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Category Archive:   dF Feature


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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 Falls DryPedernales flows 10-100 CFS in the past.

IMG_0979Pedernales 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.

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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.

Awwww hell.

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.

Patience.

Be careful out there y’all,

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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,

“Llllaaannnoooo?”

A smile slowly ambled through the crosswalk of my jaw as i simultaneously realized three things:

  1. I wasn’t the only one watching the TPWD trout stocking schedule like a hawk.
  2. Of the few people that DID watch it, of course my good friend Oscar would be one.
  3. 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.

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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.

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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.)

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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.

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IMG_0796Photo – Brittan Hussing

Fishing is like a great deal of life, when you’re landing fish it’s great and grand, but when the bites are not forthcoming.  It can take a Herculean effort just to make it through the day. Since the beginning of this year, i’ve been plagued by all kinds of frustrations, ranging from prolonged illness to multiple fish-less days on the water. Much of it i’m sure can be chalked up to the exhausting battle going on inside my head and heart as i prepare to write a new chapter for myself.  After eleven years at my current job (which i do love) i’m trying to find something new that can bring my work and my passions into some sort of accord, all without making my family suffer just because i’m driven enough to chase a dream.

Being so wrapped up in the endless loop of worrying about the future, (my last day is in August, so i’ve got a while to figure it out) i was elated to have my good friend Brittan insist that we meet up and fish for some trout on the Guadalupe. If you’re ever so wrapped up in your thoughts that you find it hard to maneuver, it’s a good idea to set a fishing date with friends, nothing motivates like the fear of letting a fellow angler down.

After grabbing the ubiquitous breakfast tacos (for immediate consumption) and kolaches for the packs, we parked and hiked down to what i surely feel is one of the most scenic parts of the Guadalupe trout waters. While working a large pool there with a slow-moving strike indicator, i watched in disbelief as the bobber ticked, ticked, ticked along the surface before plummeting with gusto, the bobber looking as surprised as i was to find we had hooked into a handsome trout. Landing the trout and smiling like a wanted criminal for Brittan’s shot, all i could think was “Well hell, it’s about time.”

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Later in the day, after much walking, exploring and a countless amount of unfruitful casts, it was Brittan’s time to shine. With family obligations looming, he announced that this was absolutely his last drift through a pool, where he had just spotted the outline of a good sized trout. Casting to the top of the pool, the indicator plopped on the water’s surface as i stepped in close and randomly interjected…

“How cool would that be if on your last cast you caught that…”

Before i could finish the sentence the words stopped and we both gawked in amazement as the fish turned its head and inhaled his fly. Grabbing my net, i lurched forward and ensnared the improbable catch,  while simultaneously noting that the world i’d been living in for the last month or so was quickly balancing itself out.

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Smiling and happy, we said our good byes, and Brittan made his way back upriver with a certain lightness in his stride that indicated the fish had done its job. Curious as hell, i made my way slightly upstream to quiz an angler that we had seen pull five or so trout out of a nice pool in rapid succession. To my surprise (kind of) it was Jimbo, a gregarious gentleman that oversees the trout stocking program on this river; he very obviously knew exactly what he was doing. Jimbo was kind enough to offer not only his fishing spot, but tips and tricks, and ultimately his rod in an effort to try to get me on some trout. It was probably only thirty minutes or so, but Jimbo crammed a days worth of guide knowledge into one half hour’s endless stream of advice that didn’t manage to work while he was watching, but did pay off immediately after he left, with five fish coming to the net in quick succession.

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The high i felt was incredible, it truly felt like i was back in form after weeks of almost fishing depression. The joy was so great that even three of the worst, most thoughtless young anglers didn’t ruin it completely when they gathered around me and started fishing this tiny pocket that was no where big enough for even two friends to fish together.  My first reaction was rage, and the impulse to impolitely ask them just what the hell they thought they were doing. But sitting on the bank for a minute, untangling a wind knot, i not only felt sorry for them, hacking at the air with their rods and sending any observant fish fleeing for cover, but i suddenly felt the same feeling wash over me that i had felt back in December at my job. It’s that moment when you know you’ve accomplished some inner desire, or some indescribable goal.

First you feel an almost tangible calmness emanate from your chest. Then the audible stillness takes over, the mindless chatter of problems and worries out of your control overtaken by the massive sound of nothingness. You smile, you step back and you wish those around you the best of luck, you snip off your fly, tuck it in your box, reel in the line, and set off for the next adventure.

Thank you to everyone that has ever given me a compliment or helped in any way with keeping me on this path (both the blog and life, they truly are one and the same). I love doing this blog for all of us. I’m nervous as hell about what the future holds, but i promise that whatever it is will only help make this blog (and by extension, me) better.  -Danke 

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random-pandemonium-main

“What would you prefer, quantity over quality, or quality over quantity?”

It’s an age-old question that can be applied to any aspect of life: cigars, fine wine, football championships or maybe even Seinfeld episodes, the question is only skewed by ones innate interest. For most fishers the question usually has fish lodged firmly at the center of the question (though i expect for some anglers cigars, bourbon and ex-wives are close behind.)

