In late May of 1980, having far exceeded my monthly quota and almost having achieved my yearly quota, I decided to take the afternoon off.  My objective for the afternoon was a fishing trip to one of the creeks feeding into Lake Conroe for a go at some bass.  At the time, Lake Conroe was one of the top bass lakes in the entire Country and, at the same time, I was on track to be the top salesman for the large computer company, quite a feat!

Having been given some brief instructions about getting to the spot, I drove up FM 149, a less than 1 hour trip, but now FM 149 is a freeway and 4 lanes all the way to Texas 105, still less than a hour.  Passing through Montgomery, I continued north on 149 for 2 or 3 miles, crossed the first bridge and exited the road, but there was no launch ramp, just 2 ruts leading down into the water.

Huffing and puffing my 12, foot, aluminum boat, electric motor, battery, paddle, rod and tackle box, with wet feet, unceremoniously launched it.  This is the same one that, in Georgia, I caught the 12, pound, bass out of a year earlier.  See my post “[A Really Big Bass]”, August 6, 2007.  Push polling with the paddle, finally paddling, I got the boat into deeper water, cranked up the electric motor, headed under the bridge and started casting.  My bait of choice was a dark green, Lucky 13, a proven top water plug.

Outside of the creek channel, there were a few lily pads, along with the first growth of hydrilla, a very intrusive moss much worse than the kudsu around Atlanta, but this looked like a good place to start, so I headed toward it.  Pick a spot in the moss, cast out and let the 13 sit until the rings disappeared, then twitch it and repeat if necessary.  My second cast, after the rings settled, abruptly, a nice bass came out of the water and, on the way back into the water, clamped down on the Lucky 13.  Having caught a lot of bass in the past, I’d never seen this before, a reverse blow-up!  After several jumps, I reached down and lipped it, a nice 4, pounder.  Throwing it back, I kept on casting and twitching.

Casting into another opening, letting the rings settle, twitching the plug twice, another bass, a twin of the first, exploded into the 13 and the fight was on.  Landing it and throwing it back, I continued casting for the next hour, with no luck.  Heading back towards the “launch ramp”, I figured that with the lake up this would remain a good spot through June or until the water level dropped.

Getting home, I told Randy about the spot and gave him better instructions about finding it.  He went up there the next weekend with a friend and was using a jig around the bridge pilings and caught a spinning rod and reel.  It was a nice expensive, outfit that we cleaned up and used it in salt water for the next 20 years!  We did fish this spot for the next year with some success, but strangely, with the growth of the hydrilla, the bass fishing headed “south”.

Now, for the rest of the story, Lake Conroe was once considered one of the top 5 bass fishing spots in the nation, but then, to control the hydrilla,Hydrilla verticllata, the State of Texas introduced grass carp, white amur, supposedly these fish were sterile, but they weren’t!  Within a year and a half the carp had eaten up our fishing spot.  By 1996 the carp, without any vegetation to eat, died out, vegetation rebounded and the bass fishing improved with it.  Now the State, the lake front property owners, various interested national organizations, fishing clubs and the San Jacinto River Authority are working together to control the hydrilla and other harmful plants and the fishing should improve.

And, no, I didn’t make my quest for number 1, but I came close, except for an accounting glitch, finished number 9.

Tropical Storm Allison

My life has been blessed with many different events; some rewarding, some terrifying, many dangerous, many stimulating, but none remain with me like Allison, the tropical storm that flooded and devastated not only Texas and Louisiana, but also the Southeast and Eastern United States. This is my longest story and the drama and full extent of the damage could only be captured with a long post. Breaking it up into 2 would only dilute the impact!

In late May of 1998 tropical storm Allison began as a tropical wave off the coast of Africa, moved west and crossed upper, South America into the Pacific, then moved over Mexico back into the Gulf of Mexico and wandered north, made landfall between Freeport and Galveston Island. The storm had 2 eyes, with both passing over my home in Bayou Vista. It hit Houston and moved not over 100 miles north and because of high pressure to its north, stalled, then moved south back into the Gulf Of Mexico, pounding the entire Gulf Coast and Eastern Seaboard and finally sputtering out in Massachusetts where it produced a tornado and flooding. It was the costliest tropical storm in history and the only one that has had its name retired! Houston experienced over 7 inches of rain in an hour and over 28 inches in 12 hours and that is where my Allison story begins.

