Posts Tagged ‘gar’

Gars for Bob

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

Hey! Mr. Longnose Gar Fish, jump and

dance for me

Why don’t you throw that rope fly so I don’t

have to hug you

Hey! Mr. Longnose Gar Fish, hold real

still for me

We’ll take that nylon from your teeth and I’ll

be seeing you

 

 

Sex Dolls and Quakers

Monday, May 9th, 2011

Rope flies and river gar make a pretty good combination, at least from the angler’s point of view.  The gar tend to have a bad attitude about the whole thing.  Imagine milling around your favorite hangout one day when you notice a guy cutting up a dripping barbeque brisket for free samples.  When you wander over he puts a slice in a paper towel and you thank him and turn away.  Mouth watering, you bite into your brisket only to find out it’s really seven inches of nylon rope.

Yeah, the gar hates that, too.

The fish in the picture was 15 pounds and mad.  Flossing a gar is plenty of fun with two guys in a boat with lots of tools and gloves, and more or less doable when you’re solo.  However, I don’t recommend it when you’re paddling by yourself.  Longnose gar and kayaks go together like sex dolls and Quakers.

The Young Jedi

Monday, June 7th, 2010

Got a call from The Young Jedi; man has been bustin a cap on some carp on the flats lately.  One day in 2006 we bolted out of work early and went straight to the lake and I showed him the joys of lead core on a running line and he got his rod bent alright:

 

The sunglasses were my spare for people that didn’t have the right sight fishin glasses, but I’m not claiming that straw hat. 

 

The Young Jedi got the last laugh, though, when I landed my fish we discovered why it had been helicoptering through the water towards the boat.

And you thought you missed this week’s episode of Pimp My Gar.

Gar, I See You Hiding

Monday, March 15th, 2010

To the tune of “Beth” (Kiss):

Gar I see you hiding
But I can’t get my fly there
You’re sunning facing to the bank
And I just can’t make the cast

Just a few more days
And the water warms some more
I’ll stalk you from the open side
And you’ll take the fly and soar
Oh you’ll take the fly and soar

Alligator Gar: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut?

Thursday, August 20th, 2009

I went back to the site of Apex Trash.  I was hoping for another alligator gar– maybe even a bigger one.  When I got to the spot, there were gar rolling, and I couldn’t see them while they were near the surface long enough to be sure, but, I hoped they were all alligator gar.  After trying to hit them on the head mid-roll several times, I finally stuck one.  Well the fish was smaller than my first and I’ve already forgotten its weight, maybe 6 pounds.  As you can see looking down the barrel, it’s still got two rows of teeth and that made my day!

downthebarrel

OK, two notches on the belt and I’m a PRO-GAR-MAN…  or something like that.  I kept firing off casts but the water was muddy so it was as much hope fishing as sight fishing.  I’d see a gar, flop a cast out, and hope I got the sink rate and direction right so I could guess how far to lead the gar so it would see the fly.  I hooked another fish but it turned out to be a 2 pound sandbass.  Not exactly what I was looking for. 

Back at the truck I ate lunch and broke out the travel fly tying kit– I needed something that would push LOTS of water, and on a sticky wire.  Hey, these tarpon hooks ought to do.

tarponhooks

I knew by the time I got done lashing together every bit of feather and fur I had that the fly would want to float, so I gave it a serious dose of lead wraps hoping to counter the effect. 

getdowngetdowngetdown

There, that ought to do.  A Whistler with enough colors to clash like a tie dyed t-shirt.  The four or five chicken feathers up front ought to push a little water, too.  I just wished I’d thought to put a beer in my fly tying bench.

groceries1

I tied a trio of these affronts to nature and put them in the fly dryer to air out the head cement while I cleaned up the bucktail and hackle clippings that had accumulated in my truck.

flyholder

I fished another couple of hours.  It’s really a shame, I went fishin for gar– serious fish– and all I ended up catching with my fancy new flies was two pounds of green trash.

trashbass

Gar are so 2003

Monday, July 6th, 2009

All the chatter on the net lately about gar on fly makes me wonder if I should post a bunch of old gar pics.  Or new gar pics… ironically it was gar that really got me motivated on trash fishin.  Early on, I went on a lot of wild goose chases and had a lot of disappointing moments with gar.  Oh to be sure there were a few fish landed here and there, but when I realized I could catch carp more or less “on demand” the fickle gar fell out of favor for quite a while. 

