Friday, September 10, 2010


I'm big on river and creek fishing. I grew up on it, and nothing relaxes me more than spending a day or two on a nice sloped clearing near a deep hole in a river or creek with some friends and family fishing and having fun. If there is a wadeable area nearby, so that I can engage in some in the water fly fishing, so much the better.

As I've written before, I like setting up fishing camps and having a nice few days of fishing. In my youth, fishing camps involved trot lines for catfish and sometimes bass (always) and rod and reel fishing with lures and bait for bass and crappie. You get a grill and/or a fire going and you do some good cooking. Maybe some grilled spicy shrimp, or steak or some form of Mexican or Louisiana cuisine. Just depends on what the food skill sets are.

In Texas, the fall and spring are popular times for river and creek fishing. The temperatures have dropped so it's more comfortable to fish, and although often better in the spring, I've caught some good fish in the late summer and fall as well.

But when you fish rivers and creeks during hunting season, you need to take some precautions. For example, hi vis hunter orange vests and hats are the least you should do. And I have several friends that have shirts and shorts of hi vis orange to broadcast their presence.

Deer, hogs and pretty much all other animals that drink water will be drinking at times from your fishing area. Hunters know this as well, and those who don't use stands but stalk or set up impromptu hunting areas in the brush are the ones I often worry about. And although making noise is contrary to good fishing, I'd rather not catch fish than get shot.

You want to avoid those places that are near working deer leases and heavy hunting areas. Most of my river and creek fishing is on private property owned by friends, and it doesn't hurt to go around to the neighbors or ask your host to call their neighbors to see if anyone will be hunting their land during your fishing trip. That doesn't mean some intentional or accidental trespasser might not wander your way in search of their trophy, so it's good to always have as much hunter orange clothing on as you can.

Some of my friends will have music going from boomboxes during prime hunting times in the morning and evening, just to broadcast their presence, particularly if fishing areas where it's not known if hunting is going on nearby, to keep any trespassing or accidental hunters away. It's also not a bad idea to try to stay in open areas if available, near vehicles and possibly in the fishing camp itself. Sunrise and sunset are good times for stalking fish along brushy and overgrown banks looking for an easy frog or grasshopper or bug meal, but it's also hunting time.

We had several places in the country when I was coming up, and my father always made sure we took precautions during hunting seasons like orange hats and vests if we were out at one of our places. We often walked our acreage to see what was going on in and around the land, and although we had it posted for trespassing quite conspicuously, we often found evidence of hunters in the form of spent shells and trash.

If you have the time when setting up camp, and it's the middle of the day (not a prime hunting time) it's not a bad idea to walk as much of the surrounding area as you can, particularly if you can cross the river or creek, to look for deer stands or hunting camps that no one might have told you about. If you find an empty stand, I always leave a polite note telling of our position relative to their camp and noting the areas around the river we'll be fishing.

If you hear gunshots in your vicinity and you're in camp, it's not a bad idea to set off your car alarm for a few seconds. One of my cousins who does a lot of fishing on the Brazos carries a small air horn with him, in case he's away from camp or even in camp fishing and hears a gunshot and needs to blow a few blasts of manmade noise. It's good stuff to think about.
It was driven home to me one late fall weekend in Bend, Texas fishing on the Colorado River. Some friends from Waco and I went out to one of the private fishing camps located just outside of Bend (which at that time consisted of a general store), we'd pay our fees and set up a fishing camp right on the banks of the river. I went there to Bend many times and to that particular property several times over the years, and had a favorite spot that was across the river from a high cliff with a big deep pool underneath it where fish sought shade and deeper water. It was called Big Jim's Indian something or other, but was just basically a great tract of land that fronted the Colorado river in all sorts of terrain and in some places, the folks owned land on both sides of the river.

It was a relatively wide open space on the side we camped on, with a few trees around. You could pull your vehicle right up there near the river, and most of us slept in our cars and trucks and suv's instead of tents because we could have the cars right there with us. We'd set up bank lines, and sometimes bring a flat bottom boat and run a short trotline through the deep pool. When fish were feeding we'd hit it with rods and reels of various types, and the beauty of this spot was not only the deep pool but the nice wadeable river that surrounded it, about 2' to 3' deep, which is great for fly fishing early and late.

So we were taken aback one time when a couple of hunters approached and said that despite our wearing orange hats and vests while wade fishing at dusk, they had "nearly" mistaken us for deer. They said the shade we were standing in muted our shapes and the orange hats and vests. They were kind of shaken about it, and even though they had not shot at us, they wanted to apologize. Likewise, we became pretty shaken as the reality of the situation set in. It always sucks to find out you were in danger and didn't even know.

So don't be afraid of fishing during hunting season, just be highly cautious and aware of your surroundings and wear lots of hunter orange.

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