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Things are different, there is no other way to put it. Whether it’s you’re current assessment of your families dynamic, the value/reward you ascribe to the job you’ve been working at 40-60 hours a week, or simply swinging through the grocery store to pick up a Bota Box, latex gloves taut and mask even tighter, it is indeed, as Aldous Huxley put it, “A Brave New World”.

It had been two months since I’d hung out with anyone else other my wife and son, and the social awkwardness of trying to navigate these new waters was readily apparent the second I stepped out of my car to greet my good friend Nathan, both of us beginning to circle each other at a distance, looking more like two strangers sizing each other up than the good friends we are. Eventually, through non-verbal cues, we seemed to work our way through the awkwardness and found a personal distance that allowed communication before fording the crystal waters and heading deep into the Heart of the Barton Creek Greenbelt ostensibly in search of fish, but really just in an effort to find our sanity.

We had arrived around 10 AM, early enough that there were little to no people on the trail that lay ahead of us, always a small bonus, now a practical godsend. Quickly making our way down the main trail to the Hill of Life Dam, we quickly waded into the waters we know well and quickly ended up reeling in good-sized sunfish and Rio Grande that easily almost doubled over our 7’6′” 3 WT rods we’d decided to use for this resurgent exploration. Perfect.

Working my way down that first pool, I was casting a size 10 Wooly Bugger into the shadowy pockets where it didn’t take long for the chunky fish above to get overly curious. It was especially memorable because as I started stripping I could see the fish curiously work itself loose from the bank, and quickly speed up the chase before the slamming the fly like he hadn’t been out of the house in two months either. As I released the fish and saw it bolt back to its shady banked home I remember feeling a small sliver of anxiety leaving my body and thinking for the first time in a long time, this too shall pass.

After a few more or less fruitless hours of working our way downstream, we headed back up and visited a particular spot I used to frequent but hadn’t visited, for whatever reason, in many years. I offered up the shallower, shaded southern bank to Nathan, and immediately regretted it.  The punk went on to land fish after fish, cast after cast before hitting double digits, and offering it to me. I took the mound and cast over and over with a healthy dose of aplomb before having the fishing gods smack me in the face and send me packing, fishless, with a small well of jealousy starting to bubble just below the surface. It didn’t help my slight frustration that Nate couldn’t shut up about his bounty, but that’s why we like hanging out so much, I wouldn’t be able to stop my mouth had the tables been turned. I know that sounds idiotic, but trust me, it’s cathartic to have a friend with whom you can push and prod, driving them every which way before ultimately ending up back where the two of you started. It’s basically like seeing a therapist, except you get to swear, catch fish and drink together.

The trip back to the car was an adventure in and of itself, he using his waterproof Yeti backpack and me my Fishpond pack to float / swim our way through one of the larger and deeper pools. Ultimately we ended up in knee-high waters where we both started to clean up on palm-size sunfish like the one above. Eventually, the throngs of immortal twenty-somethings in the vicinity became too much and we made our way out of the madness quickly, both of us aware we were the only people in the crowd that were even remotely worried about things like a global pandemic.

Look, I’m not going to pretend like I don’t have a lot of thoughts on this whole mess, but I’m sure you have yours too. I’m guessing that ultimately though you want what I want as well, which is to responsibly just get back out there in nature, using the social distancing that fly-fisherman have used since time immemorial. I seriously can hardly remember a time where I was in six feet of my fellow angler, at a minimum it was 20 yards and at the most (while steelheading) it was a good half mile. It’s with a mixed heart that I hope that this whole experience convinces people to walk a little further, seek out a little more solitude, and hopefully find a space that helps calm the chattering monkeys in their minds.

As for me, I’ll keep that distance maintained. Whether it’s keeping the 20-yard fellow angler barrier going, or just making that mile plus trek to stay away from crowds, distance is the key and one of the things I love about this wonderful sport, fly-fishing.

 

I went to share this trailer for “The Motherload Diaries” by Håvard Stubø of Jazz and Flyfishing with all y’all and suddenly had it continue playing into the first episode! That’s right my friends, it’s here, episode one of Motherload Diaries!