I suppose if I dedicated as much time to trying to learn gar as I did carp I might get them down a little better.  In the mean time, I guess I’ll just settle for the fleeting moments of 10-30 pound longnose gar in the spring, spring time flats full of laid up spotted gar, and the night time sight fishing for them in the summer.  In other words, fish them opportunistically instead of systematically.

I keep saying that I’m going to make this the year of the longnose but I’ve just been so busy and it’s so tempting to carp fish instead.  Recent forum posts and blog reports have brought back a flood of memories.  Here is a little thing I wrote up for an internet newsgroup back in 2003.  I had entirely forgotten about it until I was cleaning out my man room a few weeks ago and came across the Dallas Fly Fishers newsletter it was reprinted in:

 

Gar on the Fly

*   *   *

The call came early this morning.

“I’m not going to let That Water beat me… I’ll be back there just as soon as I can get the kids out the door.”

“Okay, ” I said, “I have a few things to do first.  I’ll be there later, just leave me a radio.”

*   *   *

Drink coffee.  Spend money on the phone/internet.  Pet dog.  Kiss girlfriend goodbye, et cetera.

*   *   *

Okay, yesterday a little flash worked: cone-head no-hackle crystal bugger.  But it didn’t work so well, and even drew a few refusals.  Also, it sank too fast. So today I will try something different– a poly-yarn clouser.  Green poly/black flash/white poly and small black bead chain eyes.  It’ll sink, but slowly.

I tie up a couple of the poly clousers in the baby bass colors.  The black flash makes a very nice lateral line, and I picked up a couple of bucket-boys out of That Water yesterday, so I know there is fry from time to time.

*   *   *

I set off my friend’s car alarm retrieving the radio, but I’m glad I got the radio anyway.

Before I’d been on the water 2 minutes he yelled into the mic:

“Woo-hoo! I’ve got a carp!”

It’s not a bad carp, either.  A little smaller than the one I pulled out yesterday but not so small, either; the rod is bent hard and the water is boiling.  Thanks to the radios I paddle up in time to snap a couple of pictures of

a) his largest fly-rod fish to date;
b) his largest fish to date;
c) his first carp, by any method.

Two casts later and he catches another carp, 50% larger and a very nice fish by any means.

Congrats, mental high fives, and I’m on the hunt.

*   *   *

Drifting slowly through the water, not paddling.  Quiet, invisible, fly in one hand, rod in the other.  Suspended just 20 feet from me are living, swimming spotted sticks.

GAR.

More false casts than I thought prudent later, the fly landed just beside the gar.  I was thinking about how badly I needed to clean my line (recent incident with wet clay– casting/shooting line is a complete joke at this point) when I twitched the fly and the gar came alive and turned, hit, shook, and was gone.

The hit and miss was with incomprehensible speed.  I didn’t realize what was happening until it was already long over.

*   *   *

I didn’t get another chance for almost an hour.  I finally found myself in a back cove shaped more like a feeder creek, and there were gar literally everywhere.  Gar on the left, gar on the right, cast to the middle gar, fight, fight, fight.

For a brief moment I thought I would land one that had around an inch of poly yarn firmly embedded in the mouth… then it yawned and swam off slightly irritated.

Finally, it happened.  The gar was no more than 15 feet away.  I cast, the fly dropped like a feather next to the beast’s eye.  It turned, hit, and I hit back, 3 times, fast, hard, with the rod, the line, and my upper body for good measure.

The water EXPLODED. Then the fish just laid there, motionless, looking at me, thinking:

“I am the top of the food chain in This Water.”

“Go away.”

Slight upward pressure with the rod to swing the fish toward the boat and it came STRAIGHT OUT OF THE WATER!  Then it hit the water and laid still again.

Hmm…

Upward pressure, the fish jumps again. Seems to be a pattern.

I debate about whether to touch the fish or just attempt to release it with the hemostats and a slow, steady hand.  Then I realize, hemostats in hand that the fish is *not hooked*.  Rather, the hook shank is laying perpendicular to the snout, upside down on the roof of the mouth, so that the hook bends outside of and on top of the snout, the hook point resting on top of the gar’s head/nose/paddle/handle/snout.

