Josh Rinehart joins us today with his side of the gar saga - as the fishing buddy along with me for these memorable trips, I asked him to lend his perspective to the best day we had - easily over 40 gar between us, plus his two surprises. Thanks Josh!
I will attempt to convey the awesomeness of a time spent on the water in an endless pursuit of self discovery, being in awe of nature’s beauty, breaking gear and the ever driving force of a personal best.
As we turn off a nameless country road nearing the destination conversation, previously un-interrupted, has gone out the window along with musty smell of what every fishing vehicle should smell like. There is a hint of some food item lost under a seat from some time during the Clinton administration and a salty musk smell emanating upwards from the floorboards.
Ahhh….this is going to be a great day.
Why? Because we know they’re here, not there or there, they are here. Armed with knowledge from previous endeavors, we are ready for a war. To label this ensuing adventure as a battle would be a gross understatement.
Pop the rear hatch and thus begins the rigging process. Rods assembled, lines threaded, new leaders, triple checked knots, it has begun.
It has all been building to this day. Previous R&D trips have filled us with a sense of confidence erring very close to the cocky side, if not perhaps a tad over the line. This sense of certainty does not come blindly. No, it comes from time on the water and tying bench gaining the knowledge and finely honing technique and gear. Off we trudge, battle-sticks in hand. From the fly to the backing, these are finely tuned instruments that will provide personal bests. Today is the day.
Terms such as “finely tuned”, “honing technique” and “a perfectly developed and assembled fly pattern” can make visions of clear mountain streams, dip nets and creels come to mind. None the less all this effort, time, sweat and a little skin and blood are dedicated for the pursuit of THE gar.
What?!? Why!?! Now……wait….WHAT? Are you out of your rabbit a$$ mind? Go ahead, ask someone where you can target alligator gar and carp on the fly. You will instantly have complete strangers caring about your sanity and mental health, all the while giving you a good looking over. You live 5 blocks off the bay and yet you drove over an hour to catch carp and gar. Oh how it makes the “purists” squirm.
Purist – One who practices or urges strict correctness, especially in the use of words.
Well maybe we're not purists, but hardcore definitely, no matter how misguided or delusional.
We head off down the trail straight for the combat zone. Such walks normally included a pause, pleasant conversation or even a photo opportunity, not today. I say “walk” but what I mean is a pretty quick trot edging on the hint of a lope. As we break through the tree line the silent communication going back and forth between us is screaming.
The anticipation and excitement bring back feelings of a childhood Christmas Eve. Heading down the bank littered with ankle-grabbing wild grapevine is further complicated by trying to keep focused on your footing all while the animalistic part of your brain commands you to look for the roll of a garasaurus.
Gear bags down, everything triple checked and now all focus is on the water. For those of you who have never seen a monster alligator gar roll, well, it will send a man back in evolution about 4 million years. Fitting, as the gar has virtually gone unchanged for about that amount of time. In awe of such a sight grown, educated men are reduced to grunting and pointing. You try to speak but somehow that part of your brain vapor locks. You, the reader, may chuckle to yourself, maybe laugh, either because it has happened to you or it hasn’t and you don’t yet understand.
Thus begins one of the most awesome days I have ever experienced. Missed hook sets, fish in hand, broken line, cut leader... we quickly lost count of it all. The ever-present thought in the back of my mind, did I have enough flies? What how does that even happen to us? Not out of the hot pattern, out of flies?!? Whew, found the second spare fly box in the bottom of the gear bag.
New fly, leader, tippet chug a bottle of water half time is over. Half time, who am I kidding? I am almost slap wore out. With the fishing as hot as the Texas sun beating down, fourth quarter push.
At this point in the game catching is not a cause for concern. The time has come to hunt for the monsters. The recipe includes heavy lead eyes and half of a banty rooster worth of feathers and patience. Casting such a herculean creation with tired arms and a slight crosswind is interesting in itself.
…..strip. You get the picture. The almost time stopping countdown employed hopefully allowing the fly to get down past the small fish. Did I just call 2-4 footers “small”? Why yes I did. About mid-trip you become accustomed to the manner in which the different species of gar take the fly and how they fight.
THUMP!!! Here we go. Stay connected. Stay connected. Stay connected.
The beast on the end is not jumping. Cool, not a long-nose or a spotted gar as they typically do their best tarpon impression once they feel the steel. Could this be the alligator that haunts my dreams? Austin sees the bend in the rod, the slow methodical pulsing of the tip, got an alligator? My mind racing; I have been fortunate enough to hook large fish before, this is a big one.
As I have not yet caught a “big” gar, I am left to believe that at the end of is THE beast. The fish is making short powerful runs as I try to keep the right amount of tension, turn the fish and anticipate the next run. For what seemed like an eternity, no visual, come on show yourself.
A catfish!!! Come on! Where’s the massive gar that I put the steel too?
It is a beautiful blue cat. Well, at least we have something for the freezer. Austin assists in some photos and the catfish is secured for later culinary enjoyment. As I do not regularly target catfish, it felt big and looked big so win – win.
Back at the house I grab an adult beverage of choice as Austin expertly removes four large slabs of tastiness from two blue cats. Yep, I caught another before we left. While the first was considerably larger they will eat well. That’s that and they are in the freezer.
Game plan for tomorrow you ask? Time to replenish the fly inventory, we are heading back tomorrow. Tying and conversation, we both know we can break some records. Ok, let’s look up the numbers for the gar so we can get our names in the book.
WHAT? REALLY? We had destroyed four records that day. That’s ok we will get it done tomorrow. Remember that previous statement about getting cocky?
As I survey the other fly-caught Texas records I am suddenly hit with an odd feeling in my stomach. Following a short session of talking in tongues, did I really do that? The current state record for a blue cat is 8.45 pounds and 27 inches long. As I so cleverly and quickly meat-hawked a beautiful 30.5 inch big-bellied blue cat. Was it my ticket to get in the book? I believe so with all my inner fisherman.
So, there it is. Take it with a grain of salt.
It’s not about getting in the book. I did it, you did it. We know we did it. That’s all that matters. Go ahead and keep telling yourself that, I’ll be staring at the ceiling at 2 a.m. shaking my head.
Well at least we got some meat in the freezer and 9 personal bests between us in one day.