Category Archive: dF Feature
Luck and good fortune can be measured in many ways. For some it’s winning the lottery or inheriting crazy money. For others it’s finding fame via social media or possibly even landing on reality television.
For me i felt like the luckiest bastard alive when I recently was fortuitous enough to spend two separate vacations in Colorado this summer fishing my brains out for trout, and exploring many waters i’d never even heard of, much less fished.
One such water was the upper reaches of Taryall Creek within the Lost Creek Wilderness area in central Colorado. My angling parents, my son and i all spent a couple of days using my parents small and humble pop-up camper as a home base for some small water fishing that alternated between tiny browns and wildly impressive fighters.
Day one was filled with endless amounts of small browns taken 10 feet from our camper, in the Tarsal that flowed through the magical campgrounds.
Day two was an odd, yet wonderfully succulent event as we climbed over fence ladders that welcomed us to private waters upstream that entitled our group to miles of shoreline and fish without anyone else cramping our style. Most of the day was spent guiding my 12 year old son on some wild waters with not much to show other than a few occasional missed strikes. At some point, with his frustration rightfully growing, he decided i needed to fish and catch something just to lighten the mood for the both of us.
I realize that this sounds like complete bull shit, but within minutes i cast my 7’6″ 2WT rod nymph rig into a deeper hole and suddenly felt a (relative) leviathan doubling my rod over as it shot from bank to bank. As the fish cut back and forth across the whitewater all i could think of was the 6X tippet and the tiny percentage of a chance that i had of landing it on such a small and light rig. Luckily my son took command of the net and landed the fish tenderly and gracefully, and together we made it happen.
A few minutes later, still high on the success of our teamwork, i spotted a larger trout held tight in a feeding lane close to shore, in the shade of an evergreen and pointed it out to my son. With the intensity level rising to a fever pitch we snuck downstream and worked our way back up with me giving every tip i could summon in hopes of some sort of chance of things working out.
And like that it happened. One cast by my son, and one shocked dry fly inhaled, and one massive trout in the net with us tripping over ourselves trying to snap a photo to prove that the most absurd of the absurd had actually happened. While we trying to snap a photo it tossed the hook, did a belly flop and reacquainted itself with the water and was gone in a flash leaving both my son and i in shock at just how much had gone down in the last 30 seconds. We didn’t get the photo of the fish, but the smile on my sons face tells the whole story.
The next day began with my father and i wandering upstream from the campsite and exploring some of the trails along the creek that were either lightly trodden, or simply hidden to thwart off those that couldn’t commit to a true adventure.
While the private waters were absolutely magical and wonderful in many ways, we both hiked out of the upper stretch of public waters agreeing that we had literally stumbled on some of the most scenic and amazing fishing waters that we had ever seen. Pockets, riffles, and giant stones seemingly placed haphazardly by gods filled the waters bed and provided one with a myriad of options to work the countless seams that bounced from rock to rock.
The private fishing is great if you can swing it, but if not, just walk. The truth is always just around the bend.
If you have read any of the fly-fishing publications out there or peruse any of the numerous sites dedicated to our “industry”, you are likely at least peripherally aware that many of them have feverishly been predicting the “end of fly-fishing” for years now.
This concern makes sense if you view the fly-fishing world through the Trout/Tweed/Fishing Vest paradigm that has been the mainstay of our sport for decades. Through this lens, seeing far less fly fishers on your local trout waters, fewer subscriptions to your classic fly-fishing magazines, and significantly reduced numbers of high end rod sales, you will assuredly see the high art of angling as a relic slipping into the past. But what if we updated our old prescription and saw our sport in a more recent light?
Years ago when this blog started we made a special point to emphasize that for fly fishing to catch on with the youth (and thereby the future) it was going to have to under go some sort of cocoon like transformation and be reinvented by a younger group of folks in a way that suited them. To many folks thoughts like these sounded like the “End Days” as they envisioned the fly-fishing world being taken over by punks in baggy pants listening to death metal (or even rap!) while marauding through mile after mile after mile of precious trout waters (Mad Max style) hopped up on Red Bull and vodka!