And then it decides it is done playing, twists, and the hook falls to the side. The fish disappears into the murky edges.

Half of the battle was trout/tarpon/sailfish/smallmouth bass, leap straight out of the water.  The other half was drum/am I hooked here?  What is going on?  Did that fish bite back?  Honey, where is the remote?

*   *   *

All in all, I ended up getting maybe 20 shots at gar today.  I had about 4 or five hookups but just the one fish landed.

Everything came together, I was living between the pages of a magazine:

saw the challenge
gained some experience
thought it through
tied some flies
found the fish
made the presentation
hosed the presentation
tried again
hosed it up again
(and again, and again)

and then just one beautiful moment when a fish probably best described as “you rat bastard” ate the fly, looked tough, lept, and hunkered down.  No, not hunkered down, exactly.  Just “hunkered.”

Oh, I could say he ran off 15 million feet of backing in the blink of an eye, or came to the top and did three of those triple-axle ice skating moves everyone was talking about after Nancy, Tonya and the Trailer Trash Gang Incident.  But in all reality the gar was good for a couple of jumps and then it was mostly dead weight.  A stick with kick, I guess.

*   *   *

I found my fishing partner into another carp.  They just kept getting bigger.  I sort of wanted to be jealous but couldn’t bring myself to it.  I did what I set out to do, which, in fishing, is kind of like jumping over the moon.  It doesn’t work out often.

I’ll go after more gar, but not for the fight.  I will chase the gar for the strike– which will most likely be referred to as “sight fishing for heart-attacks.”

Release Pics

Thursday, June 18th, 2009

We have all seen thousands of hero shots, the standard grip-and-grin, front cover of a magazine shot.  And, most of us are tired of them, unless there is something truly special about the picture– a guy with no arms and a grander marlin in his lap, a 5 year old girl hugging a fish twice her size.

As a guy who likes to take people out to catch their first carp, I’ve taken plenty of hero shots, and, you’ll see them on this blog from time to time.  However, my favorite shots these days are release shots– or other handling shots.  The release shot definitely has the most artistic potential, but some of the other snaps that come along the way do the best job at telling the whole story.

I just recently started a new job, and on the very last day of freedom my wife and I went to the lake to pole a flat for spotted gar.  The water was screwed up and we couldn’t see them, and as a last ditch attempt I decided to give the longnose gar a quick looking after.  My wife doesn’t like messing with fish bigger than a pound or two because they scare her, so I felt no guilt at all lunging for the 10 weight when I spotted the fish laid up and happy.

I handed her the camera before I boated the fish, because I just don’t get to catch a whole lot of longnose.  I expected to get a quick grip and grin before letting it go.  I honestly had no idea that she took pictures of the whole process though, until I downloaded them from my camera a few days later. 

deroping

 

juggling

 

release

Limit Minus Two

Monday, June 1st, 2009

I was cruising along on my way to a virgin flat when I noticed some small pops on the glassy surface.  I took a harder look and cut the motor without bothering to throttle down first.  By the time the boat came off plane I was already reaching into a rod locker and within seconds I was casting into the fish.  The pods were spread out over 30 acres or more, and I watched them group up and run down bait then branch off into separate smaller groups only to rejoin time and again.  It was like watching large raindrops come down a windshield, forming trickles that break up by the impact of another large drop.

After about an hour of trying to cut off trickles of menacing shad death with the boat I realized that my count was going to have to be verified.  I had 20 fish in the cooler.  Now things were starting to get interesting.  I was five fish from a sandbass limit.

I sometimes get goal oriented while fishing, and I started to wonder if I would jinx my luck by wishing for a limit.  25 fish would make us roughly 4-6 meals of assorted fish tacos or curry.  Meanwhile, the pods were building speed and the groups were getting larger, so it was harder to keep up with them and I was running into factions of 10-15 fish less frequently.

The wind suddenly blew out of the north and the water went to a ripple and the fish stopped blitzing all together.  During that time I was able to put three more fish in the cooler and release a couple of “unders.”  Putting around, I could see the fish on the graph but they’d moved down to the 10-15 foot range and most of them had started suspending.  If I really wanted to finish a limit, and if I hurried before they completely turned off until the evening, I’d have to break out the lead core and fish deep.  I considered it for a minute.  I’ve never kept a limit of sandbass, and it would be interesting to complete the deal on flies.  After about 3 tenths of a second, though, I realized I didn’t have lead core in the boat and I didn’t want to turn what had been a lucky diversion into work.

