"A FULL DAY ALONG THE BRAZOS!" by Luke Clayton Luke Clayton Sunrise was still a promise in the eastern sky, a thin vale of silvery clouds appeared over the Palo Pinto Mountains as Guide John Bryan eased his boat into the gently flowing waters of the Brazos River, adjacent the Holt River Ranch near Graford. Our mutual friend, Bob Hood, had joined us for a couple hours of early morning bass fishing. Our trip coincided perfectly with the first cool front this part of the state had seen in months. The temperature was near seventy degrees, down right cold weather for August in Texas! As we motored to our first fishing hotspot, a slight mist made it even cooler. We were hoping the cloud cover and cooling temperatures had put the bass, already on a dependable bite, on a big time feed. Bryan and his clients had been enjoying good bass fishing during early morning, the previous trip produced a 4.5 pounder, which might not raise too many eyebrows amount bass chasers on reservoirs stacked with Florida strain bass, but for native Texas black bass, especially those caught in rivers such as the Brazos, fish over four pounds dont come on every cast. Weve been keying on gravel and rocks along shore, crevices in the larger rock formations and of course, lay down logs and trees that have fallen into the river. says John as we begin working Senkos, Texas rigged worms and shallow diving crank baits around some shallow rock situated in close proximity to water 12 feet deep. During the evening hours and just after sunup, bass pull into water as shallows as a foot deep to feed on river minnows and crawfish. They especially like areas close to deeper water-like were fishing here-" the guides instructions ended in mid sentence, a chunky little 1.5 pounder had hammered his orange colored Senko and was heading for the Possum Kingdom Dam with it! Hood and I also pulled several feisty bass, bream and even a couple of white bass from around the structure. Some of the better fishing came a bit later in the morning around the cut banks where crawfish mounds were visible along the river bank. Unlike bass in larger impoundments, river bass feed heavily on crawfish and locating areas with soft muddy banks and a profusion of crawfish mounds is a good way to find concentrations of actively feeding fish. Photo by Luke Clayton ON TO THE DOVES- After a couple hours bass fishing, we decided to head to the upper reaches of the ranch and conduct an impromptu dove survey. The Holt River Ranch consists of around 5,000 acre, including 700 acres of prime dove habitat that includes several fields with ripe sunflowers and water in the form of stock tanks. The thick vegetation along the river provides excellent nesting conditions for dove and in late summer and fall, plentiful sunflowers insure they stick around and, entice migrating birds to stop and stay a while. We drove along the perimeter of a couple of the larger fields and watched literally hundreds of birds take to the air and settle back down in the cover of the standing sunflowers to resume feeding. Its been said that only foolish hunters predict dove numbers before the season begins but the stage is set here on the Holt River Ranch for an excellent opener. As Bryan says, the birds have been here all summer and even more poured in after that little cool front came through last week. I expect there will be some red hot shooting come the first of September. Hood and I picked a couple of Mesquite trees situated precisely between the food and a water source for the opening day hunt. Our little unofficial dove survey resulted in great anticipation for a barrel burning shoot in a couple weeks. Bryan is an excellent camp cook and hes planning an opening day BBQ for his dove hunting guests. It seems a long time since the close of our hunting seasons and hunters from across the state are anxious to break out their shotguns and get into the dove fields. Im planning to open bow season on the ranch and after scouting for doves, we headed to a remote section of the ranch and I set my ladder stand in close proximity to a feeder that has been throwing high protein deer chow for over a year. A trail camera positioned nearby evidenced the passing of some might big whitetail bucks, including a ten pointer that I am willing to devote the time to hunt, come late September! We chopped a hole into the side of a big cedar and positioned Hoods crossbow tripod stand inside the heavy cover, about 20 yards east of his feeder. As we drove into the area Bob is planning to hunt, Bryan pointed out a couple of very respectable bucks crossing the ranch road. By now, Im sure they have found Bobs feeder and are helping themselves to the high protein feed! We are approaching my favorite time of year, there are many good things to look forward to in the next few months. Im positive all of you that enjoy the outdoors are feeling the same way about now! For more information on the hunting at the Holt River Ranch, go online to www.holtriverranch.com or call Bryan at 940-452-3415. Listen to Outdoors with Luke Clayton at www.catfishradio.com.