Allison’s rain was pounding us and around 2:00 PM, my partner, Bob Baugh, said he thought I should head on down to Bayou Vista and make sure my house was OK. My experiences on Interstate 45 between Houston and Galveston, told me that it would be a long, difficult and possibly dangerous drive down there.

Layla was working part-time, in far north Houston, for a national softball organization and I headed out, called her and said that she should start home right away. We had just sold our home in Cypress, Texas and were living full time in Bayou Vista. The next day we were planning on driving to Hot Springs, Arkansas, where Layla was running a senior softball tournament and I was playing in it.

Starting out around 3:00 PM, traffic was building. Our local media was wearing their rain suits inside of their studios and telling us to brace for a tropical storm with 50 mile per hour winds. Overkill, I thought. Traffic on I-45 was awful, not thinning out until past the NASA exit and when the traffic thinned, here came the rain. It poured buckets on us, slowing speeds to around 40. It poured for the next 10 miles and when I reached the Dickinson exit, the rain stopped and the skies lightened up. I looked to my right, west, and saw, not 5 miles away, a funnel cloud hanging down nearly to the ground. It was heading north, so no immediate danger to me.

Turning up the radio, I heard that the eye of Allison had just passed over Galveston Island. Wow, I thought, I must be in the eye right now. That makes 3 for me! The next 10 miles down to Bayou Vista were fairly nice, light rain and not much wind. I pulled into my driveway and my neighbor, Jack Bustos, was standing in his driveway and said to me, “Hey, the eye just passed over here! Come on in for a drink.” “OK,” accepting the offer. We were chatting about what a strange storm this was when it started raining again and I cut our visit short and ran home. Then it really started to rain!

During my travel south, Layla was trying to get down to Bayou Vista also, but was hung up in the traffic and rain. Freeways were being closed and she made it no farther than West Belt and Westheimer, where, because of the rain and flooding, she decided to get a room in a motel and meet up with me in the morning. My company’s offices were right across the street from her motel, but Bob and the staff had already gone home, so she was too late for them to help her. She called me and we decided she would be safe to stay where she was.

It rained and rained and rained, with a constant wind of 35 to 45, a steady hard wind, and the water in the canal was rising, not from the heavy rain but from the expected 5, foot tidal surge that Allison packed. Raising my 22, foot boat as high as I could in the boat shed, it should have plenty of clearance between the hull and the water.

The water had risen 3 feet and was already over the bulkheads, washing into my yard, so I went into the garage and made sure everything was up off of the concrete, floor. If we actually had a 5, foot surge, water would be in the garage. My property was 9 feet above sea level and the street was 11, which meant we could still get out if need be.

It was raining hard, wind blowing and then it stopped. I went out onto my deck just as Jack, my neighbor came out and yelled over to me, “Looks like another eye, that’s real strange. How about another drink?” “No thanks,” I replied, thinking that when the storm on the backside of the eye picked back up, I could be stranded next door. This made the fourth storm-eye I had been in, enough for anyone I thought!

The night passed with more rain and wind and the tidal surge didn’t make it into the garage, just up to the patio. Not much storm when I awoke and called Layla and said for her to be ready over at my office and I would pick her up in 2 hours. She told me what to pack for her for our trip to Arkansas and I was on my way.

Houston was flooded, but the freeways were open with not much traffic and I buzzed on in. We loaded up, parked her Suburban in a secure area behind my office, and headed north up I-45 in my 4WD Suburban.. Water everywhere and a light rain falling on us until we passed Huntsville, 60 miles north of Houston, when the rain hit us. By “the rain”, I mean the main rains of Allison.

The storm had stopped north of Huntsville and was dumping rain over the countryside. On the Interstate we were forced to slow down, blinkers flashing, to 30 miles per hour for the next 50 miles! By the time we had driven to Fairfield we had passed through the heart of Allison, but no “eyes” for me this time. With a light mist and rain all of the way we drove on to Hot Springs, with the weather clearing the next day.

We followed the storm closely on radio and TV and the tournament proceeded as scheduled and my team won our classification and qualified for the Nationals in Plano in September. Allison was another story.

