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Category Archive:   dF Feature


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Act I:  

It started with the stag.

After writing my previous article, wherein i found myself relating with a baby deer being chased by a coyote (read it here) i set out for Barton Creek (my local haven) to try and re-discover my passion for fly fishing as well as a sense of self that has been missing for a while.

It was a glorious day punctuated with hiking, swimming, sunfish and bass. Late in the day, on one of the few uncrowded stretches, with the sun beginning to dip behind the limestone cliffs, i was switching flies when i heard what i thought was the splash of children or dogs coming downstream from around the bend. Looking up, and expecting some minor nuisance, whether two legged or four, i practically lost my breath as a giant stag, taller than me, charged energetically down the main channel of the creek, just a few feet away, sporting a rack that looked more like an elaborate chandelier than a set of horns. After passing by, it quickly stopped 20 yards downstream and glanced back at me as if noticing me for the first time, and then suddenly it bolted into the thicket.

It felt like the most dramatic, and staged signal life could throw at me. It couldn’t have been any more obvious, i needed to have the renewed confidence of that stag. No more being chased around by doubt and coyotes.

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Act II:

Hoisting the YOLO board onto the car i suddenly noticed that i was casually (and curiously) taking my time in my driveway. The plan was to hit the lower Colorado near Smithville, a place where i seem to be one of the only people that continually strikes out on this reportedly fertile water. Add to that the fact that i’ve had the worst luck on this stretch of water (four  broken rods, one broken reel, and a broken Hobie Mirage drive) and it’s not to surprising that every bone in my body was subconsciously trying to keep me at home, far from broken rod tips and getting skunked. But recalling the Lesson of the Buck, i set off, psyching myself up the entire way and trying to convince myself that this time would be different.

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In classic fashion, three quarters of the trip involved paddling against the current just to enjoy a disproportionate amount of time floating and casting into the shadows of the bank. I paddled earnestly until my arms turned to rubber and i couldn’t paddle anymore, and located a nice gravel beach that though devoid of shade, allowed me to rest.

On the paddle up i had caught nary a site of any fish other than the ubiquitous red horse, but upon launching downstream i immediately spotted drum, carp and bass working the waters around me. But with the current strong (being released at Tom Miller dam) I floated a spell before stumbling on some slack water where i immediately spotted a swarm of gar schooling around in the shadows.

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As many of you know i am a long time aficionado of the gar, but it had been months since i’d had the pleasure of dancing with this scaly beast. Much like fishing in general, i’d been starting to doubt my devotion, but all of that was about to change. With the first cast a gar powered past a few others and cocked its head to sink its teeth into the fly, jerking it back and forth and quickly applying tension on my line. As the gar raced with my line and went airborne over and over, the passion for fishing sparked and emanated throughout my body for the first time in weeks.

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That passion only grew as gar after gar was caught and released, with me eventually finding myself with the most foreign of thoughts, that “ten plus gar was enough” and moving onto something different. It turned out that a large white popper (seen in the title bar after hours of torture) would be the ticket to bass after bass. Any cast that involved that fly, and a little structure on the bank seemed to result in dishoveled water, a brief second of chaos, and a Guadalupe bass coming to hand full of vim and vigor.

Floating downstream and landing fish after fish surrounded by the sound of nothing but the breeze and the call of birds was unreal. It felt good to be back in a place with passion and purpose, a sphere where i felt competent, and comfortable. It also felt good to be alert and present in nature and in tune to all the glory it provided.

Mostly though, it felt good to be the stag splashing down the stream of passion with a ebullient smile on my face, and no coyotes in pursuit.

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It was an odd scene, on the Pedernales the other day, one that was accentuated by quickly moving bits of muscle, flesh and fur rapidly parting otherwise tranquil and stoic plants. Within seconds i caught sight of a young, spindly leg deer, being pursued with intense energy by a coyote, each of them coming within feet of me in the heat of the chase, apparently both of them more concerned about the possible future between the two of them than some dude waist deep in water waving a stick.

As the deer dove in the river and swam for the opposite shore, the coyote turning and retracing it’s own footsteps, i couldn’t help but feel not only astonishment at having witnessed this raw nature so closely, but also a feeling of intense empathy for the deer.

I’ve been that deer for the last few months, constantly alert and anxious, feeling that uneasy feeling that something that wanted to do me (and my psyche) in was right around the corner.

Maybe it’s the fact that the summer around here always seems to drag on far to long. Maybe it’s that i spent to much time on trout waters in Colorado and New Mexico this summer, knee deep in cool waters and cooler nights. Maybe it’s the house renovation that has turned my life upside down? Maybe it’s the years of drought followed by a seemingly endless onslaught of water.

Regardless, lately i’ve had this nagging feeling that all the focus and energy i’ve had in the past almost exclusively for the art of angling is now being spread thin amongst many other interests such as snorkeling, biking, hiking, photography and paddle boarding. It’s a little unsettling for a person like me, an addictive personality used to having a narrow focus for years at a time (music, skating, surfing, etc.), but i think at the ripe age of 45 i might actually be starting to grow into my own skin and realize that my identity (and obsessiveness) doesn’t have to be tied up in the same thing.

Fear not though, i know the passion is there. I have a feeling it’s just calmly treading water like so many freshwater fish around here, waiting until the soul sucking heat of summer and the flesh carnival it brings to the water passes and normalcy is restored.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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).

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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.

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