Thursday, April 29, 2010

GM and FORD and TOYOTA: Where is that rough, tough and reasonably priced 4x4?

I've owned Fords (1) and Chevys (3) and Toyotas (3) and Hondas (3) and Jeep (1) and other cars over the years, and driven many other types of vehicles over the past years. In the GREAT days of the rough and reasonably priced 4x4's from Ford and Chevy and Toyota and Jeep, we had such classics as the Ford Bronco, the Chevy Blazer, the Toyota FJ-40 and FJ-60 Landcruiser and the Jeep J series full size truck. I omit an entry from International Harvester because they are long defunct, but the Scout and other 4x4's from IH were yet another excellent example of a serious off road vehicle that was reasonably priced.

One reason they were reasonably priced, other than inflation in the intervening years, is because they were pretty basic. The entry level models had no power doors or windows, and you were lucky if you had carpet in some models. A/C was one of the few options that were basically standard in those cars sold in Houston and Texas, as the legendary Texas heat and humidity require air conditioning for any sane or non-indigent Texas driver.

All of these vehicles were rocking 4x4 vehicles that could handle serious off roading but were reasonably priced. There were no leather seats or sunroofs (although several models of Scouts, Broncos and Blazers had convertible or removable tops/roofs) or fancy stuff that could be had as an option. Most of my friends who had Broncos or Blazers in the 70's had automatic transmission, air conditioning, carpet and usually some sort of aftermarket stereo system, often consisting of Pioneer Supertuners and some kind of Jenson Co-Axial 6x9's.

The point is, no one had made one of these great and legendary cars for years. Toyota recently came close with the FJ Cruiser, which can be had in a semi-low end trim level. And maybe the days of hand crank roll down windows are forever gone, but the price of the FJ Cruiser is way higher than it needs to be.

Where is the current model of that early- to mid-seventies Bronco 4x4, with a hot rod V8 engine, carpet, a convertible top, air conditioning and not much else in the way of options? I realize that automotive innovations have been made in the last 40 years since the glory days of the readily available "basic" 4x4.

Why isn't Ford giving something back to the working and sporting men, women and children of America by making a modernized version of the pre-77 Broncos. Load it up with a low end Mustang V8 engine, a nice transmisson and some serious four wheel drive running gear. Put a full frame mounted six point roll cage in it, along with some six point seatbelts in the front. Put a quasi-reasonable price on it, and sell a TON of them to guys and gals like me.

I don't wanna spend $40k on a nice SUV that can do weekend duty in the wilds of Matagorda Island or the wild beach of PINS or in the hills and trails of Central Texas and the Hill Country. I wanna spend half that, or more realistically, a little more than half that.



Same message that I just gave Ford. Both of you are crowing in ads and the media about how you just love America and want to earn our trust and business.

So where is that vehicle that will please the masses? A basic SUV, a medium sized vehicle with a moderately powerful V8 engine and some serious drive train and axle equipment. Build it on a short bed full size truck. We're not talking fancy here, we're talking the more or less mid-70's Blazer K5 with auto transmission, air, carpet and a radio. A big rear bench seat. A wide vehicle. 350 engine. Two front bucket seats. Some gauges.

Have whatever you want to have as dealer add-on options, but give the normal working joe and josephine the chance to catch the wave of your good fortune.

The Subaru Outback and the Honda Element were great attempts that fell way short of being a great and reasonably priced off road vehicle. The Element is rough and tough, and has an interesting design, but the AWD falls short of 4WD in the kind of places I want to go.

Make a profit, just don't make a HUGE profit for the first two years. See how many hundreds of thousands of this type vehicle will sell during those years. Give something back to America and Americans who love the American way of having fun fishing and hunting and being in the outdoors.

Think more like a Volkswagon Thing instead of the current Landcruiser. Think more like a Land Rover Defender in size and general body and interior configuration.

Basic. Basic. Basic.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


"Reconsider, baby", as the old blues song goes, was what I was thinking this past weekend as Billy Ray and El Fisho Jr. and I were surf fishing at Matagorda beach. I was using my Cabela Big Water telescoping 12' surf rod, along with a Cabela's Salt Striker Spinning reel, the largest one they make, loaded with just over 300 yards of 25 lb. test yellow Cabela's Salt Striker high visibility yellow mono. I could've said "High-Vis" to be cool, but I'm not really that cool. It's high visibility under most circumstances.

The reconsideration part comes because in previous posts I have left the impression that this rod may not be up to catching larger fish. As I was setting the rod up, El Fisho Jr. reminded me of his first fish ever caught when he was 4. We were fishing a friends several acre lake on his ranch up near Brenham, and using the BIG WATER 12' rod and a good spinning or spincast reel enabled me to get baits for the monster channel cats that lived in that lake WAY OUT YONDER in the deepest part of the lake, which lay in the middle.

El Fisho Jr. had been fishing with me since he was about 2-and-a-half on a regular basis in a variety of fresh- and saltwater settings. He got pretty good at using a spincasting reel by age 3 and the BIG WATER rod with a lightweight spincast reel was easy for him to cast, despite it's length.

His first fish was caught on the BIG WATER at my friend's lake, a large channel cat that probably went between 12-15 pounds and was far longer than El Fisho Jr. was tall. Heck of a fish to catch for your first fish. The first fish I caught as a child was a sunfish that would have been weighed in ounces rather than pounds, so his catch was quite impressive. It was such an old fish, that it was instantly and properly released back in the water, and was a good opportunity to explain catch and release fishing and conservationship. It was also a good opportunity to explain how the clean a fish, although we didn't clean it, but I quickly pointed out what you did to clean a catfish.

I got to spend so much more time outdoors fishing and shooting bb guns, .22 rifles and shotguns in my youth and I learned so much outdoorsmanship in the various Scouting programs (Cub, Webelo, Boy Scouts, LE Explorers and Sea Scouts) that I was in that I try to keep El Fisho Jr. outdoors as much as possible to learn the stuff I learned as a kid. We had several places in the country not too far from Houston that my folks had bought as investments, and a big old boat,

and we often spent time outdoors fishing and shooting guns.

So I was thinking about how well that rod performed with the cranky very large channel catfish, who was not happy to be falsely tempted from his lair in the deep. He did quite a bit of thrashing on the surface as he neared shore, and put up quite a fight. I remember now looking at the way the fishing line reacted to the moderately bowed pole, and it routed straight through the guides as it should. Some rods will divert the fishing line to the side between the next to last guide and the tip guide of the rod due to poor guide placement/rod design. But I was impressed with the performance of the BIG WATER way back then, because all I had caught before on it was 1-3 lb. saltwater fish and catfish.

We didn't catch any fish on our trip to Matagorda. But "catching" is not what "fishing" is all about. There have been plenty of memorable fishing trips where I actually did do a lot of catching, but interestingly enough, some of the fishing trips where I had the most fun and that are most memorable were the ones where I caught no fish. And not for lack of trying, I might add.

As with the great book Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, it's the journey and not the destination that makes good memories and helps you grow as a person.

So I do recommend this rod for anyone seeking to catch small to medium fish in the surf, or for those in need of a good BIG rod for some freshwater catfish fishing, or for the person who needs a rod to cast a long distance into a lake or river to get to where the fish are biting. This rod is also excellent for white bass fishing in rivers like the Colorado or the Trinity (below Lake Livingston) for reaching that deep river channel that often lays in the middle of these rivers, where the white bass dwell.

Pair it up with a large Zebco 888 or 808 and you've got a simple combo that makes for some great fishing.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

ALL MY ROWDY FRIENDS (with apologies to Garth)

Many of my favorite bloggers are taking breaks, it seems. First it was the truly hilarious So and So. Then it was the insightful and highly humorous R.J. MacReady. Third was Jason. Now, Slampo has announced his hiatus.

