Sun Perch On The Frio

My first trip to the Frio River will never be able to be retrieved from the depths of my psyche, being that I was only 1 year old. Yet it may have started even at that tender age. I was the youngest of 8 and can only image my older two brothers dangling a wiggly little orange perch in front of my wide eyes as my 5 older sisters jumped about to see my reaction. That would have been typical of my brother Joe and my sister Julie & Susan for sure. There was always some hush hush mischief going on behind mom & dad’s backs. My father adhered to the big bait-big fish theory. We used heavy salt water tackle with big redfish hooks and setting trout lines with that wonderful smelling blood bait was a must. I still love the smell of that stuff; it conjures up a flood of memories and feelings of times when just dad and I would go out at day break to bait the lines and retrieve the cats from the night before.

Afterwards with that wonderful aroma still on our hands we would back off from the lines about half way across the river in the 12ft flat bottom row boat we had rented, lower anchor, pull up the minnow bucket and fish with a line and bobber while watching the trout line. We always had a fish fry somewhere towards the end of our ten day annual vacation, with a few edible size cats maybe a bass or two and loads of Sun perch. After my great uncle Marion had passed away I got acquainted with a much lighter form of fishing. He had left my father a long whippy fly rod with one of those wind up reels. Oh did I have fun with that thing. I started tying my own flies using small perch hooks, feathers that my brother Joe had saved up in a small cedar box he had made in wood shop and threads from my mothers sewing kit. I would varnish it all together with clear fingernail polish that I had quietly snuck out of the girls room. We had nine kids in the family by then yet there were still only two bedrooms for us, the girls room with my five sisters in it, and the boys room where us four boys slept. Now that was at home, but when we were on the Frio it was only the 10X12 screen shelter for all eleven of us counting mom and dad. The cold clear waters that sprang from the river of eleven hundred springs instilled a magical storybook type of fantasy in our minds, making the rest of the year somewhat depressing. It was always so hot and dry in August and to contrast it with the frigid waters of the Frio was the opposite ends of two extremes. We couldn’t stay in the river long and mostly only in the sunny parts. We would come out hunched over with shivering blue lips after having been in for an hour or so, as soon as we dried off in the hot sun it was time to jump back in. After learning about light tackle I started using very short rods & reels with light line and an in line clear floating weight with yellow or orange flies & poppers. I became a pro at casting under the really low hanging cypress branches in the back currents and almost every cast would bring in the most beautiful multi colored sun perch you have ever seen. Everyone was retrieved with the enthusiasm of finding sunken treasure. After one particular day of fishing I couldn’t close my eyes that night with out seeing another perch hit my rig in the glass clear water of the Frio. I had a hard time getting to sleep that night with all those brightly colored sun fish fighting my line on the inside of my eyelids. That’s a memory that still makes my heart skip a beat to this day. And I shiver to think that maybe those days are gone forever.

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