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This is George's write-up........

Devils River Adventure –Four TFF’ers make it out in one piece!

Matt Blyth, Travis Rock, Don “Puck” Puckett, and George Sutherland spend three days in a remote corner of some of the most rugged terrain Texas has to offer – and catch some really nice fish!

I’m sitting at home one evening last November when my cell phone rings. Checking the number, I see it is Matt Blyth calling. “Have a proposition for you,” says Matt. “I’m putting together a trip to the Devils River in March, and wanted to see if you’d like to go.” My mind immediately throws the “heck yeah!” switch, but I have to look into calendars and budgets. A brief debate between the small angel and devil who sit on my shoulders, and I confirm in a day or two. I’m in. The group is Matt, Puck, Travis Rock, and me. We’re booked though guide and outfitter Brent Hodges, with ReelFly Fishing Adventures. A three- day trip of fly fishing for smallmouth bass, floating, and camping on the river islands. Cool!

The River and Logistics - Wow… the Devils River! I’ve heard about the river, but knew nothing more than it is a great experience to fish and float, and you must have it on your bucket list. Researching the river yields some rather surprising results – that there is simply not much written about it. A remote river in West Texas, it rises from springs out of limestone near Comstock, Texas, and travels 47 miles where it empties into Lake Amistad near Del Rio. Spring fed waters means the river is crystal clear, cool, and it has been designated as the cleanest river in Texas. In an area where the South Texas brush country converges with the Chihuahuan Desert, the river forms a beautiful strip of bright blues and greens that passes between high arid bluffs of gray limestone, prickly pear, yucca, and juniper. The colors of the river are really quite Caribbean, against the rugged arid backdrop of the desert. Very remote with highly limited access, the river crosses private property the entire length with the exception to two state natural areas. And one of those is still closed to the public! Access to the river has only been available through the state in the past four years, and that is very closely controlled. Only twelve people are currently allowed through the state property onto the river per day. So anyone who gains access will see very few people during their trip. The only other public access is at Baker’s Crossing, which makes for a very long trip but people make it in canoes and kayaks. No services along the way, no cellphone coverage. So if you have a problem you must be prepared to deal with it until you reach your destination. The local landowners are rather independent, and trespassing is simply not a good idea regardless of the reason. So it is remote, no restaurants or hotels, no guide services other than ReelFly , and thus not any media coverage, websites, etc. All the reasons there is not very much information on the internet about the river.

We arrived on Thursday evening, after the seven hour drive from Katy. Heading West from San Antonio on Hwy 90 brought out many deer camp memories – I hunted deer and turkey for years in that area, we passed Castroville, D’hanis, Sabinal, Uvalde, Brackettville. I’ll bet I’ve hunted or had a chicken fried steak in every one of them. We stayed at the Bunk House, a rather rustic but very comfortable B&B who put us up for the night. The proprietor, Marlene, also assists with shuttling to and from the river. We’re greeted by the ReelFly team, Brent Hodges, Ryan, and Zach who will guide us on the river and do all the real work. A few cocktails, and early and substantial breakfast, and we load our gear and it is off to the river.

And getting to the river is a bit of a jaunt in itself. About a thirty minute drive north on the highway, then 22 miles further on a gravel, dirt, and caliche road (generous term) into the Devils River State Natural Area. Once there we quickly ready the rafts and load the gear. I say “we,” but I really mean the ReelFly guides. They did all the work, and frankly preferred that we keep out of their way. Ok, I guess I can be good with that! So off we go, in three inflatable “Aire” boats, two with two anglers each and one guide on the oars, and the third boat trailing with all the camping gear.

Fishing and the fish – The Devils River is probably the finest smallmouth bass fishery in the state, and we all caught more than we counted. Many were in the 2.5 to 3 pound class; pretty stocky for a smallmouth. Many largemouth bass, a whole bunch of longear sunfish, and even one spotted gar. In many cases we were sight casting to these fish! This river is so abundant in habitat the entire thing looks fishy. Cuts, deep pools, large rocks, undercut banks, grass lines, overhanging trees – it is all there. Almost all fish were caught on two flies. Puck’s renowned Mardi Gras Minnow was powerful, particularly in taking larger fish. A smaller crawfish pattern brought more fish to hand, and a greater variety of species.

