Building A Pond: Ron Morgan’s System
Learn how Ron Morgan’s plan for building a pond on his property came about.
Editor’s note: This is first in a three part series about Texans, Ron & Robin Morgan, and their dream of building a pond and the perfect fishing waters.
Ron Morgan entered our scene in the fall of 2009. He’d sold his business. He and his bride, Robin, decided to build their retirement dream home. They’d shopped for the perfect piece of property and found what they were looking for not far from the little burg of Cresson, between Fort Worth and Granbury, Texas.
The total tract probably covers 30 acres, but the focal point is a dramatic horseshoe-shaped creek cutting the property roughly in half. That little creek is marbled with gravel as most dry weather creeks seem to be in that part of Texas. On part of the south shore is a sheer rise, a cliff-like hillside covered in lush vegetation that yields to a forested meadow to the west.
Inside the bend of the horseshoe sits a stunning home site. There, on both sides of the creek, live at least twenty species of trees, from pecan to oaks to sycamores and elms, as diverse and friendly as you’ll see anywhere in the country.
Robin wanted a place where she could take her morning walks and enjoy nature, especially the sound of running water. Ron wanted fish.
When we met that first time, I knew it would be a fun ride. Ron, a cigar-chomping, Type-A personality, was a natural born entrepreneur, with high expectations. Robin is the analyst, the one who sees the numbers and keeps her eyes on the reins so the wagon stays on track. They love and respect each other and have worked together for so long they know what to expect from the other and use the synergy to go where they want to go.
After that first walk-through, I was invited to meet with the architect, the builder, and their rock contractor, Larry Barnett. It didn’t take long to see there would be a clashing of the minds. I wanted to be a little cautious and methodical about the game plan and at least one of those guys wanted to make things happen and make them happen fast.
By this point, the Morgan’s had begun to figure out what they really wanted to do. The architect pointed out their home site needed to be raised a few feet. The logical thing was to dig some dirt on each side of what would become their drive way and move it to the house pad. Two small ponds were created in order to use the dirt on the house site. Picture in your mind a smiley face. Two eyes and a smile. The two eyes are the ponds and the smiley face was the gravel-bed creek. Working with Barnett, the rock guy, the team built a series of weirs to capture water coming down the creek and pooling it where fish could live. In total, they built five weirs, one of which was downstream off their property, built with the neighbor’s permission. Of course he’d approve —he’d have his own fishing hole.
As this project came together, Ron Morgan was continually thinking, molding his thoughts with the best ideas he could gather. By now, yours truly had entered the picture as his fisheries consultant. That was July 2011, as the home was nearing completion and the ponds were lined and landscaped with sheer rock walls on top of the liner.
Water behind Weir 1, the uppermost one, would be shallow, with a large expanse less than a foot deep. I knew that would load up with aquatic plants, something we’d have issues with later. I suggested he make it deeper. On my next visit a week later, it was done. Seriously, done. It had gone from a shallow gravel bar to a 12-foot deep hole, surrounded by gravel beds for spawning. Weir 2 had some shallow water, but it also had a deep hole, surrounded by beautiful, gnarly trees. After all, Weir 2 was in the beginning of a sharp bend in the creek. We’d expect a deep hole on the outside bend of the creek. Weir 3 was wide, with four or five feet of depth, uniform for most of its run. Weir 4 is the shortest, with standing timber in it. Weir 5, furthest downstream, is deep and is designed to capture water to pump back up into the two ponds next to the driveway. Getting the picture, yet?
The Morgan’s wanted the creek to come alive and move, dropping water over each rock weir to create an active, living, moving stream that makes noise—and grows way more fish than it should in each pool behind each gorgeous, natural-looking rock weir.
As our plans for this system continued to come together, that part of the country was in the devastating throes of a record drought. Summer 2011 in Texas was brutal, with more than 90 days over 100 degrees, and no rain to speak of. The creek was in perfect shape to build the weirs,to get depth and create the best water movement system we could collectively design. Water would enter the uppermost weir, flow downstream over each weir and be lifted from Weir 5, pumped into Pond 1, overflow into Pond 2 across a beautiful waterfall and creek and then overflow Pond 2 back into Weir 1.
By fall of 2011, the Morgan’s figured out they’d need more water than what Nature might provide, so they did their due diligence in that county and got permitted to drill wells to supplement.
During that same timespan, I was amazed at how much work was being accomplished and how fast they got it done, especially those rock guys. They moved rock, put it into place and finished strong. On one trip, Ron mentioned he’d decided to build an artificial creek from the back of the house to Weir 3. I casually mentioned that he should build a rock trout pond along that creek for winter-time fun. His eyes lit up. “What a great idea!” He liked it so much he pulled his rock contractor off a job so we could meet right that moment and design it. Now, Ron Morgan has a seven-foot tall wall of rock and a creek pool that can hold 20-30 huge trout over winter and he can show them off to any and all comers. The fish have five feet of water and the Morgan’s have a trout stream—and another waterfall.
As the system was being designed and built rapid-fire, we began talking about fisheries management. Ron pulled out another cigar, pulled the wrapper off, bit off the tip and said,“I want as many fish as we can pack into each piece of this system.”
Of course he did.
In Part 2 of this series, we’ll share the stocking strategies and the water management plan we developed, with help from several Pond Boss advertisers and vendors. Part 3 will show the results and obstacles.
By Bob Lusk