Outdoors Notebook — Chocklett visits, Panhandle poaching and a new nature center

Lynn Burkhead
For the Herald Democrat
One of the biggest names in the modern game of fly fishing and fly tying is coming to Dallas tomorrow. Blane Chocklett, originator of the Game Changer fly pattern and a regular contributor to Fly Fisherman magazine, will be at the Tailwaters Fly Shop in Dallas most of Saturday tying flies, signing books, and showing off new Temple Fork Outfitters fly rods.

Blane Chocklett, originator of the Game Changer fly pattern, is coming to Dallas this weekend.

In fact, the well-known fly angler is scheduled for a full day of activity tomorrow at the Tailwaters Fly Shop near the Trinity River.

For fly fishers, there are few names bigger right now in the modern sport than Chocklett, the Virginia fly angler who operates the New Angle Fishing Company guide service for smallmouths, muskies, and striped bass.

As noted in this space last week, Chocklett has served on the board of the American Fly Tackle Trade Association, is a signature fly tyer for UMPQUA Feather Merchants, and has served for numerous years as an ambassador for the Temple Fork Outfitters (TFO) fly rod company based in Dallas. He’s on many TV shows, is almost always in Fly Fisherman magazine, and has a decided presence on social media.

Why is that? Chocklett revolutionized the fly-tying world a few years ago with his Game Changer fly pattern, a sort-of fly rod version of a swimbait that offers tantalizing, ultra-realistic motion thanks to a series of shanks and micro shanks that materials are tied onto.

When tied correctly, few predatory game fish can resist the fly, something that is as much a Game Changer as Bob Clouser’s “Clouser Minnow” or Lefty Kreh’s “Lefty’s Deceiver” patterns were a number of years ago when they were first originated.

After several years of runaway success with the Game Changer and other fly patterns, the regular contributor to Fly Fisherman magazine authored a book earlier this year entitled appropriately enough, “Game Changer.”

The book will be available for sale at Tailwaters where Chocklett.

The overall Chocklett appearance gave attendees a chance to tie flies and cast TFO fly rods with Chocklett, enjoy a cold beverage or two, learn more about the sport of fly fishing for apex predators in freshwater and saltwater, and get an autograph or selfie with the future fly fishing Hall of Famer.

In short, it’s a one-man fly fishing show and Chocklett will be on hand to discuss all things fly fishing, show off the entire fleet of TFO fly rods and reels — including a new fly rod model bearing his name — and even offer in-depth fly tying instruction for those who sign up in advance for a paid fly tying class.

That class, a master session with one of history’s best tyers and fly design gurus, has only 15 open spots available and costs $175. The two-hour class will see materials provided by Tailwaters but class participants will need to bring their own fly tying vise and tying tools.

To sign up for the fly tying class or to learn more about Chocklett’s weekend visit to the Tailwaters Fly Shop at 1933 E. Levee St. in downtown Dallas, please call 888-824-5420 or e-mail the shop at tailwaters@tailwatersflyfishing.com .

Panhandle Pronghorn Poaching — The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is asking for the public’s help in identifying the culprits responsible for killing five pronghorn antelope in the Texas Panhandle between Friday, Sept. 24 and Sunday, Sept. 26.

According to a TPWD news release, game wardens are looking for the persons responsible after five pronghorn antelope carcasses were discovered one mile north of Interstate 40 just to the east of Adrian. The carcasses were dumped on private land and had the skull and horns missing.

“This is a considerably egregious crime, not just in the manner in which it was committed but also due to the significance of the animal that was harmed,” said Oldham County game warden Wesley Driskill, who is overseeing the investigation according to the agency news release. "A crime of this magnitude impacts everyone working to conserve pronghorn for future generations.”

In addition to the already limited nature of pronghorn numbers across the state, the unique species has fallen on hard times in Texas over recent years with disease issues, habitat loss and degradation, and land use changes.

Texas game wardens note in the TPWD news release that they believe this was an act of irresponsible trophy hunting, known otherwise as poaching. They also encourage anyone with information about  the individuals responsible for the poaching case to call the TPWD Operation Game Thief Hotline at 1-800-792-GAME (4263).

While this news item obviously falls outside of the Texomaland area, it’s possible that someone local was traveling through the area and might be able to assist. According to the agency, relevant information may include anything out of the ordinary like strange gunshots, strange vehicles in the area, headlights in a field on those nights, or something like observing a truck with a bloody tailgate.

TPWD Opens New Nature Center at Ray Roberts — TPWD opened up a new Nature Center at the Johnson Branch of the Ray Roberts Lake State Park last Saturday.

“We are all very excited to open the new Nature Center to the public at last,” Robbie Merritt, park superintendent, said in a news release. “This facility is the result of many years of vision and dedicated work by numerous park staff, volunteers, partner organizations, and private donors that have made it all possible. It will significantly enhance our public services at Johnson Branch.”

According to TPWD, the project was made possible by a generous donation from the Araoz family in honor of Eulalia Araoz.

Lake Ray Roberts, site of the 51st Bassmaster Classic earlier this year, is a beautiful lake that edges into southwestern Grayson County. Surrounded by the state park, the lake also features great bass fishing, wildlife management areas, wetlands, and waterfowl sanctuaries that annually lure in big flocks of mallards, gadwalls, wigeon and more.

According to the TPWD news release, the agency operates all of the above under lease from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the cities of Dallas and Denton. In all, Ray Roberts Lake State Park has nine developed units, including Isle du Bois, Johnson Branch, Jordan, Sanger, and the Ray Roberts Greenbelt.