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Category Archive:   dF Feature


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On a previous trip to the Lower Colorado river while unloading i was approached by a groundskeeper that cruised up on his riding lawn mower, stopped, cocked his eyebrows almost painfully and asked if i didn’t get lonely fishing by myself. I remember making some vague comment about working retail and constantly being surrounded by folks, whether customers or employees.

As i mouthed the words though, i really started to wonder whether i really was enjoying fishing by myself any more, or if i this just one of the my few lingering convictions left over from years ago. A few hours later while experiencing a possible partial stroke down river, and then shortly there after chasing a lost and floating paddle 200 yards downstream on foot, i decided it was time to read the subtext in the groundskeeper / fortune tellers words, and invite a friend on the next excursion.

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Nate is a recent convert to fly fishing, and someone who pitches himself 110% into everything he does, whether it’s work (we manage a store together) or slightly addictive hobbies like fly fishing. Being new to the sport, Nate still has an enthusiasm and level of excitement for “Just being on the water!” that many seasoned fisherman i know seem to have lost.

Never was this more clear than on a recent trip to the Lower Colorado that started with us shuttling our boats with two cars from Big Weberville to Little Webberville, in order to float downstream for hours, take out, and instantly be reconnected with our transportation. It was a far cry from putting in solo, paddling for hours upstream, only to float downstream for an hour (against the wind…always) and find myself all to quickly meeting back up with the journeys departure point. Using two vehicles to alleviate the hours of paddling that would be better spent fishing felt live moving up one rung on the evolutionary ladder, we had evolved into shuttling monkeys, now more needless paddling

Sliding the boats in the water, all sun and smooth, flowing water, the day seemed like a blessing, a treat from the fates for branching out of my comfort zone and sharing it with another human. It all seemed so right, flowing waters, slightly overcast skies, and rock solid companionship.

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Then the winds came, and not the “Boy that’s annoying, my backcast can’t unfurl!” sort of winds. I am talking forty mile an hour, knock you over on a sandbar, and blow your craft away gales. As is my custom i raised a middle finger to the sky, and screamed epithets to the blustery void that would make make a trucker blush. Feeling comfortable that the universe was aware of my frustration, even if it didn’t give a rat’s ass about it, i looked over at Nate, and saw him grinning from ear to ear.

Immediately i felt foolish for my tirade and smiled myself, it was good to be out here, winds be damned.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAphoto by Nathan Peck

Paddling with a certain sort of lightness and levity we made our way downstream finding many fish, although they were all on the smaller side. There would be no “record fish” on this trip, but truly that all seemed secondary to the adventure at this point as we discovered riffle after riffle where our light rods were test again and again.

Later in the day with the obtrusive power lines looming malevolently in the distance down stream, i informed Nate that just beyond that was the take out point. Paddling headlong into the blustering winds he quickly made ground on me, so much so that when i turned the final corner he was a good 100 yards plus downstream as well as downwind.

As he past up the take out ramp, and almost set off on an unknowing set of class I rapids that would catapult him another 100 yards downstream i finally got his attention with screams and shouts that doubtlessly put the locals on edge.

When he paddled back up to our exit ramp i was now standing on, he looked at me with an air of frustration before pronouncing that  “This isn’t the ramp we put in on, why are you stopping here!”

Wait.

Nope.

Wait…still nope.

Quickly after reminding him how a shuttle system works and that this was the whole point of us bringing two cars, a huge grin spread across his face that was simultaneously embarrassed and cheerful.

Occasionally fish are the stories, but other times it’s just as likely to be the landscape, a chance encounter or possibly even misfortune. Sometimes it’s just as simple as enjoying the moment, a good laugh with a friend, and a smile.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAphoto by Nathan Peck

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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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