I’m lucky as hell. My son is just as curious as i am, and after viewing a shelter building video i had introduced him to recently, he was dead set on having me teach him the knots and lashings i’d learned long ago in Boy Scouts in an effort for him to learn how to make his own hut.
I’m sure everyone has their own opinions about their Boy Scouts, but my own experience was a mixed bag. While i learned wonderful skills like knots, fire building and other helpful outdoor skills that i cherish to this day, i also was shown how to shotgun beer, smoke cigarettes, roll joints and cause havoc in a million different ways.
In an effort to pass on some of the more positive character building aspects i learned, i recently ordered off of Ebay a copy of the Boy Scout Handbook from my era 9the eighties) which has substantially more practical information than the current edition, which reads more like a self help book. The plan was to refresh my mind, as well as teach Paolo the amazing skills that one can learn with the right instructions and some well thought out images.
So it was that a few days ago the two of us gave my wife some peace and quiet and headed off to Barton Creek, outfitted with survival gear (he) and rods, wine, and cheese (me). With hours to carefully waste, we had four goals for the day, hike, lash, snack and fish. Hiking down the Mopac trail to Twin Falls we were both ecstatic to see a creek pulsing with healthy, clear flows. Skirting the creeks bankside trail we made our way up towards Sculpture Falls in an effort to find a spacious and special gravel bank that we’ve visited a few times together over the years.
Once found, we quickly set up shop and spent the next thirty minutes procurring dead driftwood flushed down the creek by recent floods. Deciding on a simple structure that would provide lashing skills as well as a building block to grow on later, we settled on a four post table/chair/cot/etc. that immediately intrigued him and took over all his focus. I provided a demonstration of the lashings and then removed it, coaching him through the first two corners before he got it and wrapped the project. The sense of pride he felt when he had a structure he could sit (and even stand on), built with nothing but cord and branches was immense. So proud was he with his creation (and rightfully so) all he wanted to do was sit there for the next hour reading a book on his chair he had made.
Content as he was, he encouraged me to go fish which i did without the slightest hesitation, wandering into the cool and clear water, stripping the line out, readying myself for who knows what. “Shiiiipppp…shiiiiipppp…shiiiippppp…” went the line as a handful of false casts were made to get the Clouser in place on the opposite bank. A simple strip and quickly the line was tight and a fight ensued that resulted in me landing one of my first Rio Grandes in many months. Good karma.
After that, there were a handful of smaller bass lured from the deeper pools as i strolled up and down the banks, all small for your average water, but good sized for these waters, hit as they were by drought and flood repeatedly in the last few years.
Returning to the Survival Chair, Paolo and i headed a little ways up the creek where some of the larger bass were hanging out deep below the falls. I eventually locked onto the monster in the pool, a three pound behemoth that was cruising the bottom and assuredly aware we were on a high bank right above him. After a few minutes i found the right fly and strip and saw him casually meander over to check out the streamer bouncing with effort along the bottom. After a few feet of tense following, he went for the fly as i over reacted and aggressively set the hook in what i imagined to be his lip.
In that split second i had a range of emotions which are as follows:
- “Yes, i got him!”
- “Crap! He was only mouthing it and i pulled it away!”
- “I suck.”
- “Whoa, that other bass inhaled it directly in front of him!”
- “YES! I have a bass!”
- “I ROCK!”
I landed the bass, and had my son snap the photo below. As i looked up at the photographer i couldn’t help but notice that the same sense of pride he felt about his lashings and their end result were back and in full bloom when he snapped the photo of me and the fish.
That’s the great thing about pride, you can feel it for yourself when you pull off something you’ve worked hard at, but also feel it for others (especially those you love or admire) when they do they same as well, whether it’s a hike, a lashing, or a fish brought to hand.
There’s a lot of stuff i need to teach him from the book, but love of nature, love of the moment, and gratefulness aren’t among them. Guess he picked that up somewhere along the way.
“When it rains, it pours.”
It’s a common expression generally used to refer to good or bad things happening en masse in a short duration of time. I myself, like most of us, have used this expression countless times throughout my time spent on this planet, but always in a metaphorical way. After recent events here in Texas though (flood, almost flood, flood) i now realize this can never be a mere colloquialism for me and many others (that undoubtedly got it worse). There is now a heavy gravitas to this expression and one i hoped to escape by breaking the cycle and leaving the looming threat of watery workspace behind, even if just for a couple of days.
With our son off with on vacation in Washington D.C., my wife and i loaded up my parents pop up camper being wintered here, and headed to the gorgeous Guadalupe River State Park for some adult (plus a puppy) time in almost fall weather.
If you’ve never been to the Guadalupe River State Park but enjoy fishing, clear moving waters flowing through beautiful backdrops, drop what you’re doing and GO NOW! While i avoid this park like the plague during the summer months when throngs of folks are trying to cool off along the four mile stretch of water, once the weather dips into coolish fall temperatures the crowds quickly clear leaving the river and all its splendor naked and bare, ripe for exploration.
