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Crowds and Solitude – Lake Tahoe

Destinations, Trout

**************THINKING OF THOSE AFFECTED BY TX FLOODS************

Tournament date: Saturday Oct. 27th, 2018

The annual Lydia Ann Fly Masters Tournament was created to:
• Bring skilled fly fishing anglers together from all over the State of Texas• Have fun, and compete for prizes and awards
• Raise every dollar possible to support Casting for Recovery

Our goal is to create the Premier Fly Fishing, Catch and Release tournament for the Texas Coast, which is fair, fun and open to everybody. Each year a Charitable Organization will be chosen to receive a donation check from all of the tournament proceeds. The tournament has been a great success, raising over $39,000 to date for Casting for Recovery! We look forward to watching the tournament get better each year and hope to see as many anglers as possible at the tournament to support Casting for Recovery’s wonderful cause.

Please visit the website at: www.lydiaannflymasters.com for more information and to register for the event!

– All text and images courtesy of Lydia Ann Fly Masters Tournament.

photo by Nathan Peck

Well, it’s happened once again. Here in Texas it was another unbelievably dry summer with little to no rain causing most of our waterways to dry up, leaving their limestone river beds naked and exposed like bleached fossils from an ancient time. Naturally this did not bode well for vast swaths of our local fish population and in turn any angler wary to stress a fish further while it’s already hanging on by a thread. Fortunately in the last few weeks we’ve received some significant rain that is once again breathing life back into our waterways, meaning that the fish, flush with vim and vigor, were once again on the move. Time to hustle.

As is true anywhere, certain rivers in Texas are more susceptible than others to the various moods that the weather and its cohorts can impart upon it. In my mind (and locale) the Blanco River is the epitome of this, sometimes a raging source of destruction as it was in 2015 and at other times a hapless trickle that would barely register as a creek on most peoples radars. It’s the bellwether for local environmental trends as well as a trusted friend since it lies on my work commute from Austin to Gruene and is what one might call a “frequent watering hole” of mine.

Weeks beforeI had visited the park only to find a series of muddy, unconnected pools of water little more than a foot deep. Upon returning, post rains, with my good friend Nate, we launched our Native boards from the now waist deep bank and paddled hard and far up a healthy artery of water that was rife with possibilities. The company was great, the flows were prodigious and everything in sight seemed to be radiating an intense green as though the saturation levels had been bumped as high as they’d go.

The paddle upstream turned out to be a bit much since two and a half miles is a good distance any day, doubly so when you’re paddling against a healthy flow. In retrospect I probably hadn’t completely filled Nate in on the distance we’d be paddling but I knew exactly where it was we were heading since I’d glimpsed this pool just out of reach on a previous paddle. At that time back during equally healthy flows I saw what promised to be a pool of epic proportions but had come on it close to sunset with darkness looming, forcing me to turn back without exploring its grandeur. Now, after a few hours of paddling and portaging, we were finally there, standing on the low water crossing, water flowing over it, staring at a massive pool of possibility framed on one side by a gravel bank and on the other by limestone cliffs that had to be at least 50 feet high.

photo by Nathan Peck

Directly above the low water crossing was a bottle necked riffle that we approached cautiously and carefully, a mere 20 feet wide at the most, flowing clear and fast with only a downed tree to break up the monotony of the flows. I cast slightly upstream, expecting the white wooly bugger to drift close to the downed tree on it’s way downstream and luring out any shy bass lying in wait. Instead I saw movement in my peripheral vision that seemed to be rocks in the riverbed tumbling over themselves from the head of the rapids. The shape bolted downstream through the riffle with unwavering speed and intent before crushing the Wooly Bugger, oblivious to the fact that it was playing out this heart stopping scene less than ten feet away from the nervous, shaking person on the other end of that line. It was an intense fight as I struggled to land the bass on the 4WT rod while simultaneously trying to recall what weight leader I had on the end of my line, and therefore just how much room for error I could afford. It turned out to be the biggest Guadalupe Bass I’ve ever personally landed and damn near brought me to tears with the way the entire thing had played out in order to hold that fish, ever briefly, before returning it to its home.

Minutes later Nate cast in to the same body of water with a larger streamer and managed to get out a few words along the line of, “I think this streamer is too big,” before said streamer was inhaled by a Guadalupe that was in fact hanging out below the downed tree aforementioned. It was glorious. I demurred at his offer to take my turn casting into the magical waters, partly because the magic had already happened for me and partly because I wanted to see it continue to manifest for him. Two casts later it happened again for Nate, big bass, big fight…things were getting weird.

