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Archive for September 2015


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Here i am. Once again knee-deep in the heat, my breath feeling like it’s being filtered through a cup of hot cup tea. The waters aren’t much better, since wading in rivers, creeks, or lakes around here doesn’t feel much different from wading through the urine soaked kiddie pool at the local public park, warm, warm and warm.

If i kept a diary the entry for this time of year would read “Unbearable, sweltering heat. Zombie fish unable to muster the strength to inhale free food tossed their way. The fish? Miserable. Me? Miserable as well, one of the few things we have in common.”

 

Clearly something had to be done to stave off the summer doldrums before they completely crushed my will to even lift a rod.

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Loading the paddle board on the Element i was still unsure of where i was going to try to shake off the monkey. Approaching the crossroads i was still unsure, right or left? I don’t know if it was some sort of fly fishing intuition, or possibly a slightly mad, invisible monkey cranking the steering wheel in frustration about my indecisiveness, but east it was. Apparently Lake Bastrop was calling.

Loading the paddle board all the provisions for a days adventure i pushed off on to the unusually placid waters with only one bass-boat to be heard, far around the corner and out of view. Herons and egrets lined the banks,  as hawks slowly banked high above, now doubt observing every ripple and movement while woodpeckers provided a rhythmic soundtrack to the proceedings.

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The serenity reached up and engulfed me as i slowly faded into sound and vision, forgetting all…until…

KERSPLUNK!

I jerked my head to locate the sound and immediately spotted large concentric ripples emanating from what was obviously the scene of the crime.

Bass. Big bass.

Paddling in earnest towards the spot, 30 yards out from the reeds, the surface suddenly and violently erupted all around as bait fish shot out of the water, almost hanging in midair while schools of bass pounced on the bait fish live starving wolves.

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Quickly flinging a white streamer into the fray, i was immediately hooked into a healthy bass that had me wondering just how much kinetic energy my 5WT could handle before buckling under pressure. While giving and taking the line, trying to work the bass to the net, i had that elated but cautious feeling swell up inside me that is hopeful the luck will continue, but also knows that the odds say it won’t. Guess that’s way there are casinos.

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Strangely enough that luck did last, as school after school continued to chase the bait fish to the surface for much of the day. The fishing was much as i imagine coastal fishing to be. Easy because all you have to do is put the fly in front of the fish, but astoundingly difficult because you have just a second or two to do it. Add on to that the fact that you don’t really know where they’ll hit and you can understand why it’s like playing Whack-a-Mole blind folded with a fly rod in your hand.

To cut to the chase, it was epic. There’s nothing quite like casting a fly into the thick of madness and feeling all hell break loose when you suddenly find yourself connected to the churning chaos in front of you.

I guess instead of fearing the crazed, invisible monkey i might just hand him my keys, make him the designated driver and see where he decides to take me. After all, he’s got a pretty good track record so far. He did call this one.

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Living here in Austin, i tend to spend the summer months having the unnerving sensation that every time i step outdoors i’m walking head first into a giant hair dryer set on high, and feeling desperate for any escape i can find. Usually that involuntary escape comes while walking across a hellishly hot asphalt parking lot and passing out after making it as far as the handicap spots and quickly crumbling from heat exhaustion while slipping into a dreamlike euphoria where highs are in the 70’s during the day, and in the 40’s at night.

Strangely enough my visions of cool water and cool water trout strongly resemble this video from Björnhult Media which provides me an excellent impetus to spend more time in Norway and less in parking lots!

 

Welcome to a new feature, “Islands in the Stream”, a podcast featuring our part time photographer / videographer / graphic designer, and German laison Uli Fluss.

If he’s not camped out in his Churchill leather chair perusing Jung or Sartre, he can surely be found in his new home, the Texas Hill Country using existential fishing techniques on small waters and small fish.

We’re trying some new things around here, so if you like this let us know and we’ll set a microphone in front of him and ply him with beers to make an episode 2!

