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Category Archive:   Texas Ponds and Lakes


There are so many benefits of bringing together your personal passion with your professional life that it’s hard not to make the analogy of heaven or nirvana. In a perfect symbiosis such as this, one fuels the other and vice versa.

As a decade long fly-fisherman i’ve always hoped to merge that aspect of me with the outdoor store manager that has been my role for decades. Since taking my new job as buyer (etc.) for Gruene Outfitters i’ve had the wonderful fortune of falling into a wide array of wonderful adventures that would likely never had occurred had i stuck to the safe and familiar.

One such adventure arose recently after sitting through a line showing for Simms with the excellent rep. Eric Kraimer. The showing (where product for next year is shown by him and pondered over by me) was held on the shores of Lake Bastrop that coincidentally happened to have his bass boat (circa the 80’s?) sitting close at hand.

Ending the meeting he asked if I was interested in some late afternoon fishing? Graciously accepting the invitation we loaded the boat with the sparse but important tools to suck the marrow out of the next few hours before sundown.

As someone who has spent a LOT of time paddling my kayaks around this lake, working hard to make it from shore to shore, it was pure joy to zip from spot to spot in minutes though there was definitely the catholic / white guilt of having it a little to easy.

The first two cast really were the short story in and of themselves. Cast one was a strike without a hook up, but the second cast landed with the Mr. Minnow popper landing within a hair’s breadth of the grass 20 feet out from the bank. There was an awkward silence after the popper hit the water that was immediately punctuated by what seemed like a toilet being flushed in the reeds as a decent size largemouth sucked everything in front if it through its gills and in the process inhaling my popper.

While it was a great fight, the real excitement of the day was hooking up with someone who was not only passionate about fly fishing but full of stories and thoughts that tend to only come out while fishing for bass, at sunset, while motoring in and out of endless possibilities.

 

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Inks Lake State Park, located near Burnet Park is an amazing spot for family adventures. It’s a well developed park with all the amenities any family member might need (ice, boat rental, fresh Frito Pies) while still retaining a  respectful sense of wilderness.

The park, like many in Texas (and around the country), traces its roots back to Roosevelt and the formation of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) a public relief program initiated during the Great Depression to provide work and relief to a younger generation of jobless youth, with its focus being on forestry, soil erosion, and flood control.

After first completing the development of nearby Longhorn Caverns in 1940 the CCC shifted their focus to a new lake created by the construction of the Inks Lake Dam (est. 1938). There in a large inlet the group worked hard on the newly planned Inks Lake state Park until World War II called them off to duty in 1941. Eventually the park was completed by the Texas State Parks Board (the predecessor to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department) in 1950 providing the bastion of respite that many folks in central Austin have to enjoy over the following decades.

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On a recent camping trip there with my family we were fortunate enough to stumble on overcast skies and slightly coolish weather that seemed to keep a majority of the the over- populated park limited to their campsites and RV’s.

The calm, still waters just a few feet from our campsite were an open canvas of angling fun waiting patiently for us and a mere handful of other random souls to skate upon.

Despite the endless leaps and splashes of overly caffeinated fish all around me, the amount of fish actually caught turned out to be lackluster at best, maybe my flies were de-caffinated. Still, the fish were almost secondary (except for the handsome and hefty White Bass that doubled my rod over) the main delight being hanging out with my family and enjoying the ability to sit still and not feel the tug of the internet, the news, debates, or any number of social outlets that were begging for my attention in the days up to the election.

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The following day, after a wonderful paddle and hike early in the day, we were trying to decide whether or not to break camp before heading out for an afternoon paddle. The sky wasn’t dark at that point, but after reading the relatively normal clouds, and loosely smelling moisture on the air i made the call to pack up while we were dry, JUST IN CASE.

Within minutes of rolling the tent (our final dry item) into a way too small stuff sack, the sky was suddenly highlighted by lightning (far too close) and punctuated by a boom of thunder so loud, my neck hairs stood on end. Within seconds, we were caught in a deluge, me directing my family into the car while i loaded the boards onto the car in a downpour that quickly washed away every dry fiber that adorned my body, lightning bouncing around the sky and far to close.

“You’ve got Gore-Tex? Nice try!” the storm seemed to say, in a bragadocious way as it soaked me down to every last pore.

The lesson? If you’re isolated inside, with your level gaze on a monitor, or staring down religiously at an electronic screen in an effort to figure out what’s going on around you, you’re probably going to be surprised when the 30% chance of rain suddenly knocks out percussive rhythm on your roof. If however, you step out of your tent/house/comfort zone and keep your head up high and on the horizon, you’re likely to see the squall looming on the horizon and have time to react, pack your bags and maybe even be ready to wait out the storm with all your dry gear comfortably stashed.

So do this planet and yourself a favor, get out into the world and get your nails dirty. Visit people and places you’d never have considered to. Include people in your life that don’t agree with you. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes and most of all, keep your eyes on the horizon, the future is always just around the corner, and the sunsets are amazing.

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How do you say “Enough” to something you’ve been longing after for so long?  After years of traipsing through dry, cracked and barren stream beds looking for the odd spring fed waterhole, wishing all the while for a respite from the drought, the water has finally arrived, and in epic proportions.