The truth has been far less dramatic, but much more palatable and re-assuring.
Carp, gar, and various other species of previously labeled “trash fish” have become as prized (and much more readily available) than the ubiquitous trout. Where trout once ruled supreme as the pinnacle of the fly anglers mind, new possibilities have expanded exponentially to the point that even sunfish are grabbing column width in some of the more progressive fly fishing magazines.
Along with this new wealth of fly fishing possibilities has come a new proletariat class of anglers, easily spotted by their lack of $1,000 rods and head to toe Gore-Tex outfits and propensity to wet wade. It’s not that they wouldn’t love and appreciate those items (myself included) it’s just that most of us like to actually eat food now and then and enjoy a nice craft beer or decent box wine (my money savings method).
This “sport” is growing, there is no doubt. It may not readily pop up in readership numbers (unless you’re the Drake), high end rod sales, ad-revenue, or mega-bucks being spent on trips to the furthest ends of the world, but it is there. The youth have taken up the flag and are merrily marching with it to the front lines of fly fishing possibilities.
If you’re a (fellow) older angler, you might want to hit them up to get out on the water, their enthusiasm and energy for the sport will be an inspiring reminder of why you even got into this sport (hobby?) in the first place.
If you’re in the “industry” just know that they are here, they are enthusiastic and while they might currently live on Ramen and P.B.R. (haven’t we all?), they are the future of the sport.
Oh yeah, they prefer trucker hats over multi-pocketed fishing vests.
Wow. Apparently the collective prayers, wishes, and rain dances of millions of people over the last five years have all been answered at once.
If ever there was a state of extremes, Texas in the last five years or so is it. After years of dry and depressing drought we can’t seem to make it a few days without finding ourselves in the endless loop of “possible flash flood” alerts coming at us from every direction.
With all the local creeks and rivers flooding and fishing near impossible on any water, i decided to make the rounds and see what my favorite waters looked like under the most extreme conditions in recent memory.
The first stop was Pedernales State Park, by far my favorite water (next to Barton Creek) and a spot that i’ve seen in many incarnations over the years. However, as someone generally looking for the best “fishing option” i’ve never hit this watershed up during heavy flows, obviously opting for fishable waters rather than flooded ones. With nothing to lose however, i pulled into the parking lot, stepped out of my car and heard the raging hum that one might otherwise hear standing on the tarmac of a big city air port. The roar was mesmerizing, and i wasn’t even close.
Pedernales flows 10-100 CFS in the past.
Pedernales flows at 20,000 CFS on 06/02/16.
Coming around the bend in the trail, to the lookout i was floored…absolutely floored and shocked to see the falls i’ve known over the years turned into something that quite honestly was beyond comprehension. The normal 10-100CFS i had staggered through probably 100 times before had been completely drowned out and replaced by 20,000 CFS of water elbowing its way downstream pummeling everything in its path.
Planting myself on one of the few exposed rocks i just sat there and tried to comprehend the sheer power unfolding before me while simultaneously wondering how long it might be before this torrent would be fishable again.
In hopes of fish i drove to Mansfield dam, a favorite haunt, but one that likewise was completely shut off due to flows in the 40,000+CFS range flowing off the bottom of the dam. Because of the amazing flows and the fenced off closures i could only snap the photo below (behind a fence a long way from the flows), the angle of which shrinks these amazing flows completely. With three flood gates open, and each the size of a small house you can only imagine the chaos that was being manifested below the dam.
Eventually, full of desperation to simply wet a line i ended up driving around most of Lake Travis, finding park after park closed due to the fact that the lake was 5-6 feet above the norm with no sign of things changing any time soon. Eventually, after an hour of driving i managed to find one park (Sandy Creek Park) that was open but with a large part of it (including the boat ramps) off limits. It was here that casually stepping over a knee high guard rail to look for a casting spot (and expecting to find terra firma on the other side) i managed to surprisingly tumble into waters well over my head, ruining another iPhone. After trying to dry the phone i managed to regain my composure somewhat, decided that technology was fleeting and then went on to make my first cast of the day with my 5WT and felt it suddenly snap in half.
