Sand Trout

We were down at our beach house in Jamaica Beach, on the west end of Galveston Island, and one Sunday afternoon in late April of 1969, Norman Shelter and I decided to take a run out to the Galveston Jetties to try and hook up with some white, sea trout or sand trout, Cynoscion arenarius. These are fine eating fish but because of their soft texture they are difficult to freeze. The best way to try and keep them for any length of time is to freeze them in water and be sure to squeeze the air out.

It was a strange day, not much wind, light out of the southeast, but huge swells rolling over the ends of the north and south jetties. Within the jetties, they served their purpose well and broke the big swells, but as Norman and I rounded the end of the north jetty, it was gut check time. We could’v gone through the boat cut, but decided that the shortest way to the fish was to go around the end. We raced up the side of two big swells and then sped down the front of the next one and we were safely into the calm water.

Anchoring up, we bated our lines with fresh, dead shrimp and cast back toward the jetty. We were fishing with six and a half foot, popping rods, red, Ambasseuder reels, loaded with fifteen pound line, on the bottom, about thirty-five feet down, right among the rocks. Both of our casts were met with solid strikes and after short battles, we boated two nice, sand trout, two pounders. Good fish, since the bigger ones like this were usually caught miles, off shore. Both fish had a mouth full of teeth, no spots like speckled trout and a pretty, a bluish hue covering their heads.

This was repeated over and over until out eighty-eight quart cooler was full of fish (and ice). Then, Norman said the famous last words, “I’ll make one more cast.” He cast out toward the open gulf and the bait had no more hit the water than he was greeted with a savage, strike! The fury of the strike hurled the king mackerel ten feet or more out of the water. Then the king ran!

Wrasslin’ with the anchor, it finally pulled loose and I started the motor. As I came about, the king, a nice one, forty pounds or more, hit the end of the line, spooling Norman. The line gave a popping sound as it separated from the reel.

Since our cooler was full and our anchor was up, we headed back to the yacht basin. Going back we smartly chose to use the boat cut!


This past weekend Layla and I held a Senior Softball tournament in Baytown, Texas, a suburb on the east side of Houston. On Saturday, Stumpy and his Texans won their age division, defeating both the Texas Greyhounds and the 75year old, Texas Classics. Both of these teams are rated as super major, Senior Softball teams and The Texans, rated only as majors, played their best to win their part of the tournament.

Later, on Saturday afternoon while Stumpy was presenting awards to the San Antonio them that won their age division, he made a blunder. He mentioned that the Battleship, U.S.S. Texas was permanently moored right next to the San Jacinto Monument. Both monuments commemorate General Sam Houston’s victory on April 21, 1836 over Santa Anna, the Dictator of Mexico.

Stumpy, in a “historical” moment, mentioned the fact that not ten miles from where we were standing, in 1836 General Houston whipped Santa Anna’s butt. Wouldn’t you know it, the first team member to be honored with all-tournament honors was named Gonzales.

Stumpy ate his words!

Fixin’ The Barn

The spring before Brad joined the Army, he and I went up to help a friend Rick Haney, repair his barn, hunt some turkeys and, since it was very comfortable for early spring, both nights we slept out on the “sleeping porch”. The screened in porch was on two sides of Rick’s old ranch house. We noticed that Rick was sleeping, piled up under covers, with his AC roaring, but said nothing to him about it. Maybe it covered up our snoring!

The next morning, sunrise found us along a creek, in a makeshift blind, making hen turkey sounds. Brad leaned over to me and whispered, “Dad, did you hear those animals bumping around under Rick’s house last night?” Whispering back, “Yes, Son. It sounded like someone walking around the porch, or a herd of ‘Dillos!” (‘Dillos is Texican for Armadillo.) I continued, “They were even “bumping” right around my bed.”

The second night there was more “bumping around”, but barely waking, we both slept right through it. As we were leaving for Houston, I mentioned to Rick, “You need to trap those animals under your house and close up where they are getting in.” His short reply was, “I’m going to.”