Matt caught this hefty largemouth as part of a double hookup. We were floating along the bank, and had come across a deep undercut with overhanging branches. Thinking “if I were a bass that’s where I’d be,” I did my best Flip Pallot imitation and managed to present a crawfish fly right into the opening. Sinks for a second or two, then…wham! A nice smallmouth jumps the fly and the fight is on. I’m playing the fish out of the undercut and to the boat; when about five more fish come streaking out of the undercut as well, almost flying in formation as they are actually attacking the hooked smallmouth. They keep circling the fish, and Matt starts to throw his mardi gras minnow at the others while I keep the hooked fish on the line. Not unlike offshore dolphin fishing. One shot, two, then on the third shot this large bass peels off and jumps on his fly! The double is on! Whoops, hollers, and both fish landed and released. That’s one we’ll all remember for a long time!

We continued fishing, with more caught than could be described. I caught this nice smallmouth, who behaved more like a redfish. Appeared out of nowhere, near the boat, and I was able to put a fly in range. He turned, hammered the crawfish fly, and the fight was on. A few aerial leaps and the fish was soon brought to hand.
Here was a new one – a spotted gar caught on a fly. Puck and I were fishing when was came across this guy. We both cast to him, Puck’s mardi gras minnow and my crawfish fly land about eight inches apart. One of us must’ve been potlicking, you can decide who. The fish now has a buffet choice to make, and he took the crawfish. Pure luck - the fly lodged in the corner of his mouth, otherwise it might not have penetrated his bony beak. Holding this thing was like holding a rattlesnake…too much muscle and dangerous teeth. Not a big gar, but pretty cool to catch on a fly!

The only fish we could not seem to catch was a carp. You know how excited Matt gets around those leviathans, and we saw many in the shallows where they were spawning. With love on their minds they refused every fly we presented. Ah, well… maybe next trip.

Floating the river – Just the trip down the river was both a real pleasure and a real challenge. You’ll find yourself frequently wading through rapids and clambering over rocks, while the guides pull, push, and float the boats through riffles and rapids. A very physically demanding river and you need to be in pretty decent shape to make the journey. Shortly after the launch point we encounter Dolan Falls, the highest natural waterfall in Texas. Not very big as waterfalls go, but there it is. Unload all gear from three boats, drop them over the side on a controlled drift, and reload them downstream.

There is quite a historic site along the river, you’ll see these pictographs which are said to be between 500 and 1,000 years old.  They can be seen in a rock shelter about 80 to 100 feet high on the bluffs. Images of coyotes and turkeys painted on the sides of the cave. You can’t see the scale from the photo, but these images must be about four feet in height.  I was unable to find anything written on whom, or what people, may have left this artwork for us to see many years later in the year 2014.

Camping on the river – This was a big part of the fun. There are no established campsites available, and camping on the river banks is trespassing. So… we camped on islands on the river. Brent and the guides have located a couple of very rough but very suitable campsites. Meals were very good, breakfast tacos in the mornings, sandwiches on the river, grilled brats with sauerkraut and steaks for dinner. A couple of bottles of bourbon, some ouzo, and some fine red wine and we were well fed! Pack light and waterproof. Only one scorpion, which Matt encountered while sitting on a rock. He may even have been sitting on top of it. We slept in individual hammock tents, which swayed gently in the breeze. A combination of gentle swaying, sound of the river, wind in the trees, and bourbon provided some of the best sleep I’ve had in years!

Off the river – As we neared the end of the journey we encountered a stiff headwind. Winds blowing at a steady 30 mph plus made for some tough rowing for the three guides! For paddlers who attempt to traverse the river all the way to Lake Amistad it is said that exhaustion is a common reason for rescue as these headwinds are pretty typical. Also made for difficult fly casting as we wrapped up our trip. We made it to the take-out point, and Marlene was soon there with the ReelFly van and trailer, ready to haul us back to the B&B where we would unload, repack, and make the journey back to Houston and back to reality.

It was quite a trip, and quite an adventure! I can’t say enough good things about the total trip. The fishing was great, but the entire experience of fishing, floating the river, camping, and enjoying the scenery with good friends was the real pleasure and what will keep me retuning. Also – heavy kudos to Brent Hodges and the ReelFly team for making a great trip out of very challenging conditions!

Here we are after three days on the river, but wishing it was longer. We’ll be ready for the return trip next year! Here’s George, Ryan, Brent Hodges, Zach, Puck, Travis, and Matt. Maybe you’ll come with us too!

TFF has been invited back to participate in the expanding of young minds at one of our local high schools.

We will be speaking to 3 different classes, starting with the first period.

Day 3 (2014-04-11, "April 11th, 2014") - Fly Tying
          This is the most challenging due to the time limits (40 minutes). 

We will need some more volunteers.

Updates are in the works.

Coffee at the flag pole 0630
Sign in at 0700
We have about 30 students for first, second, and fourth periods, for a total of about 90.
Tying the wooly bugger on size 8 TAG (no sharp edges) hooks.  We have about 40 minutes per class.
One guy on the camera, tying, the others on the floor, assisting.


