“So I am NOT going to end up with my vehicle towed or the police here if I drive around the locked gate?” i asked for a second time, noting the exact words the gentleman located in a hidden LCRA bunker somewhere replied with.
“No sir, you are TOTALLY fine. Enjoy and have a good day.” the gentleman said in a calm stutter.
Shifting into gear and making my way around the gate and down the closed boat ramp, i made a mental note of the exchange and the gentleman’s name. Doubtless it would come in handy in case of any ensuing confrontation that would result from me doing something that felt so wrong, despite the approval i had just received.
After fish tailing through some loose dirt, and sliding to a stop on an incline of loose rocks i killed the engine and immediately had a grasshopper (below) land on my windshield, eyeballing me with such an intense and guilty “stare” that i started to wonder if i was really supposed to be there? Maybe i had called a wrong number? Maybe the person on the other end was just playing along and giving me the “official go ahead”, and maybe…just maybe, this grasshopper was in on the joke and a little disappointed that i had fallen for it.
An hour later, still wondering what, if anything, the grasshopper signified, i’d paddled a few pools further up the Narrows near Spicewood and was practically leaning against the wind on the sandy shore to keep from blowing over when my thoughts (now both fixated on the grasshopper and the wind) were interrupted by a semi-familiar shadow under the waves. Casting to the oblong darkness, i was promptly tied into a small but decent gar that i fought to work into the shore one hand on the rod while the other scrambled to unload the camera tripod from the paddle board, a task made more difficult by relentless bungees intent on holding on to their precious cargo. A dizzying minute or two later as i tried to reach over and push “record” on the camera while at the same time trying to strip line, two shocking things happened in a blink of an eye. First, i looked down to realize that the gar on my fly was an not my usual long nose gar, but an alligator gar, the first one i’d ever hooked. Second, that alligator gar sensed not only my shock in his appearance, but also the temporary slack in the line that it afforded him. One jump, one head toss, y no mas gar. (Apply hands to the sides of ones head, and fall to ones knees in the sand cursing in loud tongues.)
Bothered as i was by the loss of something new, an hour or so later, after letting the wind push me upstream against the current with ease, i approached the head of a pool with a small riffle between it and an immensely large pool that possessed enough water to be a large pond or a small lake. Perching on a limestone shelf, the physical barrier between the two, i watched as gar after gar rose to the surface in the large pool and the occasional transitory gar worked it’s way up or down the riffle between the two. It took an inordinate amount of patience to not cast to every gar, but strangely it was almost as magical just to watch them cruise around doing the “gar thing” that they do.
After a good twenty minutes of patiently observing, i tied my newly tied gar fly (above) on the 6WT and despite the HEAVY (think coastal) winds, managed to get it out to where the medium size gar were cavorting and holding court. Over the span of the next hour i managed to land three good sized gar that put a decent bend into the butt of the 6WT. As is true of most fish of this size (all around 3 feet) every one of them managed to unleash some sort of story.
Gar #1 managed to topple me by deciding to torpedo up onto my precarious rock, thrusting it’s toothy mouth uncomfortably close to my crotch. Gar #2 managed to put me into my backing and shortly after, #3 reminded me why it’s always a good idea to carry even the simplest of gloves when trying to catch and release 36 inches of solid muscle with hundreds of teeth on one end. Trying to free the rope fly, the gar’s razor sharp teeth swiped across my finger without me noticing and left something akin to a deep paper cut.
On my way back to the car, paddling strenuously against the headwinds doing their best to push me back upriver, it occurred to me that strangely, it’s easier for me now to catch three foot gar with needle sharp teeth than it is to land a decent size bass. I’m not sure if this says something about me, my fishing “style” or just the places i fish, but it seems beyond strange considering that after catching my first gar by “accident” many years ago it took me many years of trying to catch a second.
Maybe it’s just that if you’re choosing to fish in a strange enough spot that you’re calling to make sure you’re not going to end up towed or jailed, you’re inherently in a place where strange things will find their way to your fly. That’s likely half the reason i’m there, and undoubtedly the other half is because i (like many out there) have read numerous articles and stories on steelhead and trout and thought, “You know, i’ve NEVER seen an article on gar fishing in American Angler before.”
Sometimes the lack of information and the sense of newness is all it takes to steer us all down a different, rewarding path. Hopefully it’s a path where the wind blows against your back both ways, the fish can actually scare you back into (or out of) reality, and every now and then a little blood is drawn so you can prove to friends and family that the adventures you regale them with really DO happen.
If you’re ready to take the leap and start catching prehistoric gar, check out some of the following resources:
- Townsend Miller article on one of the first passionate Texan gar fisherman.
- Gar fly fishing advice and ideas on rope flies at www.flyfishga.com.
- A great video from Vermont PBS on fishing for gar.
- Local gar fisherman Casey Smartt has some incredible ropeless flies on his blog that i hope to evolve to soon. Serious.