The storm made landfall in Texas, on June 4, 2001, passed through Houston, stopped around Buffalo, north of Houston, turned back into the Gulf of Mexico and slammed into Louisiana, then skipped down the north shore of the Gulf, turned northeast along the Georgia/Florida line, up the East Coast and finally, on June 18, turned out into the North Atlantic Ocean. Damage estimates were over six billion dollars. Texas and Louisiana led the list, with third place in damage, of all things, Pennsylvania! Over 40 people were killed by the storm, 23 in Texas alone, and Allison dumped over 40 inches of rain on Southeast Texas, the fourth highest amount of any storm in recorded history.

So ended Allison, the most expensive, damaging and dangerous tropical storm on record!

White Bass In The Desert

Before the “troll of the damn” ran us off Jake Schroder and I had some really good fishing on Lake Pleasant, then, in 1972 a 20 minute drive north of Phoenix on I-17, now, if you catch the traffic right, maybe 40 minutes. Jake had an original Skeeter Bass Boat with a flat bottom and stick steering that we’d put in at the State ramp, then head straight for the dam and try to fish inside the restraining cables.

The dam had a watchman, or the “troll of the damn” as we called him. We never met him, but almost became friends, because he ran us off from inside the restraining cables so many times. He must not have been a fisherman.

Until the troll would run us off, we would cast up on the dam and bounce our special multiple jigs back down its side, awaiting a strike from a white bass. White bass in Arizona you say? Yes, years before, Texas had traded millions of white bass fingerlings to Arizona for a large number of Rio Grande turkeys. Texas repopulated the state with the birds and Arizona created a great fishery for white bass in Lake Pleasant.

This particular trip was on a beautiful desert morning, clear, with no wind. As we got closer to the damn, I asked Jake, “You see the troll,” “No troll in sight,” he replied, so under the restraining cable we went. For a while, we were the only ones fishing around the damn and after several casts I had a strike with some weight behind it. Must be a catfish I thought. Then it made a nice run, more like a red fish, swirled at the surface of the water and took off again. Soon we lipped it and swung into the boat, the biggest white bass ever, maybe. We estimated it was 7 pounds or more. What a fish! Onto the stringer it went, and back to casting.

Catching one more fish, much smaller, out came the troll. “You boys get behind the restraining line, OK.” His first warning was always nice. We waved to him and kept fishing. “Behind the restraining line!”, more firm. We waved and kept fishing. He was beginning to annoy us. “Move that blankety-blank boat or I’m going to give you a blankety-blank ticket”.

It was time to leave, so we started up and headed away and noticed a fisherman in a boat right up to the restraining line, laughing at our encounter with the troll. He said, “I saw you caught a nice one, let me see it.” We showed him and said we thought it would weigh 7 pounds or more. “Real nice,” he said as we motored off. We took both fish home and had a fish fry.

Several months later I got a call from Jake and he said, “You remember that big white bass you caught out at ‘Unpleasant’,” our new name for the lake. I said’ “Sure do, it fried up real good!” He went on to tell me that the fisherman we showed the fish to was an outdoor writer for the local newspaper, and of all things, he wrote and was published in a national outdoor magazine, an article about the white bass fishing in Lake Pleasant, and most embarrassing, about the 2 Texas boys who caught a monster white bass, easily a new state record, didn’t register it with the state, but like all good meat fishermen, took it home and ate it.

Don’t ever forget that if records interest you, most times the state will keep the fish, and you can’t eat it

More Outdoors Pictures, May 22, 2012

This past Saturday afternoon, after driving home from Pensacola, Florida and playing in a Senior Softball tournament, the first thing I did was check my game cams.  Nothing special, the doe are still very pregnant and the bucks are still growing their horns, but one thing was kinda’ funny.  Having seen some hog rootings and droppings around the water trough, maybe there was a “shot” in the camera.  Only a single one and it’s not clear if it was a hog or a big coon, my guess a coon.

The next day, a very pregnant doe and last year’s fawn, now a yearling buck, showed up for a drink.

Something scared this young one, maybe the camera going off, but it definitely is not a pregnant doe.  That night at the feeder 2 “new” doe showed up.
This is a “shot” of one of the “most ready to deliver” doe I’ve seen.  The fawn only has to fall then she’ll have it.

Two more “new” doe showed up at the feeder, both of these look long legged, they are young and from their size, will only have one fawn.