I understand that families and blogging often don't go together. My blogging is mostly done, as Frank Sinatra would surely have it (if he were not only still with us but if he gave a damn about blogging), in the wee small hours of the morning.

I miss the humor and stories of those bloggers mentioned above. It seems that, in about 50% of the cases, listing a blog on my blog roll is a guarantee of a blog's demise.

Now I've got to find some new blogs to fill my reading time. I enjoy reading humor by other *normal* folks. I enjoy current events being reported with some wit, sarcasm and parody. Mostly, I guess I'm very tired of the MSM and am looking for local alternatives to give me something to read.

Come back soon, friends.

Saturday, April 24, 2010


It's been a long time, almost a decade, since I've visited Matagorda, and over much talking and planning this past week, Billy Ray and I decided to take a fishing trip to Matagorda with El Fisho Jr. coming along to make sure we had plenty of fun.

El Fisho Jr. has been on many fishing trips with Billy Ray and I and really we couldn't imagine a fishing trip without him now. In thirty years of fishing trips, Billy Ray and I have covered a whole lot of the Eastern, Southern and Central parts of the state, but our trips are much more fun with El Fisho Jr. ready to learn what we know about being a sportsman and outdoorsman and all that goes along with that.

We talked about Texas history with the many large and small communities we passed through on the way there, and it seemed the farm and livestock business is doing well in Wharton and Matagorda Counties. Billy Ray are both huge supporters of keeping farming local and non-corporate and of helping the farmer (wo)man that feeds us live a decent life and not be in tons of debt.

The weather couldn't have been better, and the next time we come to Matagorda, we'll have to rent a 4x4 or convince Shrimper Dan to come with us in his Beach 4x4 SUV. The good fishing is, of course, in the parts of the island that are seldom traveled, and frankly, it's the journey down and back the island (any island, for that matter) to and from the fishing spot that's as interesting as the adventure at the fishing camp site.

I was personally disappointed to see that an old haunt of mine in Bay City had closed, Denn's Sporting Goods. The main sign was still up but the store was empty. It used to be a favorite stop of mine on the way to Matagorda. They had a huge selection of lures, rods, reels, tackle and just all kinds of associated stuff. Their excellence lay in the stocking of items that did well in the region.

When I first found Denn's in the nineties, I was entralled because they had a HUGE stock of NOS Abu-Garcia Ambassador parts. After I saw the size of the parts cabinet for these classic reels, I gathered all of the parts lists I had from my various Ambassador reels and took a day trip there with a fishing friend of mine and we stocked up on cheap and impossible to find parts for our respective Ambassadors.

You used to see these huge Abu-Garcia parts cabinets in stores like Oshman's in the 1970's, and in sporting goods stores located near the water.

I don't know what happened to that treasure trove of parts for these reels when Denn's closed down, but I hope that whoever got it appreciates what it is and is using or selling them and that it's not wasting away in a warehouse somewhere, with an owner unaware of it's rarity.

Over the last decade, we've mostly been going to Port Aransas with other trips to Port Isabel-South Padre Island, Corpus Christi, Freeport, Galveston or Boliver Island. And we didn't go to Matagorda.

But Matagorda has a charm of it's own. It's wild out there, and we've seen both gators and rattlesnakes in our past trips. Today we saw herds of wild hogs across the Colorado River on the other portion of Matagorda Island, across from the Riverbend Restaurant, which conveniently provides binoculars to view the feeding wild herds of feral hogs.

The beach isn't graded, as far as I can tell, and we could only go a mile or two before the sand got really too deep for my 2WD SUV to handle. We didn't get stuck, but came close once, and saw one 2WD truck mired up to both axles.

In the old days when Mrs. El Fisho and I roamed Matagorda, we had a Jeep Wrangler, which could handle near anything the Island could throw at it. I missed having that vehicle today, and it's been a long time since I've missed that rough riding and *always leaking something* rascal.

Despite regularly scheduled maintenance and mostly off road driving, with the Jeep Wrangler we owned in the 90's, nearly every system that contained a fluid of any sort developed a leak, often in several places. Simultaneously, it did this.

This weekend, we caught no fish, and those surf fishing around us pulled in what looked to be a croaker or sand trout weighing about a pound. It wasn't much bigger than the mullet we were using with the 13' rod. The current was way strong, with a very strong undertow. I was using 2 and 4 ounce surf weights with extended steel pegs because that was the only weight that would hold itself in that strong current, and as the afternoon wore on even those were not holding most of the time and were being swept ashore.

But as I always say, it's not about the catching, it's about the adventure. El Fisho Jr. got to see a wide variety of sea creatures again on this trip, and he's clearly fascinated by them. The nice fellow at Rawlings Bait Camp just over the bridge next to the Colorado just before the beach access road to the left, let El Fisho Jr. load up a quart of live shrimp and he did a great job.

The shrimp were nice sized and were very heathy and hardy. I use an aerator pump in my live well bucket, and only one shrimp died over the course of the afternoon and early evening hours, but we did keep the bucket in the shade the entire time. We also bought some dead mullet, and it looked like something chewed on the head of one of those that were thrown pretty far out by the 13' rod.

Nobody around us that was fishing seemed to be doing much catching Saturday afternoon. It was a fairly strong but not intense wind, and as per all my prior trips the water close to shore was brown with suspended sand whilst the water out past the last break was nice and green. It was significantly less humid than it had been Friday, and I really didn't break too much of a sweat at any time despite being pretty active during the entire visit.

Lots and lots of shells, mostly half-dollar to a nickle size, and as El Fisho Jr. and I did some hole digging with the shovel and for several feet down there were quite a few layers of shells from up near the dune line to the waterline buried in the sand. We dissected a HUGE dead cabbage head that had been washed ashore sometime ago, and it was interesting to see what it looked like on the inside. Nasty is the best word that captures the innard viewing experience in summary, but after seeing literally thousands of these at times during what I used to hear called "a bloom" of cabbage heads (or often jellyfish). "A bloom" is when there are just swarms of these creatures everywhere in the water, instead of just the occasional creature every now and then.

Some bay fishing is in order at Matagorda, and since we don't have a boat, that means a guide. For me and Billy Ray and El Fisho Jr., for a 4 or 5 hour morning of fishing, that doesn't come out too expensive.

I know first hand the excellent fly fishing that lies in the skinny water around Matagorda and its envirns, and I've even caught a nice redfish in a large, for lack of a better word, a large swampy ditch that ran alongside some road heading east out of Matagorda proper.

Back then in the 90's, there were signs on the road warning of gators, but I didn't see any while I was fishing. I just pulled out the fly rod with some streamers the fellow at Rockport's Tackle Town store had sold me back in the late 1990's. He sold me a big assortment of good flys and streamers for the gulf coast, and by golly they've worked well for years. A few are worse for wear and have been replaced, but I've got quite a warchest, er mmm, flybox full of good Texas saltwater flies.

I hooked into a nice tailing redfish right off, and caught a few more that afternoon. Later, when driving down that road further, we did see some gator action in that same canal or ditch or whatever it was. The gators were big enough to do some serious eating on a human, and I've never yearned to live any part of Jerry Reed's masterpiece "AMOS MOSES", particularly the gettin' a body part "bit clean off" by a gator.

But gators are not unusual in many coastal areas in Texas, and perhaps they are present in all of them. All I know is that I've seen my fair share of them in saltwater swamps and brackish waters and rivers to know that they are out there and you need to be on the lookout for them when wading, boating or kayaking in areas that are their habitat.

So I've got great memories of that town and numerous trips to it. Some kinfolk of mine are buried in the city cemetary there, and although they are many generations removed, I know enough about their lives to have a lot of respect for the hardiness that is required to live in a place like Matagorda, particularly in the pre-electricity/water days.

This trip was no different. It will be remembered for the great fun we had, and what we learned.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


I'm not ready to finish the review, but I do have some more observations about this gun.

