The following blog entry appears in the form of a report to those who support the S.K.I.F.F. program …
Jacob B. of Harker Heights with our best fish of the trip, a nice 3.25 pound hybrid taken on a vertically worked TNT 180 slab in 32 feet of water.
This is a sonar screen shot of what lurked beneath us as the wind picked up and the grey clouds moved in — literally hundred of hybrid striped bass — and our downrigger ball sitting pretty at 22′ deep right in the middle of the action!!
Jacob and Hannah with a brother-sister double brought in the boat just seconds apart from out of a large, suspended school of hybrid.
The S.K.I.F.F. (Soldiers’ Kids Involved in Fishing Fun) Program exists to take the children of deployed or deceased soldiers on fishing trips at no charge to the soldiers’ families as a way of showing our support for our troops and providing a respite for their spouses. The following is a note to SKIFF supporters about this most recent outing…
Monday, 30 Jan. 2012
Dear Austin Fly Fishers and Friends of SKIFF,
This morning’s adventure began around 8am as I arrived at the Bretthorst home in Harker Heights, TX, to pick up Jacob (5th Grade) and Hannah (2nd Grade), the two oldest childen of Major John and Mrs. Rachel Bretthorst.
John is currently deployed as part of a NATO effort in Afghanistan for approximately 11 months. The kids had the day off from school for a teachers’ workshop day and, with the weather forecast looking just right, we decided to try our luck.
I had two other special guests aboard today, as well — Kyle and Marty Wall of Killeen. Kyle is in his early 20’s and is trying to make his way into the videography industry; Marty, Kyle’s dad, was along for technical support as the two experimented with various pieces of equipment and techniques figuring out how best to capture outdoor footage with variables of wind, light, movement, etc. that nature brings their way. We hope to work out a win-win, where Kyle gets quality footage, a good reputation, and a solid portfolio and where SKIFF get some memorable film clips to use in our fundraising and publicity efforts.
We got launched around 8:25 and were blessed to sight and drive right to actively working birds that were preoccupied with feeding upon the shad that gamefish were forcing to the surface from beneath, generally from Area 836 to Area 301. These fish were truly on the move, refusing to stay put for any length of time, just as I had encountered on this past Saturday’s trip. We had a brief on-the-water meeting with Mr. George O. of Belton Lake fame. He’s a retired guide and an excellent hybrid fisherman. I good-naturedly refer to him as “Obi Wan Kenobi” because he’s just a sage, knowledgeable fellow and who has always treated me very kindly and has given me a lot of good advice over the years. Anyway, George told me that it has been his experience over the years that the fish will tend to behave as they were behaving today following a significant lake elevation rise. After last week’s rains we saw a 2+ foot rise on Belton.
So, there we were with birds feeding and fish moving about too quickly to really set up and fish for them for any length of time. We started off with a downrigging approach and drove from bird flock to bird flock with baits staggered and set at depths where we encountered fish on sonar. The fish weren’t too wild about a horizontal approach, which is typical for the winter. So, I did the best I could to get us on top of fish, catch a few with a vertical presentation, knowing we’d have to move frequently to keep up with the fish. This actually worked pretty well as we slowly “smoked” our baits ( TNT 180s in 3/4 oz.) through the active schools of suspended fish. We found a mix of hybrid stripers (~80% of our catch today) ranging from 15 to 20 inches, with occasional white bass thrown in for good measure.
We stuck with this approach, catching fish consistently, until the winds picked up and the skies clouded over completely with grey clouds. Once this happened the birds and fish went into overdrive and we were finally able to use a horizontal approach with our downriggers fishing with both umbrella rigs and single Pets spoons while in the vicinity of Area 844 and in the open water to the NE of there. This allowed us to keep up with the constantly moving fish and upped our success, as well. The kids boated fish after fish, taking our tally up to 28 by the time 11:30 rolled around. At this time the skies brightened a bit and the birds began to slack off and eventually came to rest at the site of their last feed around Area 830.
We were about to pack it up when, just 70 yards away, a flock of birds came off the surface and began another frenzied, albeit brief feed. We hustled over to the action, I hovered the boat atop Area 1023 and we again slowly “smoked” our slabs and ended the day on a great note, adding exactly another dozen fish to our count including a 50/50 mix of white bass (all ~12″) and hybrid (most short).
By 12:15 we were putting the boat on the trailer, and by 12:30, Jacob’s head was doing the “bob and travel” as he fought off sleep in the cab of my truck on our drive home. Rachel was very happy for the kids’ success. She’d just been able to enjoy about 5 hours of time accompanied only by her youngest daughter … I hinted that if she fed Hannah and Jacob a good lunch, they’d probably doze off and give her at least another good hour of the same!!
Thank you for your support so that when opportunity knocks, I know the support is there to be able to offer trips to kids like these as they make do as a family until the time of dad’s return.
TALLY = 40 Fish, all caught and released
Start Time: 8:25a
End Time: 12:15p
Air Temp: 54F at trip’s start.
Water Surface Temp: ~54.7F
Wind: Winds were due S at 4 at trip’s start, later increasing to ~S9.
Skies: Skies were fair until mid-morning, then a bank of grey clouds moved in on the S. wind keeping the direct sun off the water right up until our departure