After years and years and many trips up to Rick’s we found out that he had never eliminated those ‘dillos. There weren’t any ‘dillos either. In fact, those ‘dillos turned out to be some kind of unearthly beings. We saw ‘em, we chased ‘em and one friend almost shot at one. They chilled us and continued to bump around his old ranch house, while through it all, summer and winter, covered up in blankets, with his A/C roaring, Rick slept right through it all!

But all of these unearthly happenings are stories to be told.

On To Baytown

Today, Stumpy and The Texans are heading to Baytown, Texas for their third Senior Softball tournament of the year. New teams, new fields, a new year and all of this will take place within ten miles of where the Battle of San Jacinto, the birthplace of Texas liberty, took place. The battle was on April 21, 1836 and our tournament starts on, Friday, April 23rd.

Texans feel very strongly about this victory. General Sam Houston literally caught Emperor Santa Anna with his pants down, his being involved with “The Yellow Rose of Texas” during the Mexican’s siesta. The Texans charged and caught the entire Mexican force at rest and routed them. This earned our freedom from Mexico and established our Republic.

The battlefield is commemorated with a beautiful park on Independence Parkway, the U. S. Battleship, U.S.S. Texas, a veteran of WW I and WW II, moored at the park and an obelisk, the San Jacinto Monument, that happens to be taller than The Washington Monument (so much for bragging Texans). The rest is history.

Just think, my ancestors waited for nine years before they came to Texas!

More Outdoors Pictures, April 20, 2010

It’s a lot of fun receiving the pictures that friends send to me. Big fish, big animals and unusual outdoors pictures fit very well within the scope of Outdoor Odyssey. This post has some big fish!

Randy Pfaff, an e-mail friend from Colorado, sent me this picture of two of his son’s friends and the very nice rainbow trout they caught in the river that runs along his property.

James Crumley returned from a fishing trip to Lake Amistad, along the Mexican border, with pictures of some big, striped bass they caught. That’s not all the story however. On this trip they were beset by gale force winds, big waves and miserable, scary conditions that finally settled out, enabling them to snag these big ‘uns.

This is the biggest of the bunch at twelve pounds!

Big Trout

Early April 1970 offered some beautiful Gulf coast weather. Light winds and warm days had raised the water temperature to over seventy degrees, the speckled trout, or specs, had spawned and now had moved onto the sand/shell flats prowling for food and it was mine and Jim Buck, my Brother-In-Law’s, plan to intercept some of these monsters.

Our ambush point was the sand flats, on the south side of the spoil banks of the Intercoastal Waterway, just west of Greens Cut, but not as far as Karankawa Reef where the sand flats turned into mud/shell. Two months earlier, on a warm February afternoon, the mud had offered us some good fishing, but now the specs had changed to their spring and early summer pattern.

Jim and I were using live shrimp under a popping cork, but weren’t blind casting and drifting. Our targets were the slicks made by the specs gorging and regurgitating bits of their prey. The oil released will pop to the surface as a pail or washtub size, shiny, oily slick and the trout will be under the slicks. A telltale sign produced by the slicks is a distinctive water melon, smell and many times we’d pick up the odor before we found the slick.

We were idling along in my new seventeen foot, deep vee, cross wind to a light southeast breeze, and sure enough, Jim said, “I smell ‘em” as I also picked up the unmistakable scent of watermelon. Scanning the immediate area, we both saw slicks popping to the surface less than a hundred feet to our left and cutting the outboard, we looped short casts between two of them and were both rewarded with solid strikes. After a few short runs, a boat circling battle ensued and we let the specs tire before slipping nets under them and claiming a brace of fine three pound, trout!

Pictured is my new, 17′, deep vee. It was so new I hadn’t even applied the state required registration decals.

Restarting the motor, we continued looking and sniffing and came upon a tub size slick to our front. Jim shot a cast toward it, popped his cork once, a spec smashed the shrimp and headed off across the bay. Rod tip held high, Jim’s fish began the first of three circles of the boat, each being closer, until laying on its side, I easily slipped the net under it and hefted a nice five pounder aboard. Jim had been fishing for specs for the past four years and this was his best one to date. He was happy and, smiling, told me, “I’ll drive the boat and you catch the next one!”

