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The anticipation had been building for days. The shop had been receiving shipment after shipment of the flies that my co-workers and i had ordered, large poppers and meaty streamers that practically begged to be sacrificed on the Lower Colorado River’s banks. On top of that, the demo 6 WT rod from Douglas Outdoors arrived just before leaving work the day before. Fishing needed to happen.

It was like every star was aligning to make my day off spent on the Colorado River below Austin some sort of transcendent life experience. Then i saw the water, six inches of visibility, stained like a politicians past and rising quickly, bringing in fresh layers of trash and detritus that caused me to hang my head in disappointed sorrow.

Still, it was my day off, already noonish and an annoyingly long drive to any water that might provide the same possibility that the Lower Colorado had to offer. One way or another this was going to work.

Putting in at Big Webberville park i immediately headed downstream where i quickly found a few pools that were literally bubbling with gar action, imagine a pod of trout during the height if a hatch and you’ll totally have it. Despite the endless “CLACKS” (the sound that i imagine the long nose gar make when breathing at the surface) they were skittish as could be, disappearing into the murkiness immediately after drawing a fresh breath. After an inordinate amount of mis-hooks i finally brought one to the board, the first this year, and felt the same rush i felt years ago when i landed my first one.

Paddling back to the ramp at sunset i observed hundreds of Hexagenia limbata suddenly emanating from the water, with a few being choked down by bass that eluded anything i had to offer.

Pulling into the ramp i floated under a low hanging limb that at one moment seemed barren and the next was flush with hundreds of huge Mayfly’s that brushed against me like small bats high on Red Bull or cocaine (i assume there’s a difference?). I’ve always heard the expression “Inhaling mayflies due to the hatch.” but had never had experienced it until now as they flew up my nose and pants and down my shirt.

Classic Lower Colorado. Despite the horrible fishing conditions it was still a phenomenal day.

It wasn’t even midnight on my last day of work at Whole Earth Provision Co., the ink still wet on the day when the text from Winston came late in the evening,

“Want to fish tomorrow on the LCR?”

Winston is one of the most unique people i know, harnessing both a fiery intensity and endless curiosity to everything, seemingly all the time. Being a somewhat more laid back introvert its stimulating just to be in his presence where you can practically hear the hum radiating around him.

When he’s not saving lives as a paramedic north of Austin, he swaps the ambulance for a jet boat and buzzes clients up and down the Lower Colorado via All Water Guides here in Austin. Working along side some of the most knowledgeable guides on the water he’s got this water dialed.

Suffice to say, if you get a text from a friend like this on the first day of your month long vacation, asking if you want to sled up and down the Colorado, you’ll want to say “Yes.”

 

photo by Winston Cundiff

The only other time i’ve experienced a jet boat was once on the Deschutes while fishing for steelhead with my family, where we flew up some up amazing class three rapids, still one of the most thrilling things i’ve ever done. Here on the Colorado though i constantly found myself shaking my head (and bracing my feet) as we jetted up stretches of shallow waters that were barely two inches deep while traveling at warp speed. Adrenaline hit for sure.

Early in the day we ended up at a weir and cut the engine in order to start floating casually downstream while waiting for the other All Water Guides to show up with their Yeti ambassadors aboard. It didn’t take long to land a handsome white bass and just a few moments later a nice largemouth which immediately set our expectations much to high, as we’d find out later.

Hours of this perspective felt unreal.

To cut to the chase, the rest of the day was fruitless, with hundreds (?) of casts going unnoticed, or at the very least being ignored. Eventually we switched roles and i found myself on the sticks (oars for those not in the know) and constantly being coached on how to position the boat, work the current, and set the boat up moves ahead as though playing a chess game. In all honesty, being given the chance to row a boat that many in the scene refer to “The Most Bitching Boat in Austin” was an honor of far greater reward than any fat ass bass could provide.

