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…
Jacob and a “short” hybrid that he was sure exceeded 18 inches!
Victoria demonstrated excellent technique in working her slab through a school of white bass to tempt these fellows.
Monday, October 4th, 2010
Dear Ron and the Austin Fly Fishers,
We woke to a 54F low temperature this morning with a cool, crisp NE wind blowing at about 9-10. Just before sunrise I met Mrs. Tina VanHook and her two children, 9 year old Jacob and 15 year old Victoria, at Belton Lake. As I’d recommended the night before, all three came dressed in jackets, gloves and knit hats. Husband and father, Chaplain VanHook is currently stationed in Iraq serving with the 3rd Armored Corps (III Corps) until his return in February 2011. Mrs. VanHook learned of the SKIFF program through two other chaplains’ wives whose children have already been out with me.
As you might have known based on the wind direction, we were in for a tough trip today. We had a reinforcing cold front come in yesterday. Unlike the previous front which came in on a NW wind, this once came in on a NE wind and the fishing suffered a bit.
We began in the vicinity of Area 84/302 with a dual downrigger spread set at 25 feet over a 27-30 foot bottom and saw scattered gamefish with no bait in the area. We boated 3 white bass in our first 25 minutes of effort and once that “sunrise bite” was over, thing got quiet very quickly. There was no bird activity, no surface action, bait was even hard to come by, much less gamefish in pursuit of them. We tried a number of locations in a variety of depths and over a variety of bottom features and found precious little.
Around 9:15, we decided to changeup and hit the shallows for some sunfish action in hopes that the winds would shift or that at light a mid- to late-morning bite might kick in a bit later. The kids enjoyed the “hands-on” aspect of sunfishing — they were constantly repositioning their presentation to get near fish-holding cover. At first I pointed good cover out to them, but they quickly got the hang of identifying potential lairs and began to catch fish with some regularity as well as avoid tangles with one another while “competing” for “good spots”!! We found fish at Areas 184, 185, and 673 today.
In all we boated a mixed bag of 9 sunfish including bluegill, longears, and green sunfish. Given that it took over an hour to put that together was again indicative of the slow fishing we were dealing with today.
Tina’s eldest son required some followup knee surgery later in the day (an Army mom’s job is never done!) so we had a noon deadline to abide by.
With about 30 minutes left to go in the trip, the wind began to turn through E and to the ESE. This is the first southerly component we’ve had to the wind in over a week. We got out to Area 672 and sonar began to reveal fish beginning to lift off of bottom into a feeding posture. As we let our slabs down vertically and watched the action on sonar, immediately a school of fish came in on our baits to inspect the commotion. I had the kids “smoke” their baits (a technique we’d practiced earlier) as I teased the fish up off the bottom by slowly reeling in a fish I’d hooked. First Victoria hooked up with a white bass, then Jacob hooked up with a short hybrid. We got all 3 fish returned to the water and went looking for more, but this small school had dissipated. As the kids continued jigging I used a lift-drop technique and found fish out awat from the boat which I attempted to draw back in towards us. Jacob connected with one more barely short hybrid and then it was time to head back in.
For our efforts today we landed 16 fish. As we wrapped things up, I told the kids of the old fisherman’s rhyme: Winds from the west, fish bite best. Winds from the east, fish bite least. Winds from the south blow the hook in the fish’s mouth. And winds from the north, the fisherman goes not forth. Jacob and Victoria got to see first hand what a difference a slight wind shift can have on the fishing. I was glad the timing worked out well on this trip with the kids able to catch a few more quality fish right at the end and go home with “fresh” good memories.
From here on into the winter the name of the game will be “playing” the cold fronts just right. Hopefully we can zig when we’re supposed to zig on the majority of ’em.
Thank you for the support!