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Category Archive:   Texas Creeks


be-here-now

As a long time artist of sorts (music and visual design) i spend a lot of time obsessing every aspect of this blog, whether it’s a photo, text, video, story, etc. which accounts for the days between adventures and their posts.

There are times however when even i realize that time is of the essence and that this propensity to overthink things can get in the way of you reading about it and heading out to make your own story. Sometimes, time is of the essence.

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Case in point, Barton Creek right here in the town of Austin that i call home. If you live around here, fly fish and have never been to Barton Creek, YOU MUST GO NOW! I’ve been fishing this immaculate stretch of water for almost a decade now and i have NEVER seen it as beautiful and fishy as it is right now.

  • Personally i use a 7’6″ 3WT, but a 4 or 5 WT wouldn’t be inappropriate.
  • For sunfish and largemouth bass, use poppers in the slower pools against the banks.
  • For Guadalupe bass hit the faster waters, especially those with larger rocks breaking up the current, and get down deep. You likely won’t see them down there until they dart up for your fly, so try for them even if you don’t see them.
  • Floods have completely moved the fish around and changed the structure of the creek, so try places you haven’t before. As an example, i’ve been fishing between Twin Falls and Sculpture Falls (dry as a bone for years) and have been landing double digits on a regular basis.
  • Most of the fish will be on the smallish size, but there are some big bruisers out there in the three pound range, so don’t forget to bring a couple huge flies just in case.

Boom! There you go!

Now get out there and make your own story!

Please share your story in the comments!

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It happens every year around this time, the previously dormant Barton Creek slowly comes alive again. Multi hued sunfish are once again seen striking the surface for any available morsel and active bass looking to put on  a few calories can be seen lurking in the shadows ready to ambush any protein that unknowingly passes by.

Not coincidentally, this is the time of year that i find myself once again making my way up and down the many dirt paths and waterways of Barton Creek that i’ve come to know intimately over the years. There is something about spending so many hundreds (thousands?) of hours together that pulls me towards looking at this waterway more as a good friend with whom i’ve shared deep and intimate secrets, rather than a simple ditch pulling and pushing flows through it.

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Over the last week i’ve been fortunate enough to spend a lot of time around and in this liquid temple and have been lucky enough to see these vivid waters start to flex again for the first time in months.

Some of the things i’ve learned in the last few days are;

  1. Sunfish are starting to hit the surface, small poppers kill it.
  2. Bigger bass are digging deep sinking streamers, they aren’t hitting surface flies yet.
  3. With last years floods much of these fishes plant shelter are gone, making the banks much more likely holding spots than the middle of the creek.
  4. There are significantly less consolidated fish post floods of 2015 than there were the last five or so years.
  5. They are far more scattered (due to the floods) than they have been in the past few years. Reports of bass from Lost Creek all the way down to Barton Springs Pool have been continuously coming in.

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The ARE there, they’re just a little more difficult to find now that they have such a huge canvas of water to cover with their eclectic and iridescent mix of laser light colors.

A light rod, a variety of flies, and a curious nature will open up an entire world along these waters if you let it. Sure they’re tight quarters, but if you walk (wade) slowly, pay attention, and keep the commotion to a minimum, you might be lucky enough to have a quiet conversation with one of the many small members of the flock. Should your steps, movements and skills be sufficient you might even find yourself tied into one of the few “Pound Plus Priests” that seem to deliver their sermons in the deepest, stillest waters.

For me at least, Barton Creek is a special place to feel connected to things that are much larger than me, a mecca, temple, a shrine to all things watery and mysterious. The fact that these holy waters sit in the heart of this blossoming town is mind boggling. Luckily the waters are nondenominational, so feel free to visit them regardless of your beliefs, and bow to the fish as much as you can. They might just repay you with the best day of fishing you’ve ever had.

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I’m lucky as hell. My son is just as curious as i am, and after viewing a shelter building video i had introduced him to recently, he was dead set on having me teach him the knots and lashings i’d learned long ago in Boy Scouts in an effort for him to learn how to make his own hut.

I’m sure everyone has their own opinions about their Boy Scouts, but my own experience was a mixed bag. While i learned wonderful skills like knots, fire building and other helpful outdoor skills that i cherish to this day, i also was shown how to shotgun beer, smoke cigarettes, roll joints and cause havoc in a million different ways.

In an effort to pass on some of the more positive character building aspects i learned, i recently ordered off of Ebay a copy of the Boy Scout Handbook from my era 9the eighties) which has substantially more practical information than the current edition, which reads more like a self help book. The plan was to refresh my mind, as well as teach Paolo the amazing skills that one can learn with the right instructions and some well thought out images.

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So it was that a few days ago the two of us gave my wife some peace and quiet and headed off to Barton Creek, outfitted with survival gear (he) and rods, wine, and cheese (me). With hours to carefully waste, we had four goals for the day, hike, lash, snack and fish. Hiking down the Mopac trail to Twin Falls we were both ecstatic to see a creek pulsing with healthy, clear flows. Skirting the creeks bankside trail we made our way up towards Sculpture Falls in an effort to find a spacious and special gravel bank that we’ve visited a few times together over the years.

