Crooked Creek Arkansas – Smallmouth & Largemouth Bass

Oct 19th-22nd-

A couple months ago, me and my bro Parker were talking and decided to go on a camping and fishing trip.  We planned for October so the weather would be nice.  We invited Dad and decided to make it a birthday trip since we would be leaving the day after his birthday.  My buddy Justin told me about a clear, rocky stream in the Ozarks of northern Arkansas that held some big smallmouth bass.  This stream is called Crooked Creek.  He went many years ago and had been wanting to go back for a long time, and I have been wanting to go ever since he told me about it.  I told Justin we were going on the trip and invited him to come too.  We had the trip on the calendar and were anxiously awaiting but then before we knew it, the trip was here.  We discussed logistics and we decided to bring me and my Dad’s kayaks and we would take turns floating the short stretch of the river.  We loaded up the Excursion fully and even filled up the trailer on top of the 2 kayaks.  We had everything we needed to camp comfortably for many days, all the gear to cook some good meals and sleep well.  We left Thursday after work and picked up Justin at 3 pm in Rockwall.  Now, Google Maps says it takes around 7 hours to get to Bull Shoals White River State Park, where we were staying, but it actually takes around 9 hours after you slowly drive through the winding roads in the hills of the Ozarks.  We made it at around midnight, very tired, and set up camp in the dark, which is definitely tricky when you don’t set up your tent very often.  Dad and Parker slept in a 3-person, Justin had his 1-person, and I had a spacious 3-person tent all to myself.  I slept well on my air pad and comfy sleeping bag and was ready to fish in the morning.

When we woke up, we could actually see the surroundings that we were blind to as we drove into at night.  We were staying right next to the White River, and amongst the morning mist, we could see many fishermen in boats trying to catch the big trout that the river is famous for.  The trout fishing of the White River is something we all wanted to plan a future trip for.  We all had our minds on the smallmouth bass of Crooked Creek this trip.  We cooked up some sausage, bell peppers, & eggs on the Coleman grills and made breakfast tacos.  This is my camping tradition, which is always good fuel for a day of adventure!  We loaded up in the Excursion and headed down to Yellville to scope out our take-out spot at the bridge.  Once we were familiar with the surroundings, we headed up to Kelly Slab where me and Justin put in the kayaks.  The plan was for us to kayak fish the 4 mile stretch for 3 hours and then switch off with Dad and Parker, who would start off wade fishing.  Read more to see how this plan turned out…

Here’s a view of where we started fishing and Kelly Slab upstream.DCIM100GOPROGOPR0363.JPG

We quickly found out that in order to get to the fish we needed to skip the shallow portions and float to the deep pool with large submerged rocks or to the fast moving current in more channelized areas.  We each caught a couple fish at the first hole but weren’t having much luck.  I caught a smallie on a brown mini chatterbait and one on a 4″ silver gray yamasenko regular weighted rig.  However, we could see some big bass swimming underneath us as we floated by.  Looking underwater with our polarized glasses allowed us to really sight fish for the fish and the biggest ones lurked deep underneath in the darker green water.  A couple hours later, at another large pool, Justin started using a green pumpkin creature/crawdad plastic tube on a shaky head hook with a wacky rig.  This method worked because the bait looked realistic in the clear water and the shaky head provided a lot of frantic movement and noise when bounced against the rocks.  Justin caught several fish as it started to rain lightly and the temperature dropped and got rather chilly.  We were just hoping it wouldn’t rain because we were unprepared.  I started to try this set-up and started to get lots of bites and hook-ups but it was hard to keep the fish hooked since with the wacky rig, the plastic tube was lower on the hook.  Further downstream, we parked the kayaks and wade fished.  I kept fishing with this method and, sure enough, next to a large rock and finally hooked a good sized fish.  It fought hard and the line on my reel retrieve was caught which made it even tougher to bring in the fish.  Once I landed the fish, I admired what was probably a 13-14″ smallie with beautiful distinct markings on the side.  After getting some photos and an underwater video with the GoPro, I let it swim off.

Here’s the fish and the catch location in the photos below.  The first-person view photo of the fishing hole is now my desktop background at work (helps me envision this great fishing spot).  In the video, you can see the beauty of this fish very clearly as it swims off underwater.  I also filmed the lure set-up I was using and described above, which the bass moved the tube up the hook.

We looked at the time and realized that it was already 3 o’ clock or so and we were only about half way according to GPS.  When fishing, time flies by, and we realized that not only was the original plan not going to work, we needed to paddle hard to make it to the bridge before sundown.  We paddled with fury but stopped to fish the best holes for short periods of time.  We floated across a true honey hole that had deep submerged boulders that held a bountiful amount of fish.  It was like looking into an aquarium with our polarized glasses. I got a good underwater video with the GoPro.

