Sunday, May 3, 2015

Uncertainties ...

Parked in paradise, the Sloughstalker
was loaded-down & ready to launch!
     Howdy, y'all!  My beautiful bride & I just got back from another week on Caddo Lake with two other couples ... which has now officially become an annual event.  In Texas this time of year, folks will face quite a few uncertainties as far as the weather is concerned; and, we damn-sure got a taste of it once we arrived in Uncertain.  Sunday evenin' thru Tuesday it rained straight-line friggin' Chihuahuas, which pretty-much-well put a damper on our outdoor activities.  With the arrival of the last cold-front, we had opened the cabin windows and enjoyed the sound of rain for the next day or so.  Yes, if a tree falls in the woods you can definitely friggin' hear it; but, all you can do is just pucker & pray it don't land on you!  At the point of gettin' hammered with 60+ mph winds, we dodged the bullet as far as any tree damage was concerned.  We had plenty of food & adult beverages to keep us occupied 'til the rain slacked.  Our friends from Arkansas brought their new lab puppy, which kept us all entertained along with the assortment of "Bigfoot" related DVD's I snuck-in to the dissatisfaction of my wife.  Other than that it was good company and good times!

     I had planned on doin' some hog huntin' with my new Henry .45-70 one mornin' ... but the game warden put a damper on that.  It seems that even if you have a valid huntin' license as well as a public land permit, you still cain't hunt hogs in the Caddo Wildlife Management Area during turkey season.  Really?  I always thought that you could hunt feral hogs most anywhere in Texas 24-7, 365 with a valid huntin' license ... but obviously this is one of them uncertainties life throws at you!  Our host and longtime huntin' guide Billy Carter thought I was funnin' him when I asked that question.  He immediately called three different game wardens (who at that time did not answer their phones) and proceeded to tell me that he personally had not seen any wild turkeys in that WMA in over 20 years!  When the Caddo WMA's state wildlife biologist finally called him back, she confirmed that yes, this law was on the books.  Really?  Good Lord, wake-up sheeples ... this is our tax dollars at work! You'll never catch me protestin' our law enforcement officers for doin' their jobs, but I'll damn-sure pay more attention in the future to keep bullsh¡t laws like this from ever gettin' on the friggin' books.  I pay good money for my super-combo huntin' & fishin' license, as well as the extra for my public land permit.  I damn-sure ought to be able to use 'em ... especially to eradicate feral hogs!  To add insult to injury, baitin' hogs in the WMA is not allowed either.  Really?  Thank God I had access to plenty of ice-cold Lone Star Beer to calm my sudden onset of mini-man madness!

     Well, once the rain stopped, I felt the need to put the Sloughstalker through its paces and see where the fish were bitin'.  The water on Caddo was at least 2½' higher than it was when friend and fellow NAWAC investigator Travis Lawrence and I last fished it in late February.  Matter of fact, if you wanted to seriously catch bass ... you had better have gotten as far-up into them woods as you could possibly cast.  Bein' that the Sloughstalker weighs about 1,300 lbs. I really didn't feel the need to get stuck in the flooded forest, so we just got creative with our casts.  My buddy G-Man took that to a whole 'nother level, as I had to retrieve his lures from limbs on several occasions.  What hurt the most was that our buddy Tysquatch, who was fishin' the Spatterdock with an Iron Man kiddie pole had caught several slab crappie and some really nice bream.  And yes, alcohol was involved.  I'd honestly hafta say that more fish were caught off the Carter's dock than outta my boat on this trip.  But that didn't stop us from goin' sloughstalkin' ...

The calm after the storm out on Big Cypress ... rarely would I ever lay a
$150 rod & reel down like this; but, that day, I had a damn good reason!
     On Wednesday, I took G-Man out to fish on Big Cypress.  We were on the WMA shoreline directly across from Blair's Landing, where I had placed two of my game-cams a couple of years before.  We were trollin' a good 20-yards from the shoreline in a swift current.  I was castin' into thick cover along the shoreline when I caught movement about 20-yards into the woods.  A huge black shape rose from the forest floor and casually but silently walked away from us.  At first, I had thought that it was a black bear until I saw the hide; all I could see was its back, but this massive feral hog was pushin' the 400 lb. range!  It was solid black except for the tips of its hair, which had a reddish-brown tint.  I had a fishin' rod in my hand in which I immediately put down and grabbed my holstered Springfield XDm .40 cal. from under the console.  As the Veridian Green laser found its mark, the hog vanished behind a huge tree-fall before I could squeeze the trigger.  This all happened in a matter of seconds.  G-Man, lookin' through his binoculars asked me if this land was part of the WMA, in which I reluctantly answered yes.  I had observed, identified and reacted ... but thank God I was obviously not fast enough.  I may be a bit rowdy, but I ain't no outlaw; nor did I want to shuck-out the bucks for a needless fine.  Had I actually have been wearin' my sidearm, it may have been a different story; however, even though open-carry had just been passed, it was not put into play yet.  All things happen for a reason, I guess.

Headin' into Back Lake on our last afternoon for a 'lil sightseein' ...
     And speakin' of uncertainties, while the women went horseback ridin' I took G-Man and Tysquatch out to the area of our encounter to do a little scoutin' from the boat.  Since the water was up, I decided to take them to the backside of Horse Island and see how close we could get to Back Lake.  On our previous year's trip, the water was much too low and I could not get the Sloughstalker back there.  I hear-tell that our host had taken some folks from Animal Planet's Finding Bigfoot out there a couple of months back, and I heard that their trip was not a pleasant one.  No spoiler alerts here; you'll either have to wait 'til the Caddo Lake episode airs this fall; or, if you happen to run into Matt Moneymaker anytime soon you could always just ask him.  It may be a sore subject, so be prepared ... 'cause I really don't think he was.  I done told y'all ... Texas winters ain't kind, especially in the friggin' swamp.  Been there, done that ... so, no hard feelin's Matt.  I don't know ya and I don't owe ya, but I'm gettin' a 'lil too old to be out sloughstalkin' in the brutal, wet-cold.  I seriously don't think anyone could've packed enough Baileys' & coffee for me to have sat through that ... so more power to ya!

Yuki's slumber ...
     We had all knocked-back quite a few beers that afternoon, so short of turnin' our swampscapade into a booze-cruise we headed back to Spatterdock for some grub.  After toppin'-off the oil and a quick re-fuel, we grabbed our fishin' gear and blasted-out to Turtle Shell for one more try at fishin'.  The water was glass, and the lily-pads were just startin' to breach.  We spooked some fish trollin' ... but they seemed to still be lip-locked from the cold-front.  The biggest bass I caught was only 2½ to 3 lbs., but accordin' to our host we had done better than most.  With the long, hard winter and now the over-abundance of spring rains, even the guides were havin' a hard time findin' the fish.  We ended our trip by catchin' more pan-fish that night on Spatterdock, and closed with a roarin' campfire back at The Gallery.  By that time, everyone was pretty-much-well tuckered-out and turned-in just after midnight.  As usual, our mornin' of departure was spent packin' and thinkin' of the uncertainties we faced for our trips home.  We said our good-bye's and departed.  The next time I hope to see my friends will be in September, for another trout trip in the Ozarks on the White River.  Uncertainties ... but if God's willin' and we all stay healthy & safe, that will be yet another adventure.  Y'all come back now, ya hear?