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Category Archive:   dF Feature


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Chapter One:  I Am a Snowflake

With my float coming to an end, Shady Grove and the Oktoberfisch event it was hosting were just a few paddles to my left, i remembered the small creek nearby that i had noticed from shore earlier in the day.  Strangely enough, i hadn’t seen anyone paddle up it, likely because they were all after Guadalupe bass, and it was pretty obvious that this backwater creek with its swampy, trailer trash feel was a little to low brow for the Guadalupe, but perfect for one of my passions, gar.

Paddling up the small tributary i was starting to feel like a unique adventurous soul, scouting odd waters for even odder fish.  It was becoming pretty obvious to me that i was a special, unique snowflake until i rounded the corner and saw a familiar figure on a Diablo.

“Gabe?”  i asked with disbelief.

“What’s up man?  I’m looking for gar!”  Gabe replied as my ego, and it’s corresponding snowflake melted in the Texas sun.

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Chapter Two:  Behold, the Public Access

It had been years since i’d been out to the magical spring fed waters of the South Llano.  Back then it seemed the same as most other rivers in the Hill Country, amazing water and fishing, but questionable and sometimes outright scary access, usually with super friendly hand painted signs with uplifting messages like “We shoot first and ask questions later!

The reason (other than the fishing) i was back was the Fredericksburg Fly Fisher Club’s annual Oktoberfisch festival.  In addition to the usual vendor booths, stellar classes, films, etc. they were running shuttles as part of the event.  Locating a driver and loading my boat, i hopped in the trucks cab and prepared myself to brave some sort of scene where i might be trying to slip my boat into the water as dueling banjos played in the background.

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Being accustomed (after 11 years) to the Texas mentality when it comes to water access, i could never have dreamed up what i saw instead.  To the casual observer, it was a bridge with some exotic features, but in reality it was so much more.  This was a temple to Poseidon, a concrete homage to Tiberius.  This was a structure for any in central Texas that feel that the water is the most enjoyable respite from the brutality of the heat, and the suffocating oppression of the day-to-day.  This my friends was a bridge built with the explicit purpose of providing the public with not only access to the river via the steps and boat ramp, but also the ability to float through it easily if coming from the upstream direction, intent on downstream missions and fish.  In short, this is the fly fishers Xanadu, i highly recommend it friends.

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Chapter Three:  Six Degrees of Pat Cohen

After being shocked to the core by running into Gabriel Langley (of the blog TheFlyRiverTurtle) on the creek, we hung out for most of the evenings Oktoberfisch festivities, all the while running into various friends that were awesome to catch up with.  After food and wine (for me) we agreed to float the upper stretches the next day and try to make our way to the source of the South Llano, hundreds of interconnected springs and buffeted by a wide and inspiring staircase of falls.

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Hooking up that next day, we discussed the plan and headed out for what i imagined to be the an endless tug of bass on my line.  Surprisingly, all i could manage were average size sunfish after average size sunfish.  Eventually i did manage to land a smallish bass (above) in a backwater area, but clearly the fishing wasn’t going to be the highlight of the day, no matter how well-intentioned it was.

While the scenery was drop dead gorgeous, with long pools joined by fast flowing tiny water containing herons and egrets, as well as limestone cliffs standing at attention along the river, laced with buzzards and hawks, it was the camaraderie that really made the day complete.  As any usual reader knows, i’m a fairly anxious personality that loves being around mellow folks, and Gabe was that in spades.  Even though we never made it to the falls we were looking for, we had a great time on the water, alternating between tons of private space and close-knit paddling conversation.

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Taking out our boats, after hours of paddling and chatting about our mutual appreciation for all gar, Gabe blew my mind by showing a bunch of flies that he had gotten from the infamous up and coming fly tier Pat Cohen.  If you’ve never come across one of the many articles on this phenomenal talent, let me set the scene.  Shaved head.  Big burly beard.  Massive spacers in ear.  By all appearances he should be in a punk rock band, but luckily the lack of conformity he emits is not only personal, it’s also evident in his insane and individualistic fly tying skills (check out www.rusuperfly.com).