I managed to catch a good largemouth on a green pumpkin mini chatterbait.  In the deeper, dark green water, I found that I could get away with less-realistic, bulkier lures that provide more noise to attract.  The mini and micro chatterbaits are an all time favorite lure and have caught me some big bass, and this deeper and darker water is a good place to use them.IMG_4983

We wanted to keep fishing this honey hole but had to keep moving downstream because there was over a mile to paddle and about an hour until sundown.  As we paddled, the creek became more and more shallow as Crooked Creek disappears underground in the substrate.  Then, we had to drag the kayaks and navigate over slippery rocks, which were very tricky and required the nimble use of our feet.  Luckily, our knees and ankles were not hurt and I saw Parker right after we heard the nearby traffic, which signaled us that we were close.  Dad and Parker did not have much luck so when we loaded up and headed back, we came up with a plan to rent (2) kayaks from Crooked Creek Canoes and float together further upstream.   I called the owner, Becky, and through some investigating on Google Maps, I found the meet-up location called Snow Point, where her helper would be waiting for us with the kayaks.  On the way back to camp, we went to Wal-mart to pick up some shaky head hooks and some crawdad tubes to use, since this was the best set-up of the day.  Parker and I also bought some 4 lb line since we were using 8/10 lb line, which can be seen by the fish in this clear water.  We were all set-up for the next day.  That night, we ate like kings!  We grilled out some steaks, portabella mushrooms, and green beans.  It was a great meal to enjoy with some craft beer/cider and then we hit the sleeping bags for some shut-eye.

The next morning, we made the same breakfast tacos and headed out to Snow Point for our 9 am meet-up.  I navigated with GPS on Google Maps because there were several back-roads to get there.  We got the kayaks for Jack and paid Becky (luckily Dad had cash).  Te plan was that Jack would be waiting for us at George’s Creek before sundown, and then drive us back to get the Excursion and trailer.  This was a 5 mile float so we knew we had a full day ahead of us, especially after Justin and I’s experience from the day before.  We were hoping that since we were further upstream and further away from where the creek disappears underground, there would be less portage and that we could just keep paddling.  Parker and I both re-spooled our reels with the 4 lb line and we were ready to go.  We put in the kayaks and started paddling downstream.  It was nice that we were all together fishing.  It wasn’t long and I caught a largemouth bass on the shaky head and crawdad tube set-up.  This time I used a regular rig with the tube sitting up by the head of the hook to provide better hook-ups.  This strategy slowed down and I changed to the 4″ weighted yamasenko I used before and caught a couple bass.  Parker and Dad weren’t catching anything yet so I gave them each one of these senko worms.  Pretty soon after, Parker hooked into a largemouth with the senko set-up that proved effective.  He was happy to land a fish.IMG_4992

Here’s Dad enjoying the scenery and showing me what he was fishing with on his other rod, the Lake Fork Live Magic Shad.  (We all had 2 rod set ups going)IMG_4995

When there was fast current, we would bank the kayaks and fish in the pools below current.  This was Justin’s favorite strategy.  Here’s Justin with a nice largemouth.IMG_4984

Everybody was catching fish and on different types of lures but it was getting late in the afternoon and we were only about halfway according to the GPS on my phone.  In order to make some headway, we had to start really paddling to make it to the take-out spot before it got dark.  We concentrated our efforts on the best holes.  We made it to a deep hole with very large boulders again and I hooked into probably my biggest smallie of the trip, which pulled the rod underwater and pulled the kayak around.  Eventually, I was able to bring the fish in close and it swam off a couple times as I tried to grab it.  I was stoked that it didn’t throw the hook and on the third try I got a hold of the fish and held it firmly until I was able to take the hook out.  This one was also caught on a shaky head with the crawdad tube, a combo that was very effective this trip.  This type of finesse fishing is really fun and I want to try it out below the dam at PK Lake, which is also a clear water stream situation.  I also noticed that all of the smallmouth had a white mark on the gill plates.  This is a characteristic I didn’t know about until this trip.  Here’s the bass below.IMG_4996

This is a really pretty creek and especially during the fall when the leaves are changing color.  I even spotted a couple kingfishers perching on trees overlooking the creek.  We enjoyed being on the water and didn’t want the day of fishing to end, but we were losing daylight.  Here’s Dad admiring a largemouth he caught at dusk.  IMG_4999

Soon after this, we paddled around the last bend and knew we were close since I was checking on the GPS.  We made it to maybe the best hole of the trip but only fished it for a few minutes.  Parker quickly caught another largemouth and then we paddled the last stretch.

Jack was true to his word and he was there waiting for us.  Now, this guy liked to talk.  He told us a story of how many years ago he was working as a tire repair man and the tire blew up and tore up his face and the doctors had to rebuild it and he almost died.  He told many more stories in the short 10 minutes that Dad and I rode with him back to the Excursion.  I was really impressed by his attitude for life though!  We went back downstream to pick up Parker, Justin, and the kayaks.  We were super hungry since we didn’t eat the entire time on the water, and quickly devoured an entire bag of BBQ potato chips, but that didn’t spoil dinner!  We ate a good meal that night of sausage, squash, and black beans.  We then put up all of our stuff because we heard a big storm was rolling in (our neighbors at the campsite made sure to tell us all about it!)  The report was correct and for about 2 hours (we were pounded with torrential rain and howling winds), but the tents held up!  My Alps Mountaineering tent didn’t let any water inside the tent.  Justin wasn’t as fortunate since he had some holes at the bottom of his tent from previous trips…so some water got into his but he said that he managed to sleep.  The next morning, we shook as much water off the tents as we could and packed them up and hit the long road back to Dallas.  Crooked Creek was a blast and I’ll be looking forward to going back to the clear streams of Arkansas to go bass fishing.