 

sandbass

 

It was time to hunt carp, and I had one quick stop to make before the main destination.  Within minutes of dropping the trolling motor and cruising the edge, I was seeing tons of fish.  Here’s a picture of the first.

 

carpinaboat

 

After landing 10 fish I considered putting on wading boots and making it a long day for numbers.  I had plenty of food and water to hit the 20 or 30 fish mark, but my lust for variety made me push on.  I finally made it to the intended destination around 4:30 and poled myself through about 1/3 of the flat to verify the presence of fish.  There were plenty of carp and a couple of buffalo as well.  I didn’t really intend to juggle a pole and a rod but one spotted gar was swimming slowly towards me and I was forced to tuck the pole under my arm and grab my rod.  I came close to landing the gar but it came off right at the boat.

23 sandbass and 10 carp.  Not a bad day sight fishin.  Hey, you ever seen those shows where the guys will turn their back to the camera to hide their “secret bait” or secret rig or fly?  This fish was playing cool with his mistake:

magichidin

Apex Trash

Friday, May 15th, 2009

Wikipedia defines apex predator as

…predators that, as adults, are not normally preyed upon in the wild by other large animals in significant parts of their range.

In other words, Tyrannosaurus Rex, Grizzly Bear, Bald Eagle, Great White Shark– most of us would just call them badass.

trashonthefly defines trash* as

Fish species that under-observant anglers leave on the bank to die because they never saw them on the cover of magazines.

Yesterday, I went hunting for Apex Trash.  The day started out pretty much the way every other day in Texas has started out for the last three months:

002_sightfishin

But it did eventually clear up quite a bit.  When I arrived to my first destination, I got a little distracted and tried to take pictures of lily blossoms.  Hey, I have been looking for this particular brand of Apex Trash for six years, and while my hopes were high, I needed to make sure I enjoyed the ride!

003_bee

I will admit that I am not the best photographer, but this one came out ok.  I’ll spare you the mushroom closeups and the blurry dragonflies.

Now, my original plan was a high energy run-and-gun scouting trip, stopping to fish only in likely places or where I actually saw fish.  Since everything is high and muddy, I realized that it would be possible to work my way from one end of the map to another without wetting a line, and never have the time to retrace my steps on all the dirt roads, 4WD, and blind corners.

Blind fishing really isn’t my style, but, it’s spring time in Texas, and on the right days, all the fish in the water act like they’ve never been offered a free meal before.  My new plan was to keep the scout fishing to a bare minimum since I was fishing mostly small water.  I eliminated the first spot pretty quickly, although I admit that the bluegill that ate my 4″ Clouser really was pretty big. 

In the second spot I became distracted fairly quickly by something other than a fish.  To a Montana boy, a bear is really not a big deal.  They didn’t walk to school with us, but if you were any kind of outdoorsman, you came across them from time to time.  At first I found it odd that my southern friends were so curious about the bears, and now I understand why.  As children we are fed stories and images of animals that are common in distant lands– distant only due to our age– and since many of us never come face to face with those animals until we are adults, the expectations are pretty high and the images fairly well ingrained, but still with a spooky unfamiliarity to them.

The point is, while I should have left the second spot after a couple of casts produced nothing, I was entranced.  And when I hooked up with this little guy,

004_crappie_3703

I got a serious reaction from this one:

 005_gator

And, while it might be considered by some to be a little on the sporting side, I thought that I might just let the animal have the fish.  After the energy the gator expended to swim upcurrent and catch up with the crappie, I thought it only fitting.  Either the gator would tug the crappie off my hook, or I’d have to time a heck of a hookset/breakoff move in order to free the gator from the end of my line.  Both courses would leave the gator with a full belly, so what could it hurt?

006_feedthegators

Well the gator spooked when it realized something was seriously wrong with the scenario, and the crappie was released only partly traumatized.

Back in the truck and down some more rutted paths.  I don’t know anything about trees, but I’m pretty sure that this spells exotic reel seat:

 007_reelseats

I found some ponds and spent about an hour between two of them catching bass and catfish.  This guy deserved a picture for two reasons, it was highly spotted, and extremely aggressive.  These fish were actually darting out from vegetation patches and hammering the fly.