While recently in the throes of holiday/retail/management i was fortunate to have two good friends pry me loose from the tedious daily loop and drag me out for what would turn out to be two completely diametric fishing experiences that posed this question to me with all the subtlety of a maddened hurricane, which is to say, not much.

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PART ONE

The “sure bet” excursion turned out to be exactly what i expected, a plethora of fish with little to no fly changes. Egan had been fishing the Llano in Castell for hours already, with my exhausted bones pulling in around 10AM. As astute readers / anglers know, Castell is one of the yearly spots for the Texas Parks and Wildlife trout stocking program and probably the most scenic trout fishing in Texas other than small stretches of the Guadalupe.

After making a few inquiries we were reassured that they did stock the day before but apparently there had been a major blunder with the stocking. The idea was to drop a 1,200 of the 2,400 trout on both sides of the first crossing, and then head down to the next two crossings to drop off an additional 600 at each river crossing. Details were vague, but what i do know is that for whatever reason (inexperience, delivery method, etc.) all 2,400 trout ended up on the down water side of FM2768. By the time i showed up it was obvious that catching these 9-12 inch fish was going to be like shooting fish in a barrel, or so it seemed by watching Egan (hereafter known as Sensei Midge).

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I had strike after strike, after strike but couldn’t set the hook on any of the 30 or more chances i’d been given. Half in seriousness, half in jest (a great way to approach most things in life) i said to Egan “Great, that black witch put a curse on me.” (The “witch” being a vegan co-worker that whole heartedly disapproves of hurting any creature and did in fact indicate the day before that a spell might be placed on me.)

“Yeah, that happened to me in Mexico” Egan instantly replied without a trace of sarcasm or shock at my loose conviction that magic was accountable for my frustrating performance.

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Without hesitation he assured me  that the curse was obviously on my rod and reel and not me. Offering his nymphing rig (a whole story in and of itself that i hope he’ll write) it took nary five minutes before a small farm raised trout was set firmly on the fly and quickly coming to hand. It was actually during that tussle that he looked over, my tackle in his hand, and he held up a small fly ringed in thread and flash, but absent of hook and barb. Not surrendering the idea that a curse had been actively applied, i stared at the hookless hook and wondered what it meant, or if it meant anything at all.

Note: That day a fellow local angler called and complained about the problems with the stocking. Within hours TPWD showed up and stocked the downstream crossings. 

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PART TWO

The flip-side adventure happened just a week before, with longtime fishing friend Brittan on Lake Bastrop. After a luck filled bass hunt a few weeks before, i was chomping at the bit to share the excitement with somebody else.

What should have been a Bass-a-Palooza of epic size quickly turned into a wind-blown escapade where we spent more time battling the virile winds and spotting “must return to locations” than we did fishing. Luckily Brittan’s temperament is similar to Egan’s, something akin to “Hey, you caught 20 fish or none, but as long as you’re on the water it’s all good.”. Since i’m also rapidly adopting this life outlook my hunch is that the fact that we are all married with kids, but still full of gonzo fishing energy that can only be used when responsibility is narrowly avoided has a lot to do with this philosophy.

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I never caught a fish that day (Brittan caught one bass) but the true highlight of the day was sitting on the inside of a cove, more or less protected from the wind, feet dangled overboard, with the sun beating down and conversation bouncing around from subject to subject but always ending up back on the question of where these fish were and how they could be caught.

We were obviously there at the wrong time of the year, so conversation tended to drift towards the hypothetical, with future bass and carps spots being discussed ad nauseam, something that didn’t seem to bother either one of us since we were chilling on boats, the sun peeking around the random cloud, feet draped into the cool waters.

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Having experienced the two extremes, copious, duplicate trout on one hand, and elusive largemouth bass on the other, i wished for more of a balance. On one hand catching freshly stocked fish felt like cheating nature, while alternately, experiencing barely a nibble in the remote wilds was the kind of stuff that could turn one off of fishing all together.

With thoughts like this racing around my cerebellum, i hopped in the car and decided to head by Bastrop State Park to observe the changes after the ravaging fires that consumed this area back in 2011.  There’s nothing i can type that will put what i felt into accurate words, but suffice to say, if you’re feeling bad about something as ultimately meaningless as an “off” day, visiting an area of true tragedy will very quickly help you put your problems into perspective. Hiking the trails trough what used to be pine tree canopies, i was aghast at the blackness, and the shadows of what was, surrounded by death, with tiny spots of pine saplings sprouting.

Basically, some days on the water are amazing, others not so much. As for me, i lean slightly to quality over quantity, but that’s assuredly only because i’ve been afforded that luxury after years of fishing, but ultimately i know it doesn’t really matter. The secret is to be content regardless of the hand your dealt on a given day, there will always be another chance. If you’re unsure of that thought, just head to Bastrop State Park and scour the trails looking for the irridescent green, pine saplings sprouting up here and there amidst a sea of black, they’re eager to try again, they know the secret.

IMG_0698Bastrop State Park