Looking through Gabe’s box of Pat’s flies was like stumbling through the Louvere in waders.  There was so much beauty and brilliance it was almost overwhelming.  High on this fly tying art, i was blown away when Gabe gave me a gar fly, tied by Pat.  I’m not sure if it will ever be used since it’s a freakin PROTOTYPE GAR FLY FROM PAT VIA GABE, but until i decide, it will live on my straw fedora fishing hat where it receives praises daily from folk that don’t even know what it’s beauty is capable of.

All in all the entire weekend was unreal, an absolutely mind blowing experience, and one i had just for paddling up a creek i thought nobody else had, looking for a fish i thought nobody else wanted.

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If you want to go:

Closest town:  Junction, Texas which got its name from the fact that it sits at the junction of the South Llano and the North Llano rivers.

Fly shop: the closest is The County Flyfisher Shop in Fredericksburg, Texas which is a unique shop experience in and of itself (in a good way.)

Campgrounds: Morgan Shady Park sits on the bank of the river in Junction and provides both tent and RV camping.  South Llano River State Park is a few miles up river and provides tent and RV camping as well but with the addition of endless amounts of hiking trails to explore.

Other visitor information: Texas Parks and Wildlife in partnership with the town of Junction have done an amazing job of supplying not just access to an amazing river, but clean, safe and stress free access.  Check out TPWD’s paddling trail site for more information on paddling this river as well as many others in Texas.  

I also highly recommend picking up a copy of Texas River Bum’s “South Llano River Pocket Guide” that is an indispensable guide to this majestic river.

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Every one of us has that special body of water nearby that we covet as though it were an original and obscure limited edition pressing on virgin vinyl by our favorite band.  For me and many of my fellow local anglers it’s Barton Creek here in Austin, TX.

With cooler temperatures and school back in session (a big deal when you are located in the same town as the University of Texas), the party crowds are thinning out and the local waters are quickly falling back into the hands of the curious and adventurous. Surely this isn’t limited to Texas, i imagine it’s a time of the year that many anglers look forward to, an actual chance for undisturbed waters and fish after months of trying to avoid the cooler toting crowds.

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In an effort to avoid the throngs of beer swilling revelers and their migraine inducing drum circles, i stayed away from one of my favorite spots for most of the summer.  Just the other day though i shuffled on down the Hill of Life (below), cautiously keeping both ears alert for any sound of off beat djembes echoing though the valley.  Fortunately all i heard was the beautiful white noise of water tumbling over rock and onto (and into) itself,  a sonic affirmation that the creek was alive and flowing.

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The fishing was good, with a few healthy and zealous bass putting a hardy bend in my 2WT.  Not  neccesarily the kind of fishing day that might expand from humble and fun to epic and legendary in my mind as that day fades into the past.  Really though it doesn’t matter, the fish were just playing a secondary role, the main draw of the day being the ambiance provided by a wealth of cool air, cool water, lush greenery and the complete absence of humanity and its debris.

Solitude, water, white noise and fish minutes from home.  It surely can feel like nirvana, but really it’s just fall on your favorite small water.  Time to rig the lightweight rod and reacquaint yourself with yours.

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rocks-and-gravity-main Found cairn.

When the fishing goes sour there are only a handful of activities that can placate an angler.  For yours truly when fishing alone it’s usually been a hammock, wine and a good book (usually a Gierach).   On days spent with the family around water i’ve found that much to my chagrin my nature has been to dam and alter water flows, especially when my ten year old son is in the vicinity.  Every time i’ve started to build the rock strewn diversions i’ve had the immediate guilt of altering natures flow causing me to feel painfully similar to a developer bent on damming a river with visions of “progress”, entitlement and dollars swamping reason and right.

IMG_0479Two of these hundreds are mine (the cairns that is).

After coming across the “Valley of the Cairns” (see previous post and above photo) a few weeks back i’ve found myself plagued by an incessant drive to go vertical instead of horizontal.  The desire to balance rocks has always been a random indulgence for me, most likely due to the fact that i grew up obsessed (as many kids have) with Legos and the desire to build the biggest most magnificent creations i could with my limited collection of blocks, but lately it’s become the sort of activity i look forward to in much the same way i do fishing, or hammocking (yes, that’s a thing, REI even has a site on how to do hammocking responsibly.)

IMG_0480Found cairn.

