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There is a definite sense of serenity that comes from tying natural and synthetic fibers around a hook with nothing but some thread and an ever expanding knowledge of hitches, wraps and finely honed skills.

However, since it’s hard to always have fly tying material at hand, i’ve found myself countless times sketching flies on to restaurant napkins in much the same way that i used to sketch endless amounts of waves during the years i lived in Oregon and surfing dominated my world view. Those sketches, much like these, were never anything that was meant as any sort of artistic expression, instead they were more an extension of the feeling that happened during those surfing excursions that i was then laying out on paper, napkin, or store receipt.

Recently i’ve taken to performing the same act with flies, still with pen and ink, but more frequently with iPad or iPhone and a stylus.

While it’s obviously a 2D world, once you start “wrapping” with your pen or stylus, it’s easy to add the third dimension in your mind and get into the fluid flow that truly feels as though you are “tying” with pen and paper. While it’s hard to explain in words the act of using ink as thread and paper as your fly, i hope that the following examples make it easier to understand and get you started on the path of endless doodling and refinement.


Example of tying in material (above):  Just like tying in craft fur for a good streamer, you can see at points 1 and 2 that material has been locked down and that at step 3 there are extra wraps to form a good head and push the fibers back. In addition the watercolor brush from the Paper app adds color to the fibers.

Working on Ideas (top image)Also as you can see in the title image (very top) it’s a good way to come up with variations on flies you might already tie. While the top image looks like a crazy mess of lines, it was actually how i quickly jotted down an idea and remembered to modify my gar flies by tying mini loops within the body to better snare the gar.


Example of using brushes for different materials (above): A simple app like Paper allows you only a handful of brushes, but it’s easy to use different ones to represent different materials. In this case the watercolor brush adds the body that chenille might. You can also see the chaotic thread wraps in this one as well as the rubber legs.


Example of more complicated brushes (above): Apps like SketchBook provide more brush options and can allow you to come up with some stuff that is much more realistic and detailed.

While it is obviously no replacement for the tactile and creative world of actual fly tying, “virtual fly tying” is a wonderful way to pass the hours sitting in airports, airplanes, waiting rooms, or boring business meetings. Whether its’s pen and paper or stylus and a tablet, i highly recommend trying it out, you just might be surprised what you come up with and how immersive it can be.

Plus, it’s way more rewarding than tapping your screen like a crack head.



“So I am NOT going to end up with my vehicle towed or the police here if I drive around the locked gate?” i asked for a second time, noting the exact words the gentleman located in a hidden LCRA bunker somewhere replied with.

“No sir, you are TOTALLY fine. Enjoy and have a good day.” the gentleman said in a calm stutter.

Shifting into gear and making my way around the gate and down the closed boat ramp, i made a mental note of the exchange and the gentleman’s name. Doubtless it would come in handy in case of any ensuing confrontation that would result from me doing something that felt so wrong, despite the approval i had just received.

After fish tailing through some loose dirt, and sliding to a stop on an incline of loose rocks i killed the engine and immediately had a grasshopper (below) land on my windshield, eyeballing me with such an intense and guilty “stare” that i started to wonder if i was really supposed to be there? Maybe i had called a wrong number? Maybe the person on the other end was just playing along and giving me the “official go ahead”, and maybe…just maybe, this grasshopper was in on the joke and a little disappointed that i had fallen for it.


An hour later, still wondering what, if anything, the grasshopper signified, i’d paddled a few pools further up the Narrows near Spicewood and was practically leaning against the wind on the sandy shore to keep from blowing over when my thoughts (now both fixated on the grasshopper and the wind) were interrupted by a semi-familiar shadow under the waves. Casting to the oblong darkness, i was promptly tied into a small but decent gar that i fought to work into the shore one hand on the rod while the other scrambled to unload the camera tripod from the paddle board, a task made more difficult by relentless bungees intent on holding on to their precious cargo. A dizzying minute or two later as i tried to reach over and push “record” on the camera while at the same time trying to strip line, two shocking things happened in a blink of an eye. First, i looked down to realize that the gar on my fly was an not my usual long nose gar, but an alligator gar, the first one i’d ever hooked. Second, that alligator gar sensed not only my shock in his appearance, but also the temporary slack in the line that it afforded him. One jump, one head toss, y no mas gar. (Apply hands to the sides of ones head, and fall to ones knees in the sand cursing in loud tongues.)


Bothered as i was by the loss of something new, an hour or so later, after letting the wind push me upstream against the current with ease, i approached the head of a pool with a small riffle between it and an immensely large pool that possessed enough water to be a large pond or a small lake. Perching on a limestone shelf, the physical barrier between the two, i watched as gar after gar rose to the surface in the large pool and the occasional transitory gar worked it’s way up or down the riffle between the two. It took an inordinate amount of patience to not cast to every gar, but strangely it was almost as magical just to watch them cruise around doing the “gar thing” that they do.


After a good twenty minutes of patiently observing, i tied my newly tied gar fly (above) on the 6WT and despite the HEAVY (think coastal) winds, managed to get it out to where the medium size gar were cavorting and holding court. Over the span of the next hour i managed to land three good sized gar that put a decent bend into the butt of the 6WT. As is true of most fish of this size (all around 3 feet) every one of them managed to unleash some sort of story.