Don’t get me wrong, i truly appreciate the crazy flows, if nothing else it’s a nice change of pace. Still, i love fishing because it helps me find a calm center in myself that i normally struggle to locate. It’s a little hard to find that zen when fences, flooding waters and “CLOSED” signs keep you from the thing you love.
Fortunately there’s one other thing that fly fishing has taught me that if i can practice might actually see me through to calmer waters.
Be careful out there y’all,
Tying a handful of nymphs, in preparation for the next days adventure, i heard the phone beg for my attention and glanced over to see the following text message light up the screen,
A smile slowly ambled through the crosswalk of my jaw as i simultaneously realized three things:
- I wasn’t the only one watching the TPWD trout stocking schedule like a hawk.
- Of the few people that DID watch it, of course my good friend Oscar would be one.
- I wasn’t going to be fishing alone the next day.
Living in Texas there aren’t any true trout fishing waters to speak of, which is where the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) comes in, stocking trout in an effort to promote fishing Texas waters throughout the winter. The vast majority of these farm raised trout end up in city ponds and lakes putting them in front of expectant humans ready for a quick meal. Every year though, a few lucky (?) trout end up in some of the clear, cool flowing waters of the Hill Country that closely resemble their once native waters and provide both fish and angler a modicum of dignity while waltzing around each other in an endless dance.
The Llano river near Castell, TX is one of these spots, but also one of the oddest, lying as it does two hours or more from any metropolitan center and having a population of just over 100 people. As far as development goes, Castell offers little more than a general store that seems to fluctuate between “Your Regular Old General Store” and a “David Lynch Over the Top Mind Fuck” depending on who is behind the bar, who is in front of it, and what sort of liquids are being enjoyed on either side of the counter, regardless of the time of day.
Just down the hill from this culture shock the refreshingly clear and cool waters of the Llano river flow through a low water crossing that is one of three spots on this stretch of water that annually have somewhere around 2,ooo plus un-educated and gullible trout distributed amongst them. Anglers present in the first week or so (Oscar and i were there the day after the stocking) will find schools of trout moving together with the occasional teen-angst misfit veering off of the pack and finding it’s own niche in some isolated bend of the stream. Within the first few days it’s not uncommon at all to land 50 or so fish in a day as Oscar did using his tried and true 12′ nymphing rod and well rehearsed technique. I personally was feeling anxious to try out my virgin 6’2″ 2WT fiberglass rod, something that no sane person should ever use with a nymphing rig. Unfortunately i can be as stubborn as a mule and lost double digit trout before i figured out the hook set on such a light and nimble rod, and finally started landing trout but still lost two for every one landed.
Any normal day, and on any normal water, losing fish of these numbers would probably cause one to soak their Buff with tears of frustration. However, these are no normal waters, these are freshly stocked, innocent waters, and these are are where you can afford to try the ridiculous and still walk away with the high rush of success coursing through your veins like a warm shot of whiskey.
They trout may not be big, but they are relatively abundant and the waters are relatively untouched (especially if you take waders and head just 30 yards downstream). They’re not the most difficult fish to catch (except for when they are) and because of that you can try all the crazy shit that you’d never even think to waste time on along the Guadalupe. Forget your size 22 midges and 7X tippet, these fish are crazed and starving, looking for cheeseburgers and fries (presented with a good dead drift of course.)
I recommend checking it out at least once this season, just be sure to check in at the Castell General Store before parking in their riverside lot, and be prepared for ANYTHING to happen regardless of what the clock and your upbringing tells you is appropriate. I find that a shot of espresso downed with a shot of port prepares me for random acts of insanity like having trained squirrels running up and down my arms at 8AM, but of course you’ll have to figure out what works for you.
Best of luck.