More Outdoors Pictures, May 19, 2012

On Tuesday, May 8th, I put back out my game cameras, ending a 2, month break.  Right now there’s not many startling pictures, because the bucks around here have stubby horns, see below, and are still in velvet.  By late August or early September, horn development will end.

Driving home this past Wednesday morning from our church’s men’s prayer meeting, to my left as I was coming on to my property, standing in the tall grass was a fine buck.  His antlers were only half grown out, but he looked funny with his legs covered up, standing in the tall grass.  No pictures of course, but so far this year we’ve had 13 inches of rain – Praise The Lord, almost our yearly total!

On Christmas day we have a rule, No Deer Hunting, but, the cameras were grinding away, showing this good, wide buck chasing a couple of small deer.  The deer on the left, the lighter one, was one of this year’s fawns, barely a yearling, but apparently she was in heat, because the buck was in full pursuit mode.  The deer on the right is a button buck.  This picture is so good I have set it up as my desktop background.

So the buck chased her and I’ve heard that a doe will choose the buck to mate with, this is a good one, so, from the look of the same doe, pictured below, some buck caught up with her.  If it was the one giving chase, with a 200, day gestation period, she will deliver any time now.

Two older doe are shown, both being ready to deliver, maybe they already have?

Trotlinin’, Part 2

The second installment follows about the night spent trotlinin’ and the rest of the night spent wading the cold (to me) Brazos River.

Something was shaking me, maybe hogs? “Boy, time to go check the lines!” It was my dad and checking my watch with radium numbers, it was 3:00 AM. Wiping the sleep out of my eyes, down the riverbank and back into the cold water, and it was really cold now, but keeping a stiff upper lip, I said nothing, more growing up.

Shelly pulled up the first line there was a firm tug coming back to him. It turned out that we had 5 more cats on the first line, 2 blues, 2 yellows and a funny one, Dad called a high fin blue, but later I found out that it was a channel cat. Baiting up as we went, we found many twisted stages meaning we had lost more cats than we had caught. The toe sack was almost getting heavy and we had another line to run, lots of good eating though!

Dad ran the second line and more pulls. It had 3 more cats, all yellows, along with several more twisted stages. To me, it looked like we were loosing more fish than we were catching! We kept the 8 we’d caught in my wet toe sack and went back to bed, but Dad was up with the sun. More shaking, more hogs, no, just my dad, saying those cold words, “Let’s go check the lines.”

Gasping when the cold water hit me, saying nothing, more growing up, we checked the first line and it had 6 more cats, 2 blues, 3 yellows and another high fin. Crossing to the other side we rolled up the first line, returning, we checked the second line, no fish but probably 10 twisted stages, Dad and Uncle Shelly both said that we needed bigger hooks on the stages. We walked back across the river and rolled up our second line and set to, cleaning the fish. This was kinda’ like work, cleaning the fish, walking back and forth across the cold river, but it was worth it!

Our total for the night was 18 catfish, which meant some good eatin’ for everyone! However, I was still suffering chills from the cold water!


This is the first part of a 2 part story about an all night trot lining adventure my dad and I went on in 1952. In mid spring, Uncle Shelly, Shelton Gafford, a very well to do land owner in Falls County, Texas, called us and said, “Boys, come on up and let’s go trot linin’. The river is full of cats!”

We camped on the bluff of the Brazos River, where over a 100, years before one of our ancestors, Buck Barry, had crossed on his way to Austin. This crossing was named “The Falls of the Brazos” because of rocky outcroppings and a fall line that in the 1830’s caused 10 foot water falls, but the river changed course and today the falls are only 2 to 3 feet. In the old days, this marked the end of steamboat travel up the river and today there is a low water, concrete drive across it, which makes 2, falls now and Uncle Shelly owned the land on both sides.

This land was colonized in the early 1830’s and in 1834 Sterling Robertson, one of Stephen F. Austin’s early impresarios, established a town on the west bank of the river, Sarahville De Viesca. The Comanches quickly put an end to this early settlement and in 1845, when Buck Barry crossed here, again they had just struck the only settler at The Falls, taking off with his wife, daughter and female slaves.

