This morning I fished the 12th SKIFF trip of the 2014 season, welcoming aboard five young ladies from three different families and ranging in age from 5 to 11. SKIFF (Soldiers’ Kids Involved in Fishing Fun) trips are provided free of charge to families whose children are separated from a parent due to that parent’s military service thanks to the Austin Fly Fishers and a network of supportive individuals from all over the U.S. All it takes is a phone call from a parent to me at 254-368-7411 to reserve a date.
Brandy Klutse (who is 9 months pregnant and still got up at 0-dark thirty to make this happen) coordinated this trip for the three families in her capacity as the Family Readiness Group leader for the company her husband, Capt. Raymond Klutse, commands — C Company of the 2-5 Cavalry. Brandy’s two children participating today were 8-year-old Rayna Klutse and 5-year-old Victoria Klutse. Also attending were Erinn Sewell, 6, and Rayanna Walters, 11, daughters of an Army private first class, as well as Valerie Ousley, the daughter of Staff Sgt. and Mrs. Robert Ousley. All three soldiers are in the same unit and have been serving in Germany for more than two months. They are due to return in July.
I have never fished a SKIFF trip (or any children’s trip) with five children aboard before but wanted to honor Mrs. Klutse’s efforts at providing opportunities for the families she ministers to. So I recruited my mother, Charlotte Maindelle, to be my first mate and run crowd control with all the moving parts aboard my boat today.
The fish were a bit more sluggish today, as we had more direct sunlight and less wind. They got going around 8 a.m. and fed moderately well until 10:30, with a noticeable spike from 8:15 to 9. With so many kids aboard, casting just was not a safe option, although there were plenty of surface feeding white bass to cast to were we able to cast. Instead, I stuck with a combination of flatline trolling and downrigging. I used tandem rigs on the flatlines and three-arm umbrella rigs on the downriggers, all equipped with Pet Spoons.
We “sorted” the girls by height and place them in a rotation from tallest to shortest, giving each girl a chance to catch fish in that order so that by the end of the trip, each girl was able to catch roughly the same number of fish. As it turned out, everyone got several turns on the reel, with an average of seven fish caught per girl. We had several large, 3 pound class hybrid stripers crash our baits and landed every one that struck. We also had a number of “doubles” and even one “triple”, where the girls boated two and three fish at a time on the same rod at the same time.
When younger (under 7 years old) kids come aboard, I always fill the livewell with water and keep the first few legal fish in the livewell. These younger kids find this entertaining, often returning to the livewell to “check” on the fish, name the fish, and even feed the fish. All three of those things happened today. How do I know this? Well, there was about a half a pound of pretzels in my livewell discovered during post-trip cleanup!
This was a very enjoyable trip for these girls and the mothers were all very, very thankful for the opportunity this SKIFF trip afforded their daughters.
TALLY = 35 FISH
Start Time: 7:00am
End Time: 11:15am
Air Temp. @ Trip’s Start: 75F
Water Surface Temp: 80.9F
Wind Speed & Direction: S10-13
Sky Conditions: 50% cloudy
AREAS FISHED WITH SUCCESS:
**Area 1403 downrigging 12-18 feet down
**Vicinity of Area 1401 to 1402 downrigging 22-24 feet just above trees along breakline