While i’m still definitely a newbie, i’ve been working on my chops and hope to head back soon to the area where the “Valley of the Cairns” stood before flooding laid waste to the temporary installation and throw up some balancing acts that might inspire others to drop what they’re doing, grab a rock, and turn their complete attention to the delicate act of working so intimately with mass and gravity.  Strangely enough, there seemed to be perceptible styles in something so basic, and it appears that mine is loosely based on trajectory, exaggerated balance and asymmetry (see below.)

IMG_0558Mine, on Bull Creek.

While i absolutely find fly fishing to be the perfect zen activity for me that is both calming and relaxing (or sometimes just a chance to drown out the chattering monkeys in my head) it’s nice to have another option when the heat is to much, the fish are turned off or you just need to not focus on something other than fish for a minute or two.  In times like that, i recommend bending over, grabbing a stone that holds promise, and working your way up, one rock at a time.

IMG_0348Found cairn.

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Two days off in a row.  It’s something many people take for granted, but in the retail / management world it almost never happens. After recent store floods absconded with my day off, it was an absolute pleasure to recapture that day, pack the Element and head to the Hill Country. The recent rains that had soaked much of Austin as well as my store fortunately meant that flows were once again back at Pedernales State Park, my favorite fishing spot in Texas and one that you should absolutely check out if you’ve never been there.

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Arriving at the campgrounds to find my favorite spot taken, i quickly opted for one spot over in hopes that it had sufficient trees for me to try braving the elements and imaginary danger by sleeping in my ENO hammock.  I’m sure this seems absolutely rediculous, but for whatever reason, the lightest and thinnest of tents is like some sort of safety blanket to me, protecting me from not only scorpions, snakes, and other creepy crawlies, but also lions, tigers, bears, and all sorts of other things that bump in the night, where the exposure of a hammock causes me to feel like i’m going to be hauled off in the middle of the night by bandits riding on the backs of grizzlies.

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After quickly setting up camp, i headed down to the base of the falls and started flogging the water like a madman.  Working my way down from the big pool at the base of the falls through some fast water and down into some of the more secluded pools i was bummed to continuously feel nothing on the other end of my line.  It was shocking to say the least that all this gorgeous water was flowing with nothing playing in the flows, but memories of the last few years reminded me that these waters and flows have been more or less non-existent for the last few years and now there are is a ton of water but few survivors to enjoy the opulence temporarily provided.

Making my way back up to the narrow chute of whitewater at the very base of the falls, i was flabergasted to catch four bass, in a quick 30 minutes, each getting progressively larger in size, like some Russian nesting doll operating in reverse.

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Reeling in the first and smaller of the bass (above), he quickly became a streamer fly for a much larger bass easily four times his size that was trying to inhale him with  aplomb and vigor.  It all happened so quick that the larger bass actually had my smaller catch halfway in it’s mouth before i jerked the little guy out of the maws of death just as he surely thought himself to be bass jerky.

On the very next cast, i managed to land the fish in the title image that seemed like a powerful adversary as he used his moderate but impressive girth (this is after all the Pedernales, no the Colorado river, so sizes are all relative) to bend the 5WT a decent amount and get me fairly excited.

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However, as mentioned above, the fish seemed to strangely expand in size with every tug, and it was the fourth fish that thoroughly rocked my world.  With the Clouser dropping like lead, and the line suddenly going taught in the whitewater, i figured that i had hung up on some of the debris that surely washed down during the recent flood.  As the bass bolted into a side pool with obvious intents on cutting the tippet on an obviously sharp rock submerged just a few feet below the surface i struggled to try and apply the brakes, digging the butt-less end of my 5WT into my hip and quickly feeling two thoughts at the same time; 1) I need a 5WT with a fighting butt. 2) These flows and this fish in particular were rapidly making me feel under gunned.

Snapping a photo of the bucket mouth, releasing him, and watching his wake part the water above him, i felt eternally grateful for the exciting moment that we both shared.  It was a feeling that continued for the next couple of fish less hours before sunset and through out the less than remarkable day that the following day would bring.  Oh well, it’s for moments like that bass tearing my line off the reel that we all fish for, and at least i got to have one.  It’s also a painful / pleasant reminder of how wonderful and productive our local waters can be if we’d could just get out of this drought…

Oh yeah, i’m finally over my tent / hammock fear, so i’ve got that going for me.

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