Within fifteen minutes we both caught the scent and as I cast toward the emerging slick, I remarked to Jim, “I’ll bet this’l be a nice one.” No sooner as the shrimp hit the water, there was a smashing strike! The fish headed “south” and all I could do was hold on. Finally, stopping the run, I was surprised when the fish headed back towards the boat. Most times a good spec will begin circling, conserving its energy, then really put up a scrap beside the boat, but not this one.

Reeling madly and barely keeping pressure on the fish, it rolled a short distance from the boat, revealing a flash of silver and we both remarked, “That’s some spec!” It made several short runs and stirred the water to “a froth” around the boat, but finally tired as Jim netted it and held it up for both of us to admire. We guessed that it weighed over six pounds.

We had already filleted the other three fish and belatedly decided to, at least, take a picture of the big ‘un!

We had four very nice specs in the cooler and called it a day. We loaded the boat and drove to Red’s, 7 Seas Grocery, to weigh my big fish. Red, the owner, was holding court with several of his friends, and even though it was before lunch, he and his pals were well into the sauce. Declining his offer to join into the festivities, I asked if we could weigh a big trout that I had just caught? “By all means,” he replied.

Showing off the big fish, it brought “ooohs and ahs” from the group and placing it onto his meat scales, the meter stopped at seven pounds and two ounces. This was a “best” for me for the next twenty-one years!

A Tribute To Brad, April 16, 2010

Yesterday I talked on the phone with S/Sgt Charles Bunyard. S/Sgt. Bunyard, Charles, himself wounded multiple times, is assigned to the Wounded Warrior Brigade at Ft. Hood and was Brad’s platoon sergeant, during the last stages of his battle with cancer. Charles also happens to be a native Texan, from Liberty, Texas and is very familiar with the Trinity River bottom area around the Kennifick Fire Tower, the scene of two of my earlier posts, “[An Unusual Catch]” and “[Four Wheel Drive And A Hand Winch]”.

Brad had spent a lot of time at the rifle range sharpening up Charles’ skills and this time was certainly well spent! Charles let me know that next Monday he was off to Ft. Benning for a months’ training with the Army Marksmanship Unit (AMU). Previously his shooting skills had gotten him an assignment with The University of Texas, Marksmanship Team and his solid progress helped him win a spot in the Para Military Olympics. The events will be held in May in Colorado Springs.

Charles will shoot prone, kneeling and standing and, with the approval of his and Brad’s Commanding Officer, has dedicated his participation in these events to Brad, who was a former member of the AMU.

A fitting tribute!

Book Publishing

The following story about “The End Of The Line” was written by Tammarrah Pledger, Associate Editor of the Goldthwaite Eagle newspaper and appeared in the April 8th edition.

“Mills County Man Has First Book Published

Local man Jon Bryan said he started writing for his children. Now that he’s had a book published, however, everyone can enjoy his work. “The End of the Line,” is Bryan’s first published book, although he’s been writing in various forms for many years, he said.€ƒ

Born and raised in Houston, Bryan earned a business degree from the University of Houston in 1959. He is a fifth-generation Texan, and spent his business career in the computer industry. “Most of the jobs I’ve had have entailed a lot of writing,” Bryan told The Eagle. So, although he didn’t go to school for writing, per say, he always did the writing needed for his jobs, and many times for his coworkers, too.

Although this is Bryan’s first published book, he has been published other places. He is a staff writer for “Water and Woods,” an online magazine, and has also had articles published here in The Eagle, as well as the “Buckmasters” Web site and magazine. Bryan also has other book projects in the works, he said. He said his children told him they wanted him to record all his wild stories and events of his life, which is what got him started on the path to writing books. In 2005, he began by editing a book by his Great Uncle, Lee Wallace, “A Waif Of The Times”, copyrighted in 1946. During the editing thought to him self, Hey, I can do this too! This started his second career as a writer.

