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Category Archive:   Texas Freshwater Fish

The day was miserable, at least as far as the weather was concerned. The sun beat down on us harder than a Bootsy Collins bass line and the humidity was thicker than New England Clam Chowder, but it’s not as though you can expect anything different when you’re fishing Texas in the summer.

The plan of attack had been hatched late the night before during the “Jungle Fish” screening and after a respectable amount of free drinks. Chatting with Miles about the Pedernales, we decided it would be a good idea to scope it out the next day and try and land some carp and/or gar. Sucking his buddy Chase into the mix with promises of MANY HUGE FISH we exchanged data and agreed to meet the next day.

In case you’re new to the sport of fly fishing, let me be the first to tell you, fishing trips have a way of falling apart faster than most marriages, especially when the trip is planned late at night over drinks. Having experienced this many times over the years, i was shocked the next day, when despite the lingering effects of the previous night, we all came through and loaded into my ride to make our way to Pedernales State Park.

Within 30 or so minutes of being on the water i was bewildered to see the “New Kid” (Chase) land a juvenile freshwater drum followed closely by a catfish and a seemingly endless string of smaller fish. I don’t know about Miles (who has fished quite a while) but after a an hour or so of that i was starting to feel a little jealous of Chase’s ability to show me up on what i would definitely consider my stomping grounds, but as they say, when you’re hot you’re hot.

Although Miles had been here a few times before, and Chase was showing us both up, i still felt like i was playing the role of guest, trying to show off all the good fishing spots, pointing out spots where i had experienced past success, and hoping that they would catch decent fish and have a good time. It was difficult, since i wanted to put them on some fish but still manage to land some myself, just another in the long series of life’s many conundrums i face i guess.

It wasn’t until a few pools down stream that i managed to hook into my first fish of the day, a moderate sized drum (below) that truly put up a hell of fight for a fish of it’s size, something that is always appreciated. Not long after snapping the photo and releasing the drum, i tossed the black Wooly Bugger one more time against the cypress bank and was rewarded with one of the few channel catfish that i’ve ever caught (above) and the day suddenly started to feel wobbly and abnormal. Adding to the sudden strangeness of the day, i found myself a few minutes later staring at the abandoned boat in the first photo and wondering how it got there, (lost in the roaring waters a week or so before, ditched by passionate lovers “playing” in the woods, or maybe a temptation being watched by folks with air rifles?) The desire to pole it around as a “flats boat” was strong, but i’ve been pelted by BB gun fire before and had no desire to recreate the scene (ahhh…third grade antics). Onward.

Further downstream i hooked my second catfish of the day (below) which was proof positive that the day was a strange one, after all, i’ve hardly ever caught any catfish, much less two in one day and a drum. The thoughts started parading around in my head as i wondered, why was i all a sudden catching catfish, and what was that strange boat doing just sitting there, beached like a whale, and why have i suddenly found myself (every last antisocial bone of me) comfortable with group outings.

With the heat becoming so intense that these delirious thoughts were starting to swim naked in my mental pond, i proposed heading back to the car and was surprised to find that all were willing, a good thing since drinkable water and shade were both becoming as obsolete as rational thought.

I felt terrible that night and the next day, sick from exhaustion, but of course i’d do it all again. The camaraderie, the fish and the mystical waters all have far to great a pull, they always mix and morph, presenting a seemingly endless string of combinations, always promising something different…something new. I love that more than anything about fishing, and i wouldn’t have it any other way.

There was something wrong with me. As a contestant in the Texas Hill Country Mixed Bag i had slowly found myself treating time like an enemy, contest borders as a fence that caged me in, and fish that were under the required minimum length to be nothing more than a nuisance. I had blurred the lines between what i did for enjoyment, and what i did for competition and the outcome had turned me into a stressed out individual loosing the one thing that helped me keep from gonig completely mental.

It wasn’t always this way. After catching some big fish recently, including the gar that got me onto Moldy Chum’s Slab of the Month, i had gotten mentaly sucked in to the world of “bigger is better” and forgot what it meant just to go fish if only so that i could rest the chaos swarming in my head.

The comment on F-book from Dean ( about the gar summed it up well.

“…and I knew him back when he was posting about how all he needs to catch are little panfish to make him happy. Now Slab of the Month…”

Rereading this little koan the other day i chuckled, shut down the computer, opened the rod case, grabbed the 2WT and headed out the door and drove straight to Barton Creek. It was time to find myself once again.

Walking upstream into an area seldom seen, i worked the shallow, narrow waters (pictured above), and caught crazy amounts of small energetic sunfish on nothing more than a tiny Wooly Bugger and a 2WT. They didn’t put up crazy fights or take me into my backing, but they did start to help me reconnect with myself, and through extension, the reason for this blog.

Working my way back to the car, i fished a small pool and was lucky enough to pull one of my favorite fish out of the water, the Rio Grande. The markings on the fish were so intense that i wanted to freeze him as he appeared at that moment and slip him into my pocket so i could glance at him whenever i need a reminder of what is REALLY important to me, but of course that’s not how life works, so i snagged this photo instead.

