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Category Archive:   dF Feature


Recently I was lucky enough to hook up once again with my good friend Nathan for a reenactment of the float from Little Webberville to Big Webberville on the Colorado River that we had done just a couple of weeks ago. Things were much different on this float though, where our previous trip had been at a much more agreeable 500 CFS, this trip found us barely scratching 300 CFS, making this usually mammoth body of water feel like something more akin to a hill country stream. If one was so inclined, one could probably wade a good 80% of this stretch as it was all a good 3-6 feet below normal flows.

The day started off almost too good to be true with Nathan and i both quickly hooking into a few male Guadalupe that all managed to free themselves of their barbed albatross within a few feet of being netted. It was hard to tell where the lack of commitment laid, i assume it was them but it could have just as easily been us. Even though it took quite a few fights before one of us properly landed one it was quite the endorphin rush calling a fishy spot, casting into it and watching your rod tip bend in acknowledgment that you occasionally you do get things right.

photo by @theurbanfly on instagram

A short while later after rounding the bend we came to the first long pool, a bitch of a slog in even the most exemplary of conditions, just as the previously mellow winds whipped themselves up into a frenzy that one usually finds on the coast. We are talking straight upstream, northern bound, blow you backwards, cresting wind waves force winds. They certainly aren’t fun at normal flows and even less so when the river barley has a pulse to move you down stream.

Eventually we made it to a fork in the river where there’s the option to take a smaller channel and use the trees along the shoreline as a welcome respite from the relentless gale force winds. I’ve fished a lot of waters in Texas and this small side alley is one of my favorite, feeling more like a float through a tropical rainforest than a tail water just a stones throw from a major metropolitan area (Austin). Still, at least for me, it’s one of those places that invokes the feeling that if should be absolutely teeming with fish while simultaneously dashing those expectations repeated visits.

Eventually joining back up with the other channel we once again were back in the river proper as the wind died down, apparently losing much of its bluster. It was good timing too as we were approaching the first of two large cliffs on this dugout, carved out over the years by this temperamental river. They generally have deep waters at the base, with currents pushing everything in the water up against them meaning that if you want to find a fish, they’ll be there.

photo by @theurbanfly on instagram

Upon approaching the cliff i spotted a downed tree extending from the bank, surmised it to be holding a bass, cast next to it and watched as a healthy sized Guadalupe Bass darted from the shadows and pounced on my streamer before it had barely touched the water. It might not have been the biggest Guadalupe i’ve caught, but it provided an absolute thrill on te 4WT, pulling me in several directions before coming to hand. Releasing this beautiful specimen extra carefully I looked up to see Nathan (who just seconds ago had snapped the photo above of me and my catch) struggling with his own ordeal on the end of his line.

As his line ran circles around his paddleboard he kept yelling at me to “Get the net!” in a voice that might have as well been screaming “OH SHIT!”

I assumed it was a largemouth or Guadalupe and paddled at the appropriate speed towards him getting the net ready. Then the fish broke the surface and i caught site of the flank, resplendent in its alternating silver and black lines. Around that time I freaked out, knowing that white bass are usually found above lakes of which there are none down on this stretch of the Lower Colorado. Nate, not knowing what he had, saw me freak out, and then commenced to freak out as well sending us both into a spiral of joy and confusion that can only be described as transcendent. Eventually for him it meant a new species on the fly, and in the most unlikely of places.

It was a fitting way to end the day and quite honestly, a great way to wrap up life. Sometimes you choose the outcome and sometimes the outcome chooses you. If nothing else, life is an interesting ride.

Note: The day we we floated it (10/24) it was barely 300CFS. That night it stormed with a vengance and 24 hours later it spiked at 4,500CFS. Interesting indeed.

 

Although I’m old enough to know better than look backward, it seems like just the other day I was writing about the amazing flows that seemed to abound here in the Hill Country with our incredible spring / early summer rains. Unfortunately, it only took a couple of dry, face-melting months of heat to completely derail what was shaping up to be an epic fly fishing season.