After talking to Billy Ray, I found out his P250 that I was using for the evaluation had the "medium" sized compact grips. Apparently there is a larger size as well as a smaller size. I'd have to say that this perfect grip could only be made more perfect by a slightly smaller grip.

I still have not shot the gun, perhaps since during the two weeks I had the gun I was going through two of the most intense yet also perhaps the most rewarding weeks of my professional career. I didn't have any spare time, and as she often does when my duty calls, Mrs. El Fisho picks up all the slack and takes care of everything at home, in addition to working her own job and working on a Master's. Amazing woman.

I don't carry a gun normally until I have shot it, but since my good friend Billy Ray had shot the gun since he bought it, I took a chance and carried it concealed for several weeks. I used a new Bare Asset by High Noon Leather IWB holster, and I can say I like the Bare Asset better than the Mr. Softy that I have by the same maker. The Bare Asset has a 15 degree forward (FBI) cant, whereas the Mr. Softy is a straight drop holster and rides a bit lower than the Bare Asset. After two weeks with the Bare Asset for the P250, I can say I'm about to order one for my Glock 36. It rides a bit higher, and I'm a big fan of forward cant holsters.

Although High Noon is a custom maker, and it normally takes weeks or months to get your custom order holster made, the Bare Asset and the Mr. Softy IWB holsters are stocking items there, meaning they are in stock NOW and ready to ship today. Really, at $26.95 plus shipping, there's not a better bargain available in holsters for as far as I'm concerned.

So I'll wait until I shoot it before I give my final review. But the pistol is well made, is available in a variety of calibers and is reasonably priced. They had the compact and the sub-compact P250 at Academy for $499.00, both in 9mm.

I really like the feel of the sub compact P250, but I'd like to see if one of the grips for it is a tad bit longer to allow a pinky purchase or if there is a magazine extension or replacement bottom magazine plate that would accomplish the same purpose. My searches of various forums on this issue have as yet turned up no information.

Finally, although I like carrying a .45 because there is no .46, there is something to be said for being able to carry 16 rounds of 9mm in a compact package with a well made gun for a relatively light weight.

Sig needs to make some carry version modifications to this gun, smoothing out sharp edges and doing something about those sandpaper grip panel. I can say that if I owned this gun it would have some sort of rubber grip sleeve on it because it does remind me of the sharp feeling I used to get with the checkered stock wood grips on my early 1980's Colt Python. It HOIT when you used to shoot that gun with magnum loads and the wood grips. The Python's sharp, highly detailed checkering dug into my hands and it hurt. And I suspect this Sig might feel the same. I'll let you know.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


My idea, of course, as talked about here, is to have some sort of really cool fishing trailer/camper that is good for beach camping and carrying the myriad of items I'd like to have with me at the beach, as first discussed here THE EL FISHO SURF FISHING TRAILER.

Conventional towed campers are too heavy to drag through the sand, and I'm wanting to build a lightweight trailer outfitted with some cool stuff that would make a great fishing camp HQ. You'd probably want some kind of large truck with a big engine pulling it, but I think it could be done.

Of course, the idea of having a fishing trailer/homemade camper doesn't just apply to surf fishing, although that's what I'd like to use it for primarily. It could be used for hauling Kayaks or lightweight boats (cartoppers) mounted on top of the trailer to various freshwater and inshore/bay saltwater locales for fishing camps there.

A traditional RV or a Camper trailer doesn't have what I want and won't do what I want. I want something minimalistic and lightweight that carries a bunch of stuff you need for a good fishing camp and has a place to sleep and have a marine/rv head and provides some shade for hanging out in the heat of the day BUT doesn't costs thousands and thousands of dollars.

I think I can seriously talk Billy Ray and Shrimper Dan into going into this idea. Find us a good used trailer, get some beach tires for it, get my friend to do some welding of a frame on it and we can do some good McGiver'ing on a cabin of some sort with some kind of Pullman car type fold up bunk type beds like Amtrack has. Wire it up with lights and plugs for some area and spot lighting and have some poles that lights can be inserted into upon arrival to the beach.

So the idea is some length of a flatbed trailer, with the front part being a shaded but open (with roll down mosquito netting) area to have chairs for sitting in the shade. The middle part would be some sort of camper shell mounted on a wall to provide a small enclosed sleeping area. A nice camper a/c unit on top of the camper shell would be heaven.

I'm not married to the idea of a camper shell. Alternative lightweight materials might be available to construct some sort of smallish shelter, but the goal is to have a place that had a small A/C for sleeping and napping in comfort during an extended beach camp. As I mentioned above, some kind of bunk beds would be best, with a a/c blowing to kill Billy Ray's killer snoring.

Of course, if you already have an SUV, since you have a trailer to haul your gear, then you now can have an empty back SUV compartment which can be slept in by two folks in most cases. In a Suburban or other large SUV's, someone can sleep in the rear bench seat while a couple of folks sleep in the back.

Several folks I know with beach fishing mobiles have Suburbans or Exursions with small a/c units mounted on the top of the vehicle. This is for use while camping, and sleeping in the back of the SUV rather than a tent. So there are lots of options.

The back part of the trailer would be for gear, and it would be an easy matter to put rod racks, light mounts and other inexpensive but functional trappings on the fishing trailer. A small generator would power not only the a/c but lights and other utensils (blender, electric filet knife, etc).

One of my friends who does extended fishing camps rigged up his generator to a wheelbarrow handled cart of sorts with big tires and extended power cables. In the right area, he rolls it a bit away from camp and chains it with some serious chains to trees or rocks or the like to keep the noise in camp down. Then you can roll it back closer at night if sleeping or run a big chain with it. He also has a huge dog that goes with him, and is quite the perceptive and LARGE canine, so I think no one ought to be messing with Bart's generator.

With regard to the covered front lounging area (akin to a small porch), I know there are discount places for heavy duty canvas tarpelins, but I also know that certain tunneau boat covers for center console boats might work if they were large enough, to provide shade. The whole idea is to have a solid framework that the roof material is lashed to because of the strength of the gulf breezes, so that you have a rigid shade covering.

I've also thought that one of the fold up roll up sun shades like lots of RVs have on the side of them might be a cool luxury addition to one of the sides. Again, it's a semi-rigid frame that uses two folding poles and side to side support to remain steady, and this addition would provide much additional shade.

Of course, one could easily fashion a similar shade from some metal pipe and using some sort of tarp or canvas material make a much cheaper roll up shade with some kind of rigid battens sewn into it (like some sails) and use ropes and stakes to make some extra shady area.

The possibilities are endless. Refridgerators, a generator and/or battery banks for powering lights, a small a/c in the sleeping/sitting area for those July through September trips in the sultry steamy heat of the swamp that can be Texas beaches during those months. A water tank in the front for washing off sand before entering the sitting and/or sleeping areas, and a shower curtain could be easily rigged to provide a place to take a shower for extended stays at the beach.

Of course, with mosquito netting, you could just sleep in the sitting area and not build a small but separate sleeping area, and that's a distinct possibility if, when and if we ever build such a beast, and we decide whether it would be too much weight to tow on the beach with an extra sleeping area.

If there was a way to salvage the middle portion of a smaller sailboat like a Catalina 25', that would be an ideal thing to stick on a trailer as a fishing HQ. It has a small kitchen, a tiny but very useable head + closet, and a dinette that folds into a double bed. Behind that part of the cabin, under the cockpit, are two sleeping areas that lie underneath the seats of the cockpit above.