Suffice to say this day was beyond reproach. Paddling even further upstream through deep gin clear pools framed by statuesque limestone cliffs, a cool breeze at our backs and sunny skies overhead it was hard to not feel like we were traipsing around some remote, exotic locale instead of a body of water just miles from the interstate corridor.

The scenery and weather alone made for an idyllic setting that any sane person would gladly appreciate but adding to the charm was that all this time the bass were coming at our flies like torpedos, seemingly oblivious to us, our watercraft, or really anything much at all.

I’m pretty sure I had a bunch of lousy days of fishing leading up to this but strangely enough I can’t seem to recall them with any sort of clarity now. A day full of clear skies, clear water, healthy flows, voracious fish and a good friend to share it all with seems to have that effect.

Grab a friend, a rod and get out there. Now!

photo by Nathan Peck

 

Wonderful video from longtime inspiration Rolf Nylinder, previously of Frontside Fly. Turns out not only is he an incredible producer of inspiring fly videos he’s also an accomplished musician performing the music in this amazing video he shot and produced.

For more of Rolf’s incredible videos go to: http://www.rolfnylinder.com

To enjoy his music just search “Mosvold Hotel” on Spotify or iTunes.

dieFische hearts Rolf.

The ONLY good thing about having my commute on I-35 interrupted and altered by accidents and traffic jams is taking the back roads and discovering one or more of the following:

  1.  A small body of fishable water.
  2.  A taqueria or BBQ trailer that hasn’t been Austinized (read: $$$ and attitude).
  3. Indie businesses.
  4. And finally…unique rides that would add a certain amount of panache to any ill conceived fly fishing road trip.

The folks at Thirsty Planet in south Austin made me smile by fulfilling two of four happy requirements when I discovered their brewery and amazing ride parked out front on a recent 2 hour commute that should have been 45 minutes. I didn’t stop this time since I was well past dinner time upon encountering it, but worry not, I have made notes of the location and will happily wait out the next traffic jam there.

FYI: Want to see more vehicles that might cause you to consider throwing your fly rods in and driving off into the horizon? Maybe you have a photo you want  to share? Then visit us on Instagram at www.instagram.com/diefische to see more photos, or add the tag #fishridedaydream to one of your photos to share it.

Always awesome. Always inspiring. Get more “This is Fly” here.

July had been a whirlwind of travel that started with family obligation in Denver but quickly ratcheted in to high gear with retail shows in Orlando, Dallas, and eventually back in Denver to neatly bring things full circle. It was a cyclonic tour of long days in convention centers and late nights in hotel rooms camped out with to-go containers, red wine and endless work orders to place until I eventually drifted off to sleep in the early morning hours just to wake and do it all again. It was a ton of fun, and thoroughly enjoyable, but also exhausting as hell. So much so that it barely registered on my last trip that I was walking down another jet bridge to another location until I was suddenly enveloped by a menagerie of slot machines, every single one flashing brightly and screaming for my attention, my pocket book and probably a little bit of my soul.

“God damn.” I thought. Finally I was here in Reno, making my way between slot machines and empty gazes with just a single waterproof pack weighted down with nothing more than a change of clothes, a rod, reel and a few basic fly fishing tools and the obligatory Gierach book to while away the time and help me enter a zen state should any unforeseen hiccups occur. Meeting my wife and son at the bottom of the steps for some tender hugs and kisses (they’d gotten there a few days ahead of me to spend time with her incredibly supportive aunt, uncle and sister) I was able to stroll casually by the baggage claim with my loved, my bag and a smile. Simplicity.

Driving into Lake Tahoe proper and getting the first view of Lake Tahoe I was floored by its (literal) awesomeness, something I’ve only felt at very particular places like Crater Lake, the Black Canyon, and Arches National Park. Though this astounding body of water is the largest high alpine lake in this country, and only second in size (for lakes) to the Great Lakes it was strangely enough denied National Park status in the very early 1900’s. In the 60’s the area hosted the Olympic winter games which brought a lot of attention and development that continued until the 80’s, with lakeshore development exploding as well as casinos, hotels and theaters especially along the 1/3 of the lake that Nevada has claimed stake to. For a romantic / naturalist like me it seems like a tragedy that this unique, translucent jewel was never afforded the title and protection that it should have received long ago, but things are what they are and I was determined to make the best of the crowds (or at least avoid them as much as possible) while also trying to find a special moment in time and space to escape them completely.

