With winter pouncing onto the stage like an attention seeking diva that’s been in self-imposed isolation for six months, i’ve found myself slipping into the mindset i’ve had every year when the cold comes nipping at my heels, namely that warm water fishing was over. So like i have every year, i found my attention shifting from my favorite fishy waters to what i’ve always considered the only option during the cooler months, trout on the Guadalupe.
Well i thoroughly appreciate the hard work that the local Trout Unlimited group (GRTU) does, it can get a little more than monotonous fishing the same waters over and over again for one species for months on end while trying to avoid other anglers. After years of learnt migratory behavior, it occurred to me that there have to be other options for an angler looking to break away from the pack.
I honestly don’t even remember anymore where i’d heard that Lake Bastrop was a warm water lake that could be fished all year, but it likely started with a post on www.texasriverbum.com, that snowballed over multiple conversations with random anglers i know. Other than the post, it seemed like most folks described Lake Bastrop as some sort of backwater, cess pool that was a cooling lake for a nuclear power plant and where all of the fish had three eyes. In retrospect, it occurs to me that half of these people were just mis-informed and never fished it and the other half were probably doing their best to try and keep me off of some of the most amazing bass water near Austin.
Found pirate booty.
After recent rains and flash floods, with all my usual spots still draining murky flood waters, i finally decided to put my bias against still water on hold and check out what i then surely expected to be a glowing lake of icky ooziness. Instead what i found was a shockingly beautiful lake full of plant life, birds and fish that i would visit twice over just a few days.
The first day i somehow found a couple of largemouth bass that were more than eager to take a large popper, but also smart enough to quickly wrap it’s tippet around any free standing timber, obviously they were professionals. While it was frustrating to lose a few decent bass and get skunked, it occurred to me that all the fish i were losing were bigger than most of the trout i’d otherwise (hopefully) be catching. Once that seed was planted i was champion at the bit to get back, luckily it would only be a few days later.
Entrance to one of the many nirvanas.
On the second trip i paddled laboriously to the far side of the lake and came to the entry of a backwater creek to find a congenial spin fisherman that not only waved me past him, but also offered up words of advice based on the fact that he’s landed eight or so big bass in this spot that day. Thanking him for the tips and taking his advice i switched to a sinking line and streamers only to find myself constantly hanging up on the plethora of standing wood that filled my tiny little new found slice of heaven.
After a couple of hours, frustrated with all the time i wasting retreiving snagged hooks, i switched back to the biggest popper i had and cast under a tree that was leaning heavily halfway on it’s way to a watery grave. The popper hit the water and sent forth it’s ripples with little fanfare. With a slight tug watched the popper lurch forward, and then suddenly slip back into a watery void at the last minute when i heard a loud “BBBBLOOOOPPPPP” that sent shivers up my spine. My six weight instantly doubled over as i tried to apply the breaks, but i quickly found that i didn’t have near enough backbone to move the fish (7-8 lbs.). Watching the leviathan jump in the air, shake its jaw and somehow dislodge the fly i could only tremble and swear in a manner befitting a sailor, cursing my choice of rod while also noticing that i was shaking from the rush of adrenaline.
Not the biggest, but still enough to leave me shaking with excitement.
I would go on to lose two more fish within the next hour, with the sound of another skunk knocking on the door as the sun was dipping (quickly it seemed) over the tree line. On the fourth take it all came together, i set the hook with emphasis, kept the line high and tight, and applied enough force to keep the bass from making it to the freedom that the gnarled foots projecting from the bank would surely provide him with if given the chance. Landing the bass, i quickly sat him on the paddle board for a fast photo and watched as he rocked from the immense thickness of his well fed body.
It may have only been a third the size of the big one that got away, but it was still a magnificent fish and i suspect a little (relatively) gift from the gods to remind me that it’s good to get out of your comfort zone now and then, break your habits and try something new.
Again, and again, and again, and again, and……
image from www.thisisfly.com
If the above image looks familiar to you that’s because it’s from the video shared here last year entitled “In Search of Grande”. There’s a great right up on this adventure in the fresh new issue of This is Fly #49. In addition to all the regular features (love the soundtracks) there are some great articles on sculpin, tarpon, fishing in Chile, and more (including an interview with Justin Fuller of Good Apples designs).
I revel in the idea that fly fishing is an escapist sport, where people and problems can be left behind just by venturing off on a slightly less obvious path. However, the reality is that some problems are so severe that they can actually affect what you find at the end of the nondescript trail.
Thankfully there are a lot of people out there that care, and “Co2ld Waters” is a call to action to motivate those folks to make their voice heard before it doesn’t matter. Check out the video and head over to http://co2ldwaters.org for more information.