The rear storage area I envision with a heavy steel grate cage, if you will, around it, and perhaps a heavy steel grate door and ramp that locks to help prevent thefts of gear on the road. In this storage area you could put:
- ice chests
- bait buckets
- a gas chain saw (for cutting brush and larger pieces of driftwood for fires)
- scrap wood (If you ask nicely, you can often get large pieces of scrap wood from
construction or remodeling sites. Again, ask ask ask.) Or of course you
can bring your own wood from home if you have some laying around
or have access to firewood from friends.
-A gaff, nets, shovels, chains, tow straps, pieces of wood for getting unstuck and other kinds of tools and such items.
- grills, smokers, etc.
- a generator, mounted or on some kind of a cart.
-lights and poles that could be mounted on mounts on the trailer for both area lighting and big lights to light up the water.
-Fishing tackle, etc.
-surfboards, boogie boards, etc.


So they didn't catch many fish, but they had a good time. Which is the name of the game. Relaxing. Having fun. Cooking. Having some brews. Checking out nature. Watching what washes up on the shores, particularly in the nether regions of Padre Island National Seashore (PINS) where they were fishing.

I may actually be able to be PB (Padre Bound) or MIB (Mustang Island Bound) this weekend. The Mrs. and I are conspiring to do it. We've both had intense past few weeks at work, and need an immediate relaxation situation. And I mean Stat, as my rarely heard from friend and former blogger So-And-So would say.

The Mrs. requires setting up camp in a condo of some sort with a balcony and a nearby ocean view. No problemo. She busts her rear and has since we before we were wed to provide for our family. In many years, she was the lead provider, and has always made sacrifices for our family. Big ones. So just out of trying to be nice to wife and mom for all she does for us, a condo with a view isn't too much to ask at all.

In our spring break desperation searching for a last minute place to stay last month, we discovered some really cool home rentals and really close to the beach abodes. It's time to check them out. Several houses are on the beach. On the beach, like we used to stay in during Galveston trips in the nineties when a friend of mine owned a nice front row house in one of the towns on the west end of the island. Or we'd rent a house just down the road from there.

I can go set up on the beach, or hit one of the piers in town and get some side fishing in no matter what the family has going on. We all prefer our own stretch of beach to crowds if possible, so it works out well for me fishing where there are no swimmers or lots of beach walkers. I've never been messed with in all my years of fishing with the family, and that goes back to our dating days. Mrs. El Fisho has always been tolerant of my fishing, and although she's not interested in it, she gladly goes along to any beach fishing expedition because it gets her to the beach.

But back to the legend of Billy Ray and Shrimper Dan's latest Padre excursion.
As I mentioned in the last post, they stopped at the HEB in Aransas Pass and were amazed, I tell you they were amazed at the selection of fishing gear in the store. Shrimper Dan even bought a rod and reel combo and their bait there. Good to know.

Of course, I plan to buy a nice long (13' to 15') surf rod spinning reel combo on my very next visit, and I'll be buying it at ISLAND TACKLE CENTER (located 207 W. Avenue G in Port A, the street through town from the ferry landing to get to State Highway 361) because of the most excellent way they treated me when I had a broken tip guide on my favorite 9' pier/surf rod. So I am going to spend some money there on a reasonably priced rod and reel combo that I can reach the third bar and beyond for some of the larger crusing fishes. Maybe some shark action.

So Billy Ray and Shrimper Dan ended up high tailing it to PINS where they trucked down the beach for about 25 miles past the 4WD only sign and set up camp, picking the campsite based on how the spot looked at night versus what the waves and breakers looked like where they would be fishing. Of course, it would've been faster to head through Corpus instead of Port A at 5 p.m. on a Friday to get to PINS but that, at it's very essence, is the typical behavior seen in Billy Ray and Shrimper Dan surf fishing trips.

Laid back. Unconcerned about the stuff that really doesn't matter. At times it can be a bull in the china closet approach with Billy Ray, but it's usually entertaining and always enjoyable.

I'll get more particulars on the story as the week goes by, and with any luck Billy Ray can come down to Port A and hook up with us. I always feel more comfortable using the buddy system in setting up a fishing camp in the wilds of the beach, and in case of getting stuck, it's always handy to have a second hand. As I've mentioned before, you never know just what kind of character, good or bad, you might stumble across while surf fishing, so I like the idea of having a good friend out there with me.

Monday, April 19, 2010


As I wrote about here RANDOM THOUGHTS but mostly about fishing and here
I GOT THE PORT A BLUES and here PORT ARANSAS SURF FISHING CAMP JONESING, ever since my spring break in Port A I've been wishing I was back there. Billy Ray and Shrimper Dan finally reported in.

They took Shrimper Dan's beach buggy, a 1990's Isuzu Trooper 4wd that apparently just does magnificently in the deep sand of the Padre Island National Seashore. Dan caught a shovelnose shark and that was it in the catching department. They set up camp down about 25 miles past the 4WD only sign at PINS.

They were quite pleased with the terminal tackle and bait selection at the HEB store in Aransas Pass, and Shrimper Dan even bought a rod and reel there.

More about their trip later. It sounded like a good time.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


One of the regular blogs I read is Banjo's Place, from somewhere deep in the petrochemical armpit that is "The Houston Metroplex", particularly to the south and east.

He posted soem great quotes here quote/unquote ... and I love a good quote. I really liked this one:

“We were fighting what was an obvious, difficult, never-ending and probably impossible struggle to shoot arrows at this oncoming juggernaut of what was a corporate machine that was going to sweep us away and turn this whole culture into nothing more than a karaoke playground. . . . In an authentic world failure is something you embrace. It’s almost a noble pursuit. I come from that world – it supported me in creating the punk aesthetic.”

--- Malcolm McLaren, from an interview in Roger magazine quoted in McLaren's obit in the Wall Street Journal last week, about his role as the manager of the Sex Pistols.

He had two other great quotes in that post that I really liked:

“Everything flows, nothing remains.”---- Heraclitus (circa 500 B.C.)

“Men can only be happy when they do not assume that the object of life is happiness.”-- George Orwell (1903-1950)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

RANDOM THOUGHTS but mostly about fishing

***Or more appropriately, the lack thereof this week in the fishing department. I'm anxiously awaiting brother Billy Ray's fishing report of the beach camping trip he and Shrimper Dan took this weekend that I moaned about here I GOT THE PORT A BLUES.

I did actually do what I set out to do this weekend, which was work. I did taxes, which is always a highlight of the year. I did the Princess's Taxes, and the sad part is that she gets back far more than her mother and I. So much for hard work and working more than one job each at times with our own businesses to try to get ahead for the American way. Instead, I'm paying for someone elses American Way who ain't working.

I'll stop that Texas Redneck Rant right now, but I know several of my readers know how I feel. We want to put El Fisho Jr. in a private school next year, as we also did with The Princess when we didn't like the school she was slated to attend. Long story short, I read where the lady who thought up all this BS about standardized testing for U.S. schools has now renounced that position and realized that it doesn't work because kids are...wait for it...too individual in learning styles and testing methods to be subjecting them to crap like TAKS in Elementary and Junior High School.

How many years will it take for the State Board of Education and The Lege to catch up with this lady who dreamed up all this crap is up for a guess. Too many, I suspect. Plus, we don't like the small but significant "gangster in training" element at the school El Fisho Jr. is slated to attend. Trouble in our area seems to begin in this grade, and although El Fisho Jr. has friends of nearly every ethnicity that are frequent guests in our home, this is more of a class/lack of class issue than a race issue as it regards the gangsters in training. Truth be known, most of the "lil' gangsters" are anglo. So it's not white flight driving us away, but rather moving to a more integrated private school with a high end curriculum, but no TAKS and the intense pressure they put on these kids.

I'm waiting on the trip report from Billy Ray. I'll guess that he arrived home at his Hacienda and went right to be. Mrs. Billy Ray, I'm sure, fed him and made sure he didn't track sand and half the beach into their lovely home. He'll appear in a day or two, probably sunburned a bit but with enthusiastic stories through which I can live vicariously.

I can't wait to hear about his visit to Island Tackle in Port A. They were gonna pick up some long yet inexpensive surf rigs there, as well as some sage advice.

