The Last on the Line

I keep hearing the same thing over and over…”good riddance 2016″. Well, to be honest, i’m kinda with those folks on that one. It has been one of the toughest for me. Yet, at another glance, it was one of great adventures, lots of fishing, hunting, and time spent with family and friends. Sometimes the bad outweighed the good, and at other times, the reverse, just sometimes a little far and in between. But my last adventure of the year brought us to the South Concho River. Since the weather was unusually warm for late December (60’s), my buddy Kyle and I decided to try and get out one last time before the New Year. It was up in the air until the last minute, but we made the decision the night before…and with an added bonus. His son Austin was in town and wanted to go. Sounded good to me. Last time I saw Austin, we were all having the time of our lives on the lower Pecos River back in August.

Austin had to get on his six hour drive home pretty soon to get to work, so we knew it would need to be a place that we could fish for a while then get back to the trucks to see him off, then continue the fishing trip. But Kyle and I also wanted to scope out some new areas we haven’t really fished before. We picked the perfect spot, although a little difficult to get to. It was __ miles past ___ __ _____.. then turn left on ____ _ ___ __ __, after you pass the ___ ______ __ ___ go ___ miles, then a slight____. When you see the _____, you’re there. Oh sorry, I forgot I installed the new Fishspot Deleter Pro. So, in the event I try and give out my fishing spots, it auto-corrects for me. 🙂

We got loaded up and finally got to where we needed to go. This trip would also be a little new for me. I was taking out my new ride. The maiden voyage. I’ve been an Ocean Kayak guy since 2007. We have three. I ride for the brand, but when the opportunity arose to get a brand new yak for half price…I jumped on it. The new addition to the fleet is a Wilderness Systems Ride 135. (Thanks Seth, you da man)

The drop in is at a spot where we can go up or down river. With time being an issue for Austin, we headed up river to a big pool where we have fished many a day, and always had great results. Kyle and Austin would be in the canoe, as I would be testing out my new ride.

To get to this pool meant we had to drag our boats a couple hundred yards from the drop in before we got to deep water. It’s always tough going, even in the summer, but add in the water temps, and the lack of waders for the other duo, it made for some rude awakenings once we started off. The air temp might of been cozy, but that water was a different story, or so I heard when we set off. 🙂 I was nice and warm in my Kokatat waders, but I pretended I could feel their pain. lol

Once we hit open water and in the boats, the sun started doing it’s job and we immediately started shedding layers. What an odd December day, but no one was complaining.

Once we hit the big pool, my third cast connected with the first bass of the day. A little small and nothing to sing loudly about, but main thing…I slimed my new boat before any skunk could stick on.

Kyle and Austin were fishing the opposite side, and within a few minutes, I heard the holler of a fish on. Sweet. So while Kyle grinned for the camera, Austin dealt with the consequences of a bad cast at the same time. 🙂 We’ve all been there, just part of it.

The bass became more elusive, and after a couple of hours of hammering everything we could, it was time for Austin to get on the road.

We got back to the truck and as we ate our sammiches at the drop in, we started discussing our next step. The water downstream is narrow and swift in most spots, with a few large pools in between. It was going to be tough going on many parts, so we decided to not take my new yak, and both jump in the canoe. We could fish more, and the portages and rapids would be much easier than having to do it solo. So we said our goodbyes and tossed my yak in the back of Austin’s truck and he took it to the house before leaving town. Now it was adventure time.

We’ve fished the first few miles many times, but we wanted to go further. The ol’ “let’s just see what’s around that next corner” seems to be an irresistible force. Will it be fishable? Could we camp? How hard will it be? Is it worth it? One thing is for sure, however far we go…we have to go back up.

The first mile or so is pretty easy. Big water and easy paddling. I caught two more bass in this stretch, both were skinny but still had a lot of fight in them. Here’s the bigger of the two.

Then the tough part begins. We portage around a big dam and the water goes back and forth from wide to skinny every fifty yards or so.

The further we went the smaller the water got. Just another inch or two and we could have floated most of it. But with this level, we had to walk it.

One thing that surprised me was the deer we kept finding submerged as we went along. We saw three decent bucks and a doe. Good looking racks, but way creepy as you’re paddling by them. Definitely reminded me of Kevin Costner in Dancing with Wolves when he goes to get water the first time. Yuck.

We figured they had been gut shot and headed to the water, then never found by the hunter. Who knows, but either way, I don’t believe i’ll be drinking the water. 🙂

One looked as if he’d been there a few months or so, (below photo), while the others looked fairly new. This river is surrounded on each side with big ranches and miles of room to loose a wounded deer.

We continued our recon further downstream. We found a lot of potential spots for overnight camps, and that’s one of the things we were really searching for. We want more places close by for those quick weekend trips where we can grab the yaks or canoe and get out under the stars. Away from people, away from the world, and get to what livings all about…at least for me. Hard part was making sure we stayed legal and found spots that were not encroaching on private property.

Then we came to the part of the day where we realize we have to turn around and go back. We start thinking of the many spots that were not very fun on the way down, and figured they wouldn’t gain any enjoyment on the way back up either. But the sun was starting to get a little low and we had many miles to go before the truck.

Shortly after we turned around, we had another decent size pool we fished. And in that pool I caught my last fish of 2016. The last on the line. The one before it I could have put in my pocket, so I was thankful this bass had a little more weight, and a whole lot more fight. Thank you my fine slimy friend for closing out a great year of fishing.

We started our way back. Slowly. The water was just deep enough to make you work for every step. I was glad I had my waders as some of the rapids would go from ankle deep to thigh deep, all with in ten feet. Going down you didn’t get to really appreciate the swift water as much as now. But every step got me closer to getting back in and being able to paddle. I think I can I think I can I think I can. 🙂

Once back in the deep stretches, I remember why I love this so much. The hard work, the fish, the friends. It’s truly an amazing place.

The sun was headed down faster than we could paddle. We gave that last pool one final fishing before there was just enough light to get back to the truck safely. No takers, but that was ok. The scenery alone was worth staying that little bit longer.

What a great way to close out 2016. I’m still amazed it was in the 60’s. Right place, right time I guess. I can’t look back without looking forward, and I can see a ton of great things coming up in 2017. We plan on fishing more, camping more, hunting more, exploring more….living more. I let this last year take up too much of my time. I feel a reload coming on, and i’m ready.

Happy New Year.

Scott

Scott Gartman

Scott Gartman

Scott Gartman is a photographer and filmmaker. He is also an avid fisherman, kayaker, backpacker, and overall outdoorsman. His accolades are too many to list, as with the many streets and towns named after him. He's a legend in his own mind. Check out his home page at www.flyrivermedia.com

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