Eventually the Yeti crew arrived with David Mangum and his crew in tow, but unfortunately, as mentioned, things had long since shut down. I wish the day had been more amazing, with 5 pound bass constantly being netted for our visiting ambasadors, but that wasn’t the case. Hopefully they each found something amazing about the experience to take home with them despite the difficult day. For me i just enjoyed catching up with a good friend, learning a new skill, and taking in the glory of the day.

Just one day into my time off and here i was lying across the bow of the boat, watching the ospreys circling high in the sky, soaking in the sun and humming a tune we all know…

Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream.

Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream…

David Mangum casting like a pro at my camera!

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Up until the end of this year, a lot of the things that i once took as givens were suddenly and strangely turned on their heads. Every thing from giant retail chains closing up shop to media / business tycoons being elected to office seemed to be a giant pie in the face to the reality that i’ve known. In the world i’ve known since being a cognizant toddler big businesses got bigger and politics was the exclusive sandbox reserved for career politicians, that’s just the way it was.

The biggest example of this new found reality though has been the winter here in central Texas, or more accurately the lack of it. Every season for the last decade at least, winter in these parts has meant being resigned to fishing trout stocked waters in waders and thermal outerwear as the sunfish, bass, etc., are more or less inclined to hibernate until March. But as noted previously, this “winter” has been anything but the norm.

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The first sign that things were “off” was when i realized that after fishing for trout on the Guadalupe twelve times, i only needed waders on two back to back days, other than that it’s been nothing but wet wading these cold waters on days that i honestly was overheating in a short sleeve guayabera. The second sign that strange things were afoot, was when i realized that i had caught almost as many sunfish as trout in the same waters on the same flies. (As a side note, in years past i might catch one or two sunfish for every 50 or so trout caught over a three month period.)

Curious to explore the limits of this excruciatingly warm winter (80˚ in winter?!) i hiked down to Barton Creek (my local warm water sanctuary) recently with a Tenkara rod in hand to test the limits of warm water fishing in January as well as trying out Tenkara fishing for the first time.

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Settling in on a favorite gravel bar i worked my way as far into the deep pocket as i could given the uncharacteristically high flows of 200+ CFS. The curiosity paid off though as i landed sunfish after sunfish out of several adjoining pockets, with every one of them insatiably inhaling small clouser minnows and putting a deep bend in the simple and nimble Tenkara rod.

Truth be told, i was pretty happy fishing that rod, on local waters for sunfish, but still in the back of mind i knew it wasn’t right, after all this was the sort of fishing that should be happening the other nine months of the year. I guess all of this could be the harbinger of the future, where things we know to be true no longer have any basis in reality. My hope though is that this all is some strange anomaly, some sort of massive mind fuck, and that things will soon sort themselves out and we can have at least a few things that we’re sure of. Personally all i really want is a clear definition between the two seasons we have here in central Texas, a cold winter of trout and months of brutal heat, sunfish, bass and more.

As for the rest? I care immensely, but you have to start somewhere…as for me i’ll start with the seasons.

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Running a blog takes an inordinate amount of time and energy, there is no doubt. So time-consuming in fact is it that fly fishing blogs, once as abundant as tricos, have quickly fallen like a spent hatch, victims of time, responsibility and sometimes simple exhaustion. After all, there’s not a lot of reasons to spend hours almost every night creating graphics, editing photos, and pouring over carefully chosen words other than the simple passion to create something (hopefully) new and unique.

Every once in a while though there is something that re-stokes the coals, causes a smile, and gives you the renewed energy to keep on going. Today that was a slightly thick, nondescript envelope all the way from France that was soaked in interesting, hand scrawled text. Inside was a stack of awesome stickers from the creative folks at www.rivière.com. I highly recommend checking out their site and if (like me) you don’t speak french, use Google translate to convert the site in to words you’ll understand (like this).

Obviously passion transcends cultures, borders and language, and for that i’m eternally grateful.

Merci amis! Très cool!