I just located a nice double boxed (two boxes, one inside the other, for durability in shipping) rod box that will hold two of my 2 piece 9 foot rods that I want to ship to Island Tackle to get new guides put on. As I mentioned here HOW I SPENT OUR SPRING BREAK 2010: PART ONE , I had a guide replaced on a favorite rod at Island Tackle and was mucho impressed with the work for a fee of $4 and some change.

I want to get the other guides replaced on that rod and I have a Garcia Conalon 9 foot pier/surf rod that I'd also like to have new guides put on. Both rods have worked very well over the years catching fish, and I would rather put new guides on them than try to find rods with as nice of an action as they both have. So I need to get those mailed down to Island Tackle this week.

I'm also interested in hearing where Billy Ray and Shrimper Dan ended up setting up camp. Shrimper Dan is an experienced beach 4WD'er and in all their stories I've never heard of them getting stuck, or at least super stuck so that it merited a story, due to the beach-equipped Izuzu Trooper that Shrimper Dan has as well as a 4 WD truck of some sort.

Billy Ray, on the other hand, might not be the fellow you want at the helm in extremely soft and deep sand. It's gonna take sweet talking for El Fisho here to convince the wife that there is a reason for me to go fishing with Billy Ray (and possibly Shrimper Dan) in a week or two at Port A and not take her with us, as she dearly loves Port A.

Although Billy Ray is El Fisho Jr.'s godfather, and although she also know Shrimper Dan and likes him, she is not going to be extra keen on the fellas taking "her boy" down to the beach for some rugged camping.

She doesn't care for beach camping, and we will be WAY DOWN YONDER on the beach, possibly out of cell reach, with no sort of civilized potty equipment. No electricity, unless I decide to bring a small generator. So it might be better for me and family to hook up with Shrimper Dan and Billy Ray in Port A and leave our SUV with the wife and let me take El Fisho Jr. out for his first surf fishing camp experience, with a condo room nearby to return to for showers and a bed after a few days living in nature on the beach.

I'll give El Fisho Jr. this: he's a hardy camper. He and Billy Ray and I did some 20 degree camping on the Llano two years ago in January, with the winds howling. Me and El Fisho Jr. got inside two down bags doubled together, along with blankets as well, and stayed warm despite the inclimate conditions. After a night of freezing, we were, however, ready to hit the SUV and the heater and headed to the house. El Fisho Jr. slept all the way home, except when I made him wake up to see the Perdenales (then full of water). I saw a bunch of turkeys rousting about on that cold and frosty early morning, and that was pretty cool.

Billy Ray has access to a nice place for us to use in San Angelo. There's no fishing immediately around it, but nearby there are several fishy creeks with parks on them that look very fishy and that I've wanted to fish for a number of years.

Saturday, April 10, 2010


and the lower picture is from

The above pictures are a starting point on what I hope to describe for you. What I have in mind is much, much bigger than the trailer on the bottom, but would have big tires and a high frame like the offroad kayak trailer shown in the top photo.

I got to tell a story. If there is one thing El Fisho likes to do, it's tell a story. Years ago, decades ago, almost 30 years ago, me and my then best bud THE MOG (or simply MOG) would travel to Corpus Christi quite regularly. We not only had a few very good friends from high school living there, we liked fishing on the beaches and bays and we actually contemplated moving there for several years in the early 80's.

MOG and I had been friends since sixth grade, had been in band together, lived down the street from one another, and shared many of the same friends. We had many adventures over the years, both on and off the job. MOG and I both attended the police academy together in our youth, and worked at the same agency for quite a while. In addition, we stayed good friends.

And beach trips and Corpus trips were a big part of our lives in late high school and those early 20's. We had a group of stalwart friends living all over the state who were ready to pick up and meet in Corpus for a weekend. There was a family in this group of friends whose sister owned an "extra" condo in Gregory, right near Corpus, for family to stay in when they came to town. We often got to stay there (really, as much as we wanted to for several years), because Jane and her brother John were so gracious with her extra condo.

We would often go fishing during the day. One day, a bunch of the fellas went on a party boat, and I had a plan that evening to go see a friend from Houston's band that was playing at the Dr. Livingston's Club off South Padre Island Drive. So I opted to head down to the Padre Island National Seashore in MOG's 4wd Bronco and do some serious bird chasing (following the seagulls and birds feeding on shrimp, often fish aren't far behind) and surf fishing.

But when I was out there I met this family who had a trailer that they had converted into a very cool beach trailer for their beach camping. It was a long cargo trailer and had huge tires, the better to traverse sand. It had steel poles in the corners and a frame for a tarpelin that created some shade on the surface of the trailer. The tarpelin was about 5 feet above the floor of the trailer, creating a nice space for sitting.

There was roll down mosquito netting on the sides of the tarpelin. There were also roll out flys and sides with ropes and some poles for creating a windbreak or sunbreak once stopped. Creating shade at the beach is difficult with most structures, but by parking this trailer in the proper position and having the flys staked out, you could get a good deal of shade.

In the back of the trailer was a generator and some poles with lights on them that could be slipped into the frame that held the tarpelin for some elevated outdoor lighting. There was plenty of room for bicycles or a motorcycle, a grill, a large ice chest or two, firewood, shovels and other sorts of tools. On the back of the trailer were some PCV tubes for holding rods and reels. They had a big old water tank as well, with an outside hose hookup, and the gravity generated pretty good water pressure.

There was a porta potti setup inside the trailer with a wraparound wall and door, not unlike a crude airplane bathroom or sailboat head. Actually, it looked like the head (or toilet) compartment one might see in a 25' or 30' sailboat.

Because it was a converted utility trailer with big tires, a 4wd could pull it through some of the sand found in remote parts of the beach. The family had built the trailer themselves, trying to keep it lightweight yet providing a more stable place to camp than a tent. They could lay out cots and sleeping bags in the covered area of the trailer with the mosquito netting down and sleep far more comfortably than in a tent.

I abhor tent camping at the beach. In short order, no matter how much care is used, sand is everywhere, and althought the same problem occurs with a trailer or a camper or a tent, it's far more aggravated in a tent because at least in a camper or other sealable place you can keep the seabreeze (containing much microsand) out of the environment.

But these big types of campers and trailers are often too heavy to tow on the beach.

So what I'd like to have is a happy medium between both. A small trailer like the family I saw had decades ago on the beach, with a shaded area to sleep and lounge, a small restroom, a water tank and generator and plenty of room for other stuff.

I'd like to have something with some lightweight walls, with four folding bunks, comprising a micro sleeping area, almost like a pod. The restroom would be located here, and perhaps a shower. This area would have an "air conditioner" on top, running from batteries and a generator.

Behind this sleeping area to the rear of the trailer would be the storage area. A water tank, generator, bikes, gasoline, shovels and tools, various gear, grills, ice chests and anything else.

In front of the sleeping area would be a screened in with a tarpelin roof and steel framed sitting area, almost like a porch. This area could also be slept in, and with the high tech portable outdoor air conditioners, might be able to be made quite comfortable, particularly if you have small kids or old folks you want to keep kinda cool at the beach.

On top of the trailer would be racks for kayaks and surfboards, some steel framed cargo racks (similar to those found on land crusiers and the like) for general cargo and perhaps rod racks or tubes. You could even mount several of the cartop cargo carriers that are weather proof for carrying clothing and non-perishable food and the like.

The frame that holds the tarpelin roof and that extends the length of the trailer has mounts for lights. Area lighting as well as long distance spot lights, both on short poles. mount onto the frame to cast light out onto the beach and water. The poles with these lights come down and stow in the rear for easy transport.

Many folks I know that take generators to the beach have large tires installed on them or carriers made for them with large tires so they can be wheeled a short distance from camp for noise reduction. Be sure to have a large chain on the generator at all times to prevent a theft.

I know several folks who have small beach trailers like the Shark Fishing trailer shown above, althought theirs are not nearly as sharp or as cool as that one. I really like the one shown above.

