Ever since taking up a fly rod, and especially since starting this blog, i’ve been asked on a regular basis what it is about fly fishing that grabs me by the gut and keeps me so passionate and enveloped in it. The responses are usually along the lines of connecting with nature, or the tug on the line awakening the inner hunter in me while the careful release reveals the compassionate side of humanity, and so on and so on.
Yet the reason i almost never mention is the simple fact that i like to wander, probably because the word itself has so many bad connotations. Even Merriam-Webster defines “wander” as; 1) to go astray morally or 2) to lose normal mental contact, and while i might in fact lose myself mentally and enjoy it, it’s the third definition that i can relate to, 3) to move about without a fixed course, aim, or goal”.
With my family in Germany this whole month, and the store still far from opening after the flood, i’ve had a lot of options to get out and wander my heart out. The only limitations have been the incredible number of storms and the high flows they’ve brought with them, making being in the right spot at the right time something akin to shooting craps.
Waters as vast and varied as Canyon Lake, the Narrows, and Barton Creek have all been explored by foot and paddle with varying levels of success and consternation. While i don’t feel that i know them any better now than i did going in, i was hoping to share some thoughts with you in hopes of getting you on the right water at the right time.
Barton Creek: As even an occasional reader will know, Barton Creek is hands down my favorite water to fish, bar none. However, since the drought started in 2010 it’s been a fickle mistress, occasionally flowing with raging torrents of emotion, but usually dehydrated and depressed.
I’m happy to say that at least for now (and hopefully all this year) that is not the case. Barton Creek is back in form, flowing and fishing better than it has in a long time. In addition, because of all the rain, it’s now bordered and framed in trees and plants that seem to be glowing in Technicolor.
While you can undoubtedly wade many of its most productive stretches (between the Hill of Life and Sculpture Falls), the ideal way to find the fish and avoid the crowds is to float her. Having done so numerous times over the last few weeks i can tell you this:
1) You’ll catch a lot of fish, maybe not huge fish, but a lot of them.
2) You don’t need anything fancy, even $20 raft will do.
3) You will experience one of the most amazing experiences you will ever have in Austin.
Note: While the Creek can safely be floated and fished while running up to 250CFS, beyond that you really need to be armed with the proper gear, experience and advice. Get more information on floating Barton Creek at Southwest Paddler.
The Narrows: In all the years i’ve fished this spot near Spicewood Springs, where the Colorado meanders into Lake Travis, it was so narrow you could easily skip a rock across it, and at one point could wade across without even wetting your knees. Suffice to say, that is not the case anymore, the river is “gone” and the Narrows has returned to being an extension of Lake Travis again.
Of all my favorite spots, this is the one that has changed the most. The boulders that once indicated deep pools have been submerged along with the riffles and runs that i knew so well. Two of the most prolific gar fishing spots i’ve ever discovered are now indistinguishable from the rest of the water, buried under untold feet of rainwater. The gars are still there, i spotted many of them hitting the surface, but with so much room to maneuver they always seemed to be out of casting range, something that wasn’t a problem when the water was so low even a novice could cast from one bank to the other.
Adding to the frustration of being in the process of getting skunked was the fact that speed boats, and jet skis were constantly speeding up and down the waters directly over my shoulder sending wakes my way that had me feeling like i’d been dumped into a washing machine to be agitated. Still, i did have an ultralight buzz me which was a first, and actually pretty cool.
Note: This place can be amazing, but i definitely recommend taking deep sinking lines and hitting it up on a weekday, not a weekend (like i did).
Canyon Lake: While others have had incredible luck on this flooded lake working the submerged grasses, my luck has been anything but, at least as far as fishing goes. On the other hand, having an immense island to yourself (Canyon Park peninsula, now cut off from the mainland by the risen water level) and setting up camp at submerged picnic spots without a single soul around is a pretty good way to spend a fish-less day. Just the simple fact that you can stalk the shallow waters amidst oaks and submerged buildings and signs, feeling like some avant-garde fly fisherman wading and casting through the set of Waterworld is more than enough to return at least a time or two.