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Years ago, before Crested Butte became our de-facto vacation destination, Taos was the go to spot for my wife and i, mostly because it had culture for her and fish for me. At that time i was still new to fly fishing, and trout fishing in particular, yet i somehow managed to catch fish after fish on the Cimarron River, a spot that would permanently lodge itself in my mind as the archetypical small stream fly fishing stage.

While wandering and fishing those banks years ago and eaves dropping on fly shop conversations i repeatedly over heard words that rang of mystery, difficulty and legend.  The “Rio Costilla” alone was enough to pique my interest and cause my ears to stand on end, eager for more. By the time the poetic sounds “Valle Vidal” were whispered, barely audible, my eagerness for adventure reached a fever pitch that knew no bounds though i had no idea what the waters might actually be.

For a few years i was able to fish the Cimarron and make the occasional drive to fish the Costilla which was always met with difficult fish and spectacular scenery. However, for reasons that escape me now, we always seemed to wrap up our trips in the last days of June, days before the Valle Vidal was open for public access due to elk calving, and those waters were never plied by my curious nature. Instead, the words “Valle Vidal” echoed in the back of my mind for years, taking on an almost mythic status in my consciousness.

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So it was that during our recent trip to New Mexico i set aside the last full day for an exploration straight to the heart of the Valle Vidal to find out whether the actual spot, clearly a reality, could live up to the myth that had been built up in my mind.

Starting off on the relatively short 55 miles north from the Cimarron campgrounds i felt confident that fishing could be had well within the hour. Receiving cell phone coverage on the crest of a hill, just minutes east, i stared in confusion at my iPhone, apparently it thought it would take four hours to navigate the 55 miles? Hmm.

“The roads are so rural that it’s surely mis-calculating this trip.” i thought as i headed naively into the great unknown. Minutes later i pulled onto the one lane washed out dirt road that headed into the foothills and immediately stopped next to a public service sign, riddled with shotgun holes, and a fungus like rust that was slowly eating away at its stately stature. Still, with all the wear and tear it had, the stately sans-serif font of the sign cut to the chase in a confident manner that let you know it would employ the law if need be.

“Speed Limit 20 MPH.” Well shoot.

Fifty miles at 20 MPH is a long time, trust me.

I’m not going to admit to speeding, but i did manage to work my way into the scenic hills faster than the law indicated i should. Still, it was a long time.

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Pulling into the heart of the Valle Vidal i was surprised and elated to come upon an amazing pond called Shuree Pond nestled in between peaks from 10,000 to 12,000 feet high. The pond provided shore access all along its perimeter and had plenty of trout rising about 30′ out, all along the banks

After about a half hour, and five or so missed strikes (they were SO unbelievably fast), i finally set the hook on this healthy creature (above) that attacked and took the fly with a simple confidence that indicated it had never been fooled by something as simple as a hook shrouded in dark thread and microscopic feathers.

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An hour or so later, i pulled into a spot of the Costilla, deep in the heart of the Vidal. Rigging the rod and making my way to the river, it occurred to me that NOBODY was anywhere around. Cell phones were just dead weight and every bend in the river held numerous scenarios that could easily separate me from reality in myriad ways. It was a little unnerving for sure, but it also provided me with the overwhelming feeling that i wasn’t just in nature, i was temporarily absolutely and deeply a part of it.

The next few hours were a kaleidoscope of trepidation, clear water, imaginary bears, vibrant conifers and stained glass colored cutthroat. Worries and regrets melted away with every step along the bank, and every tug of the line. The ego slowly retreated to the back of the stage and i temporarily lost myself in the saturated greens and  blues that washed over me. It was bliss.

Sure it was a long road to get to that moment, both physically and metaphorically, but it was well worth the wait. Besides what’s four hours when you’ve waited all these years?

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For more information on fishing this unbelievable spot, please check out the following sites.

Southwest Fly Fishing Magazine – A great article on Comanche Creek in the Valle Vidal.

Taos.org – A wealth of information on the area from locals that know it well.