You could make quite a shelter trailer by just adding a frame around the trailer and putting some sort of tarpelin material as a roof. With crossbars, you could still have your kayak rack and/or a gear rack on top of the tarpelin roof. With some mosquito netting sides, and some kind of awning mounted to one or both sides of a trailer roof frame, you could have quite a shady shelter and fishing camp.


Picture courtesy of "The Chick", who is Mrs. El Fisho's BFF.

Yes, I've got the Port A blues big time. Billy Ray and his friend Shrimper Dan are down there as I write this, the second day into a multiple day beach fishing camp trip. I was invited, but had to stay home to work, and I was really bummed out that I had to turn down this particular trip.

Billy Ray came by the other night and I loaded him up with a surf rod and a bay rod and some other assorted tackle and advice. He and Shrimper Dan have been good friends for many years, having once worked together 20+ years ago. I've had the pleasure of hanging with Shrimper Dan on several occasions and he's a real nice guy.

It seems like every time he and Billy Ray invite me to go on a beach fishing trip that I've got some sort of absolute prior commitment that can't be broken, or they're doing it on week days and not a week end. They've stopped by at least once before in the 90's to gear up for a trip, needing rods and reels and lures and such. I think Shrimper Dan has his own tackle, but Billy Ray back then was living in the wilds of West Texas and I had most of the stuff he needed.

In any event, I hope they're having a good time and that their lines are tight and that they are catching something. I'm sure I'll get a call this evening or tomorrow telling me how great it was.

I do look forward to the report of their intended visit to ISLAND TACKLE in Port Aransas. They're actually going to buy some inexpensive but super long (13' to 15') surf rods and reels at this establishment which I've raved about, or they may rent them depending on what they think about hauling these rods that only break down down into two 6.5 feet or 7.5 feet sections. A rod that long can be difficult to transport except in a truck or flex-tied to a luggage rack.

In any event, I'll report on what adventures their trip held for them. Some hilarity generally ensues on Billy and Dan trips, or some mishap where they don't get hurt but they have struggles with gear and with insect and other outdoor issues that usually could have been avoided.

So I look forward to a repeat of this weekend. I have a couple of good fishing spots I like down on Mustang Island and out on Padre Island National Seashore (PINS). But there are plenty of good spots in and near Port A for good fishing, both on the beach ad in the bay.

I hope to convince Billy Ray and Shrimper Dan to do some bay fishing in the future as well. There are "houseboats", and I use the term loosely as they are more floating platform than boat, that are anchored up and down the various bays of the mid and lower Texas coast. They are permitted by the TPWD and they rent for pretty reasonable rates. They have electricity and bathroom facilities and basically are like a small floating fishing cabin, usually with a porch with lights around the outside for fishing.

We'd like to take a fun weekend on one of these floating barges. They are generally in isolated areas known for having healthy fisheries, or so some of my friends who have stayed there tell me.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


Back a couple of weeks ago, when the serious cold front blew into Texas during Spring Break, it hit Port Aransas about 12:45 p.m. on that Saturday. So the family and I and Mrs. El Fisho's best friend forever (BFF), who took the above photos, were lounging on the beach in Port A watching the cold front blow in from the north. It was really a gorgeous sight to see, and I'm glad the BFF had her camera. I had once again forgotten ours.
The top photo shows the cold front blowing in, with the hard rain behind it. The wind preceeded the clouds and rain by about 15 minutes.
The two middle pictures show the further back part of the front, to our left as we were looking up the beach towards Port A proper. The front was a huge curved beast.
The bottom photo shows looking out to the Gulf of Mexico, and that the strong winds are now blowing not from the sea (as usual) but from inland TOWARDS the sea, causing the waves to be blown back quite a bit. Although the waves were still crashing, as the photo shows the wind was taking lots of the water from the top of the waves in the opposite direction of the wave's travel. If you look to the back part of the picture you see plumes of water moving away from shore, and these were huge sections of the tops of the waves being blown OFF OF THE WAVE.
Talk about the power of Mother Nature. Despite all of us having significant beach hanging out histories, none of us had ever seen anything like that, and we'd all seen spectacular and scary storms at beaches in years past.
A torrential rain that lasted several hours followed the arrival of the front. We knew it was coming, but had no idea it would be so spectacular. It was the coolest weather event I have ever seen. There was no thunder or lightning with this storm, so it was strictly wind and rain.

Monday, April 5, 2010


The above images are from, in order from top to bottom: 1.; 2.; 3.

The last photo from the Marlin really shows what I've done for fun fishing a lot of my life. An easy chair, some kind of shade from a tent or umbrella or hatchback door lifted up, a fishing rod holder and a trusty rod and a fishing buddy makes for a fun time. A bad day fishing beats a good day at work 100% of the time, friends.

Ever since our spring break trip amidst somewhat overcast days and cold waves a few weeks ago, I've been wanting to take a quick trip down there and set up an overnight fishing camp for a night or two somewhere way down the beach. Billy Ray is game and indeed, has done quite a bit of beach fishing with his friend Dan, who as it happens actually HAS a BEACH VEHICLES already and is wanting to go fishing.

A good 4wd with big tires and automatic transmission makes for not getting stuck, or more importantly, being able to get unstuck, when running through the deep sand of the less trekked and unplowed parts of Texas beaches. I'm up for fishing either Mustang Island or even going out to PINS and heading south from there. I've always had good luck at Fish Pass, and got famously stuck there in the middle of the night way back in 1981 with a good friend Mog. It turned out to be a great adventure.

We ended up stuck right next to the pass, which cuts from Gulf to bay. Right as we resigned ourselves that we were stuck until way the next day, I grabbed my rod and headed over to the pass. It was high tide moving in and it was moving strong. There were thousands of mullet or croaker being chased by a huge school of Specks, and the fishing was fast and furious for about an hour. Then nothing. It was fun.

So there's good fishing to be had all up and down Mustang Island and on into the Padre Island National Seashore (PINS). The more remote areas stand a better chance of finding bigger or more unique fish, or so my experiences AND THOSE OF LUCKY OTHERS have taught me. The Kings of the Gulf of Mexico

So I figured Billy Ray had been reading my mind when this weekend he suggested we take a beach fishing trip to Port A. I'd been thinking about it fairly non-stop since getting back a couple of weeks ago. It's been awhile since I've set up fishing camp on the beach, and I'm ready to do it.

There's several tricks that make setting up a fishing camp at the beach a lot more enjoyable. A nice small grill makes for some hot food and metal pot of hot coffee going. A fire not only provides light at night and heat if needed but keeps irksome dune critters like rattlesnakes on their side of the night and away from your camp.

Look at the ground and see where the recent high tide marks are and park above that spot. Don't leave your vehicle near the water unattended or go to sleep unless you move it towards the dunes and higher ground. I've seen more than one car left parked too close to the water, swamped by an incoming tide, the sand collapsing underneath the car cratering it into the beach. People get carried away swimming and walking at the beach and leave their cars for hours and come back to find their car full of sand and water and hopelessly mired in the tidal sand.

I like some form of pistol with the first two or three shots being snakeshot and then some regular self-defense bullets. Carried legally, of course. Any number of pistols fit the bill, but my Glock .45 is a great gun for this. One never knows who one might meet in the wilds of a beach in Texas. I've met some really cool folks, some really out there but harmless characters, and some truly noxious and toxic individuals I'm lucky I didn't get robbed or killed by. There are some truly bizarre folks at the beach, just like in regular society. The difference is that at the beach you're sort of a more captive audience if some freakshow happens along your way.

I've come across vagabond folks over the years who were beach and dune camping with the snakes and sometimes gators (don't forget that gators often inhabit the marshy wetlands between beach and bay all up and down the Texas coast, with some places like Matagorda being especially thick with both big rattlers and gators. A lot of these folks were down on their luck but decent folks. Some were just plain scary, and I've moved spots more than once in my life at the beach because of weird neighbors.

