Nostalgia is a bitch. Six or so years ago when i was really starting to get into fishing and exploring new water spots, both alone and with my family, it seemed like the possibilities were endless, with water and fish beckoning me everywhere. While i’m happy i got to experience that age of excess, it’s also heartbreaking to think that i didn’t realize what i had at the time (to all the young readers out there, this will be a reoccurring theme in your life). Now, years later, i find myself perplexed and caught in the throws of this ceaseless drought, along with a sizable population of my fellow Texans. And while it’s not that the present has been totally ruined by my memories of better days, it’s more that i’m beating myself up for not having noticed a great opportunity when it was present and jumping on it then.
Just to fill you in, there’s been a lot of this regret in my 42 years of life. Notably, once i went to Hawaii and din’t even surf (later surfing became my life). Once i lived for 9 months 50 yards from Gold Status trout water and didn’t even own a rod (later fly fishing became my life). As i imagine is true of most folks over 30, there have been a lot of “onces” over the years.
This is where the white bass come in.
Once, years ago, i was clued into the “Running of the Whites” by a fellow angler in a casual conversation at my work place. At the time, just the idea if trying to catch a bluegill, much less a bass, seemed puzzling enough. Add to the equation the fact that these elusive white bass were looking to spawn, randomly moving up river at various times based on weather and flows and it simply was to much to think about.
Fast forward to the present tense. With seasons of fly fishing under my wading belt, it recently felt like the right time to unleash my Fists of Fury on the migrating white bass population. Skills had been honed, Clousers tied, and sinking leaders purchased, i felt as ready as i could ever be. Unfortunately for the white bass and me, Texas weather was not cooperating and my desire to try and be on the cutting edge of the runs turned out to be plagued by a lot of hiking along shorelines with only the very occasional catch to keep me from trading in my flyrods for a set of golf clubs (not really, but you get the picture).
To be honest, i had heard through the local fishing grapevine of for sure spots where i could go and practically be assured and catch my quarry, but the bull headed Leo in me was driven to find the spot where “I” would be the first lucky S.O.B. to unlock the puzzle. So it was that i attacked Reimers early on (as mentioned in a previous post, followed by the Narrows (top photo) and a couple of other secret spots before ultimately requesting a few days off of work / parenting and heading out of town for Colorado Bend State Park. The geographic location chosen was equal part the fish i expected to find there and equal part the chance to catch a few days of quiet time, with just a one person tent, some dried food, a little wine, a hammock, a book (Gierach of course), and a small quiver of fly rods to try and at least give the anxiety monkey on my back a break from the incessant howling.
To keep it simple, day one was almost a bust, with me casting my six weight into gale force winds hoping for something that would practically pull me headfirst into the water, or at the very least a small white to settle my curiosity. Instead, i landed the small bass above that barely put a bend in the 6WT, but at least the skunk was avoided.
Driving the dust heavy road out of the park the next (and final) day i weighed the odds of heading somewhere more productive (like a lake) or hiking a few miles into Gorman Falls there within the park to fish for what i imagined to be tiny sunfish sitting in small pools at the base of the falls (similar to the pools along Spicewood Springs there in the park which i had fished the day before and caught a few sunfish in the single digit sixe on a 1WT). After a few u-turns i ended up in the parking lot and eventually sound a lack with water and a 2WT over my shoulder before heading down the trail.
After a good 45 minute hike through some quinessential Texas Hill Country terrain (see the photo below) i worked my way down to the base of Gorman Falls. While they were doubtlessly dried up and a pale representation of their former selves, the falls were still a wonderful site to see, but unfortunately they were eclipsed by shadows moving 30 feet away.
I don’t know why i hadn’t thought of this, but the base of the falls flowed just a few feet before languidly spilling into the Colorado River, just as indicated in the map. So it was that i found myself staring at 20-30 huge carp working the seams where the freshwater flushed in what i can only imagine were microscopic buffets channeled directly to them.
I cursed out loud (nobody around) at my bad luck in packing a two weight rod and stumbling on massive (10-15 pound) fish before succumbing to the realization that THIS was what i had. The plans had changed. There were no white bass. I had barely seen a fish in days. My brain had never relaxed, and likely because of this i had only landed one bass up to that point. And this, this whip of a rod was what i had.
Once i was alone on a river. Once i had only a 2WT rod. Once i landed a five pound carp with just that whisper of a rod and a size 12 Wooly Bugger. Once i howled with delight after reeling in the carp, and at that point it didn’t matter whether it was a carp, a white bass or any thing else, it just mattered that for a moment i was thrown out of myself and into the moment, and i was no longer looking back.
Once, if just for a moment, i relaxed and even forgot that what i had come there for.