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Category Archive:   dF Feature


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.

In relation to the population of Texas, there are very few folks out there that are committed to not only fishing, but fishing in a manner that allows future generations (many times their own) to enjoy these waters decades down the road. Because of the blog I’ve been fortunate enough to have met many people over the years that align with my personal belief that limited resources mean that selfishness should take a back seat to personal satisfaction and greed, at least a majority of the time. In a nutshell, catch and release will enable you to bring others back to experience the same awesomeness you have.

One of the first people I ever met via the blog that cared as much about not just the fishing, but also the fisheries is Winston Cundiff. Back in the day he was the only person that showed up at Barton Creek, in the midst of the now legendary Texas drought, bucket in hand to help me transfer sunfish, bass, and catfish from ankle deep pools into the deeper pools below the falls after an alarmed call to arms on the blog.

In the interim years he’s gone on to become not only a passionate angler, but also an official member of All Water Guides which is one of the premium guide services in the Austin area.

Thanks to my new job (buying at Gruene Ouftfitters) and one of our key dealers, Patagonia I was fortunate enough to hook up with him on a recent float trip for Texas fly-fishing Patagonia dealers that once again found me hooking with him on his jet boat, zipping up and down the lower Colorado River in search of bass, and much to his chagrin, gar to satiate my desire for catching a prehistoric dinosaur on the fly.

The water was stained for sure, but the flows were just enough to enable us to barely make it up some incredibly shallow (mere inches deep) riffles. In all actuality the conditions made for what should have been a skunk of a day, but through perseverance and luck we managed to land a handful of bass that were of average size (2.5 lbs?) but still a pleasure to fight on the 6WT’s we were armed with.

Regardless of what we caught, it was a blast just to hang out with folks from Patagonia, Sportsmans Finest and Bayou City Angler that are all people just as passionate about fly fishing as we are at Gruene Outfitters. The Texas fly fishing community is gaining strength and will only continue to do so…be a part of and contact any of these fine local folks for information on how to grab a rod and get out there! We’re all in this together!

www.allwaterguides.com

www.grueneoutfitters.com

www.bayoucityangler.com

www.sportsmansfinest.com

A huge thank you to Patagonia for walking the walk and talking the talk and making this whole thing happen!

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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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