Put In: Hwy 59
Take Out: FM 2517
This is one of my yearly pilgrimages to catch the white bass run on this river. We have moved our date into late Feb rather than the 1st or 2nd week of March due missing the run so many of our past warm winters. Well, this winter has been much cooler and drier. None of my boys could make this trip this year. I was joined by 14 other DDRC members most in canoes and two tandem canoes, one a wife and husband the other two fellas one of which I know and had been on some trips with in the past. I arrive at the launch about 7:45 am and enjoyed a nice breakfast at Dennys at I20 and hwy 42. I got unloaded and got the rod out and had first fish by 8:15 while others were arriving and unloading.
After running our shuttles with my truck being the driver truck and held upriver at hwy 59 we got on the river about 11am. Just before noon we arrive at the much anticipated shoals for some fishing. When the run is in full swing this is the place to be as the fish will stack up here restricted in their upstream endeavors by this natural blockade. With the river up the shoasl are a free pass for the bass but otherwise a real chore for them to get past. There are many holes that are along the shoals and I really love wading the river finding the fish in their holes. I arrive and there are about 5 flat bottoms with anglers pulling in a few but not non-stop. It is a 50 degree morning with water temps in the 50s and me in shorts and a long shirt. I brought the wetsuit but as usual opted not to put it on as my time at the shoals is only an hour or so. So with my usual wading attire, stringer, net, PFD, assortment of extra lures, pliers I was off to find the fish. After getting the usual odd looks from the power boat group on a nut in the river with shorts I found a hole to work. Trying not to get to close to the powerboat guys and also managing to find my own hole is always a balance in this area. In the meantime our other DDRC members are coming through and some getting stuck on the shoals. Our two tandem DDRC brothers got stuck and just sat in their canoe as if some fairy god mother was going to come rescue them. Once they figured that was not going to happen they started in on each other out in the middle of the river. I immediately dubbed them Oscar and Felix. More on these guys later.
Once where I wanted to be where I could cast freely without worry of interfering with others and then feel the bite. This is why I love to wade, you just cannot feel the bite sitting in a boat you have to get in the water to truly feel it. Sure you can catch fish in a boat but with murky or shallow water fishing you just cannot beat being in the water with them. I wish I had better words to describe the difference but those words just are not with me today.
After a few minutes I had my first 3 on the stringer (all whites). I worked several holes and watched others and the catch rate was actually quite slow. While I was working the holes I could hear Oscar and Felix on the bank having some spats. After a few minutes I notice the entire DDRC group packed up and proceeded downstream without catching much if anything. I continued to wade and managed for a total of 6 fish. This was enough to feed me for a couple of days. The only food I brought for 3 days was a couple cups of oatmeal, 3 potatoes, 1 can of beans, 2 apples, and 2 cliff bar, so catching fish was very important to me and the shoals is an important stop for just that.
I started on downriver not paddling that hard but enough to keep moving and managed to pick up one more fish from a spot I thought looked good. I finally caught up to the DDRC group and they only had 5 fish amongst all of them. So we are supposed to have a group fish fry for the night and I brought what I needed to do so. I kept paddling as I know our designated first night sand bar camping remains a few miles downriver and it is now 1pm. So I just settled in to a steady pace and that was the last I would see of any of the DDRC members. I got to the same sandbar we normally camp at by 4:30 and promptly worked on camp then firewood. Since there was no rain in the forecast and no trees I just put my bag and bivy cover on the sand and called it camp. I waited on the others but I finally figured they just got tired and camped a bit upstream. Just as well I did not have to listen to Oscar and Felix for the evening. I fried my fish and warmed my can of beans and had a nice dinner by the riverside. After sitting by the fire for a bit I crawled into my bag about 9pm.
There were a few owls early in the evening then they piped down. About 2am I awoke but was in a semi-dream state trying to determine if I was dreaming or awake. My dream was that something was behind my head taking a few sniffs, I could hear it and then it walked around in my field of view outside my bag and I made it out to be a mountain lion. It slowly took a few steps away from my bag then leapt over a small pile of grass. I was in that daze between dream and reality trying to decide on what I was experiencing. After it quietly disappeared into the grass I remember thinking well it did not want a part of me so why get up. The next morning I am thinking the dream seemed so real and fit the surroundings perfectly so I looked for tracks. Sure enough there were tracks but in the soft powdery white sands of the Sabine river it was hard to make them out. This is the same sandbar I was camped on with my father and others a couple of years past when we had a mountain lion came screaming down a trail into the camp then disappeared. So I guess my sum of this past experience is that it likely was not a dream but rather a close sniffing encounter with a mountain lion. Good thing I did not awaken as I likely would have excited the critter and put him into a different mode.
The next morning I got up made my oatmeal and coffee and was on the river by 8:15. I thought I would just drift in the current and fish while the other DDRC members caught up. I picked up a couple of fish then one member caught up to me about 11am. We poked and paddled then a few others caught up. Then I started to hear about the escapades of Oscar and Felix the night before. Turns out they bickered and bitched at each other most of the night. At that point I knew I had a good night prior and figured I really did not want any part of that. I just wonder how anyone can come out here and not find peace. We paddled past the hwy 79 bridge then hit a sandbar on river right for lunch. After a cliff bar and an apple I hit the river telling the others that we have a firm 2.5-3 hrs of paddling to make the next nights preferred campsite. I started stroking and made camp by 4pm and never saw any of the DDRC members. I guess they got tired again. Oh well, that only left me about 3-4 miles the next day to the take out.
Once again I had plenty of fish to eat and had another solo fish fry. The bats and owls got started in the twilight followed by a few coyotes in the distance. I managed to find a large willow to put up my hammock for the night rather than the sand. The night was uneventful and warmer than the prior frosty night. I slept until about 6am and got out to get my first cup of coffee followed by some oatmeal. I got on the river about 8am and again decided to just drift and fish. I had spoken to some locals the day prior and learned the main bass run was still below FM2517. However, I rounded a few bends and found several bass boat working some sandbars and bringing them in at a pretty nice pace. I caught a few but really did not have the motivation as it was my last day and I had a full belly and the river had provided what I needed the day prior.
I got to FM2517 about 9:30 and then a waited a good bit for another DDRC member to make it down to take me to my truck upstream. He was full of stories about Oscar and Felix having another emotion filled evening with the rest of the group. For me this was an especially peaceful trip as I was without those who do not appreciate the peace that a river brings you and having the respect of to keep your peace with others. This was another good trip for me and it sure helped me face Monday back at work.
Here are a few pictures.
Fist morning prior to launch
Fist nights camp
Large white sand sandbar
Looking upriver from second nights campsite
Pretty section of river