 

Pure Michigan – May 2017

My girlfriend at the time (now fiance) Alriah and I went to Michigan this Memorial Day for my buddy Chris and Anna’s wedding.  It was a charming wedding on Saturday at the Muskegon Country Club.  Congratulations to the two of you!  It was an extended weekend and we were flyinh back on Monday so we had a full day Sunday to have fun exploring Michigan.  We stayed at the Shoreline Inn in Muskegon and right after breaki, we went to Silver Lake Sand Dunes right next to Lake Michigan for some sand dune Jeep driving through Parrot’s Landing Jeep Rentals.  When we got there, we went through a short orientation and got in the Jeeps to drive over to the dunes.  We were instructed to drive in 4×4 (obviously) with low traction on.  Also, the tires are deflated to 10-12 psi to float on the sand.  We had a funny tour guide named Paul who took us around the dunes for the first hour.  All of the Jeeps in the tour were like a bunch of baby ducks behind the mother.  He showed us the ropes and had some clever analogies he shared on the intercom.  THere are some ripple bumps in the sand called whoop-de-doos…we really enjoyed saying that term…”WHOOP-de-DOOS!”  To end the guided portion of the tour, he brought us over to the big steep hill where many ORV’s attempt to climb.  We got some cool photos in the sand and the clouds had a unique shape and looked very dramatic.img_2640.jpgIMG_2646IMG_2653 (1)

After the hour was up, we had an hour of freestyle riding.  It also started to rain so we put the windows up…and then water was seeping into the floorboard so we put our backpack out of the water’s reach.  When I was driving, I wanted to go explore the trails around the trees even though they said not to go close to the trees.  That was one of the main rules.  We were in a fairly thick grove of trees and I tried to go up a steep hill, but with the rain there was low traction so we couldn’t make it up.  The only choice was to go back down the hill in reverse, which the tires slipped and I almost got us stuck in the trees (at a slow speed by the way).  It was tricky but I got us out of it and we decided to stay out of the tree areas to be safe.  Riah then took the wheel and did a great job of driving.  IMG_2650

We went up a ridge which got really narrow and also there was a steep hill we could not traverse so Riah was able to bring the Jeep in reverse down the hill as well.  Here’s the compilation video of our Silver Lake Sand Dunes Experience.

We made it through the Jeep driving experience scratch free and returned the Jeep back in great condition so we wouldn’t have to pay a fee.  After the Jeep driving, we were hungry and ready for lunch.  We drove to a charming town nearby called Pentwater.  The first thing we did was go eat at Garden Cafe thinking it would be a good place for lunch.  It was not.  Probably the worst food we have ever eaten.  The grilled perch and veggies didn’t have any flavor at all.  We didn’t let bad food bring us down though.  We weren’t planning on buying anything but we each found some nice polarized sunglasses at a good price point by a brand called Abaco.  I got the blue lenses and Riah got the purple lenses and we both have clear frames.  I like them because they fit my head comfortably and were polarized for fishing.  Here’s us showing off our new shades.IMG_2676

When we were down by the water of Pentwater Lake, I was wishing I had a fishing rod.  Me and Riah saw a monster smallmouth bass in the clear water in Muskegon Lake by Shoreline Inn the day before and I knew there were some big fish to be caught in this area.  Here’s a photo of me pretending to fish.IMG_2672

We then went to check out the huge expansive Lake Michigan, you can’t even see across.  We checked out the pier and put our feet in the water just to say we did. img_2666.jpgIMG_2680

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It was time to head back to the hotel and get some dinner but first, we had to do some planks at Pirate’s Plank that we saw on the way to Pentwater.img_2695.jpg

When we got to the dinner place called The Lake House, the food was actually really good.  We got a pasta bowl that was great to share.  IMG_2709

Also, there was an amazing sunset for us to view and take pictures of while we ate dinner.IMG_2715IMG_2713

Also, one of my favorite things to do in life is to take pictures of Riah taking pictures of nature which she is so intrigued by, and so am I.  She’s a great photographer but the pictures are better if she is in them.

It was a great weekend trip to Michigan and we had a lot of fun together.  We got to celebrate the Ferguson wedding and then have an awesome day’s worth of adventure.  Also a plus, when I filled the rental Toyota Corolla back up to return, it only cost $14.  Now that’s great gas mileage!