So like a boy scout, it pays to be prepared.

All that aside, I love being on a moonlight Texas beach, a big fire going and providing lots of lighting, with three or four rods in large rodholders with lines way out far from the beach. Checking rods and baits every so often and responding to bites. Beer. Music. Food. A nice large tent or even several vehicles to sleep in. When it gets extra windy or cold or rainy it sure is nice to be able to sleep in the back of that SUV or across that truck seat.

Now all I have to do is convince Mrs. El Fisho that she needs to come hold up in a condo on the beach whilst I roam with my friends, because will want to come, as will El Fisho Jr, but she'll want to stay in the A.C.


I saw prelude to a review because I have not had the chance to shoot this gun yet, but wanted to give some initial impressions of this fairly recent addition to the Sig AND high capacity 9mm polymer frame families.

So far, my impressions are good. So good that I've been searching online to find some pricing on this same gun but in .357 Sig.

Billy Ray was kind enough to loan it to me for an evaluation. I loaned him a gun in exchange to play with and carry around with him, and we'll make the trade back in a week or two.

#1 The grip on this gun is good for my size hands. I think I have small hands, but on the medium to large side of small hands. The Glock 36 I have is one of the few Glocks that I've really like the feel of. The Glock 21 that I shot competitively with in the 1990's in Houston was a highly accurate and failure proof gun. I never did like the grip on it and it was too big for my hands. I finally put one of the thin rubberized "sleeve" coverings made by Hogue or Pachmayr on it, which interestingly enough actually made it bigger (bad for me) but much more comfortable to hold on to and shoot with.

The grip on this Sig P250 Compact 9mm frame is just perfect for my hand. My prosecutor friend Max has even smaller hands than I, but it fit his hands perfectly when he was checking it out today. He just kept holding on to it, and he didn't want to seem to give it back, muttering about how this fit his hands real good.

Max is a S&W freak, as I have been at times in my life. His latest purchase is the similarly sized newly revamped S&W Military and Police semi-auto in 9mm. I'm pretty sure he likes the grip on his new pistol, as he checked out just about everything available, but I think he really likes the grip on this P250 compact.

#2 This gun fully loaded weighs a couple of ounces more than a Glock 19, it's nearest competitor. It weighs A LOT less than the other high capacity Sigs (made of metal), which weigh more empty than the P250 does full. It's about double the weight of the airweight wonder five shot snubnose concealment revolvers that I often carry. And it's about 5 or 6 ounces more than the Glock Model 36 I frequently carry.

It's a nicely balanced weight, either in an IWB holster (Mr. Softy by High Noon) or a belt slide (Tagua) which were made for the Glock but which the P250 squeezes into. So the P250 is just barely wider than my already thin single stack .45 Glock Model 36 and also fits into the Tagua which fits both the Model 19 and Model 36 fit into. I have not compared the numbers, but I think widthwise it's somewhere between the Glock Model 19 and Model 36.

On the scale, it comes out to right under 32 ounces fully loaded.

#3 The DAO trigger is very nice on this weapon. I like that it has a hammer that I can see, and I can't quite explain why I feel the need to see some part of the mechanism of a gun working. I don't like internal hammers and strikers, although the P250 is sort of a variant of those types of guns. I liken this trigger to being as good as that on my old Python, which was as good as it got. I've owned or shot lots of different DA/SA automatics, and it is clear that this trigger is the nicest of them all.

I can't wait to shoot it.

#4 The edges on this gun are a bit rough. If I bought one, I'd send it off to have it shaved and polished and dehorned to take some of the bite out of the LARGE rear of the slide serrations and the grip. Although the grip feels great in the hand, the sides of the grips are abrasively textured and bothered me the first time I wore it in an IWB holster. The cheap solution would be an IWB holster that has a piece of leather in between skin and gun.

#5 I've ordered Billy Ray a Bare Asset holster for this gun, made by High Noon Leather. It's basically their Mr. Softy design with a forward cant. He's done a lot of favors for me lately and at $26.95, you can't go wrong. It's a custom holster bargain. It's a great holster and I wear mine daily with my Glock Model 36. High Noon keeps both the Mr. Softie (Straight Drop) and the Bare Asset (Forward Cant) as "stocking items", meaning they are in stock and ready to ship today. Much of what High Noon makes is custom, and based upon my satisfaction with their holster, I'll be ordering some more in the near future. A custom holster at a bargain price, and I'd pay another $50 for a holster this nice and well made.

I'll write more after I shoot this gun and see how I like it. Billy Ray favors it over his beloved Hi Power, so that's something, because I like how Hi Powers shoot. Totally different guns but same caliber. But like the Glock Model 19 and 17, the Hi Power, even with Pachmayrs, never quite fit my hand right.

But for now, I'm mightily impressed with the build quality and the trigger.

Saturday, April 3, 2010


One of my father's self-defense gun projects in the 80's or early 90's was a gun as pictured above, a Smith and Wesson Model 1917, chambered in .45 Auto. His good freind since law school in the late 50's, Big John, was an avid sportsman, hunter, fisherman and shooter. Big John had been a Fed after law school and then retired and joined my father in his law practice. My father had been a long-time Harris County prosecutor and then became a longtime criminal defense and civil attorney.

Big John was always buying guns and trading guns for my dad. My dad would often give Big John certain types of cases without splitting the fee and threw quite a bit of business his good friend's way without taking any referral fees either. So Big John was always buying my dad what Big John thought the best self defense gun was that particular week.

Big John favored revolvers of larger calibers. If my dad didn't like a particular gun, Big John would take it and indian trade it for another at a gun show. It was always interesting to see what kind of guns and trades Big John had going on.

One of the guns Big John got for him was a keeper for my dad. It was a gun like the one pictured above, except my father's was parkerized and refurbished at Smith and Wesson prior to being sold to civilians after decades of military service. From WWI to possibly the Vietnam War, these guns saw service in battle. There is a long and storied history of this gun at a lot of sites, and it was the first in a long line of Smith and Wesson combat revolvers.

Big John outfitted it with a set of Pachmayr presentation grips, which look sharp with the flawless gray parkerized finish. The front sight is in good shape and the action is tight and the triggers (DA and SA) are not bad at all. For a nearly 100 year old pistol (that's been refurbished a few decades ago), it's in damn good condition.

So this gun was a favorite of Chic Gaylord as he wrote in his book on gun fighting and self defense. It's a big gun, basically an N frame in size, and the 5 and 1/2" of barrel don't do much to aid concealment.

Yet the reason my father was a fan of this weapon was that a lot of homicide and robbery detectives carried guns of this sort in the 60's in Houston. The old heads. The old dudes. The dudes that had been in more than one gunfight and lived. They carried this gun because it was an ultimately reliable, good shooting, quick to reload with full moon clips and powerful cartridge that was capable of one-shoot-stops in law enforcement shootouts.

Most of them had trained with the 1911 .45 Auto in military service. It had jammed, at some point or another, on most, and all of those old guys who had been gunfighting bad guys in Houston since the 1940's or even back in the 20's and 30's felt they'd rather have six sure shots and a slower reload than 8 faster shots with a fast reload but a chance of jamming during fire.

Most of them old head cops in Houston back in the day carried revolvers, and many of them carried some variety of a .357 or bigger. Most of their guns that I recall seeing had 3" or 4" barrels. I was well into shooting by second grade, and was very interested in all of the models and the reasons why these people carried these different guns as cops.

In Houston back before the early 70's, many firemen, prosecutors, judges, lawyers and businessmen who were friends of the sheriff or a constable had commissions as peace officers and were duly deputized, in many cases solely for the purpose of legally carrying a handgun. Those who were carrying these reserve commissions (which were sometimes actual police commissions) or the "honorary" variety mostly wanted to legally carry a handgun in Houston and since there was no such thing as a concealed handgun license in Texas until the 1990's, that was the only way to do it.