Words like “excessive”, “bounteous” and “copious” pepper my thoughts as i listen to the rain collide with the lakes, rivers and creeks that are constantly rising and falling as they struggle to find a balance that their banks are comfortable with. Even while thinking these words well fishing, i’m careful not to say them out loud for fear of ending up back in a drought due to an ungrateful attitude.

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With all my usual stomping grounds roaring wildly with muddy flows, i found myself returning to one of the few places helped dramatically by all the rains of the last few months, Lake Travis, and more specifically Pace Bend.

I hadn’t been back to the lake since it was a largely waterless pool, and was astonished to see it full to the brim for the first time in many years with fresh waters lapping against distant shores. Heading straight to one of the larger coves, Mudd Cove to be precise, i made my way along the banks, 5WT in hand, and was bewildered to see a three foot alligator gar swimming just a couple of feet away from me. Staring closely to confirm the species i felt my muscles suddenly tie themselves in knots as my body seemed to quickly register the fact that i have yet to land an alligator gar and therefore blew the three foot cast by somehow managing to wrap the fly around the rod as the gar swam off, rather peacefully it should be noted, to deeper waters.

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Regaining my composure, i went on to land numerous smaller bass, and even a nice medium size long nose gar that put up an amazing fight for a gar of its size. Still, that botched alligator gar attempt is the thought i can’t seem to pry out of my mind many days later.

Much like the aforementioned flows, after you’ve spent years wishing and dreaming for something to be a part of your reality, you can’t really get upset because it doesn’t manifest itself exactly as you pictured it. Maybe the flows weren’t EXACTLY what i envisioned, and maybe the gar DIDN’T end up on my line like planned, still…it happened (or almost happened.)

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Either way, i’ll take the possible over the impossible, the high flows over the non-existent flows, the possibility of fish over the lackluster alternative. And in the mean time i’ll try to hone my wish fulfillment skills and try to come up with something a little more middle of the road that will benefit all of us.

Until then, fish what you can, when you can, and envision the best!

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Pulling down to the boat ramp where $100,000 boats were being backed in to the lake via their $60,000 rides i felt completely out of place as i waited for my turn to unload my beat up paddle board off of my worn and depreciated Element. It was an unfamiliar scene for me for sure, a world of money, privilege and luxury unimagined by folks living just a few miles downstream from the boat ramp. What the hell though, i had wine and i had time, since the bass wouldn’t be biting for a while, so i simply sat on my tailgate and watched the parade or prosperity proceed until it was my turn to slip in.

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Paddling out across the lower end of Lake Austin, i instantly made my way across the width of its waistline to Little Bee Creek to revel in its steep limestone canyon walls, abundant ferns and ceaseless spring water pouring forth from the seemingly solid wall. In the past i’ve encountered decent size bass here as well as copulating couples, but this time, other than the saturated scenery, nothing was biting…or humping.

Puzzled by the lack of activity i slowly made my way up the main Bee Creek, working every square inch of the elaborate and exotic boat docks that i could find. Poppers, floating lines, streamers, sinking lines, split shot, etc., nothing seemed to be able to change the fact that the Fates wanted me to get skunked.

As the desperation to catch a fish quickly dropped with every empty casts, it was suddenly replaced by a hunger of food and drink. With the thought of a guaranteed satisfaction swelling inside of me, i adjusted course and made a b-line for Hula Hut (an Austin institution located on Lake Austin).IMG_5472

Thirty minutes later i was enjoying their signature appetizer, the stuffed avocado, along with a decent glass of white wine on the dock and fixating on what i had done wrong to get skunked. Right about that time i glanced over to see a mass of corn chips being ejected over the railing by a party calling it quits. As the chips landed like clouds on the still water they were quickly inhaled by 6 to 20 pound grass carp that were circling the water like sharks on a blood binge. “Well hell.” I thought as i started tossing various foods over the railing, thinking of the various flies i had that might match tortilla chips, tomatoes, and the jalapeños they seemed so fond of. Eagerly paying my tab i made my way the short distance back to the marina which housed my small paddle board in the giant maw created for boats and people much more affluent and care free than i, and set out to make the most of the moment,

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A few paddles later i found myself nervously casting underneath the docks that housed hungry customers that wordlessly made it apparent that having someone fish under them while they ate their fish tacos was not one of the highlights of their day.

Working over to the other side of the pier i found less people staring at me as i made awkward casts trying to toss line underneath the pier and into churning water of chaos. Eventually i did hook up with one of the grass carp monsters, working the 6WT with much finesse to keep him from wrapping around the pylons, a move that they obviously pride themselves on. Keeping just the right amount of tension on the carp, i brought him within an arms length, dipping the net below him and barely brushing his tail fin with the basket. “BOOM.”

Just like that, the 10 lb. tippet snapped and my fish was off jostling his way back through the crowd of fellow carp to enjoy a freshly fallen sprinkling of salty chips. Freed from the skunk i too set off as the sun was vanishing, into the anarchy of Austin traffic, imagining corn chips raining from heaven, every automobile a hungry carp fighting for sustinence.

Don’t forget, opportunities abound, they might just not be what you expect.

Now if i could just figure out how to tie some tortilla flies.

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