 

Enchanted Rock & Llano River Fishing

On Saturday, August 5th, Alriah and I embarked on a day trip to the hill country west of Austin.  Riah was in Austin for work on Thursday and Friday so I drove down from Dallas on Friday so that we could wake up Saturday morning for some hill country adventures.  On Friday night, we went over to her boarding school friend’s house and we had some delicious tacos with her husband and young boy and we had some great conversations.  The next morning, I picked up Alriah from their house and we were on our way to Enchanted Rock.  Enchanted Rock is about 2 hours west of Austin and north of Fredricksburg.  It was a hot day so we had plenty of water, coconut water, aloe juice, and Gatorade.  We paid our entrance fee, parked the Jeep at the state park parking lot, and loaded up the back-pack for the hike up the summit.  Enchanted Rock is a very unique place in Texas and it feel like you are in Africa, so many huge boulders amidst the huge pink granite mountain.  This is the largest solid piece of pink granite in the world.  There were live oaks, mesquite, juniper, cactus, yucca, and other scrubby plants scattered in the landscape.  As we started on the trail we noticed a lizard scurrying along the ground and it even allowed me to sneak up close with the camera to snap this photo.

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The sun was scorching with little wind while we trekked up the huge rock.  The heat was radiating off the rock as we walked, but we took breaks and hydrated on our way up.  It didn’t take long to make it to the top and we took some time to enjoy the distant views of the hill country and take some pictures.

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We then checked out the vernal pools, inhabited by little fairy shrimp.

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Apparently, these shrimp can lay eggs that can survive in dry conditions, and when it rains and the vernal pools fill back up, the eggs will hatch.  Truly amazing way for the species to survive in harsh conditions.  Now, at the the top of Enchanted Rock, there is a large outcropping of huge boulders with a labyrinth cave system.  Riah and I decided to hang out in the cave and enjoy the cool shade.  It was here where I realized I had a cooling mister fan in my backpack and we could have been utilizing it this whole time.  We busted it out and cooled off and ate a couple apples.  After cooling down, we got up and then descended down the mountain.  There are some cracks in the rock that must be some kind of geologic layer created in the formation of this huge landform.

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The clouds were then covering the sun and there was a nice breeze that was quite pleasant.  Enchanted Rock is a pretty place and a huge rock, but it doesn’t take long to experience the unique landscape, enjoy the scenery and vista views, and then be on your way to your next destination.  For us, our next destination was the Llano River where we were going to do some fishing for the Texas native, Guadalupe bass.

We got in the Jeep and cranked up the A/C.  First stop was to stop by a little creek we passed by close to the state park.  We parked on the side of the road, next to the tall grass, on the right side.  When I got out, I heard lots of rattling.  I told Riah about the noise and that she should not get out on her side and to get out of the Jeep on the drivers side where there was pavement, just in case those were rattlesnakes.  I casted the spinning rod with a Roadrunner a few times and hooked a pretty good sunfish.  It pulled into the weeds and then I lost it when I tried to pull the fish out of the vegetation.  There were not any other sizeable fish in this little creek so we got back in the Jeep.  It was about a 30 minute drive and we were in Llano.  We picked up some tacos at the Laredo Taco Company gas station shop and then ate PB&J sandwiches at the park right next to our fishing spot for the next couple hours.  The fishing spot we chose was the Llano River just downstream of the dam at the Hwy 16 bridge in Llano, TX.  This portion had some shallow wade-able water, and lots of rocks and current, the type of habitat perfect for Guadalupe bass.  We started upstream of this large deeper pool.

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We started off fishing but it was pretty slow.  We made our way upstream to fish the pools that formed occasionally in the midst of the current.  I was fishing upstream with my fly rod with a klauser minnow.  Not much luck but managed to foul hook a pretty good Guad.  I think I may have hooked it in the mouth and then the hook came loose when the fish was underneath a rock and I got lucky to hook the bass on the side right after the hook came loose and the fish was squirming.  Here’s a picture.  You can see that the jaw does not protrude past the eye and the back is olive green to bronze in color, with vertical bars along the side.  It has a similar appearance to smallmouth bass, which it is related to.

Evan's Guadalupe Bass 1

Riah was casting upstream with the spinning rod and a Roadrunner.  I forgot that this doesn’t work well when casting upstream with a lure that has some weight to it.  The current just pushes the lure down in the rocks and we were unhooking the lure quite often.  We made our way upstream to a spot and a large pool and decided to head back downstream.  This is where the fishing got better.  Since we were heading downstream, Riah was casting downstream and the lure would stay suspended in the water column reeling against the current.  She then caught a little sunfish, her first fish ever!  Here’s a picture.

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Riah was excited and reeled the line almost to the tip of the rod.  The fish stayed on but I did point out it is possible to lose fish that way if they are pulled out of the water.  We went upstream to a large pool and had no luck.  When I saw a snake swimming in the water and over toward us where we were perched on a large rock, we decided to get out of there and head back downstream.  We made our way through the brush and when we made it to the stream edge, Riah got really excited and pointed out there was a big spotted fish.  I was thinking it was a bass that she saw and she fasted downstream with the Toadrunner and hooked a gar!  That’s what that big fish was.  The hook came loose though since gars have such a bony mouth structure with all of those teeth.  We tried a few more cast but could get the lure to stay hooked.  It would have been really cool to catch that gar which was around 24″ long with its long mouth, but they are difficult to handle and have sharp scales and a whole mouth full of razor sharp teeth to deal with.   Pliars are a must!  

