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HOME RANGE: Notes on Literature, Nature, Working Dogs, History, Martial Arts, Other Obsessions and Sundry Annoyances by Henry Chappell

Tube or Kayak?

Back in the early nineties, on the odd summer day when my daughters didn't have a soccer game or practice, I'd blast off from my engineering job toward a certain large bass pond about an hour and a half north of Dallas. If everything came together - meaning no more than two or three people wrecked or stalled on Central Expressway - I'd get to the pond, launch my float tube, and enjoy an hour or so of good bluegill fishing on little popping bugs. When surrounding post oaks and blackjack oaks began to cast shadows on the water, I'd switch to slightly larger deer hair bugs - #6 or #4 being all I could handle with a 6 weight rod - and catch lots of small largemouth bass and an occasional three or four-pounder. I'd clamber up the steep bank after dark, load my tube, sit on the tailgate and sip Ski when I had it and Diet Coke when I didn't, and listen to the sound of things being eaten out on the dark water. On the way home, I'd stop for a greasy cheeseburger at a certain joint, then, about 11:00, crawl in next to J., who never asked for a fishing report until the next morning.

I wore out one of those old-style, inner-tube, low-rider Caddis float tubes. I finally tossed the thing when it started falling apart around 2010. As I recall, I paid around $50 for it - as good a purchase as I've ever made. Sure, I always hoped no one would be there to watch me launch the thing or flounder out of the water after dark, and even with a 9-foot rod, my back casts slapped the water whenever I got lazy, but the old tube sure beat the hassle of a johnboat or even a canoe.

Since J. and I bought our lake shack, my fishing has been a matter of walking down the hill and wading along the rocky shore. Just after sunrise or just before dark, I'll catch plenty of small bass and, occasionally, one that puts a worrisome bend in my 6-weight rod.

Lately, I'm getting restless for some of my old ponds and a certain stretch of a certain river. Tube or Kayak? The tubes are much improved nowadays. Easier to launch and get in and out of, and you ride a lot higher. Everyone seems to be going to kayaks, especially in deep East Texas, where anything bigger than a puddle holds alligators nowadays, but I do most of my fishing well north of Dallas. Yes, gators seem to be making their way into the Red-River drainage, but, for now, they're rare. Furthermore, I can't see how a kayak can be anything but a hassle in the near-constant North Texas wind.

Eventually, I'll have one of each, but the tube will come first. I'd already made up my mind, but this video just reinforced my thinking:




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