After spending the last two months more or less holed up in the house going stir crazy from the 100+ heat I finally felt the need to visit my good friend Barton Creek even though I knew it approaching this old friend would be painful. I’d checked in on her occasionally on her during quick non-fishing visits and knew things were rapidly declining, but I had no idea just how bad it was until I descended the Hill of Life and witnessed the dam that was normally overflowing with hippies, frat boys and water, now dry, still, and devoid of any sign of life…party people included.

Wandering about 100 yards upstream over dry, barren rock and sand, I found what is normally an 8′ deep pool reduced to about a foot or two of water  with red horse, catfish, bass, sunfish all packed into tight quarters that brought to mind all the folks moving to Austin and settling for similar tight confines in one of the infinite amounts of condos that seem to spring up like mushrooms throughout the city.

It was a mixed blessing to be sure, the wondrous joy of sight casting in clear water barely knee-deep combined with the “Oh Shit” realization that if we don’t get some substantial rain in the next couple of weeks our fishery will have to start all over again as it did 8 years ago when Barton Creek (and many other waterways in TX) were nothing but dry, dirty exposed bones bleached by endless drought.

Those small pools, deep and unfishable as they are during normal flows, turned out fish after gullible fish that ran the gamut. Longear, bluegill, green sunfish, Guadalupe Bass and even my first Rio Grande of the year (that I can recall anyway) were all laced throughout the many shallow pools connected with only the most tenuous rivulet of water between them. It was a cornucopia of fish, miniature in magnitude but a kaleidoscope of color none the less.

Later in the day, after working my way downstream towards Sculpture Falls, it was a much different story as the fish all somehow seemed much to high brow and educated to fall for something so basic as a hook wrapped with feathers, thread and dumbbell eyes. I’ve fished these pools for over a decade and I can tell you that something about these pools and their tenants make them FAR more difficult to catch than many of the “most difficult trout fisheries” I’ve fished over just as many years.

So when I did the “one last cast before I leave” with the white micro popper, casting the line in the narrow window between the overhanging grape vines and the water’s surface, the popper landing softly against the far bank and barely settling in before disappearing in a flurry of whitewater exploding in all directions, sending a shockwave of adrenaline running down the line, to the rod, my hand, and eventually my brain, it all came together.

“Yes.”

Who knows, October is historically one of the rainiest months in Texas, it’s possible that two days from today we could all be talking about the damage that floods have done to these fisheries. Still, at this point we’re sitting on that precipitous needle between current definite drought and a possible (and historically likely) flood looming around the corner. All of which is to say, go now friend. You can’t control the past and you likely don’t know the future, so get out there while the getting’s good.

In a way Texas is no different than anywhere else when it comes to the first rule of seeking any sort of adventure, namely, if you desire to venture beyond the well trodden trail you’re going to have to forge your way off the beaten path. Unfortunately you have to try a hell of a lot harder in Texas than almost anywhere else in the United States since it ranks at #45 of states with the least percentage of public land (4% vs Colorado’s 43%). As a matter of fact Texas is probably one of the few states (in my experience anyway) that is not really about how far you can walk to escape the crowds, but more about little known public spots, tenuous personal connections and well memorized gate codes.

Texas also happens to be one of the more enlightened nearby states when it comes to flowing waters and issues of public property. Essentially if it’s a “navigable” river the river and the riverbed are considered public property as well as any islands located in them, a far cry from other local state policies where even setting your foot on a riverbed (no matter how shallow or deep) is considered trespassing. Take that Colorado.

So there’s the crux. It’s there, waiting for you in all it’s luxurious glory, ready to usher you though a scenic menu of mouth watering dishes and eye popping appetizers…BUT…you’ve got to figure out how to approach her.

Enter, stage right, the shuttle and the beer.

Both are common, almost none-descript items that are seldom given much more than a thought in this modern age. Yet when it becomes obvious that using ones vehicle to arrive at a given destination, only to float a few miles or more results in us ending up at a terminus far from our original point, simple, relatively over looked items like a vehicle and a cold six pack suddenly take on a new weight. They suddenly become the gateway to new unexplored (by us anyway) lands, to new runs, unseen rapids, herons and fish that lurk just outside of the publics attention.

