S.K.I.F.F. (Soldiers’ Kids Involved in Fishing Fun) exists to take the children of deployed and deceased soldiers on professionally guided fishing trips at no charge to the family. These trips are provided through my guide service, Holding the Line Guide Service, with funds generated by the Austin Fly Fishers, and with the support of businesses and individuals from all over the U.S.
Here is my report for today’s trip…
Dear Austin Fly Fishers,
Today, Monday, August 30th, I fished with Gage (age 8) and Mason (age 6) Tocci, the two eldest sons of U.S. Army Captain Gary Tocci and his wife, Mrs. Destini Tocci, of Ft. Hood, Texas. The boys’ dad is currently deployed to Iraq for a 12 month tour where he serves as a Medical Service Corps officer (a physician’s assistant) running a clinic in Baghdad. The boys’ mom homeschools the family’s four children and remained home with her younger two children. A gentleman by the name of Phil Moore, who serves as a deacon and Sunday School teacher at the Tocci’s church, accompanied the boys for today’s excursion.
U.S. Army Captain Gary Tocci’s boys, Gage and Mason, with Mr. Phil, a family friend from church, enjoying our 9th SKIFF trip of the year.
We met at 7am, got everyone fitted with lifejackets, did some dockside casting lessons with closed-faced reels, and headed out to hunt for fish.
Fishing has been tough ever since our nearly month-long high pressure system was broken by a cold front last Wednesday, but, slowly, the action has picked up since that time.
We began the day using downriggers run just above small “wolfpacks” of suspended white bass holding just above the thermocline which is now set up and very apparent on sonar at 28-29 feet. We rigged up with customized Pet Spoons and went to work. Gage, who had never caught a fish in his life, was the first to spring into action as his rod got hit first. He followed instructions well by taking the rod in hand, reeling in all slack, popping the line out of the release clip, and then playing the fish right into the waiting net. That fish went 12.75 inches and earned him a Texas Parks and Wildlife “First Fish” Award. Little brother Mason was not to be outdone and soon had on a fish of his own — a white bass taping in at just a shade under 11 inches.
And so it went for about 2 1/2 hours as we fished over Areas 248 to 186, 056, and to the E. of Area 644, finding fair amounts of fish but very little bait, thus making us work for every fish we caught as the fish just weren’t really turned on. By 10am the boys had boated 7 gamefish each — 12 white bass and 2 largemouth. With the winds picking up, the fishing getting a bit soft, and the novelty of downrigging beginning to wear off, we decided to change modes and do some panfishing.
We headed to Area 189, beached, and fished out of the stern. The boys rigged up with pieces of worm under slipfloats and literally brought fish in left and right for about 45 minutes until we’d caught all there was to catch within the radius they could reach with their rigs — 25 fish in all — consisting of bluegill sunfish, green sunfish, longear sunfish, and blacktail shiners. Once the fish slowed down, we agreed it was a good time for another “fast” boat ride, this time back to the dock. We took some photos of the larger fish we’d boated and then released them back into cooler, deeper water to fight another day.
Along the way today we learned about patience, about culling, about buoys, about blue herons, about how a livewell works, about sonar, about where to touch and not to touch a fish, and much, much more.
We caught a grand total of 39 fish today and had a lot of fun doing it!!
Thank you for the part you’ve played in making this day happen for these young men.