Woods, waters and wildlife

Fall fishing

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Somebody asked me how I could live in Texas during a summer with 32 days of 100-degree weather. I answered, “By looking forward to fall.”

And now it’s fall. The weather guys say autumn begins on Sept. 1, but most Texans know the first of September is still High Summer. I’m almost always out in a field on that day -- the opening of central zone dove season -- hiding in the shade of a bull mesquite, a large pecan, or oak, so that’s the one day of the year I can recall. Whoever coined the phrase, “Hot as the Fourth of July” has never hunted doves in Texas, or the saying might have been different.

But it’s now late September, and feels like the beginning of autumn. Periodic rain has helped. And the thought of fall fishing excites a nation of fishermen. A friend, Highland Lakes fishing guide, Mike Hastings, calls October “Tackle Box Month.” It’s already started. Hastings interprets that by explaining that you can almost close your eyes, reach into your fishing tackle and carefully select a lure – any lure – and catch fish with it. It’s worked for me. I’ve heard of someone attaching a hook to a beverage can ringtab and catching a fish with it.

Cooler weather makes for cooler water, and bass can comfortably move into shallower shores, creeks and coves to chase baitifsh. That makes finding game fish a little easier. Shallower water also means anglers can use topwater lures more successfully, as well as other baits that don’t have to dredge the bottom like the jigs and worms many resorted to in July and August.

Diving crankbaits, swimbaits, and stickbaits are also back on the firing line this time of year. Chatter baits, last year’s popular Sprinker frog, the Whopper Plopper, and the Booyah Pad Crasher will take fish, too. I’ve caught good fall fish on Rat-L-Traps. Take your pick.

Choose a bait in which you have confidence. That means one you can cast accurately and one you believe will catch fish. Many overlook the psychology of fishing. If you believe you are going to get a strike, you just might.

If you don’t think you will, you still might. That makes fishing fun. The more you know about fish, their habits, and habitat, the more successful you’ll be. But the only truly important thing to know is that you must keep your bait in the water. Do that and fun will follow … along with better mental health.

Spending a pleasant fall day on or along the water with a fishing rod in hand instead of a computer mouse, seeing leaves starting to change, being away from traffic noise and annoying people, can mellow your mood. Catching fish is just a bonus.

Renowned fishing writer, John Gierach, once wrote “Your stature as a fly fisherman isn't determined by how big a trout (or any fish) you can catch, but by how small a trout (fish) you can catch without being disappointed.”

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