We decided to keep heading downstream and quickly after, she was casting downstream and then hooked into a small Guadalupe bass.  This time she handled the fish perfectly!  She reeled in and kept the line length where she could tilt the rod and bring the bass to her hand.  Here’s the video:  Riah’s First Guadalupe Bass
I decided to switch my fly to a black frog popper.  The fish were all over this and hitting it left and right, but only a couple stayed hooked.  I caught a small sunfish and a Guad.  A little ways downstream behind a boulder, I was casting the black frog popper and got a massive hit from a bass.  This must’ve been a Guad weighing a couple pounds (this is big for a Guad) but it only struck once and didn’t stay on.  I got so excited I pulled pack too soon and tangled up all my line.  Here’s the spot where the big bass struck.

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Riah casted a few times into the pool but the fish must’ve been spooked by all the commotion.  It was now time to head back to the Jeep and drive home to Dallas since we had a 3.5 hour journey ahead of us.  We had a good road trip and I listened to some General Rudie and The Slackers while Riah took a nap for a little bit, and then we sang songs together for the rest of the ride home.  It was a long day but a fun one enjoying nature and embarking on another adventure together!

 

Pura Vida – Costa Rica Trip 2017

It’s been a long time coming for this post but I wanted to recap the adventures of the Costa Rica trip April 30th-May 4th this year.  I went on this trip with my girlfriend (now fiance) Alriah, my buddy Bronson, Alriah’s roommates Gina and Catie, and Gina’s workout friend Jordan.

We flew into the Liberia airport on Saturday, April 29th.  The Liberia airport is very close to the Pacific side and where we were staying, at an Airbnb in Playa Panama.  When we landed, we quickly made it through customs which was so easy.  Then, we stepped outside to try to find the shuttle to our Payless rental car pick-up which was about 5 miles from the airport.  And then we were barraged by countless guys trying to sell their taxi services, super overwhelming and loud!  They have so much competition in close proximity and they have to be loud to get the attention of the tourists.  I was outside for a few seconds and quickly made my way back inside to tell the rest of the group it was a madhouse outside.  We decided to just yell out that we were looking for the Payless  shuttle.  Everybody immediately pointed us in the right direction.  These guys were loud but super helpful.  It was good timing and the Payless shuttle pulled on up.  We took the shuttle to the rental car place and were surpised that the $100 something quote that I got on the internet turned into over $400 total, more than triple what was expected, due to government taxes, fees, etc.  Oh well.  We had a good SUV to drive around during our stay and I still have no idea what the make and model was but it was a good drive.  On our drive to our place for the next few days, we noticed that the surrounding land looked like a nuclear bomb went off, not lush and green as expected.  We were there towards the end of the dry season and apparently this is normal, it just wasn’t pretty.  When we got to the Airbnb, the property managers gave us the keys and the information on the house.  They told us electricity in Costa Rica was really expensive so were were to use the A/C sparingly.  We were so thirsty and saw some water bottles in the fridge.  Alriah and Bronson quickly took a swig.  I noticed the seals on the caps were broken.  This water could have been from the tap, which isn’t really ideal for drinking.  Fingers crossed they wouldn’t get sick.  Now, the only event for the evening was to get groceries for the next few days.  We searched for a grocery store and the closest one was a small convenience store in Playa Hermosa.  We got some groceries, and quite a few water bottles…gotta stay hydrated!  We then made spaghetti for dinner and got some shut-eye.  The next morning, Alriah, Bronson, Catie, and I we went to the beach to check it out.  Now, Gina and Jordan had not yet arrived.  They were checking out other parts of Costa Rica.  After some beach time, we went to pick them up later and then hung out at the community pool for the rest of the day.  The community pool was really quiet and had a nice view from the mountainside.P4300019.JPG

The next few days were pretty chill and just relaxing.  The main event on the Pacific side was the day we went to the sunset snorkeling cruise, which set sail out of Playas del Coco.  When we got there we paid a guy $5 to watch our car.  In Costa Rica, there are people with orange vests that will watch your car and in my opinion, this is way better than paying a meter which is a machine and machine’s don’t have feelings.  I somehow accomplished the best parallel parking job of my entire life in a tight spot with this 7 passenger SUV.  There was no adjustment necessary, just a straight shot into the spot.  That’s the end of my bragging!  When we were waiting for the cruise, we found a very large banyan tree with vines that were fun to climb.  IMG_2306

When the entire group got there, we took some small boats to the cruise ship, and then took off.  The guys were so hospitable and served us drinks and we just chilled on the hanging net.  There was about an hour and a half to just hang out on the boat and look at the ocean.  Here’s me and Bronson at the front of the boat looking over the edge.gopr0192.jpg

When we made it to the snorkeling spot, we noticed that on the beach there were lots of capuchin monkeys.  One of the guides took us over there on a small boat and we fed the little monkeys pineapples…inquisitive little fellers.  Here’s me and Riah feeding the monkeys and checking out the funny expressions of the monkeys.DCIM100GOPROGOPR0113.JPG

