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“What would you prefer, quantity over quality, or quality over quantity?”

It’s an age-old question that can be applied to any aspect of life: cigars, fine wine, football championships or maybe even Seinfeld episodes, the question is only skewed by ones innate interest. For most fishers the question usually has fish lodged firmly at the center of the question (though i expect for some anglers cigars, bourbon and ex-wives are close behind.)

While recently in the throes of holiday/retail/management i was fortunate to have two good friends pry me loose from the tedious daily loop and drag me out for what would turn out to be two completely diametric fishing experiences that posed this question to me with all the subtlety of a maddened hurricane, which is to say, not much.

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PART ONE

The “sure bet” excursion turned out to be exactly what i expected, a plethora of fish with little to no fly changes. Egan had been fishing the Llano in Castell for hours already, with my exhausted bones pulling in around 10AM. As astute readers / anglers know, Castell is one of the yearly spots for the Texas Parks and Wildlife trout stocking program and probably the most scenic trout fishing in Texas other than small stretches of the Guadalupe.

After making a few inquiries we were reassured that they did stock the day before but apparently there had been a major blunder with the stocking. The idea was to drop a 1,200 of the 2,400 trout on both sides of the first crossing, and then head down to the next two crossings to drop off an additional 600 at each river crossing. Details were vague, but what i do know is that for whatever reason (inexperience, delivery method, etc.) all 2,400 trout ended up on the down water side of FM2768. By the time i showed up it was obvious that catching these 9-12 inch fish was going to be like shooting fish in a barrel, or so it seemed by watching Egan (hereafter known as Sensei Midge).

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I had strike after strike, after strike but couldn’t set the hook on any of the 30 or more chances i’d been given. Half in seriousness, half in jest (a great way to approach most things in life) i said to Egan “Great, that black witch put a curse on me.” (The “witch” being a vegan co-worker that whole heartedly disapproves of hurting any creature and did in fact indicate the day before that a spell might be placed on me.)

“Yeah, that happened to me in Mexico” Egan instantly replied without a trace of sarcasm or shock at my loose conviction that magic was accountable for my frustrating performance.

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Without hesitation he assured me  that the curse was obviously on my rod and reel and not me. Offering his nymphing rig (a whole story in and of itself that i hope he’ll write) it took nary five minutes before a small farm raised trout was set firmly on the fly and quickly coming to hand. It was actually during that tussle that he looked over, my tackle in his hand, and he held up a small fly ringed in thread and flash, but absent of hook and barb. Not surrendering the idea that a curse had been actively applied, i stared at the hookless hook and wondered what it meant, or if it meant anything at all.

Note: That day a fellow local angler called and complained about the problems with the stocking. Within hours TPWD showed up and stocked the downstream crossings. 

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PART TWO

The flip-side adventure happened just a week before, with longtime fishing friend Brittan on Lake Bastrop. After a luck filled bass hunt a few weeks before, i was chomping at the bit to share the excitement with somebody else.

What should have been a Bass-a-Palooza of epic size quickly turned into a wind-blown escapade where we spent more time battling the virile winds and spotting “must return to locations” than we did fishing. Luckily Brittan’s temperament is similar to Egan’s, something akin to “Hey, you caught 20 fish or none, but as long as you’re on the water it’s all good.”. Since i’m also rapidly adopting this life outlook my hunch is that the fact that we are all married with kids, but still full of gonzo fishing energy that can only be used when responsibility is narrowly avoided has a lot to do with this philosophy.

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I never caught a fish that day (Brittan caught one bass) but the true highlight of the day was sitting on the inside of a cove, more or less protected from the wind, feet dangled overboard, with the sun beating down and conversation bouncing around from subject to subject but always ending up back on the question of where these fish were and how they could be caught.

We were obviously there at the wrong time of the year, so conversation tended to drift towards the hypothetical, with future bass and carps spots being discussed ad nauseam, something that didn’t seem to bother either one of us since we were chilling on boats, the sun peeking around the random cloud, feet draped into the cool waters.

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Having experienced the two extremes, copious, duplicate trout on one hand, and elusive largemouth bass on the other, i wished for more of a balance. On one hand catching freshly stocked fish felt like cheating nature, while alternately, experiencing barely a nibble in the remote wilds was the kind of stuff that could turn one off of fishing all together.

With thoughts like this racing around my cerebellum, i hopped in the car and decided to head by Bastrop State Park to observe the changes after the ravaging fires that consumed this area back in 2011.  There’s nothing i can type that will put what i felt into accurate words, but suffice to say, if you’re feeling bad about something as ultimately meaningless as an “off” day, visiting an area of true tragedy will very quickly help you put your problems into perspective. Hiking the trails trough what used to be pine tree canopies, i was aghast at the blackness, and the shadows of what was, surrounded by death, with tiny spots of pine saplings sprouting.

Basically, some days on the water are amazing, others not so much. As for me, i lean slightly to quality over quantity, but that’s assuredly only because i’ve been afforded that luxury after years of fishing, but ultimately i know it doesn’t really matter. The secret is to be content regardless of the hand your dealt on a given day, there will always be another chance. If you’re unsure of that thought, just head to Bastrop State Park and scour the trails looking for the irridescent green, pine saplings sprouting up here and there amidst a sea of black, they’re eager to try again, they know the secret.

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With the cold weather finally blustering its way into Texas, watching this gem from tightloopsfly.com is as soothing as sitting in front of a fire enjoying some hot cocoa swimming in Kahlúa. It’s also additional proof that it doesn’t have to be all “grip and grins turned to eleven” to be a compelling fishing short. So enjoy the flick, check out their blog, and enjoy the latest in “Art House Fishing” splendor!

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I know it’s been a while, but as a manager of a large retail store the holidays are a little mentally taxing, leaving me with nary a brain cell to write posts at the end of a tiring day. None the less, i (with true sincerity) wish you all a happy holiday!

There are a lot of great things around the corner for this blog that i hope to now have time to start woking on and deliver over the next few months. Until then, enjoy the fish, big or small, and above all else, don’t forget to smile, if you’re on the water you’re living the dream, fish or no fish.

 

As conditioned as we are, it’s hard to believe that there can be a fly fishing video that doesn’t involve half a dozen grip and grins, set to an alternating Mumford and Sons / Joe Satriani soundtrack.  This video is proof though that such things do exist, and i for one am thankful to check out a video that is more reflective of the calmer side of fly fishing, as opposed to the usual “cranking it up to eleven”.