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Category Archive:   Texas Freshwater Fish


The Rio Grande is by far my favorite fish to catch in Austin waters. The amazing iridescent colors have no equal in local waters. Their patterns hint at constellation maps lit by slow burning jewels pasted to their sides This one was a beautiful 9″ Rio Grand taken from the Secret Pool on Barton Springs.

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It’s hard to overstate how badly central Texas needs rain. It’s one of the driest and hottest summers on record. There hasn’t been any significant rain fall since sometime back at the beginning of the year, and so far it’s been something close to 45 days over 100 degrees. As much as i love spending time on nearby creeks and rivers, it’s almost depressing to go out to them now. Most creeks and rivers have completely dried up or aren’t far from it. The few rivers that have continuous flow, most notably the San Marcos, Comal and Guadalupe, are full of Texas Tubers floating the only flowing waterways left nearby. Between the two i’ll take the solitude offered at the shallow holes such as the Pedernales.

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That’s precisely where i headed after leaving work yesterday. I’ve developed some sort of relationship with the Pedernales that i can’t really explain.Sufficed to say that i have spent a great deal of time there over the last month and have really become familiar with its twists and turns. The 10 mile stretch that i’ve come to call home is located in the Pedernales State Park. Other than two small sections near the falls and the beach (a large sandy portion of the river) i have never seen any other people which, of course, is exactly how i prefer it. I can walk for miles along the banks and only stumble on wild goats, heron, vultures and more. As for the fish, there are Smallmouth, Largemouth, Guadalupe, and Spotted Bass.  There are probably about 6-8 different Sunfish swimming in the shallows. Rio Grand Cichlid that will test the finest rod’s endurance. Carp that are bigger and longer than my leg. Catfish of equal size, and finally…gar.

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Of all the fish listed above Carp are the most difficult to catch. They smell you approaching, have multiple senses of hearing you and signal to each other when trouble is near. Out of the many Carp i’ve seen, not a single one has even pretended to feign interest in any one of the 20 or so flies i’ve lobbed into their proximity. They are large for a reason, they know better. But while the Carp exists because of their wits, Gar exist because they are elusive . If you’ve never seen one, and most people haven’t, they look like an eight inch trout grabbed by the playful hands of the Creator and stretched out to 24” inches or more. Imagine eight ornine bratwurst glued together with fins attached at random spots, that’s a Gar.

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While fishing a deep hole at sundown i caught sight of a Spotted Gar out of the corner of my eye. I’d seen them here before but not so close to the top of the water. I cast a Wooly Bugger with flash in it’s direction more out of curiosity than anything.There are a few ways to catch Gar, but in most fly fishers’ minds they would be considered unethical and immoral; a feeling that i also share. I’ve never heard of Gar taking anything close to a fly, try Googling it and see what i mean. So imagine my astonishment when this three foot Gar turned it’s head around to check out my fly! As it swam closer to the fly i actually wondered whether or not i should try to catch it. It was so interesting on a spooky sort of dinosaur level yet so very scary for the exact reason. As i decided to go for it so did the fish. It lunged and i set the hook deep in it’s jaw. Suddenly the water exploded as it jumped a good three feet out of the water twisting and turning it’s unnaturally shaped body into numerous contorted shapes. It zigged and i zagged, it ran and i gave it slack. After about three minutes of this wild display of dives and leaps i worked the Gar in and on to the rock next to me. I had brought it in quick so as not to tire and kill it, and as it lay there on the rock i felt confident of my work…until i went to…take…the…hook…out…….then…………….SNAP………….SNAP!

The fish easily leaped a good two feet off the rock at my face, i dropped everything and jumped back a good two feet to separate myself from the many teeth that were rightfully angry with me. Then all of a sudden the Gar bolted to the depths…MY ROD! I grabbed the rod right before the Gar took it with him into the deep abyss…okay in all honesty it was only nine feet of water but still. My reaction when i touched the cork of the rod was to yank the rod to safety and then with a simple snap of the tippet he was gone.

The closest i’ve ever come to this rush was catching a King Salmon on a 5 weight in Alaska by accident. Alaska was great and no disrespect to that Salmon, but this was practically my back yard.And though Salmon are beautiful in that streamlined efficient way, here was something from another time, something that existed against all probable odds. Something few people could even imagine and even fewer could catch without succumbing to low brow tricks of the trade.

It was strange to catch something so strange and different. It took me to a different place…and i can’t wait to go back.

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