After some feeding action, we went back to the big boat and grabbed the snorkeling gear.  When we all jumped in the water, we started swimming closer to the shallow area where the water was more clear and there were more fish to see.  There weren’t really and reefs to explore but there was some grass, rocks, and shells at the bottom.  I took pictures and filmed with my Olympus TG320 waterproof camera and Riah had the GoPro.  We saw some cool fish, many puffers (even an orange one), some parrotfish, and major sergeant (a blue and yellow fish with black vertical stripes) which were the most colorful.  It was a good time swimming around, searching for the schools of fish, and taking photos and videos.  These are some of the best photos:

Here’s the compilation video:  Costa Rica Snorkeling May 2017 – Pacific Side

The snorkeling I experienced on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica at the reefs in 2011 was more impressive.  I still remember the fish were everywhere, 360 degree surround almost constantly and the variety was extremely diverse.  I still remember the blue spotted damselfish schools.  These little fish had dark blue bodies and light blue spots which looked like they had little LED lights in them and just shimmered with the light angles.  The Pacific side was not like that previous experience but this was still pretty cool.  The boat ride was really fun too.  Here’s our group with the ship’s crew.IMG_2300

There was also a pretty legit sunset.  Here’s me and Riah standing along the railing of the boat as we sailed back to shore.  We love sunsets!IMG_2299 (2)

The other great thing about the Pacific side was some delicious food!  There was supposed to be a really good pizza place in Plays del Coco that we drove to but the power was out in the entire town when we got there.  We were hungry so went back to Playa Hermosa which was on our way back to where we were staying.  We at at a place called Sandbar Grill.  It was crazy because they were playing the Texas Tech vs. TCU baseball game, a game between Riah and I’s alma-maters all the way down in Costa Rica.  I wanted to order my food in Spanish so I asked “Que e el pescador del dia?” to the waitress.  This does not mean “What is the fish of the day?”, it means “What is the fisherman of the day”.  She laughed and so did Gina and Catie, the Spanish speakers in our group.  I then proceeded to order the typical Costa Rican dish instead which was really good.  Fried sweet plantains are da bomb!  We also ate at a place called Ginger which was an Asian/Latin fusion place which had many plate options that we all shared and enjoyed, so good and we went 2 rounds of table-round plates!  When the girls were hanging out at the pool one day, me and Bronson decided to try to go fishing and we brought the goggles.

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We went to a rock outcropping and fished from all the edges with no luck so we decided to go “goggling” with just our googles since we didn’t have snorkel masks and see what fish we could see.  We put the backpack with the keys and money hidden at the higher portion of the rocky peninsula.  We entered in an area that was sandy at the shore and then became rocky where there were some cool looking fish hugging the bottom.  We took a lot of photos and got some good close-up shots.  I’m not sure what these fish are so if you know how to ID them, please comment below.

After we had enough underwater swimming, we set back to get our stuff and noticed that the peninsula was almost engulfed in water.  High tide rolled in and good thing we put the backpack at higher ground!  Bronson was diligent and caught a feisty little crab…just had to catch something!P5020141.JPG

Me and Bronson still had an urge to catch some fish and on our way back to the vehicle, we had a shirtless fishing bum come up to us and offer to take us out to fish.  We said we only had 2-3 hours and he didn’t even have bait ready to take us out in his boat.  He then proceeded to say “well maybe you’re just not ready” in a surfer dude kinda way.  Well we were ready, he just didn’t have the equipment ready to take us for a quick jaunt.  We headed back to the vehicle where a nice old lady was watching our vehicle.  She was pleaded to have the $10 we gave her and gave our vehicle a good watch.  She asked what we were doing (I think) in Spanish and I tried to say we went swimming to look at fish underwater.  I showered her a swimming motion and said “los pescados” which means fish and also said “los Colorados” which does not mean colorful.  She was very confused.

Those were the main events from coast portion of our trip.  After a few days at the Pacific coast, we packed up everything and headed inland to Volcano Arenal for our last full day in Costa Rica.

The journey to Volcano Arenal is about 3-4 hours and very scenic.  About 1 hour plus of the drive is spent driving around the lake and to the east side of Lake Arenal.  The lake is surrounded by lush vegetation and hills with the iconic Volcano Arenal which is the name-stay.   We arrived at our charming hotel and placed our bags really quickly into the women’s room before going zip-lining and going on our nature hike.  Me and Bronson’s room wasn’t ready.  We brought little backpacks with PB^J sandwiches and we were back in the SUV with no name and it was about a 45 minute drive to Sky Adventures.  Sky Adventures was a nicely run place and after we parked, we went up a path to a nice building where the guys gave us an orientation.  They even set up me and Alriah’s GoPro on Alriah’s head with their equipment.  After the informative orientation, we went up a gondola that took us to the peak of a mountain with a gorgeous view of Volcano Arenal and Lake Arenal.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The conditions were clear which is actually pretty rare to be able to see clearly in this cloud forest.  After some great photo opportunities, we started zip-lining.  The cable runs were super long over great expanses of forest.  It was a cool feeling to glide and the views were spectacular.  The guys running the show were funny and added to the experience.  It was about 8 runs of zip-lining and we were at the base.  We took a group photo with the zip-line guides and then it was time to eat.