While i’ve enjoyed the aimlessness of the last few weeks, traveling from spot to spot on nothing more than a whim, i look forward to being rejoined with my family and hopefully soon being back in the store and having some parameters placed on my days off. Maybe it’s just my incredible love for my family and the need for the routine of work, but i do know this, it’s hard to appreciate being able to color outside of the lines if you’re looking at a blank page.
Congratulations to Joe Robinson on winning the free DVD, “Tributaries the Series”. Joe please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your address so we can get this to you ASAP. For everyone else you can get your own copy HERE. I highly recommend picking up a copy to while away the time while waiting for all those freak floods to dry up.
Update: I should have been using my reading glasses because the winner is Joe Robertson, my fault Joe!
Here’s your chance to win the great new DVD “The Tributaries Series” from the legendary RC Cone containing his works “Breathe”, “Tributaries” and “Yow: Icelandic for Yes!”. This is a great collection from R.C. Cone featuring great stories, intense action and above all us, incredible camera work. If you’ve ever attended a Fly Fishing Film Tour you’ve doubtlessly seen his work, but now you have the chance to own it for yourself.
For one entry, simply leave a comment to this post.
For a BONUS entry, visit our Facebook page and leave a comment with the contest post there as well.
Winner will be drawn from all entries by random number generator on Monday the 22nd at 9PM.
Big thanks to RC Cone and Tributaries Digital Cinema for providing the prize!
1) One entry per person via Facebook and / or one via the blog at www.diefische.org
2) One winner will be selected from all entries (Facebook and blog) by random number generator on Mon. the 22nd at 9PM.
3) Winner will receive one free copy of DVD free including shipping (within the continental US.)
4) Facebook is in no way affiliated with this contest and can’t be held liable in any way for anything relating to this promotion. (The Gods must be appeased.)
Holy hell has the last month been a sea of chaos for me and many other people here in Texas. Having lived in Austin for over a decade, i can’t recall a time when storms, rains, floods and general bedlam ripped into my day to day life so much.
The flood waters that were the apex of the discord have receded, but their impressions can be seen all along the numerous lakes, creeks and rivers that criss cross this mammoth state. As mentioned in a previous post, the floods destroyed the store i’ve managed for twelve years, greatly elevating the day to day randomness and forcing me to embrace the unexpected (something i find difficult, being the creature of habit that i am.) In addition, shortly after those epic floods, just days before leaving with my wife for a month in Germany, my son fractured his arm at a local pool which throwing another element of uncertainty into the carnival. If ever i needed the reliably calming atmosphere that fishing on my home waters provided, now was the time. Unfortunately Barton Creek was dealing with issues of its own, swelling as it was with muddy waters breaching its banks.
A few days ago however in desperate need of re-establishing some sort of connection, i ended up pulling up to the usual spot and was shocked to see a hundred or more cars where normally there were ten or so. Outdoor enthusiasts have always been a part of the traffic going in and out of Barton Creek, but over the last few years there has been an influx of folks that seem to feel that Barton Creek is a slightly more affordable extension of sixth street. While i absolutely have negative thoughts about what these people are doing to the Greenbelt, i try to keep them in check even while i tend to find myself lugging out their trash, all in hopes that one day the wonder of this space will inspire them to enjoy nature and respect it (and carry out their own trash.)
Anyway, knowing the creek better than my daily commute, i pulled up and quickly made my way to point “B”, a spot almost exactly halfway between the throngs at point “A” and the mobs at point “C”. Much to my surprise, even with hundreds of people descending on the creek like vultures on a freshly rotted corpse i was able to find spots devoid of folks except for the occasional topless sunbather sunning on a rock or spin caster working the banks.
Sporting a 2WT that hasn’t sen action in quite some time i made my way down lesser populated sections of the stream and was almost instantly rewarded with a pound and a half bass (above) that quickly ripped line from the 2WT with an unbelievable air of confidence. Over the next hour or so a dizzying array of sunfish were caught that ran the gamut from small and eager bluegill to the unbelievably strongly fighting green sunfish and redbreast pictured (above and below).