Once found, we quickly set up shop and spent the next thirty minutes procurring dead driftwood flushed down the creek by recent floods. Deciding on a simple structure that would provide lashing skills as well as a building block to grow on later, we settled on a four post table/chair/cot/etc.  that immediately intrigued him and took over all his focus. I provided a demonstration of the lashings and then removed it, coaching him through the first two corners before he got it and wrapped the project. The sense of pride he felt when he had a structure he could sit (and even stand on), built with nothing but cord and branches was immense. So proud was he with his creation (and rightfully so) all he wanted to do was sit there for the next hour reading a book on his chair he had made.

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Content as he was, he encouraged me to go fish which i did without the slightest hesitation, wandering into the cool and clear water, stripping the line out, readying myself for who knows what. Shiiiipppp…shiiiiipppp…shiiiippppp…” went the line as a handful of false casts were made to get the Clouser in place on the opposite bank. A simple strip and quickly the line was tight and a fight ensued that resulted in me landing one of my first Rio Grandes in many months. Good karma.

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After that, there were a handful of smaller bass lured from the deeper pools as i strolled up and down the banks, all small for your average water, but good sized for these waters, hit as they were by drought and flood repeatedly in the last few years.

Returning to the Survival Chair, Paolo and i headed a little ways up the creek where some of the larger bass were hanging out deep below the falls. I eventually locked onto the monster in the pool, a three pound behemoth that was cruising the bottom and assuredly aware we were on a high bank right above him. After a few minutes i found the right fly and strip and saw him casually meander over to check out the streamer bouncing with effort along the bottom. After a few feet of tense following, he went for the fly as i over reacted and aggressively set the hook in what i imagined to be his lip.

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In that split second i had a range of emotions which are as follows:

  • “Yes, i got him!”
  • “Crap! He was only mouthing it and i pulled it away!”
  • “I suck.”
  • “Whoa, that other bass inhaled it directly in front of him!”
  • “YES! I have a bass!”
  • “I ROCK!”

I landed the bass, and had my son snap the photo below. As i looked up at the photographer i couldn’t help but notice that the same sense of pride he felt about his lashings and their end result were back and in full bloom when he snapped the photo of me and the fish.

That’s the great thing about pride, you can feel it for yourself when you pull off something you’ve worked hard at, but also feel it for others (especially those you love or admire) when they do they same as well, whether it’s a hike, a lashing, or a fish brought to hand.

There’s a lot of stuff i need to teach him from the book, but love of nature, love of the moment, and gratefulness aren’t among them. Guess he picked that up somewhere along the way.

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Winding down the rock strewn path that is half trail and half wash out, i bottomed out my local creek/temple, took two small steps into the water, paused, and drew in a slow breath.

After two weeks of non-stop 10-12 hour days at work, i’d reached the point of utter exhaustion and been forced to take a day off to snap out of the zombie like state that i’d slipped into. Tired beyond belief, and sporting a freshly fractured rib (don’t ask) paddling for bigger bass was out of the question. Breaking down the six weight, i opted for my 3WT and a specially loaded fly box of small micro poppers and decided to get back to my roots, small water, small flies, and small fish.

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Not that i don’t love big flies and big fish, but after a few quick trips to local lakes brought nothing but untouched flies and endless frustration, it was time for fishing that was less work than my job instead of the other way around. I’m sure that somebody out there can chase big bass and watch them hit every single thing on the water other than their fly and stay non-chelant after 100 fruitless casts, but that sure as hell isn’t me.

Barton Creek has and always will be my fishing sanctuary, especially this time of year when many folks (usually college students from out of town) are more interested in keg fueled frat parties than continuing to drag pony kegs and camping furniture 400 yards in to a spot only to later drunkenly abandon them creek side upon realizing that staggering out with shitty Academy camp chairs in tow sucks.

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Anyway, the throngs were gone, the water was flowing (though next to nothing), and the springs were doing their part in keeping what little water was left cool to the touch. Pools that usually were un-wadable were no more than waist high, a god send for wading them from top to bottom, but also making for incredibly perceptive and skittish fish.

It was the first true fishing day in a while and it turned out to be exactly what i needed. No big fish for sure, but then that’s not what waters like this are for. They aren’t just the fish, they’re the complete package.

They are the cardinals that zipped back and forth between trees like a conductors baton bouncing between trees. They are the toad bigger than my two fists kicking relentlessly on the grassy bank with a huge snakes locked jaw wrenched on its torso until i butted in, startling the snake with my rod tip as the toad winked at me and pounced away to freedom. They’re the rock by the falls where you can assume a cross legged position like native americans of days of old, close your eyes and hear the falling water hum out that relaxing white noise so familiar to the analog television generation, but never to be heard again by the digital generation, unless placed quietly by rolling white water and informed by the elders that this is the sound of a past they can never know.

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I needed to get out and fish, but even more than that i really just needed to get out of a building and suck in all this mysterious beauty that is happening every minute of every day out THERE.

Every un-noticed fish, or magic moment of nature reminds me of the feeling that i used to have when i lived in Oregon and surfed the coast fairly often. There was a constant, nagging feeling while at work, doing dishes, shopping for groceries or making my way to the coast, that every few seconds there was another beautiful wave rolling in, and i often wondered if nobody was there to catch it, did it exist at all? On top of that, if it did, was the wave more pure left to its own devices or did an artist equipped with skills, respect and a board bring out something in the wave that pushed its beauty into another transcendental realm?

The same can be said for rolling waters and the fish that live there.

I don’t have the answers, but as always, i’m more than happy to spend every possible moment trying to find them. Maybe you should too, it’s good for the soul.

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