Image from www.howlerbros.com
Howler Bros. is on a roll lately with all kinds of sweet products being released almost bi-weekly. Within 10 minutes of receiving an email announcing the Paradise Gaucho i had ordered mine (receiving 8-10 drooling comments on my first day wearing it) and just days later was informed that these sweet ass Howler Camp Mugs were also available (and quickly jumping to the top of my x-mas list).
If you want your best shot at grabbing some of this awesome gear be sure to sign up for their email lists (at the bottom of their website) because a lot of this stuff is going quick, and for good reason, it’s unique and it rocks. Howler’s killing it, and as fellow Austin, TX fly-fishers we couldn’t be more proud.
image from www.howlerbros.com
There are many definitions for the word “shooting”, but after a day recently spent stocking the Guadalupe river with fellow GRTU members (from Gudalupe River Trout Unlimited) these are the three definitions that seemed to encapsulate the days events as a whole.
- To move or pass suddenly or swiftly spurt
- To send forth (words, ideas, etc.) rapidly
- To put forth buds or shoots, as a plant; germinate.
The first two were obvious from the second we shot the trout into the water, but it was number three that took a while to sink in…
Meeting early at Rio Raft, i was shocked to pull in and see a plethora of vehicles with occupants sitting in idling cars, wisely staving off the low 30 degree temperature as long as possible, a sensible solution to a surprising condition (the cold). Slipping into my down jacket, i grabbed my coffee and gravitated towards a group of recognizable faces, immediately falling into conversation about each of our recent conquests and adventures.
When the weathered but heated bus arrived we quickly fell into a loosely organized line that filed on with remarkable speed, doubtlessly because of the 80 degree heat that was emanating, invitingly from the buses spartan interior.
Driving off en masse to our first stocking, a new spot recently acquired, there was an eagerness and excitement buzzing around the orange / yellow transport as though we were all school children headed off on a surprise field trip, dodging class, homework and responsibility for the day, a feeling that only mildly faded as the hours ticked away.
Throwing down the buckets, they were quickly filled with one part water and two-part trout, before quickly being nabbed by eager hands on either side and taken forward, staggering, until being handed off to the conga line that would shimmy them into the water. You could almost see the confusion in the trouts bodily actions for the first minute or two before they suddenly launched forward trying to inhale anything floating their way (leaf, cypress needles, foam). (Note: I cringe to confess that all i could think was “Dry flies, right now would be so uncouth, but so much fun.”)
While most spots required the bucket brigade, there were the handful of spots that presented all volunteers aboard with the two showstoppers of:
1) Fish being shot down a long plastic sleeve, much like a water slide, into the clear void of the water.
2) Being shot directly off the side of a bridge into one of the deeper pools, like some shocked and befuddled Olympic diver.
If you’ve never been and have been debating to for years, go and help if for no other reason than to witness these two sites.
While the new spots, the launched fish, and the school bus atmosphere were all fun in their own special way, for me it was seeing so many young folks, coming out for the first time that really inspired me. There is a die-hard crew that i deeply respect that has obviously kept this amazing program ticking for years, but even at 43 i’ve often felt like a child among wise and learned adults. This time however there were a handful of youngsters probably close to half my age that were the first in the water and obviously eager to take part in something so wonderfully new to them.
I’m sure i wasn’t the only to notice them, and doubtlessly i wasn’t the only one to think that this new group encapsulated “Shooting” definition number three:
To put forth buds or shoots, as a plant; germinate (def: germinate – to develop)
As only one of many GRTU members i can only speak for myself, but i imagine that others out there agree, it was refreshing to see a new group of caretakers taking part in something that means so much to not just them, but to all of us. They are the stewards of the future, not just of the water and the fish, but also the continuing success of this amazing program that is Guadalupe River Trout Unlimited, and i for one hope their enthusiasm is not only sustained, but also contagious.
P.S. If you live in central Texas and haven’t signed up yet, i highly recommend signing up with this amazing group to help promote fishing education, camaraderie, and also give you something to fish for during the onslaught of cool days that lie ahead.
P.P.S. This post has been approved by Jimbo if you are a concerned GRTU member.
What’s that? You like big fish AND beautiful backgrounds? Then start your work week right with this great video from Hooké.
Today Texas Parks and Wildlife posted the schedule for the upcoming 2014 season and it’s fair to say that we’re chomping at the bit to hit a few select spots we enjoy haunting (especially Camp Mabry which one of can hit up on his lunch break.) While we’d prefer a stocking program of more exciting native fish like the gar or Guadalupe bass, we’re more than happy to while away the cold days, eyes glued to our strike indicators watching for the tiniest ticks, we’ll just have to remember to bring the port to stay warm.