The time with family was incredible and I loved every minute of it for sure, but the nagging cry of the flowing waters and local trout were calling ceaselessly from somewhere just beyond. It was while waiting in cue at the ABSOLUTELY AMAZING local breakfast haven The Red Hut Cafe that I got my first cell phone signal in the area and realized that the one fly shop in the area, Tahoe Fly Fishing Outfitters,  laid a mere few hundred feet up the road while simultaneously hearing it would be a 45 minute wait before a table would be available. Perfect.

Strolling in to the well filled shop to inquire about the fishing a thick map was slid onto the counter and a finger placed to where I should go for summer trout fishing. Without my glasses I was at first confused by the location the finger fell on the map as it seemed to be a three dimensional crater on a two dimensional map. After a few minutes of confusion it became clear to me that the “crater” I had seen was really just a spot on a thick map that had been recommended so many times over so many years that an actual welt had slowly ground around this suggestion. The shop employee (whose card I lost…Rob?) was incredibly helpful in helping me figure out possibilities even though transportation to and from said spots was still an issue since we had no rental. Still, the information had been gathered along with the suggested flies and some floating

Making my way back to the Red Hut for our breakfast, armed with local knowledge and a selections of dry flies I was hopeful to somehow get my ass transported twenty miles away to fish for these trout that had obviously provided enough good days that they had worn a thumb print into the depths of a local map. Fortunately in an unforseen twist of events my sister-in-law offered to lend me her new, very much loved and cared for Volvo with which I was not only able to ascend one thousand feet into the ether, but to do it in class.

Landing in the valley I exited the mothership and fished for a good mile plus up the stretch of the Carson river that is known as Hope Valley before it dawned on me that there was no way that this shallow, almost non-flowing stretch of river with nothing more than two inch fingerlings was the well worn spot on the map that I had expected. The loss of direction, both geographically but especially fishing wise seemed trivial until I realized there was zero signal in these mountains. As a child of the 80’s I still have the where with all to find my way around without technology, but that’s not to say that I don’t occasionally shit my pants when the signal goes blank and the tank reads empty.

Driving downstream I was excited to find myself on a wildly rapid descent through a valley that seemed to swallow not just me and the car, but the entire sky and earth into a tightly focused piece of scenery framed in a giant “V” by towering mountains that almost seemed to fall in on themselves. The road, and water found me at 7,000 feet but peaks at 9,000 to 10,000 (Hawkins Peak) loomed large above and provided a sort of gravitas as I hung out in their shadows.

Leaving the car and making my way down the bank I immediately felt myself feeling like I was waltzing through some sort of hybrid of Eleven Mile and the Cimmaron River. Initially the trout seemed to be eager to inhale the larger attractors I had tied on but couldn’t seem to wrap their mouths  around the meaty cocktail I was throwing at them. Eventually after seeing to many strikes with nothing to show I switched up the attractors for size 20 Elk Hair Caddis and immediately hooked into the beautiful specimen above (which I am pretty sure is a Lohantan Cuttthroat Trout, but please correct me if I’m wrong).

Working my way downstream it was an unending cavalcade of medium size waterfalls, plunge pools and white water that tumbled over and over on itself, dropping 1,o00 feet over a four mile stretch which in case your wondering is a seriously freakin’ steep descent. Still the trout didn’t seem to mind inhabiting this aquatic staircase, and really I didn’t mind them catching them either. It was in fact a transcendent experience, small technical water with tight casts, quick drifts with fasts mends and faster strikes, all experienced without encountering another bi-ped that might unintentionally destroy the fragile illusion of solitude that this canyon and its supporting cast provided in abundance.

Eventually, as it always does, the time ran out and I hopped into the rocket ship to head back to family, friends and the crowds of Lake Tahoe having a strange sense that I left something back in the canyon…the cell phone…the hemostats…something. It wasn’t until I was working on my second glass of wine at the Blue Angel (sooooo good) that it dawned on me. I love nature, and when I experience a place like Arches NP, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, or possibly the Carson River I am so overcome with a sense of rapture, that I think a small part of me (a carbon copy, a series of atoms,  a shadow, fill in the blank) remains. Regardless, a part of me is there.

Yes, it could be utter bullshit. If however, you visit the Carson (which you should), and run into an angler about 6′ tall, wearing a guayabera, a fedora and fishing a 7’6″ 3WT just shoot me a text. Doesn’t hurt to be cautious.