In the early 1970's, police standards went into effect limiting the issuance of police commissions both reserve and honorary, but those who had held them before the change in law were grandfathered in by law.

So all of the interesting characters that my father did business with such as divorce lawyers, criminal defense lawyers, prosecutors, judges, police officers, private investigators, bondsmen and the like pretty much all carried guns with them. They each had different reasons. Bondsmen and sometimes attorneys carried large amounts of cash money, and people knew this. Sometimes, lawyers and judges had angry clients or defendants or witnesses or their families and had due concern about retaliation or attack.

Gunplay has been like a thread in the cloth that is the history of Houston (a cynical nod to Morgan Fairchild in WANTED, a great movie with a stupid theme about weavers and secret societies. It was a cool movie until the loom story arose. I don't see how Morgan told that story with a straight face.)

First indians, then the Mexican Army, then cowboys and bandits and blood feuds and law enforcement actions. Throughout the decades of the 1800's and 1900's, gunplay was not unusual, and even semi-common at times. The famous Fifth Ward was known throughout the world as "The Bloody Fifth" for decades in the mid-1900's. It was not the only part of Houston known as a tough part of town where the crooks and "Tush-Hogs" carried their guns and were not afraid to use them.

And so I come back full circle to the purpose of this post. I'd like to hear some Model 1917 stories. I found a few out there and will post links later in an edit, but I bet that the Model 1917 and it's successors were widely used and carried in Houston for 4 or 5 decades by good and bad guys alike.

Now all I need are some half moon or full moon clips and some kind of holster and I'm ready for some shooting fun.

Friday, April 2, 2010


I finally saw my friend Max's Model 66 snubbie yesterday, and what an inspiring sight it was. In all it's stainless glory. I marveled at it's wonder. It's a cool gun if you like revolvers and snubnoses.
It's a big gun. Like the well known handgun shooting instructor Clint Smith of Thunder Ranch says: "It's a big gun when you put it on and it's a big gun when you pull it out." He doesn't actually say that about the Model 66, but he's referring to the just a bit larger signature model that Smith and Wesson makes for him. But the same sentiment applies.
It's a big gun.
The only thing I would change if I had one would be the rear sight. I'd put some sort of low profile fixed and tapered combat rear sight on there, because the stock rear sight is a snagger and a body poker unless worn with the right type of holster. Cylinder and Slide makes a rear combat sight for several S&W custom shop revolvers, so that's what I'd probably want on mine, along with a set of Pachmayrs.
The pictures above show two different guns with two different aftermarket Pachmayr grips. The top grip is the full sized Pachmayr with finger grooves and I don't know the model name. The bottom grip is the Pachmayr Compact grip, one of my favorites on other snubbies for nearly thirty years.
I want one of these real bad. I'm also partial to the .357 Model 65 Ladysmith with a 3" barrel and shrouded ejector rod, a lightweight stainless version of the venerable Model 13 . It's been so many years since I've seen a nice Model 66 that it was a sight for sore eyes. I've seen some beat Model 19 snubbies with lots of scars, but Max's gun was of course immaculate.
Hogue also make a dandy line of rubberized grips. I don't own any but I've been meaning to get a pair to try out for my Model 67 square butt that I've been carrying occasionally. It is a big gun too, just not as damn great looking as the Model 66 with the 2 1/2" barrel and a nice set of black pachmayrs.

Thursday, April 1, 2010


I've been using Zebco reels, well, since I started fishing at about age 3 or 4. I got my first Zebco kiddie rod and tiny reel early on, and several Zebco 33's graced my late childhood and early teens until I discovered Abu-Garcia spin, bait and spincasting reels in my teens.

But I never forgot the Zebco rigs and reels I had, and used them often. Early on in the 1970's, my dad bought some of the larger 808 sized Zebco reels for pier and bridge and jetty and light surf fishing on our yearly South Padre Island vacations. We had other lighter reels for using on the boat, and although I fell into using Ambassadors and Abumatic reels for speck and red fishing, I always used the big Zebco reels for night time pier and bridge and jetty fishing.

I have all of my older Zebcos from days gone by, and they all still work. The more expensive models seem to work better than the cheapest and smallest units, but they still work. They're not a Curado or a Mitchell 300, but they still work great for kids and panfish. El Fisho Jr's first fish at age 4 was caught on a 60's era Zebco 202, and it was a channel cat longer than he was tall and probably weighing close to 10 pounds. All things considered, El Fisho Jr. caught a big fish for his first fish. The fight took a long time and he struggled to land the fish. But he did and the Zebco worked just fine.

I had him using the Zebco 202 because at the time he was rough on tackle. We'd been fishing a few times before and he had caught nothing, even though I caught a few fish. He was prone to dropping his rod in the water at age 3, but by age 4 he was holding onto a rod pretty well.

I use the above reel, which is called the 808 SALTWATER GRADE reel by Zebco. It's my traveling reel that I take to California. It's pretty heavy duty and ideal for pier fishing, and I always try to do some pier or light surf fishing if I'm traveling near a saltwater coast. East, West or South.

That's why I'm the Fishing Musician, or at least one major reason. I'll fish in a kitchen sink that has 6" of water in it if it looks fishy enough. I just plain like to fish.

Here's what this reel features for about $30.00:

Ball-bearing drive

• Selective multi-stop anti-reverse

• Dual ceramic pickup pins

• Dial-adjustable drag

• Auto Bait Alert

-Changeable right or left retrieve

• Corrosion-proof stainless steel covers

• Pre-spooled with 20-pound monofilament

808SW Reel Specs

Up to 125 yards of 25 pound test


I use this simple reel because it travels well. Unlike a spinning reel, which ordinairily I would use for this type of saltwater fishing, it has no bail to become bent in a packed suitcase. It is rugged and has corrosion resistant parts, which means if you wash and oil/grease it, it'll last a long time. All of my old 80's 808's and 888's are going strong. They are great beach reels, especially when fishing at night in the surf and mostly in the dark.

Some of the posters at this site agree with me about Zebco reels . They are not expensive or fancy and yes, there is a difference between them and the finer reels I may own, but for many circumstances, they are just the ticket.
My dad was a big believer in Zebco reels in the 60's and 70's. He bought the higher end 33's and larger reels they made, and a few Cardinal spinning reels. They were good stuff, and most of them still work today. I often use our old 202's from the 60's when fishing for rainbow trout or for bay fishing with the kids. Just as I did, El Fisho Jr. learned to fish on my old 202 and the same rod it came with.
I have recently thought that adding a few of the Saltwater 33 reels to my collection wouldn't be a bad idea. They may possibly be discontinued but I've seen them online in various stores. In any event, it seems like a good bay fishing or light pier and surf fishing. Sometimes, after you've been fishing a big surf rig or pier/jetty rig for awhile, it's nice to work some artificials with a lighter rod and reel.
I've recently discovered a stash of old 888 and 808 reels that a brother of a friend gave me back in the early 90's. He had grown tired of them in his jetty fishing, and knowing my liking for these reels, told me I could have them. There's four of them plus several more that he had parted out in repairs. I cleaned them up way back when and oiled and greased them up then put them in a plastic storage tub with a bunch of other unused fishing stuff.
The reels are in great shape. I need to put new line (or "cord" as my fishing grandpa used to call it) on the reels but that's no biggie. I'll give Billy Ray a couple as he appreciates these reels as well, despite his high end fishing tackle selections.
These are great reels for catfish and saltwater fish, and are great for fishing at night with simplicity. They don't cost much and with care will last a long time. There has been an awful lot of fish caught on Zebco reels over the years.
I've fished my 808's in the bays and piers and surf and coasts of Florida, the Bahamas, Texas and California. They have done well in these locales.