January 13, 2011 —
I was pleasantly surprised to discover on Wednesday, December 29 that I have inadvertently tied a most miraculous fly for catching sand bass.
On the 28th, my fishing partner Mark Froelich phoned, suggesting we try for sand bass at the Elm Fork of the Trinity below the Ray Roberts Dam. His friend Jerry, a local fishing guide, had told him the sand bass were running in the Elm Fork. Sand bass is Texas talk describing a white bass.
Mark suggested that he pick me up at 6 a.m. the following day. No way. Since I cannot eat breakfast until an hour after taking my thyroid pill, I would need to arise at 4:30 a.m. Ten days short of my turning 81, there is no fish that gets me up that early. When Mark adjusted the pickup time to 7:15 I said, “I’ll be ready.”
Mark arrived at the appointed hour and I quickly threw my gear into his truck. Upon arriving at the dam, we geared up and hurried down the long flight of concrete steps to the river. Jerry teased us, saying we were late. He had already caught half a dozen fish. Unfortunately, I had been too lazy to change the five-weight line on my reel to a three-weight. Therefore, I had to force my eight-foot three-weight graphite rod to cast Clouser streamers with lead eyes while using a line two sizes too heavy for the rod. This made for uncomfortable casting.
As Forrest Gump once put it, “Stupid is as stupid does.” Jerry and Mark found fast fishing while I struggled. All the fish that had come up the river so far were small males. The much larger females will not arrive until some weeks later to celebrate their late winter saturnalia. Not one fish caught went over 10 inches.
After an enjoyable lunch break, Mark and I went back to the river while Jerry left to run errands. I tired of forcing the light rod to cast the Clousers and searched my fly box for a different fly. I found a small chartreuse fly that I had tied to imitate a damsel fly nymph. This fly would be far easier to cast—but would it prove to be attractive to the Sand Bass despite its small size? The fly was tied on a number 18 200R Tiemco hook. The entire fly was a chartreuse color. The tail was maribou fibers. The body made of D-Rib, thinly palmered over with maribou fibers. A 3/32nd gold tungsten bead was at the head. I effortlessly cast this fly nearly across the stream. After the second cast I made a few strips and had a solid hit. Perhaps this fly would work.
Indeed it did. In the next 20 minutes I landed seven more sandies and missed at least that many hits. Mark had noticed the remarkable change in my luck and asked to see the fly. He expressed surprise that such a small fly, even though weighted, could be so successful. In the next days I intend to tie up a number of this fly in size 18, 16 and 14, each with a commensurate size tungsten bead. I can’t wait till the females arrive in the Elm Fork. Oh, yes: this time there will be an appropriate three-weight line on my reel.