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Texas is known for a lot of things, barbecue, cowboys, breakfast tacos and divisive political agendas being at the top of the list. What it is NOT known for is its amazing network of creeks, streams, and rivers that play host to a vast array of warm water species, everything from palm-sized sunfish to catfish, carp, and gar so big you’ll probably want to pack an extra set of underwear should you be lucky enough to hook one. Unfortunately, it is also an incredibly fickle fishery that is either boom or bust depending on the weather patterns, where they hit, and your willingness to research ahead of time and lay out the best course.

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been fortunate enough to fish with my good friend Nate and somehow time it so that we’ve had epic days on both Bull Creek and Barton Creek. Recent rains have flooded so much of the central Texas area that bigger waters have been out of the question and will likely be for weeks to come, but luckily the smaller creeks are able to bounce back despite the intense flooding they experienced just weeks ago.

Bull Creek was the first one we fished two weeks ago when flows were about 125 CFS (Currently 20 CFS) and all other surrounding waterways looked like chocolate milk. The day was cool and wet when we set foot on the trail around 11 AM but it felt good despite the overcast sky. After navigating the muddy trails soaked by recent rains we made it to the creek only to have the skies part and present us with one of the most beautiful and epic days either one of us has experienced.

It is no exaggeration to say that for a few hours there Nate and I were getting fish on every other cast using just a rubber spider (Nate) and a white wooly bugger (me). Pools that in years past were knee deep were found to be chest high and I can honestly say that the intensity of all the greenery and the rapid flow of water made me feel like I was sight fishing in some remote jungle a few thousand miles from Austin.

A week later we hit up my beloved Barton Creek and were shocked to find that the water levels were still around 250 CFS (currently 150 CFS) which turned out to make wade fishing Barton Creek extremely difficult, to put it mildly, with normally knee-high pools now neck high and mostly unwadable.

Fortunately, as far as the fishing Goes it was more if the same, eager sunfish and a few gullible basses. Before landing the huge sunfish in the title bar photo above, I found myself hooked into a four-inch sunfish that fought well until I slipped on the incredibly muddy bank. I ended up falling on my ass bone HARD in one foot of water where I sat trying to collect my thoughts on what just happened and the immense amount of pain I was suddenly feeling in my tailbone. It was then that I looked over to my right in time to see a massive explosion happen in 6 inches of water just three feet to my right. Apparently, the sunfish I had hooked became the immediate prey of an easily 5 lb. bass that suddenly was dragging my line 30 yards upstream in an epic battle. In all the commotion I somehow thought that I had managed to hook the huge bass, but as I brought it close to the net it basically gave me a sidewise glance, opened its mouth, released the now dead sunfish and swam off to the far side of the pool likely cursing me for robbing it of its supper.

If you’re only willing to scale it down a bit there are epic days to be had right now all within the Austin city limits, it’s just going to require a little change in perception and equipment to squeeze the maximum amount of joy out it. So grab your lightest rod, a good friend, some small flies and your favorite beverage and get out there and enjoy some of the best small water fishing that Austin can offer. Just be sure to go sooner than later, because if there is anything we can be sure of here in Texas it’s that our access to water flows such as these is entirely uncertain.

Photos of dF by Nathan Peck on Instagram @theurbanfly

Finally finding a little free time to dive back into the fly fishing culture. Starting with the Thrasher magazine of the fly fishing world because…well, because it’s the Thrasher magazine of the fly fishing world.

Can’t go wrong with Southern Culture on the Fly!

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!