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Category Archive:   Texas Rivers


Hello friend. It’s been a while, right?

Not only has my current job consumed all my extracuricular energy (everyone should be so lucky to have their “job” be something they love to pour all their heart, soul, and time into) but the “trout season” down here on the Guadalupe has been nothing short of a punch in the gut for me, meaning many days of skunks while everyone around me cleans up like janitors. As both my job, and the trout lie in a southernly direction from Austin, I’ve spent countless hours on I-35 listening to an endless streams of podcasts while trying my best to no become some sort of unwilling collateral damage in one of the many “Fast and Furious” showdowns that I’m party to at least twice a day.

All of which is to say that when I pointed the nose of my motorized chariot west for the first time in a LONG time there was a exaltation of the spirit that had been missing for many months. The giddiness arose from the simple notion that I would be seeing a good friend I’d not seen in months, my confidant, my shrink and the provider of numerous days of adventure that fill the recesses and folds of my psyche. I refer, of course to the holiest of holies, the Pedernales River.

As any angler worth his salted cod knows, between trout and bass seasons around here there is a special time known as “The White Bass Run”. It doesn’t get the airplay that the previously mentioned seasons do, it’s more of the “second chair” in the orchestra, or the EP release of your favorite band that is just about ready to drop their LP anyday now! Suffice to say, it doesn’t get the love it deserves as most folks are pining for trout or yearning for the largemouth behemoths that lurk just around the chronological corner of time.

The odds weren’t in my favor, the internet being largely devoid of any recent reports of runs other than the Nueces, and the word at Sportsmans Finest (where I was picking up some of the obligatory Hill Country Clousers) sounding at best, pretty damn bleak. Still, just the fact that I might be able to get skunked on some different waters sounded like a wonderful change of pace.

Pulling into the north parking of Reimers Ranch I was beside myself to see that there wasn’t a single soul in the area. I hurriedly made my way down the ancient steps and hustled off down to the banks of the river trying to keep my expectations in check. Sitting there rigging the sinking tip and fuddling with knots I struggled to recall, I was suddenly shocked when the waters just a few feet away from me erupted in a violent display of baitfish being hammered by something strong, hungry, and ferocious…white bass.

Working the waters from the banks, the fish slowly came to hand, approximately one fish for every four casts. Sometimes it was an eruption of fury that was quickly cast into where an aggressive bass might be summoned, but more often than not it was just working though pools of activity and getting the “random” hook up that would bend the 3WT towards the muddy flats and have me practically choking in reverential laughter at the sheer amount of joy that this day was providing. After an hour or so of watching the bass slash the surface just beyond my reach I set aside my flip flops and worked my way barefoot through the mud and out to the main channel, easily sinking to my knees in spots, but still coming closer and closer to the rustling waters previously out of reach.

In short, shit was epic. Forty fish easy.

After so many months of some strange trout curse that seemed to suck the joy out of the air around me it was an immensely amazing display of the potential that a day could possibly proffer. I suggest you head there soon to partake of this wonderful, temporal, diversion which as for now is still devoid of human distraction.

It’s hard to get any three people to agree on doing anything anymore it seems, especially when two of them are not only husbands but fathers as well. If my direct personal experience is to be trusted(?), our lives are split and fragmented into so many thousands of tiny bits on a daily basis that finding more than a passing moment, much less an entire day, to focus one hundred percent on each other and a shared experience seems almost nostalgic in this day and age of dings, pings, and constant status updates.

Fortunately for me, I came of age well before even the cell phone was a thing (I was born in 1971). In fact a majority of my life was spent on road trips and adventures where being accessible in any way shape or form simply wasn’t a thing. In my more recent years  I’ve embraced the smartphone for the amazing things it can do (water flows, photo editing, chess) but definitely realize that the trade off is losing that freedom of simply being invisible and unconnected. Luckily there are still a few places where it’s still possible to lose a signal and you’re able to get in touch with nature and the friends that surround you.

 

Recently I pulled into one such signal free sanctuary, Pedernales State Park to meet up with friends Nate and Niall for what was supposed to be a leisurely waltz between pools below the falls. With the oppressive heat still lingering like an unwelcome guest we made our way from pool to pool with little luck. Eventually we made it to one of my favorite spots on the river, a sun drenched stretch hardly knee deep and consistently full of shifting sand bars, roving gar and cruising, distracted carp.