Outing Information Only / JSFSS - April 5th, 2014, outing report
« on: April 06, 2014, 08:14:04 AM »
52 people signed in, and had lunch.

4 from San Antonio, 2 from our High School group.  The remainder from the Texas FlyFishers, and current members of Damon 7 Lakes.

One of the groups from San Antonio camped out in a tent.  I also stayed overnight, and pre-fished the day before.

The weather forecast said that there would be rain.  The forecast was wrong about the rain, but the wind and cloud cover they got right.  Once you found a protected area, you could cast.  Another option was to make a heroic roll cast with the wind at your back.

The winner of the event was George S. with a 9+ inch bluegill.  Yes there is a photo. 

Harry C. gave some of his fishing time to educate 3 people new to the sport.  One of those was a high-schooler that had never fished before.  Every time I watch him teach, I am impressed with his patience, his ability to explain how fly casting works, and I learn something new every time.

Lunch was gumbo, rice, fried fish, chips, and hot dogs.  There was plenty of food, and even more fun.

More details shortly.


Outing Chat / Waiting for a ride......
« on: April 01, 2014, 11:49:57 AM »
These guys were sitting by a river, waiting for a ride........

Outing Chat / Sabine River, generation canal 2014-03-22
« on: March 22, 2014, 06:47:06 PM »
The plan was to hit the river at daylight and then visit with my old neighbors near the area.

On the road by 0230, and kayak ready and loaded into the river at 0545.  I had checked the SRA to find out about any water releases.  One site listed "no generation until further notice."  Another listed only one generator operating at 0630.  What did I find at O-dark-thirty?  2 generators going full blast, and it looked like it had been going on for a while.

I tried to peddle up to an eddy that I knew was upriver.  I had fished from the shoreline at that spot a few times before.  The water was rough, turbulent, and flowing quickly.  I quickly realized that there was no way I could manage this in the dark.  As the sky turned from dark to gray, I let the current take me back to the launch point.  It was just too dangerous to keep trying.

Throwing a sinking line of the 5 wt brought a large freshwater drum to hand, but none of the large stripers that I could see blasting bait.  Even the white bass seemed to be out of reach for me again today.

After a couple of hours of casting practice, and fighting the current I decided to pack up and head over to "cold-water" the bottom released section of the river.  Pool #2 had a 40+ pound striper pulled from it a few years ago. 

I launched, again, at the "cold-water" side, and started travelling upriver.  Things have changed since the last time I was here.  The narrow part of the river that funneled the water from pool 1 to pool 2 was now just a mild flow.  I didn't take a trip down to see what pool 3 held. I pulled the kayak above the last rocks, and tried some edges, all with no luck.

The scenery was great, but the fishing wasn't what I was hoping for.

We have been invited to set up, and tie flies, at Bass Pro Shops in Katy

2014-04-01-1800 (1st of April, 2014, at 6:00pm)

I am posting this up on our forum to get some attention, and hopefully some more people looking over our shoulders.

Stop by and observe the mysteries of tying with goo.....

Surf and Smack (Spanish mackerel) candies is the pattern we plan to tie.

•   Hook Mustad 34011 sizes 4/0 though 4, and possibly 6
•   Mono thread, ( I use 6 pound test mono on a spool)
•   Fishhair, or other stiff plastic fly tying fibers
•   Light cure glues, Clear Cure Goo, or Tuffleye, etc. 
•   Stick-on eyes
•   Clear fingernail polish


Tying Chat / Pizza and Fly tying
« on: March 19, 2014, 06:17:08 AM »
6 of us sat around the table and tied the Seaducer.  (Marcos E.  Michael M.  John P.  Michael Q.  George S.  Puck)

A few of our guys had other obligations, and were missed, but talked about   :)

Pizza, beer, and wine were provided by MM, JP, and GS.

Nilo made baklava and dolma for us.

This was a "Stevie leading Ray" adventure, until Marcos showed us some of the details, materials, ect. to consider.  His seaducers are works of art compaired to my SCE version.

As part of the discussion we talked about moving the location.  I'll call Wes and see if either the 1st or 15th of April is available for our next get together.  We may not be able to have the libations at the next location, but I'm certain we can have food.

Surf candies, and smack candies are the next flies to tie.


Tying Chat / Simple shad start
« on: March 16, 2014, 03:48:50 PM »
I'm working on these.

These are the skeletons.


Tying Chat / Still organizing flies....
« on: March 15, 2014, 03:25:30 PM »
I went through all the little nooks and crannies in the man-cave and retrieved every loose fly.  These I threw into placed a plastic dish pan.  When I was done scrounging, I had a pile of unsorted flies about 3" deep. 

