with white legs, the longtime catcher of many a species of freshwater fish. Sports Afield fishing editor Homer Circle has long touted the benefits of the green rubber spider as one of the ultimate freshwater fly for various bass and panfish. And I have found this to be absolutely true.

It's true, the Dave's Hopper pattern as well as various blackfly and gnat patterns are often successful in southern waters from Texas to Florida. But I've caught trout with those green spiders in places like Colorado and even caught a saltwater speckled trout with one many years ago fishing the bay flats in Rockport, Texas.

In any event, it's been an august year for fishing already. Although the stocked trout at State Parks season this past winter was disappointing due to the mostly high temperatures we endured, I did have one good day during the winter when rainbows are stocked throughout Texas in State Parks.

I had gotten there early, in time to see the truck dump the load of rainbows into the lake. Contrary to what certain fishing authorities have said, I find fishing at the time of stocking to be awesome. The experts say the fish are in shock, but if that's true, they're hongrey and eating while in shock.

There soon arrived two long haired young men, very nice, with quite a variety of tackle. In another era, with their beards and long hair and earrings they would have been described as hippies. I guess they would still be described that way. In any event, they were plenty nice and were from a university not too far away.

By their equipment, their handling of it and their plan of action, you could tell they were serious. They had big saltwater rods for getting bait like salmon eggs and kernal corn out far and deep into the lake. That's a tactic I often use for catfish. They had regular freshwater spinning rods for fishing lures closer in.

They also had what they claimed was moonshine. They spied me staring at them as they were drinking a clear liquid from a small mason jar, and filtering the liquid through a cheesecloth as they drank it. They offered me some, and told me it was homemade sour mash whiskey that a friend of theirs made. They said several folks they knew were running stills for sour mash whiskey, and that amongst their friends, who were mostly musicians, moonshine was just all the rage.

I thanked them kindly but declined. They seemed nice enough and didn't appear to be getting too plastered on the stuff, but I can remember as a child hearing my deep East Texas and South Texas kinfolk talking about making sour mash whiskey in a still in years gone by, and if a critter like a opposum or racoon or mice/rat/squirrel variant fell into the batch after it had been going awhile, well the offending critter was scooped out and the moonshining continued unabated.

Also, there is no telling what the hell these guys were using or putting in their homemade moonshine or how sanitary the conditions had been. There's a thousand reasons to say no and really none to say yes to an offer of strange brew.

Besides, if I need some whiskey, I prefer mine come aged and brown from burnt oaken casks and produced by the legacy of a couple of fellas named Jack Daniels and Lem Motlow.

But back to critters and moonshine stills. Critters, you see, are naturally attracted to the various aromas associated with making of sour mash corn whiskey. I suspect they climb in the vat/barrel/pot and eat a little of the high octane sour mash corn residue floating on the top of the mix, get way intoxicated and fall into the stew. In any event, it's nasty.

My relatives, they'd always laugh an evil laugh and say the critter added flavor to the batch of moonshine. They swore they drank everything they sold, something about sampling and quality control.

My newfound fishing buddies, despite the moonshine snockering they began to show before I left, were definately not too drunk to fish (a condition I have seen before), as they limited out in just a couple of hours.

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