Three weight in hand I stalked the familiar “flats” keeping an eye out for a carp on the hunt. Surprisingly enough it only took a couple of minutes to find a cruiser, cast the fly immediately over its shoulder, strip once and suddenly feel the pull of the animal universe on the other end of the line. After a full summer of them being few and far between it was an immensely satisfying feeling to once again hold a carp close and take in its off brand beauty.

Laughing from the small but immense victory, Nate and I headed down river to hook up with Niall and evaluate our situation.  At this point it was either a quick walk back to our cars via a secret trail to escape the relentless heat and humidity or set out on a 200 yard trek though head high weeds and relentless thorns to show them one of the most magical fishing spots I’ve ever discovered, far back in the nooks and crannies of Pedernales SP.

Ever the troopers they both decided to forge ahead into the thicket, partly because of curiosity but also likely due to the fact that I purposely understated the difficulty in getting there. I’d made this trip before under similar circumstances and therefore was wearing pants, unfortunately my short wearing co-horts didn’t know what they’d signed up for but still braved some intense bush whacking none the less as we set off into the thicket.

Eventually we stumbled out of the brush and onto the stretch of river that I’ve christened “Eden” due to its immense beauty, fishy as hell waters, and capacity to somehow how make one feel isolated yet fully connected to the cosmos at the same time. I’ve had this feeling countless times fishing here alone and I was glad as hell that I was here with friends that deserved to get their own read on the place after putting in their time foraging ahead through the thick of things.

Eventually everyone seemed to find their own space, spreading out and casting at their own rhythm. While Nate and I both had moderate success, it was Niall that eventually tapped into the beat of the river and managed to land an incredible bass that was easily the fish of the day. Having given Nate and Niall space by moving far upstream I missed the epic battle, but honestly I prefer it that way. I’ve written my story on this stretch of water before, now it was their time to create their own narrative, I’ll just hand it down.

Thank you Nate, Niall, the Pedernales and all the aquatic life for the amazing day.

A main staple for summer fishing in and around Austin, the low water crossing below Mansfield dam has been a mainstay for years for cold water seekers as well as fisherman. Many months ago it was shut down for repairs that seemed to drag on forever but I’m here to tell you, it’s back and better than ever. The “parking lot” is now exactly that, the poison ivy has been replaced with turf grass, there is a bathroom. and there is actually a ranger that lives on site to keep the peace and remove unwanted debris and chaos.

Early morning and late days at sunset will put you on a myriad of fish including tailing grass carp that light up the still water like swaying neon lights. Highly recommended for fishing or a simple break from the heat. See you there!

Balance. It’s a wonderful thing in life to find and try and maintain, but (for most) it’s never permanent, life is far to complicated for that. Personally I’ve always tried to keep family, work, fishing and this blog in harmony (in that order), but when one of the four (work) requires more attention, somethings gotta give, and in this equation that can only mean the blog. Fortunately I’ve recently started to find my groove at my new dream job and now find myself spending more time being productive and less trying to figure out how to maneuver through my work day, so the scales are finally starting to balance back out.

Gone are the days of “Stress Fishing” where one feels that an hour on the water is so needed that the 60 minutes spent fishing actually starts to feel like an anxiety inducing job in and of itself. Instead, i’m back on the water, relaxed, relieved, and more than a little curious. Working in a store with a fly shop (Gruene Outfitters) i am constantly hearing (or over hearing) about spots from co-workers or customers, something that has re-kindled a desire in me that i originally started this blog with, the exploratory side of my nature that wants to expand and search out new waters to share with you, the reader. Once again I’m back into my old habit of late nights with a glass of wine, a little blue cheese, and time spent pouring over Google Maps, honing in on hunches and pricing together bits and pieces that i heard throughout the day. One such late night ritual brought to my attention some public access on the upper Guadalupe at a location called Nichols Landing near Spring Branch, just south of Blanco.

That very next morning as i pulled off of highway 281 i was expecting the typical Texas river access spot, something along the lines of a poke in the eye and a kick in the crotch. To my dismay i pulled in to a legitimate county park, complete with parking, Port-A-Potties, and families enjoying themselves in the cool river waters. The vibe was instantly relaxing, and glancing around at the stone and sand shores, huddled in the shadows of huge bald cypress, i knew i had found something special, regardless of the fishing.