This history’s fine but we’d come up to fish. Seining several of Uncle Shelly’s stock tanks, we caught 2 buckets full of small perch and minnows and headed to The Falls. The water was almost cold and jolted me when we waded out and all the way across the river the spot we’d picked had a good, rock bottom. First off we had to stretch Uncle Shelly’s trotlines across the river, over 100 yards wide, and there must have been a 50, or more, hooks on each of the 2 lines.

With both lines secured we came back toward our side of the river and began the process of baiting up. My feet were getting cold now but I soldiered on. Holding the bait bucket while my Dad and Uncle Shelly baited up the lines they would put a couple of minnows on the hook then a perch and continued this process back across the river.

All baited up, we retired to our camp, started the fire, it was only 90 degrees right now, and began supper. After eating the stories started and my dad chipped in with Buck Barry’s story about the Indian raid just before he crossed here. Then, my dad said, “Let’s go check the lines.”

It was dark and our flashlights helped some, but it was still dark! We eased down into the water and, to me, it was cold, but I said nothing, thinking, This was part of growing up! Carrying the toe sack and bait bucket, more growing up I was sure, we pulled up the first line and there was a tug meaning we had a cat on somewhere. We came across, a stage, all twisted up and figured one had pulled off of the hook. Soon we came to our first fish, a yellow cat, 4 pounds and great eatin’. We flopped him into the toe sack and soon bagged another, but that was all for the first line. The second line produced 2 more, one 5 pounds, another 4, all yellows.

Using our flashlights, we cleaned the cats, washed the fish off our hands, walked up the bank and hit the sack, better said, the ground with a sleeping bag under us!

The second part of this story will be on May 16.

The Drawing Board

Fly-fishing was never my cup of tea! My beginnings with the sport was spotty, I didn’t follow through and become a proficient caster, but in May of 1957 I used some of my hard earned money and purchased me a fly rod, direct drive, reel and loaded the reel with a floating line, Adding leader material along with some small poppers with one small hook, decorated with little feathers, I was ready to go after ‘em. Knowing what I know now, I should have saved my money!

Being a self taught fly fisherman, I never really gave it a chance. And yes, I have excuses; most of the places where I fished for bass had real brushy banks and rolling a cast up under the brush wasn’t the easiest thing for me; at the time not many folks in Texas were salt water, fly fishermen; fly fishing from a boat, for me, was iffy at best, and I never became a proficient caster.

From my reading I knew that the line was cast out and there was no “slinging” out of a plug, so hieing down to a near by school ground for some practice, I flailed the air, finally gaining a slight degree of proficiency. Being young, it never dawned on me that plenty of room was needed behind the caster and this fact didn’t show itself until after tying on a little, popper and making a failed, back cast.

Ralph Foster, a college and fishing buddy, and I drove up to the gravel pits outside of Romayer and seeing some bream beds along the sides of a pit beside the road, I decided to try out my new gear right there. Attaching a small, yellow popper, I attacked the little fish. My first cast in anger, resulted in the line and little popper hanging up on a low bush behind me (see above paragraph). Rearranging myself, with no back cast foul up, my second cast was a flopper with all the line “globbing” on the water in front of me. Amused at my antics, Ralph said, “Jon, you look kinda’ silly with that line all wrapped around you!” Back to the drawing board!

Finally, after a successfully presented cast, the little popper dropped quietly on to the water. The rings of the displaced water quieted and holding the line in my left hand, with a slight tug on the line, the small plug twitched once. Nothing. Another twitch and the little popper was engulfed by a small fish, type unknown. After a spirited battle I slid the little, hand sized, bream up on to the bank and admired my first catch on a fly rod. Throwing it back, while adding several more hand sizers, that also went back, I switched plugs, tying on a chartreuse, popper.

My first cast with the “glo” bait was met with a different kind of strike. This one hit going away, and cleared the water, a keeper bass! This bass actually pulled line from my left hand and jumped several more times. It definitely put a bend in my rod, but the rod and pressure of the line finally became too much for the fish. Reaching down to lip it, I clipped the almost, 2 pounder to my stringer. Adding a big bream on the “glo” plug, I guessed it weighed 1-1/2 pounds so I called it a day. Catching them on this light stuff was fun, but still, casting was a problem for me!

While I was fumbling around Ralph caught 4 nice, bass!