Gar #1 managed to topple me by deciding to torpedo up onto my precarious rock, thrusting it’s toothy mouth uncomfortably close to my crotch. Gar #2 managed to put me into my backing and shortly after, #3 reminded me why it’s always a good idea to carry even the simplest of gloves when trying to catch and release 36 inches of solid muscle with hundreds of teeth on one end. Trying to free the rope fly, the gar’s razor sharp teeth swiped across my finger without me noticing and left something akin to a deep paper cut.


On my way back to the car, paddling strenuously against the headwinds doing their best to push me back upriver, it occurred to me that strangely, it’s easier for me now to catch three foot gar with needle sharp teeth than it is to land a decent size bass. I’m not sure if this says something about me, my fishing “style” or just the places i fish, but it seems beyond strange considering that after catching my first gar by “accident” many years ago it took me many years of trying to catch a second.

Maybe it’s just that if you’re choosing to fish in a strange enough spot that you’re calling to make sure you’re not going to end up towed or jailed, you’re inherently in a place where strange things will find their way to your fly. That’s likely half the reason i’m there, and undoubtedly the other half is because i (like many out there) have read numerous articles and stories on steelhead and trout and thought, “You know, i’ve NEVER seen an article on gar fishing in American Angler before.”

Sometimes the lack of information and the sense of newness is all it takes to steer us all down a different, rewarding path. Hopefully it’s a path where the wind blows against your back both ways, the fish can actually scare you back into (or out of) reality, and every now and then a little blood is drawn so you can prove to friends and family that the adventures you regale them with really DO happen.


If you’re ready to take the leap and start catching prehistoric gar, check out some of the following resources:

  • Townsend Miller article on one of the first passionate Texan gar fisherman.
  • Gar fly fishing advice and ideas on rope flies at
  • great video from Vermont PBS on fishing for gar.
  • Local gar fisherman Casey Smartt has some incredible ropeless flies on his blog that i hope to evolve to soon. Serious.


I own one of these shirts and both it and my Steersman shirt from Patagonia are tied as my favorite long sleeved shirts which puts the Pescador in good company.

Head on over to Howler Bros. Facebook page for a chance to win your own in the Pescador X5 giveaway. Hurry though, the drawing is tomorrow!


Well, if you are anywhere near Texas, you know that summer is here in full force. While random showers have been bringing some very minor relief (minor, but still much appreciated) the drought continues to linger as the heat has been rising, causing swarms of people to gravitate to what little water is left in an effort to make it through these early days of summer.

For someone that equates fly fishing with solitude, this has unfortunately meant that local spots such as Barton Creek, the Pedernales River, and Town Lake are starting to seem more like crowded Disney water parks and less like the bastions of stillness they normally are throughout the rest of the year.


The one spot in the heart of Austin that has remained relatively unchanged though is Red Bud island below Tom Miller dam, especially during “Happy Hour”.  While random paddlers make it up to the dam most hours of the day, during the hours of 4-7PM recently the lower gates have been opened and heavy flows pouring into town lake have been pushing the casual paddlers further down the lake / river. It’s precisely then that the bass rally upstream into the newly formed currents to start feeding on disoriented baitfish that have gotten sucked through the gates from the bottom of Lake Austin on the top end of the dam. In addition to the sudden whitewater caused by the flows, the topwater action can easily start exploding as huge bass chase the baitfish to the surface and deliver a smack down that will doubtlessly get your adrenaline pumping. If you have yet to experience the cacophony, i recommend checking it out.



If you paddle up there and the insanity of all the surface action isn’t enough to let you know you’re in the right place, glance around and check to see if the various herons and cranes around you are irritated by your presence. If they’re making audible noises that sound like the avian equivalent of a pit bull growling at you then you’re in the right spot.


Unfortunately, LCRA considers flow releases from their dams to be highly valuable information so they never release flows in advance. They do however post the previous days flows for all their dams, which while it may not be an exact prediction of what will happen,  it’s  still  a good indicator as to what you can likely expect. (Those flows can be found under “Highland Lake Flows” on our blog’s side bar under “Texas Resources”.


While you can work the water from the north bank, or wade out onto the island, your best bet is a canoe or kayak and an anchor to hold you in one of the various eddies. (Note: Floating in this water during high flows can be dangerous to to the fact that remnants of the old dam, are just below the surface. Anchoring in these flows are DOUBLY DANGEROUS and only recommended for experienced folks. Use common sense. and take a buddy if paddling.)


Since Austin is essentially a college town on steroids, there is no shortage of bars and brew pubs to while away the hours after classes or work while you enjoy discounted drinks and half price appetizers. For my money though (read: FREE)  the Red Bud Happy Hour is the way to go. If you’re feeling lavish, you can bring along some beer or wine (not in glass containers please) and more or less get the same effect as hanging out on sixth street without the outrageous bar tab and annoying crowds. Plus, you can hook into hefty bass (like the one above) and enjoy the free Corn Dogg art under the bridge, not even Coyote Ugly can promise such pure and pleasurable delight. VIVA CORN DOGG!