“The End of the Line,” Bryan said is a compilation of true stories that happened to him. “Half of the people (in the book) are still alive,” he joked. In his own words, Bryan said the book “Is more than a collection of fishing stories. Famous people turn up unexpectedly, times change, equipment changes, techniques change, smugglers are captured and arrested, and the reader is subjected to some of the worst and most dangerous weather boaters can encounter.”

Of the writing experience in general, Bryan had this to say: “Over the past nine months, I have been involved in one of the most rewarding projects that I have ever tackled – having a book published! It became a full-time job. Where do you find the time to be active in your church? Where do you find the time to take part in your Grandchildren’s sports? Where do you find time to hunt and fish? Where do you find time to play senior softball? Where do you find time to do all the chores around the ranch?” He continued, “Managing and balancing everything was a challenge. But now, seeing my name on the cover, re-reading some of the stories and holding the book in my hands, it was all worth it!”

“The End of the Line,” published by RoseDog Publishing out of Pittsburgh, Pa., hit shelves in late January of this year. Bryan said it is all so new, so he hasn’t received much feedback just yet. He has a few copies of his own, and copies are available through RoseDog, he noted.

Currently, Bryan is working on other book projects. He said that the next to be ready, a compilation of all of his hunting experiences is “Why It Is Called Hunting”. Other books he’s working on include one about storms and extreme weather events he’s experienced, and one about his family’s history and genealogy.

When he’s not writing, Bryan finds time to be active in his church, he said, as well a his grandchildren’s athletics, his blog Outdoor Odyssey, hunting and fishing, and senior softball where his team has won National Championships in 2002, 2003, and 2008. He is a member of the Texas Senior Softball Hall of Fame, and the Softball Players Association Hall of Fame. He and his wife, Layla, have owned property in Mills County since 1992, he said, and they retired to the Texas Hill Country in 2005.”

Our Bluebonnets Are Back Too

The last two springs have been bone dry in the central part of the sovereign State of Texas hence our Texas Bluebonnets, Lupinus texensis, haven’t produced a wild crop, but hooray, after our record rains of the past twelve months, they are back this year! So are our Indian paintbrushes and wild yellow sunflowers.

Lady Bird Johnson was LBJ’s First Lady and on her return to Texas after his last term as President, she started something that has become a tradition in our State. She persuaded the State Government to seed bluebonnets and other wildflowers along the highways. Every spring the flowers return as a legacy of the First Lady, but, the really “wild” bluebonnets and other flowers are wherever you find them away from the roads.

Right across from my place, one of my neighbors has a few wild, bluebonnets.


And, as I drove south toward the Colorado River, the grounds of the Big Valley Baptist Church and the Big Valley Cemetery were alive with a wealth of colors, all wild flowers.

In 1901 the bluebonnet variety, Lupinus subcarnosus, also known as buffalo clover, was recognized as the state flower of Texas. However, Lupinus texensis, Texas bluebonnet, emerged as the favorite of most Texans. As a result of this popularity, in 1971 the Texas Legislature made all the species of bluebonnet the State flower. However, our Lupinus texensis remains dear to all Texan’s hearts.

Another interesting fact about our Texas bluebonnets is that in the wild they are almost exclusively blue. A random genetic mutation can occasionally create an albino, white bluebonnet. Texas A&M University researchers were successful in breeding red and white strains, creating a Texas state flag in bluebonnets for the 1986 Texas Sesquicentennial. Further research led to a deep maroon strain, the university’s official color. Good ole Aggies!

The Boss Is Back

Last Sunday afternoon I heard a familiar buzzing, turned to the side and there was a male hummingbird, a black chinned hummingbird, the common kind we see around here. Checking my past year’s records the hummers usually show up between April 3rd and 7th, so this one, on April 4th was right on time!

Fixing the birds food and putting up one feeder, who showed up but “The Boss”. Black chinned hummers live for around seven years so we’re pretty sure that its “The Boss”. Here “The Boss” is taking care of bidness!

We had a cool spell blow in on Wednesday and the lows tonight will be in the mid 30’s with a chance of frost in the lower places, not cold enough to bother the hummers. Already having to mow the yard once, its already time again. I’ll plant the garden next week and within the last five days I’ve had to replace the hummingbird food twice!

Hello summer!