Dragging the Versa Board a small way over the rocks, from the parking lot to the shore i took a second to appreciate the lack of a boat ramp, knowing it likely kept the less curious at bay. Paddling upstream i was dumbfounded by the scenery, the trees, the sky, the water all seemed to be present in perfect unison. Being as it was a short while after sunrise, i immediately started to notice 2-3′ long gar lined up in pods along the banks, apparently waking up groggy after a night of wine and research?! Every one of the first three casts resulted in quick chases and gar brought aboard as much to their dismay as mine. One even performed a spastic somersault dance with its bony snout alternatively smacking against the boats deck and my thigh multiple times before conducting a perfect backflip into the waters from whence it came.

The initial paddle is along a stretch of housing, all though the houses are set rather far back from the river and only observable in a couple of spots, unlike the lower Guadalupe where you are practically in people’s back yards. It doesn’t take long however to reach a stretch of water that last many miles heading up to Guadalupe State Park, a stretch that for the one low water crossing, feels as wild and free as i imagine it  has for millennia. It was along this stretch that i portaged up the longest stretch of rapids i’ve ever encountered in Texas, a good 50 yards of rocks and whitewater that at the 90CFS i encountered it at made it hard to get up and down, but would be navigable at the 150CFS which is the norm for this time of year.

After the portage, i came upon a junction where Curry Creek enters from the right side of the river, some slightly still backwater that i was hoping might house some largemouth. Paddling up the creek, it was quickly clear that the water here was so shallow that fish would spot me coming from a mile away. Never the less, I did spot one of the more amazing sights i’ve ever seen in Texas, a towering limestone cliff about 40-50 feet high with a giant wedge cut vertically out of it, reaching back 20 feet and topped with a 10 foot thick cap on top that gave it sort of a cave/condo look that any Austin developer would die for. The photo (above) simply doesn’t do it justice, it is massive.

Around that time the upstream winds started barking and howling turning my leisurely downstream float into a headlong paddling battle that unfortunately has become all to common. In between strenous sessions i took some time stop and work some of the holes i’d noticed on the way up. Of special note is the pool that housed a myriad of long nose gar, anywhere from 3-5 feet. It was mostly sight casting and landing 3 foot specimen, but as you might expect, every time i stopped to switch a fly or untangle a line, a 4-5 foot gar would surface, gulp air, and be gone before I even had the backcast unfurling. Still, so many of the three foot gar were landed that I eventually stopped casting to them. One in particular seemed to tire of me trying to cut the gentle rope strands from its mouth, scissoring back and forth with its jaw agape it landed its teeth squarely on my hand drawing blood, always a sign it’s time to move on.

On the way back, somewhere around 3-4PM, the top-water bite finally turned on and it was more or less non-stop panfish and bass all the way back to the car. As much fun as it was, it would have been infinitely more enjoyable if i had something something lighter than the 6 and 8 WT rods i had brought in hopes of big gar. Still, you take what you can get, right?

On a final note, approaching Nichol’s Landing i was suddenly surrounded by a crowd of tubers and folks relaxing and enjoying the day. Eventually one spectator yelled out that they saw a lot of bait fish jumping a mere 20 feet in front of them and their awning, camp chairs and flailing children. I felt on the spot, and they vocally mentioned they’d never seen a person fly fish before so what could i do but entertain? I cast, thinking how hopeless and stupid, but expected it was that I at least try. The fly hit. The water caved in on itself, and my fly disappeared only to be replaced by a three-pound largemouth that faded left, faded right, jumped two feet in the air and bucked the fly free.

My audience tried to take responsibility by claiming that it wouldn’t have happened if they hadn’t been watching, but i knew the truth. If there is one thing fly fishing has taught me over and over again, it is to always expect the unexpected, and never stop wondering what’s around the bend.

Want to go?

Nichols Landing – Paddling information for this location.

Guadalupe Canoe Livery – I have not used them, but if you want to float Nichol’s Landing to Hwy. 281 they will shuttle you for a fee.

Blanco River State Park – Located about 15 minutes north of the Guadalupe, along the Blanco River this is one of two state parks that you can choose to camp at.

Guadalupe River State Park – Also located about 15 minutes from Nichols Landing this is an incredibly beautiful campground and also a possible starting point for those than want to shuttle between here and Nichols Landing.