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We were famished!  We had some time relax before the nature tour and it was much needed because it started raining and it was raining HARD!  Also, the fog rolled in and you couldn’t see any of the distant mountains or forest.  The food was good.  I ordered the chicken curry meal which was a good fusion between Indian and Costa Rican food.  Bronson and I had a couple local beers which were great!  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

After lunch, we were on to the nature hike.  When we met our nature tour guide, Edwin, we knew that he loved nature and he would be very informative.  We started on our way and trekked along the muddy trail.  The conditions were clear to start off.  To start off the nature hike, the facts were small and the critters described were small.  However, these ants have incredible strength and can hold onto a leaf that is many times (maybe 50x-100x) heavier than themselves.IMG_2401

Next, Edwin showed us some wildlife that was a little bigger but still small.  The eyelash viper was camouflaged in a tree right next to the trail.  Thees guys are extremely poisonous, especially as a baby, which this one was.IMG_2400

We then came to a bridge and Edwin mentioned that he saw a howler monkey that morning, and that was the second time he has seen one in all his tour-guiding days.  It was a rare sight.  We kept walking, and low-and-behold we saw several howler monkeys, up close!  This is a great photo that Riah took!  Look at the dominance and frustration in this howler monkey’s face.  He’s all howl and no bite by the way.IMG_2368

That was the alpha male.  There was also a mother and baby monkey.  Right after we crossed this second suspension bridge where the howler monkeys were, it started raining and it rained hard!  We spent the rest of the hike getting drenched and fully experienced the rainforest.  We then came to a waterfall that was rushing the cool water generated daily from the cloud forest.

When we made it back to the base, we took a group photo with our tour guide Edwin who was spitting out nature facts left and right.  There are some other facts he mentioned but so many that there’s not space to write them all in this blog post.  It was like we were living a real-life nature documentary.

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We then went straight to the hotel to shower and dry off before dinner.  The soft acidic rain drenching my hair for over an hour combined with the orange + ginger shampoo the hotel provided made my hair as soft has it has ever been in my life.  I definitely took some of this shampoo and conditioner back home with me but it’s not the same without the soft acidic water of the rainforest.  We went to get some yummy pizza at a local place and then swam at the pool to finish off the day.  The next morning, we woke up to see an awesome sunrise and a clear condition view of the volcano.  A great way to end the trip before we drove back to the airport to fly home.IMG_2312IMG_2315

Late March Bass Fishing @ PK Lake

March 25, 2017 – weekend trip to PK Lake:

After work on Friday, I went to go get Wezzles from the parents house (I was watching him for the weekend while the parents were in Utah) and then picked up Alriah to head to the Lake.  We had been looking forward to Riah’s first trip to Grandmother’s lake house for a couple months and it was time for a mini road trip (about 3 hours).  We had listened to some road trip tunes, ate some yummy Chick-fil-A along the way, and rolled along with some Disney sing-a-longs and then we made it to the Lake, removed from the hustle-and-bustle of the city and the stars were bright in the dark night sky.

The next morning after breakfast, my cousin Jake, Riah, and I headed out in the bass boat for some fishing.  We tried out AB Cove first which is usually productive.  Many casts and no avail in this area (here is me casting and photo cred to Riah for these photos in this post).  Riah also practiced casting for the first time with an open face reel and is a natural at picking up the technique.IMG_1901

We decided to head to the east hillside by Breakers where there are a lot of big boulders on the bank and submerged rocks that usually hold some good bass.  We fished for a while and without any bites…so I decided to try a new lure from Riah’s birthday gift to me, the Mystery Tackle Box.  This choice was a weird one…the “Baby Mad Paca” which we thought looked like an alien-looking praying mantis/newt plastic type plastic bait.  It looked so strange when giving it action in the water.IMG_1909

Well, sure enough, this odd looking critter lure worked and I hooked into the first bass of the day.  It put up a good fight and I reeled it in by the boat as quickly as possible so I could reach down and firmly grab hold of its lip.  This bass even had a couple unique black birth marks on its side.  I caught the bass unexpectedly when I was requesting a drink of Bai drink or something like that.  The trick with these critter baits is you have to let them drop slowly and that’s when the fish will strike.  The fish will not usually strick worms or critters on the reel-in.IMG_1907

Shortly after, Jake hooked into a bass as well.  Here he is holding up his first bass of the day!  He was using a motor oil worm that turns fluorescent green underwater.  Science is just crazy!IMG_1895

I kept up with using the praying mantis and again when I was distracted, I hooked into another fish.  This one put up a good fight and pulled strongly and immediately when it surfaced, I knew it was a black crappie.  Riah also reeled it in some and felt the sensation holding the rod when a fish is pulling on the line.  It may have been the biggest crappie of my life and it weighed in at 1.1 lbs.  The dark splattered markings were striking and evident.IMG_1917

I decided to try out another lure from the Mystery Tackle Box and Riah captured a selfie photo of us while I was changing lures.  IMG_1924

Later, the blue split tail plastic bait worked and hooked into a good sized bass.  We got it close to the boat and about to land it but then it spit out the hook when it was at the water surface.  Close one!

