Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Clear Fork Fishing.

Largemouth on Clear Fork of the Trinity
Saturday, I worked from 9 am until nearly 8 pm at the Bike Share, so Sunday, I decided it was time to get my canoe on the water. I had tied it to my Jeep days ago, but had not been able to get out when I first planned because my mom's car had broken down.

So Sunday comes along, and I may have been suffering the after effects of my friend's farewell party the night before, so I was slow-moving and my stomach was unhappy with me, and it was hot, and Sunday Fun Day was going on at the Panther Island Pavilion, so I drove around, checking out all the possible places I've used to launch my canoe downtown. River levels have dropped, so the grassy banks are high, and mud still makes things slippery and treacherous for a simple bank launch. I'm not scared to drop in, but Sunday morning joggers might see me if I capsize, and frankly, I'm not in the mood this morning to entertain. 

I end up at the 183 crossing, south of town. I guess it's technically Benbrook at this point on the map. I unload the canoe, then carry it a hundred yards or so to a clearing on the bank where the mud is negotiable, and I leave it to gather up my fishing gear, water, paddles, and life vests. It has been a habit to carry extra vests and paddles in preparation for emergencies, but sometimes, my proclivity for preparedness is a pain. I hate walking. 

I load everything in the canoe, push her to the water's edge, leaving enough of her hull high on the bank so that I may use her as a bridge over the mud... my weight, as I near the stern, will help me clear the mud and vegetation, and soon, I'm freely drifting, the sun high overhead, my palmetto straw cowboy hat dripping sweat...it's Texas in August, don't you know?

Near the confluence of St Mary's Creek and The Clear Fork of the Trinity

I take a few casts in the open water near the Trinity Trail, fishing the edge of the vegetation, but get no strikes, so I head under the bridge, seeking shade and structure. On the upstream side of the bridge, there are log jams and fallen trees, the result of our recent flooding. I get a few hits near a tree, and decide to keep going...

The river forks here. Having not really studied this area on the map, I think I'm heading up Mary's Creek when I veer left and paddle into clear, deep water. In fact, I am on the Clear Fork of the Trinity, according to my later searches on Google Maps. Immediately, I'm impressed by the natural beauty of this area. The oppressive sunlight, when filtered through the canopy of sycamores, cottonwoods, pecans, and ashes, is softened, and bounces back to underlight the bare trunks of heavy trees, giving the atmosphere of some tropical river. It's as if, five minutes from the bridge, I've wound up in the Orinoco or the headwaters of some Amazonian tributary...Except for the occasional backyard patio I spy, precariously leaning over the edge of a storm-washed bank. More than once, I found the after-effects of storm waters' wrath: trees, centuries-old, lying in the water with roots leaving behind a vertical crater of caved-in bank earth. And, again, I'm reminded of the need for greenbelts. Every creek and stream and river should have a safe greenbelt corridor...a place where the riparian habitat is left undisturbed. How many times do we have to watch the news and see some wealthy landowner complaining about the damage done as a floodwaters erode their backyard paradise? 

We know better. Rivers flood. Trees fall down. We should allow the acres bordering creeks and rivers to remain unscathed by development, so that the trees and grasses may do their work of filtering the water, and providing habitat for those creatures who depend on that delicate zone between the water and its flood stage...

Every place where I found a fallen tree, I also caught a bass. I lost count of how many fish I caught, but I think 30 is a fair estimate. Creek fishing has always been my favorite. I detest sitting still, and to be able to move along a creek bank, seeking out structure and discovering new opportunities around every bend...it makes fishing more like the prehistoric hunting I imagine my ancestors doing. It's active. It's explorative. At times, I stand in my canoe, my calves bracing against the thwarts for balance, and I see the perspective change and see to the bottom of the river and see that I am surrounded by spawning sunfish and I know that if I hunger, I may find what I need in the river.