It’s a photo of a beautiful Rio Grande for sure, but it’s also a photo of a hand, the hand of a man that is grinning and once again discovering the joy of all the small things.

Thanks once again Barton Creek.

It’s amazing how much the unknown can pull and tug at our curiosity until we finally cave and rush head first into the unknown, hellbent on discovery.

The Pedernales River Nature Park in Johnson City, Texas may not be the Amazon, Himalayas, or Inner Space, but it was a place i’d never explored, and when you have only limited time and funds you can find a way to suck the marrow out of any experience.

I “found” this spot a couple of years ago, but due to the fact that it’s  a few minutes past Pedernales State Park (my home away from home) i’ve only made it out there a handful of times. Strangely enough, the three or four times i’ve tried fishing there over the last couple of years i have been met by intense rainstorms that sent me scurrying (if you’re not from / living in Texas, know that this is strange because it almost never rains here).

As i slipped the paddle board into the water, i could feel the uncertainty that has plagued me lately start to surface like a shy and curious turtle. You see, weeks ago i caught a huge Gar that apparently put some sort of fish curse on me, because since then i’ve hardly caught anything. Carp, drum, gar, bass, even the tiniest of sunfish have stayed away from any random fly i’ve tossed their way.

For the first few hours today, it felt like it was going to be more of the same, especially after hooking and loosing a few small bass that broke me off in the blooming weed-beds. I was certain that the gar was working his magic on me.

It wasn’t until half way through the day when i cast the Micro Popper towards the bank with the aid of the 2WT that i was rewarded with a Redbreast in the 6-7 inch range. It wasn’t much of a fish…physically…but it seemed to be an indicator of something important. I didn’t want to jinx the day, but deep inside i felt the tiniest glimmer of hope. Reinvigorated, i rigged up the 4WT hoping that the “Sunfish Sign” might mean big carp, big drum or really anything that would get me out of this slump.

Alas, hours later with NOTHING to show i started feeling the Ol’ Gar Juju comeback to haunt me. Hoping for anything to break the dry spell i grabbed the 2WT again, set on a sunfish to bring back the smile. Rounding a bank i cast against it, directly below the tips of the foliage that draped it like a set of velvet curtains…then it hit.

Fish on. A slight smile cracked on my face as the “sunfish” started plodding downstream much slower than normal. After ten or so yards it struck me that i’d never really seen a hooked sunfish head off in such a calm and stalwart manner. A second later it occurred to me that i’d also never seen the water part like that over a sunfish before…HOLY CRAP!

In a heartbeat i set the hook into the big bass, instantly making him aware of the severity of the situation. The tiny reel on the 2WT hummed as he shot 30-40 yards before i applied slight pressure to the reel and he flew out of the water with all the exuberance of an eight year old boy on a playground.

Many minutes later i worked him in and got the photos i needed to remind myself days from now that it all really happened. At close to 19 inches of fish, hooked on a Micro Popper fly and my soft action 2WT, it was a little hairy, but the curse has been lifted, and the smile has returned. I had sucked the marrow out of the day. Who needs the Himalayas.

P.S. Somewhere i imagine that the bass and the gar are laughing at my expense, chuckling about how much importance i place on their gullibility. 

Sometime the best gifts aren’t bought, they’re stolen. Such was the case on Father’s Day when my wife, son and i loaded up the car with a few essentials such as food and drink, and strapped the canoe to the car to make a quick getaway to the Gruene area for an evening of leisure and exploration.

After grabbing some incredibly mouthwatering food at the family owned and operated Boho Bites we headed across the street to Gruene Outfitters, long a favorite shop of mine, to catch up with Jacob and have him share some local information to help us get on the water, and the fish, quicker.

I’ve fished various stretches of the Guadalupe for years, but had yet to fish this stretch that is consistently plagued (to a fisherman eyes anyway) this time of year by a giant rubber hatch of tubers. If you’ve spent any time on the water during the summer in Texas, you know how hard it is to find any public areas that aren’t overrun with humans and flotation devices and/or mass amounts of beer cans. We ended up in the right spot though, thanks to Jacob and Google Map, and paddled a good mile stretch without running into more than a handful of kayakers until we found a small island in the heart of the flow, rich with Bald Cypress, that we had to ourselves, it was quite simply…magical.

While we were hanging out there and i was casting and stripping line lazily, my son who has amazing powers of observation, informed me that he had just seen a fish go for my fly right before i had ripped it from the water. With him pointing out the spot that the curious fish was holing up in, i cast to the zone and was quickly rewarded with a decent, fun sized bass that worked the current and my 3WT before being netted by my son. With my wife quickly taking over camera duties we got the obligatory photo and let the bass work his way back to his pool.

I’m sure he was a little stunned by the event, but i like to think in the back of my mind that he was also a little impressed with the speed and care that he had just found himself subject to, after all we were a beautiful, efficient team firing on all cylinders.

My family at my side, fish on the line, and paddling languidly around an unexplored (by me) Eden that was alive and blaring in Technicolor!? It was a stolen moment that cost next to nothing, and it was the best Father’s Day present ever.

For yours truly, that is the look of bliss, courtesy of a great day. Photo by Liza Feldkamp