008_wigglycat_3713

It’s been more than two years since I blissfully casted for such small game and I enjoyed every minute of it.  After the gator incident, I realized my day had already reached epic proportions and anything else was candy.  I hopped back in the truck and checked the time.  Texas really is big, and I carry a map in my truck called The Roads of Texas.  The scale is pretty large, showing basically all the rural routes in the state, but still, it runs 150 roughly legal-sized pages.  It’s no more than an hour from one side of a page to another in most cases, and I realized a good friend lived on the page I was driving in.  If I timed it right, I could take a detour and make a visit before I headed back to Big D.

There really was a moment of debate there.  If I quit then, after a great day, I could visit my friend for an hour or two and get home long before the light disappeared from the western sky.  If I continued on, I was only about 30 minutes away from the other spot I had intended on scouting.  I decided to try and make a short trip to the second location, a visit, and a late return home. 

Minutes after I arrived at the second spot, I saw carp crawling all over shallow flats.  My heart stopped.  I love chasing crawlers.  I found a place to park and got to fishing.  What I found was not carp crawling,  but carp clooping in extremely tight groups.  After embarrassing myself and the carp by snagging one in the head, I decided to leave them alone.

About the time I was going to abandon the patch of water, I saw a roll.  It was impossible to identify the species, but it could be…

A quick tippet and fly change later and I was firing off to rolling fish.  After two solid bumps, the third one hit home and the fish rocketed off through the muddy water.  My fly line was wrapped around a snag that I assumed was in fairly deep water.  I set the hook good and then waded over there and threaded my tip top through the snag.  Phew.  First disaster avoided, the fish was still tight.

I got the fish close to hand and it began performing acrobatics.  I could see that the fish was well hooked, but, during one of its aerial maneuvers the tippet ended up threading through its mouth and exiting on the opposite side as the fly.  Considering the teeth, this was not a good thing.  I changed rod angles a few times and got the tippet back to the correct exit point: off the fly and away from the teeth!  A few swipes with the boga and six years of buildup finally released.

010_agar_imgp3733

009_agar_3739

Alligator Gar can get huge… like 300 pounds huge… and specimens over 100 pounds are not that uncommon.  Actually, of the specimens that are caught, I should say, 100 pounds is not an unreasonable number.  There is a lot of debate over just how endangered the Alligator Gar has become, but one thing is for certain: trying to find one in North Texas is the very definition of waste of time.

So my first Alligator Gar catch was, like most firsts, pretty small for the species.  8.5 pounds.  I didn’t have a measuring tape but I’ll guess it went about 30 inches.  What my fish lacked in size, it made up for in cool:  as my friend Henry likes to say, no matter what the size, it still counts as one.  I’ve come to a point in my angling where popping my cherry on any new species is a big deal, and the other thing my gar had that other gars don’t is two rows of teeth in the upper jaw.  You can see that in the picture.  As far as those chompers go, I didn’t stick my fingers in there but I was nervous when the 16 pound tippet was threaded through them during the fight.

I know when it’s time to quit, and after watching that fish swim off I retrieved my fly rod from a patch of reeds and put the hook on the keeper.  Fishing was over.  Back at the truck I dumped the muddy wading boots and zipped the legs off my pants.  I would of course finish looking around the area I had come to observe, but I was done with the water and mud.

As I slowly rounded a corner in a dry patch, something caught my eye:

011_catfish_3757

I jumped out and closer inspection revealed it was a shoal of 4″ catfish.

012_catfishcu_3763

Back in the truck I felt something tangled in my hair, and laughed when I saw it.  Oh, sweet irony.  I had been trash fishing and found the trout angler’s favorite bug, Hexagenia limbata, smashed into my hair. 

013_hex

Besides the mayfly, I spotted 7 deer, 2 nutria, 2 alligators, bluebirds, all manner of dragonflies, clooping carp, clooping catfish, clooping baby catfish, rolling alligator gar, crappie, bluegill, and an enormous variety of wildflowers including at least three that I have never seen before.  I put a little ska on the radio and drove to my friend’s house for a much needed visit.  We talked about the economy and life and I was lucky enough to be invited to sit down for a pot roast dinner.

It really does not get much better than that.

 

 

*hmmm… I might need to work on that trash fish definition a little.