After an abnormally long siesta in my hammock at one of my favorite spots, suspended a foot above humming and hurried whitewater, i worked my way back upstream catching sunfish after sunfish as the evening sun slowly dropped from the sky in a manner that seemed to hint that it was as resistant as i was to having the miraculous day come to an end.
It was while working my way back upstream that i encountered this beauty below. In the past (with zero flow and shallow water) even bass of this size were difficult to catch at best. Working the banks though i site cast to this handsome specimen and was amazed to watch it strike from about a foot away and quickly inhale the popper that i had worked off the bank.
The next day (a Saturday) i headed back in hopes of a repeat but found the creek full of so many tubers and revelers that any chance of fish was quickly squashed, feeling defeated i decided to embrace it and spend the afternoon reading in a hammock. Constantly taking in the greenery and clear, flowing water out of the corner of my eye. The next day the storms rolled through again dumping another layer of moisture on us and once again returning the clear waters to turbid waters so brown they look like more like Nestle Quik than Perrier.
After years of drought, i’m absolutely not going to whine, but still it would be nice to get to a place where the sound of rain beating on the roof doesn’t keep me up at night, worried about losing everything i hold dear. In the meantime i’m obviously going to have to deal with the ebb and flow of water, fish, people and the ability to have Barton Creek help me with keeping things in balance.
I’m willing to wait though, if only because i love this creek, come hell or high water.
So happy to see something new from one of my favorites! Be sure to check out the Jazz and Fly-Fishing Vimeo site for tons of videos that are both artistic and fishy.
As anglers we all have those beloved waters that see us through our fishing on a day to day basis, but for some of us that are obsessed beyond reason with fly-fishing there is a particular list of waters that we keep in our back pocket for special situations. Waters full of deep pools for warm days and droughts, and others for heavier rains, and maybe even one framed by giant cypress for days where the sun is merciless and relentless. While i have all those conditions and their associated waters filed away somewhere in my DNA, the one question that i’ve never faced in my ten years of fishing central Texas recently enveloped me with it’s uncertainty, namely “Where do i go when everything i know is buried under strong currents, whitewater and exaggerated flows?”
This was the exact dilemma i was pondering when fortune helped me stumble across a Facebook post of guides from Reel Fly (based out of Sattler, Texas) of bass, carp and gar all caught wading in the newly flooded shores of Canyon Lake. Days after seeing these photos and feeling a renewed sense of hope i made a late afternoon dash down there with just a few hours of light left, questioning my decision but knowing that at this point just wetting a line would feel good.
Pulling up with an hour to go before sunset it was strange to see the lake 18′ over it’s normal high mark. The giant peninsula i’ve visited many times over the years (mostly when i had a small sailboat…ah sweet memories) is now separated from dry land by a road that is submerged under what is easily 10′ of fresh rain waters, making it now unreachable by car, and a giant island i can hardly wait to paddle out to.
Normally i might have been a little warry while wading along the submerged road due to the off color water and grass clinging at my ankles while water snakes circled the perimeter, but after the flood at work and all the (literal) shit that i’ve been dealing with for days inside my store these slightly murky waters seemed like gin clear pools of hopefulness.
I missed the set on the first small bass that fell for my fly and felt crushed that it might be the only fish i had a chance to photograph since the amount of water around me and the sinking sun seemed to stack all of the odds against me. Minutes later however i hooked into an easily 3lb. bass and immediately started taking up slack line on the spool while envisioning the shot of the heroic fish that was currently bending my rod to an uncomfortable degree.
Jump one: “Oh crap!”
Jump two: Fly tossed and me screaming “NOOOOOOOOOOO!”
Luckily i managed to land one fish in the short hour and take a photo, but i couldn’t stop thinking about the many, many fish that were just out of reach due to the mostly unseen barb wire fences running up and down the submerged road and the deep waters that kept me from following the road to the now isolated island.
Since that day all i can think (and dream) about is that next day of zero responsibilities, my paddle board, that island, my rod, and the fish that’s going to rip the line from my hand. Plus, now that i know what of do when the water is so high that the rivers and creeks are full beyond belief, you’ll know where to find me, grilling dogs on my private island while tossing deer hair divers to ravenous bass.
Details to follow as the experience unfolds…