In the last couple of weeks I’ve managed to access two long stretches of water that would have been incredibly difficult (if not logistically impossible) to explore thanks to the following:

  1. Figuring out via personal conversation and hours on the internet (Google Maps!) where to be.
  2. Knowing incredible people that want to make amazing things happen for you. Read: Selfless.
  3. Realizing that a gift of gratitude is worth far more than its price. Who doesn’t like gifts?

Anyway, I promised friends that helped get me on these waters that I wouldn’t reveal the locations, but in truth it really doesn’t matter where these fish were found. There are amazing, semi secluded spots you’ve never seen all over, whether they are here in Texas or on your local waters. Miraculously it doesn’t take a lot to discover these spots for oneself, and in all likelihood they’re probably just a friendly shuttle and a six-pack away.

It’s hard to get any three people to agree on doing anything anymore it seems, especially when two of them are not only husbands but fathers as well. If my direct personal experience is to be trusted(?), our lives are split and fragmented into so many thousands of tiny bits on a daily basis that finding more than a passing moment, much less an entire day, to focus one hundred percent on each other and a shared experience seems almost nostalgic in this day and age of dings, pings, and constant status updates.

Fortunately for me, I came of age well before even the cell phone was a thing (I was born in 1971). In fact a majority of my life was spent on road trips and adventures where being accessible in any way shape or form simply wasn’t a thing. In my more recent years  I’ve embraced the smartphone for the amazing things it can do (water flows, photo editing, chess) but definitely realize that the trade off is losing that freedom of simply being invisible and unconnected. Luckily there are still a few places where it’s still possible to lose a signal and you’re able to get in touch with nature and the friends that surround you.

 

Recently I pulled into one such signal free sanctuary, Pedernales State Park to meet up with friends Nate and Niall for what was supposed to be a leisurely waltz between pools below the falls. With the oppressive heat still lingering like an unwelcome guest we made our way from pool to pool with little luck. Eventually we made it to one of my favorite spots on the river, a sun drenched stretch hardly knee deep and consistently full of shifting sand bars, roving gar and cruising, distracted carp.

Three weight in hand I stalked the familiar “flats” keeping an eye out for a carp on the hunt. Surprisingly enough it only took a couple of minutes to find a cruiser, cast the fly immediately over its shoulder, strip once and suddenly feel the pull of the animal universe on the other end of the line. After a full summer of them being few and far between it was an immensely satisfying feeling to once again hold a carp close and take in its off brand beauty.

Laughing from the small but immense victory, Nate and I headed down river to hook up with Niall and evaluate our situation.  At this point it was either a quick walk back to our cars via a secret trail to escape the relentless heat and humidity or set out on a 200 yard trek though head high weeds and relentless thorns to show them one of the most magical fishing spots I’ve ever discovered, far back in the nooks and crannies of Pedernales SP.

Ever the troopers they both decided to forge ahead into the thicket, partly because of curiosity but also likely due to the fact that I purposely understated the difficulty in getting there. I’d made this trip before under similar circumstances and therefore was wearing pants, unfortunately my short wearing co-horts didn’t know what they’d signed up for but still braved some intense bush whacking none the less as we set off into the thicket.

Eventually we stumbled out of the brush and onto the stretch of river that I’ve christened “Eden” due to its immense beauty, fishy as hell waters, and capacity to somehow how make one feel isolated yet fully connected to the cosmos at the same time. I’ve had this feeling countless times fishing here alone and I was glad as hell that I was here with friends that deserved to get their own read on the place after putting in their time foraging ahead through the thick of things.

Eventually everyone seemed to find their own space, spreading out and casting at their own rhythm. While Nate and I both had moderate success, it was Niall that eventually tapped into the beat of the river and managed to land an incredible bass that was easily the fish of the day. Having given Nate and Niall space by moving far upstream I missed the epic battle, but honestly I prefer it that way. I’ve written my story on this stretch of water before, now it was their time to create their own narrative, I’ll just hand it down.

Thank you Nate, Niall, the Pedernales and all the aquatic life for the amazing day.