After days of inability to reserve a campsite we were lucky enough to land one at the last moment when heavy rains once again loomed large in the forecast. Pulling up to the rangers station i was shocked to find that 90% of the campgrounds were now open due to cancellations all because some rain was in the forecast. Choosing the best site, we settled in for a night of Scrabble, wine, cheese and crackers and a rythmic “pitter patter” on the popup’s roof.
The next morning, after coffee and bacon (is there anything better for breakfast when camping?) i set off to the river, curious to see what recent rains had brought. It didn’t take long to stumble on signs of the previous weeks flooding waters which had found the Guadalupe, like many of the central Texas rivers, taking on immense amounts of waters that pushed the average 200 CFS up to 40,000 CFS and a massive 30 feet+ above the bank, resulting in trees being lodged three stories high in other trees (above).
Even though things had calmed down considerably in the intervening days, the flows were still up around 250CFS creating some incredible runs and riffles in the rockier stretches of the river. Wading across the forceful stream, perching on a rock and letting a large streamer fly into the tumultuous water only to be hit by aggressive Guadalupe bass that fought in a manner reminiscent of trout, everything felt slightly foreign. Yet while it all felt more like Colorado than the drought riddled Texas i’ve come to know, there was no mistaking where i was when lifting my gaze. As with many of my favorite local fishing spots, bald cypress flank the banks here, something that rounds out the Texas fishing experience for me and i imagine many others.
If i’d never had the pleasure of hanging out in their shadows, i’d probably think that bald cypress were more myth than tree upon hearing them described. After all, not only are they regal, stalwart and steadfast, they’re also tenacious, vigorous and whimsical in a rough-hewn sort of way. They also hibernate in a fashion, dropping their needles as the cooler days of winter descend, a sort of barometer for warm water fishing. When the needles drop off, so does the fishing.
Releasing the healthiest catch of the weekend, a two pound Guadalupe (a brute in these waters) i couldn’t help but feeling simultaneously happy and sad when i noticed a few brown, floating cypress needles parting in his wake.
This window is closing. I suggest you call in sick and get out there now.
Awwwwww yeah! Howler Bros. is running an incredible contest aptly titled the “Epic Giveaway” where you can enter for your chance to win an 8WT Epic fiberglass custom rod, a Topo/Howler Klettersack AND a $250 gift card. It couldn’t be easier either, just plug in your name and email address at www.howlerbros.com/win for your chance to win. One lucky person will be announced November 20th.
Good luck everyone!
photo by David Feldkamp
I know this might sound absurd, but at one time fly fishing seemed to me to be one of the most rebellious activities one could participate in. Heading off alone with a “stick and string” to wander aquatic avenues felt like the ultimate way to raise the middle finger to this cultures growing desire to experience everything together, all the time.
In addition, fly-fishing had much of the attraction that drew me intensely to surfing and skateboarding years before, the chance for an individual to learn and refine a skill to a point that one’s personality bleeds into the technique and suddenly an individual style blossoms and grows. There’s probably an art in everything, but for me it’s most obvious at those moments when i find the perfect trim on a wave, grind the edge of a ditch, or unroll 30 yards of line right onto the nose of an startled gar.
For years my younger brother David (below) and i were the only two in our family that shared this fly fishing passion despite the fact that our fisheries are wildly different, his being explosive, torpedo like steelhead in Oregon and mine being the mixed bag of warm water species found in central Texas. Despite these incongruities, upon seeing each other we quickly wade through the pleasantries before rapidly having our conversations to the common bond, the love of water, and the love of fish.
photo by Alex Freddi
Fast forward a few years (2009) and suddenly our dad, who was starting to wind down a long and honored career in the Air Force and post-military work, was throwing around terms like “mend”, “riffle” and “LDR”, a shock to the system and a pleasant surprise. Not long after catching the bug he began taking guided trips that David and i were lucky enough to be invited to on occasion. One of these much appreciated adventures happened to be a steelhead trip a few years ago where everybody on the trip landed a steelhead except for our dad which was especially unfortunate since nobody wants to see the person who picks up the tab get skunked. Fortunately that was corrected a few weeks ago when David, his friend Alex and our dad hit the Deschutes and more or less put our dad on to steelhead immediately, a rare and fortunate closure for all of us.
Along the way our youngest brother Andrew took up the sport, although i have a feeling there’s a little pressure to do so when all the other males in the family plan time spent together around fishing seasons more than holidays. He’s an incredibly smart and intelligent person which is likely why he has the sense to take a job and a career more seriously than i can possibly muster. Likely this means he’ll be rewarded for his drive by retiring early and fishing the world while i’m still working and fishing local creeks. If so he deserves it.
photo by David Feldkamp
I never could have imagined a decade ago that anyone else in the family other than David and i would be as passionate and over the top about something that in some ways is so incredibly rewarding, but in others so poignantly pointless. It seemed to good to be true, and surely (or so i thought) there was no way the universe could top itself.