Now the fun began.  I have been spending most of this rainy day getting the flies separated into storage boxes, neatly.  I am down to half a layer in that dishpan, and then I can actually sit down and do some more tying.

Here are the bendback, clousers, MGMs, and cracks look like when they aren't in one tangled mess.


Outing Chat / Targetting stripers on the upper Guad
« on: March 15, 2014, 09:20:00 AM »
Matt B. and I left Katy about 0515, coffee in hand to get up to Satler to fish with Brent from ReelFly.  One stop at Buc-Ees for breakfast and more coffee, and we got there in record time.

Chilly morning dictated waders and wind jacket.  And as we flew across the water with a 42degree wind, it was still cold.  Blind casting, watching for birds, watchers the other anglers, drifting, trolling, nothing was working.

All morning without a solid connection.  As we moved into the river proper, this striper hit.  It was to be the only fish of the day.  Full sink line on a grey and silver Clouser.

Nobody was catching any fish this day, even the few that were using live bait.  High winds, clarity of the water, and who knows what other factors led to the slow fishing. 

Brent worked hard for us.  We didn't get off the water until 1900.

A quick visit to the shop, a Dr. Pepper to celebrate the fish, a cold beer, a lot of talk about the Devil's River trip coming up, and once again on the road.


Tying Chat / Hook boxes that sit at my tying station......
« on: March 09, 2014, 03:44:58 PM »
I was asked, more than once, what the hook boxes that I had in front of me were.  Here is what I've been using for years.

Spirit River Hook Box, 20

BPS used to carry a Wapsi box that was something like it (Wapsi Hook Box Pro 20).  I can no longer find it at BPS.

I am not endorsed, just saying what I use, and what works for me.


General Discussion / TFF at the Houston Fishing Show 2014-03-05
« on: March 06, 2014, 08:08:51 AM »
Houston Fishing Show

There were people waiting for the doors to open 15 minutes before the start time.

I didn't take any pictures yesterday, but we had a steady stream of people stop to talk with us.

From the time I sat down, I must have tied 4+ dozen flies, and given away 1/3 of them.  I only tied 3 patterns, Hare-E, Bendback, and yellow spider.

Casting the practice rod in the aisle got Jason a lot of strange looks.  And casting to redfish on the PC display does not count as "sight casting"

When Adam showed off his rodless casting technique, we got even more people dodging the fly lines.

John’s SoloSkiff was a great draw.  I have no idea how many people stopped by just to see that watercraft.

I’ll be back there tying on Saturday.


Tying Chat / Bread, beer, and fly tying:
« on: March 05, 2014, 06:12:51 AM »
Bread, beer, and fly tying:

4 of us were on hand for the Katy Navy Fly Tying (KNFT) last night, John P. Michael M, George S. and Puck.  Nilo had made some goodies to go with the sourdough bread.  “Arrogant Bastard” beer from Stone brewing company, and jalapeno beer from a Katy brewery, topped of the libations.  That’s when we started tying flies.

The fly of the day was the Bendback.  Our group was exposed to:
1.   The uses of the new Mustad replacement for the 34011, and why choose that hook
2.   Materials for the body. 
a.   Craft fur
b.   Fish hair
c.   Bucktail
d.   Peacock hearl
e.   Flash
3.   Choosing eyes, style and color
4.   Finishing the head with sealant
a.   Aleenes fabric fusion
b.   CCG
c.   Booger glue (not used)
d.   Epoxy (not used)

John P. and Puck took a finished fly to the pool and watched it in the water while it was still light enough to see.  Craft fur dances in the water once wet.  John P. and Puck had already finished one fly, all but the eyes, by time the others arrived.

Mike M. picked up all kinds of tips and trick for these larger flies.  Contrasting colors seemed to be the biggest challenge for him.  And yes, there is a story here.

George took what I consider a 5-minute fly, added some artistry to it, and made it into a 10-15 minute fly.  His tweaks on the pattern gave the results a sleek, polished look.  I should have take photos of those.


Tying Chat / Tying bendbacks 2014-03-03
« on: March 04, 2014, 09:05:42 AM »
Nilo picked the colors:

Outing Chat / Fishing the legendary Mardi Gras Minnow, part 2
« on: February 23, 2014, 01:27:24 PM »
Just took one of the latest batch and was fishing the local ponds.  6 LMB and one catfish.  The largest LMB went 8 lbs on the Boga grip.  I had an elderly oriental neighbor trail me, and took the occasional photo for me.  Total of the day was 7 LMB, 1 catfish.  Just a few pictures here:


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