We got hungry after a few hours and it was time to head back to the house for some dinner that was awaiting (brisket, asparagus, peppers, squash & onions)…yum!  We were stuffed after the big meal!

Later that evening, Riah and I went outside for some fishing at sunset.  Caught a little bass and Wezzles, the fishing companion dog, was intrigued again…to the point of kissing the fish!IMG_1937

The sunset was stellar as we wrapped up the day!  Riah wears Hoka shoes for running which look funny!  IMG_1939

The stars were really bright that night and we sat on the roof of the dock for some star observation.  Fun day at the Lake!

Wolf Creek Cutthroats

August 10, 2014

In August of 2014, Parker and I decided to take a week road trip up to the Upper Rio Grande Territory for some camping and fly fishing.  The main goal of the stay was the Rio Grande River and tributaries above the reservoir way upstream.  In that territory, there is plenty of area to explore and catch rainbows, brown, brookies, and cutthroat trout.

This adventure has a slideshow video that is narrated by the bros themselves, Evan and Parker:

Bros Trip – Wolf Creek, CO – August 2014

On the way was a place we knew we had to spend some time at, Wolf Creek.  So late on Saturday night, it was dark and we drove in and set up camp by the stream.  The ground was rocky and it was difficult to get our tent stakes in the ground.  We made do, through trial and error, and found just enough loose ground to get enough tent stakes in the ground to hold our tents down securely.  Then it was time for some shut-eye.  When we woke up the next morning, it was cold outside (below freezing).  It was hard to get out of our 20 degree sleeping bags and face the outside temps.  We had to do it though, but it was so cold that we had to warm up in the Jeep Grand Cherokee and turn on the heater vents.  We ate a whole bag of Santitas chips and listened to the album “High Noon” by Arkells (good stuff and theme album for the road trip).  It was too cold to fish so we decided to explore the 4×4 trail and take the Jeep on an all-terrain excursion.  Great handling and impressive capabilities I must say.  We came to a flat area that was a good place to park and then saw a mountain we didn’t even know about (named Treasure Mountain which we found out later on Google Maps).  We decided to climb it since we needed to warm-up in the sun anyways.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The climb proved to be more difficult than we imagined when we were looking at it from down low.  There were a lot of rocks to deal with and some steep ascents…but we made it and there were some good photo opportunities of the mountain range in the distance!

Parker on the mountain below:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Evan on the mountain below:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The descent down was actually harder than going up because of the potential for rock slides and less sure-footing but after some careful maneuvers, we made it down and got back in the Jeep to head back to Wolf Creek and start to fish for the day!

Wolf Creek is a very unique stream and very fun to fish.  First of all, it is chock full of Colorado River cutthroat trout that are very opportunistic in the heat of summer.  Wolf Creek also runs through canyon with a black rock as the stream bottom.  There is definitely a lot of river cobble like you would typically see in a Colorado mountain stream but there are portions where the stream bottom is solid black rock, very shallow, with mini “runnels”.  At these runnels, we would cast a dry fly to the upstream portion and let the current take the floating fly along the runnel and somewhere within, a trout would pounce at the fly and then we’d land a brilliantly colored trout.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

These trout aren’t very big in this stream because it is relatively small but we each caught at least 12″ length fish which put up quite a fight on our Scott A4, 4 wt fly rods.  See the picture below for a nice cutthroat I caught.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Here is Parker leaning over to present one of his catches for the camera.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And a close-up…Look at the distinct cut on its throat signifying the trout’s name.  The belly is bright orange. with an orange stripe down its side.  The black spots are large and concentrated toward the tail and it has an olive colored back.  The elk hair caddis fly Parker used is even visible hanging on the outside of the trout’s mouth.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Parker and I think these trout are pure Colorado River cutthroats.  There is a series of waterfalls in the area we fished in the Wolf Creek upper reaches.  These waterfalls keep competing trout species out of the headwaters and protect the native cutthroat population.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

At the bottom portion of where we fished this day, is a large 100+ ft waterfall that we think is primarily responsible for keeping other trout species downstream.  We don’t have a picture of the mammoth waterfall actually.  It is possible for trout to swim up smaller waterfalls during high water spring run-off time periods but not a massive waterfall like this one!  It is most important that the barrier keeps out rainbows out as they can hybridize with the cutthroats.  On the way back to Texas, we stopped by Wolf Creek again and fished below the massive waterfall.  We caught some cuttbows which are hybridized between cutthroats and rainbows.  See picture below…  You can see the difference between this trout and the pure cutthroat in the picture above.  This one is mostly rainbow by the looks of it.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Due to the large waterfall and the series of waterfalls above, we can still catch the Colorado River cutthroat trout.  Wolf Creek is a special stream and a gem that needs to stay protected.