The Hat Kicking Incident

In May of 1955 I had agreed to play semi pro baseball with a local team and our first game was on a Saturday. Lining a sharp single to right field, I was feeling good about my new team and the prospects for the new season. By the bottom of the fourth we were up 5-2 and their first batter lined a shot towards our shortstop. Knocking it down, he pounced on it and cut loose his throw. Playing first base, my normal positions were either left or center field, at the last moment, the throw had a tail on it and it rose above my outstretched glove and nicked the end of the middle finger on my right hand, splitting it and knocking the nail off. Ouch!

This put me on the DL for 2 weeks, but the afternoon of the injury, with a finger stall on my injured digit, I talked my dad into taking me fishing to the gravel pits outside of Romayer, Texas. We’d been there the weekend before and caught 10 nice white perch and he was a pushover whenever anyone said, “Fishing!” Showing him that I could cast and reel OK with my middle finger sticking out we loaded up for the one-hour, no air conditioner drive.

Grabbing my rod, reel and fishing hat, not your normal fishing hat, I was ready to go. A fishing buddy and I had sewn snaps onto our straw hats and then clipped on our favorite plugs, Piggy Boat spinners, Lucky 13’s and Pico Perches. We believed they were the “coolest” fishing hats in the world.

The gravel pits were spread out over a wide area and my dad and I walked to the back of them, almost a mile, and began casting. Dad had caught 2 keepers and I hadn’t even scratched. All of a sudden, my cast was greeted with a solid strike, the bass, a nice one, over 3 pounds, ran a short distance and jumped, and jumped, and jumped, successfully throwing the spinner bait.

Back then I was kinda’ tempery and I grabbed my special fishing hat with the plugs attached and threw it to the ground muttering a few choice expletives. Then I made a foolish mistake and kicked my hat toward the water, but the hat didn’t sail out into the water because one of the hooks had caught in my Chuck Taylor, tennis shoe lace.

Laughing, my dad let me stew over my predicament, but 10 minutes later, having had to cut up my Chuck Taylor tennis shoe, lace, I was back fishing. We caught several more bass and even with my injury, and the hat-kicking incident, enjoyed our outing.

Driving home it crossed my mind that maybe this wasn’t “my day”.


Before the time of car air conditioners, May was a good time to plan fishing trips, so this particular day in 1955, my dad and I planned a trip up to the gravel pits north of Houston, just outside of Romayer, Texas,.  If we left before sun up the drive in a non air conditioned, car would be pleasant and if we fished ‘till dark, likewise for the drive home.  For the record, our first car with A/C was a 1956 Chevy, Bel Air that was purchased in 1958.

This particular spring day, Dad and I left our house well before sun up and at first light we had already picked out the gravel pits that we would assault.  This one was elongated with an irregular shape that reminded us of a hand with 4 fingers extended.

Enough esoterics, anyway, we started off with yellow Piggy Boats and during the first 30 minutes we only picked up a couple of small bass, but threw them back, then for some reason, my dad changed lures and attached a white one.  His first cast, slipped under a low hanging willow tree, was met with a strike, not the solid head shaking hit of a good bass, but just firm pressure.  The fish tugged and made one short run, but soon yielded to the pressure of the rod and drag, laid on its side and my dad then slid a nice 2 pound, white perch, crappie, (sac-au-lait for my Cajun friends), on to the bank!

We never took pictures of the white perch we caught and I had to get this one from Wikipedia.

That got my attention and, quickly changing lures, I hurried over beside him.  He had already strung the first one and had cast back out and was into another that turned out to be a mirror image of the first.  My cast was met with a strike and I reeled another white perch in.  This was repeated until we had strung 10 of the beauties, beauties to catch and beauties to eat!

The white perch stopped hitting so Dad walked around to the next finger of the pit and I moved to the one past him.  More small bass, no keepers, but I heard Daddy yell, “Son of a gun!” and as I ran around to him, my first thought was snake, but as I cleared the point I saw him locked in a struggle with a good sized, alligator gar.

The gar, at least a 3, footer, was jump, jump, jumping, frothing the water.  It then tried to spool him, made one last jump and the white, Piggy Boat, thank goodness, pulled free. Daddy said that the gar hit right as he was taking the lure out of the water and scared him sufficiently to cause him to yell out, then the fight was on!

It took 10 years for us to encounter another alligator gar and thank goodness again we had some long nose pliers along with us!