As a long time fan of Håvard’s film work, I found myself once again sucked into his measured narrative and dream-like cinematography that brings to mind one of my other favorite cinematographers, Thomas Campbell, who brought surfers like myself such dreamy and eclectic films as Sprout and The Present.

I can not recommend this video enough. It’s pretty much the down to earth, low key, poetic version of the testosterone-filled, hard rock, snag-em and bag-em fly fishing videos you’re used to. Not to hate, but it’s nice to have an alternative to balance it out. Enjoy.

Reimers Ranch. May 7th.

New feature: For days of adventure that don’t quite end in a full-length story but deserve to be shared to help our fellow anglers we now present Field Notes.

05/07/20  The Narrows Recreation Area and Reimers Ranch: In an effort to try and pick up my white bass obsession where it left off more than six weeks ago I headed out to a couple of classic white bass spots that had been promising if not fruitful spots prior to this Cova mess we’re all dealing with.

First I stopped at the Narrows Recreation Area near Spicewood only to find what I last fished as a small creek (this was years ago) to be more of a giant body of water, an extension of Lake Travis, replete with various kinds of motorized boats heading to and fro. In the new(er) Transit Connect it was only a three-point turn to re-route and haul ass, but I couldn’t help but think the now retired Honda Element always made this turn in one.

Next up was Reimers Ranch, where I had been back in early March hiking along warm, sun illuminated sandbars and casting into the deep blue pools in hopes of being in the right place at the right time and hooking into a springtime obsession. In the interim between then and now we’d experienced some heavy rains that filled up Lake Travis’s gullet from 669 ft to 673 ft which seems so incredibly inconsequential that it blows my mind (even as I type this) that four feet on Lake Travis can turn a rivulet at Reimers into a lake.

At any other point in the entirety of my life, all 48 years, I would have been tragically disappointed to see my expectations fall short of the reality of the situation. Instead, I ditched the fly rod, grabbed binoculars, spotted a few new birds and chilled in a camp chair next to the new ride (in a vacant parking lot), sipped a glass of wine, read a couple of chapters of the new Gierach book and honestly just felt thankful to be out in nature, my home.

I hope and aspire to appreciate all those things I took for granted before this, like picking up fresh vegetables for dinner or swinging in a convenience store to pick up a bottle of awful, overpriced wine. But the one thing I will never, ever, take for granted again is the ability to just wander among the trees, birds, fish, and flows that provide the fuel that keeps me going.

The boat ramp at The Narrows Recreation Area, May 7th.

New feature: For days of adventure that don’t quite end in a full-length story but deserve to be shared to help our fellow anglers we now present Field Notes.

11/21/19  Pedernales River at Reimers Ranch:  I wasn’t really expecting much, after all, the cold snap days before had the temperatures maxing out with highs in the forties, but the word on the street was that the sand bars at Reimers were once again exposed and traversable, a far cry from earlier in the year when the water was chest high from bank to bank and un-wadable. The fact that the cold snap had likely locked the fish down was a rather moot point, the warm front bringing temperatures in the seventies in conjunction with the lower Lake Travis levels (671 feet) meant there would be endless sand bars and shallow pools to wet wade without fear of hypothermia lurking around the corner.

Fishing with a sinking leader and a weighted dumbbell fly I worked my through shallow pool after shallow pool without even the faintest tug to get my adrenaline pumping. Never the less it was euphoric to wade the shallow waters, crossing back and forth through the crystal clear, low flowing water, from sand bar to sand bar, desperately hoping against hope that anything on the other end of my line might add an extra dimension to the already amazing experience that was wading the shallow cool water and trekking through the endless sands a la “Lawerence of Arabia”.

In summation, I didn’t hook a single fish, but I was practically giddy trudging from pool to pool, taking in the wadable flows, the cool/warm temperatures and the extreme solitude that are so rare here in Texas. Sure, it’s not the prime time for this body of water, but I can think of a million worse ways to spend a day, so get out there with friends or family and soak it in, but take a rod just in case.