Then my mom took up fly-fishing.
Since taking up fly-fishing she’s managed to land more fish (including this beautiful Greenback Cutthroat below) than i did in my first few years combined. Her and my father have spent the year hitting up some of their local watering holes in Colorado and she’s probably quickly outpaced not only her husband, but all her children in figuring out the technique while also finding her own style. I guess it makes sense, if you can figure out how to raise three usually decent, thoughtful and responsible (if sometimes distracted) human beings, you can probably figure out what it takes to get a fish to bite.
It started as an act of rebellion, an attempt to keep everyone at arm’s length, and a way to escape from everyone including myself. Ultimately however, fly-fishing has caused me to do a complete 180˚ bringing me closer to myself and loved ones than i ever would have thought possible.
Thank you fly-fishing.
photo by Alan Feldkamp
The GeoBass crew is at again! This time we find them on Christmas Island sleuthing for red bass with one lucky winner that got to take part and witness their shenanigans first hand. Of course their are the obligatory set backs (all part of the adventure) but this time the dudes slay it and land crazy amounts of fish! Check it out this episode and more at Costa’s dedicated GeoBass site.
Interview update: I rapped with these guys a few months back and hope to have the interview up soon but it’s AMAZING how long it can take to transcribe two hours of audio conversation. Might be time to outsource. Any recommendations?
Winding down the rock strewn path that is half trail and half wash out, i bottomed out my local creek/temple, took two small steps into the water, paused, and drew in a slow breath.
After two weeks of non-stop 10-12 hour days at work, i’d reached the point of utter exhaustion and been forced to take a day off to snap out of the zombie like state that i’d slipped into. Tired beyond belief, and sporting a freshly fractured rib (don’t ask) paddling for bigger bass was out of the question. Breaking down the six weight, i opted for my 3WT and a specially loaded fly box of small micro poppers and decided to get back to my roots, small water, small flies, and small fish.
Not that i don’t love big flies and big fish, but after a few quick trips to local lakes brought nothing but untouched flies and endless frustration, it was time for fishing that was less work than my job instead of the other way around. I’m sure that somebody out there can chase big bass and watch them hit every single thing on the water other than their fly and stay non-chelant after 100 fruitless casts, but that sure as hell isn’t me.
Barton Creek has and always will be my fishing sanctuary, especially this time of year when many folks (usually college students from out of town) are more interested in keg fueled frat parties than continuing to drag pony kegs and camping furniture 400 yards in to a spot only to later drunkenly abandon them creek side upon realizing that staggering out with shitty Academy camp chairs in tow sucks.
Anyway, the throngs were gone, the water was flowing (though next to nothing), and the springs were doing their part in keeping what little water was left cool to the touch. Pools that usually were un-wadable were no more than waist high, a god send for wading them from top to bottom, but also making for incredibly perceptive and skittish fish.
It was the first true fishing day in a while and it turned out to be exactly what i needed. No big fish for sure, but then that’s not what waters like this are for. They aren’t just the fish, they’re the complete package.
They are the cardinals that zipped back and forth between trees like a conductors baton bouncing between trees. They are the toad bigger than my two fists kicking relentlessly on the grassy bank with a huge snakes locked jaw wrenched on its torso until i butted in, startling the snake with my rod tip as the toad winked at me and pounced away to freedom. They’re the rock by the falls where you can assume a cross legged position like native americans of days of old, close your eyes and hear the falling water hum out that relaxing white noise so familiar to the analog television generation, but never to be heard again by the digital generation, unless placed quietly by rolling white water and informed by the elders that this is the sound of a past they can never know.
I needed to get out and fish, but even more than that i really just needed to get out of a building and suck in all this mysterious beauty that is happening every minute of every day out THERE.
Every un-noticed fish, or magic moment of nature reminds me of the feeling that i used to have when i lived in Oregon and surfed the coast fairly often. There was a constant, nagging feeling while at work, doing dishes, shopping for groceries or making my way to the coast, that every few seconds there was another beautiful wave rolling in, and i often wondered if nobody was there to catch it, did it exist at all? On top of that, if it did, was the wave more pure left to its own devices or did an artist equipped with skills, respect and a board bring out something in the wave that pushed its beauty into another transcendental realm?
The same can be said for rolling waters and the fish that live there.
I don’t have the answers, but as always, i’m more than happy to spend every possible moment trying to find them. Maybe you should too, it’s good for the soul.
If i had any sort of disposable income i’d never spend it on gambling, a mistress, property development or any sort of aerodynamic, vehicle that looked like a high priced doorstop on wheels. I would however spend an inordinate amount of money and time collecting the boxiest and most practical vehicles out there, like this Jeep Willy from the 50’s now for sale in the Texas Hill Country. I love sexy curves, but sometimes clean styling and straight lines can get you there much more directly with far less drama and attitude.
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.