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Category Archive:   dF Feature


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Note: This post is not about fishing, at least not in the normal sense. Instead it’s a love note to two wonderful people, a rock, two very special cypress, a river and the fleeting signs of it’s inhabitants.

This Thanksgiving i was dumb founded to have my wife insist on an adventure instead of a Thanksgiving meal (which was especially odd since she’s an AMAZING cook that really enjoys it).  While the thought of her mouth watering dishes were mouth watering, the chance to get out with her and my son on a perfect day (70 degrees and sunny, slight breeze) was far to enticing, especially since i’d been sprawled out on the couch and sick for days (thus the lack of posts).

Packing up the car for all the necessary items for an evening of hiking and picnicking, we made a b-line for our favorite spot at Pedernales State Park to celebrate an evening of thanks. Hiking in to our special limestone island we made camp and laid out the Thanksgiving dinner: cornichons, artichoke dip, truffle cheese, hummus, sea salt crackers, pinot grigio infused sausage, blue cheese, and a mixture of veggies washed down with sips of Prosecco. As enjoyable as the food truly was, it was overshadowed by the all of  the reds, oranges and yellows that the tress and my wife were decorated in, announcing with great vibrancy that fall truly was here.

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With the sun setting, and the day drawing to a close, thoughts turned to the hike back as my wife leaned over and told me to “go fish”. Knowing that by the time i strung up the rod and dealt with the odds and ends as well as hiking to a good spot the day would be far gone, i instead asked if we could hike back and sit at the top of the stairs a little bit, where all of the falls and the pools would be readily viewable.

Striking a meditative pose on the brick semicircle, i watched the lower pool intensely, noticing every small bass taking bugs, gar catching their breath, and largemouth chasing baitfish to the surface before inhaling them in a breath of gluttony. I eyed the likely spots predicting what sort of fish would strike on various parts of the water and found myself strangely correct more often than not.

My wife, concerned that i felt like i was missing out softly asked me again if i wanted to go down and fish.

“I already have.” I responded, and we strapped on the packs and headed back to the car.

It was true, i felt like i’d experienced a wonderful day of fishing, without ever once even wetting a line.

It’s odd, but occasionally the best fishing is when you’re not even fishing.

Sometimes just spotting that small ripple, two hundred yards away, that nobody else noticed, it’s concentric rings expanding and fading in perfect formation is enough to make you smile.

Thank you to my wife and son for the absolute best Thanksgiving ever.

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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.