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Category Archive:   Texas Rivers


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Pulling into the megalopolis that is Buccee’s i stopped the car, and entered the massive Temple of Convenience, making a B-line to the piping hot croissant sandwich waiting specifically for me. As i took it in my hand and brought it intimately close to my nose to savor its smell, it seemed to let out a small sigh of relief through its reflective foil coat as though it were free to be chosen, much like a mutt in a kennel.

Between bites and making my way back to the car, i glanced at my newly acquired “Rod Vault” perched on top of the car, keeping rods and reels locked safely away from prying eyes and folks that might otherwise be inclined to break some glass to relieve me of my “tools of the trade.” It took less than half a bite for me to suddenly feel like i was hit in the gut as i realized that the same security that kept wayward youth from accessing my rods also kept me from accessing them now as well…the key you see, was back in my pants pocket at home.

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In the past this is the sort of situation that would have sent me into a tailspin of frustration and anxiety, but in light of all the craziness and anger facing the world at large i’ve decided to try (hard as it may be for me) to try and put a little more stock in things just “kind of working out.” The hard part of this is realizing that you will never be totally in control no matter how hard you plan things. It also means opening yourself up to others to ask for help and being willing to take that help graciously and return it with an equal heart.

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Pulling up in front of Gruene Outfitters, i approached the door with all the positive thoughts i could cram in my head. Immediately i spotted my friend Jacob and explained my situation, nervous with equal parts embarrassment at forgetting my key as asking for a loaner reel for a few hours.

Being the Southern Gentleman, and all around cool cat that he is, he didn’t even hesitate before digging around the shop to find a lined reel used for test casts and encouraging me to take it and return it whenever i could, more concerned about me catching fish than him having the reel in his hand. Kindness: Score 1

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Pulling up to the L and L half an hour later i slowed at the entrance before turning off the ignition, grabbing my wallet and grabbing a $10 bill (the day use fee for the RV park). Walking in to the general store it was the same kind woman that has run the desk for at least the last eight years that i’ve been fishing here.

“You haven’t got your annual pass yet?” she asked.

“No, it’s still in the mail, but I’d love to pay to fish for the day.” i replied.

“Don’t worry about it darling, I know you, go on in.” she said warmly.

Kindness: Score 1

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Fishing the waters that day, i landed trout after trout on flies that i had feverishly tied the night before, in an effort to supply the foam slots in my box with creations that they longed to cradle. There seemed to be a limitless end of takes, tussles and pink cheeked warriors that were rallied to the net that day mostly by hot pink worms.

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Plodding back up to the car with many pounds of extra water inside my waders (i really must find that hole) i plopped down on the tailgate, exhausted and watched the sun set over the cypress, creating a warm pink glow across the sky that strangely oddly seemed to be the same color found on the trouts’ cheeks.

It was a day of cold weather, gray skies, and fog that seemed to cast a dreamy sort of state on everything in sight. Still, there was a warm feeling that pervaded every action and exchange, whether with locals, or with fish. It was as though the entire day had been processed through some a warm. pink filter. Looking it up later, i wasn’t surprised at all to find that pink is the color of compassion, nurturing and love. Pretty much sums up the day.

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P.S.  They always say “It pays to have friends in high places.” and that obviously is important to a lot of people (like recently elected politicians, and other various cogs and stooges) but i’m thankful as hell to just know GOOD people in GOOD places.

Thank you Gruene Outfitters and Lazy L & L!

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I’m pretty sure we all have those peculiar waters that we simultaneously loathe and revere. For me one of those bodies of waters is the San Marcos, specifically the stretch between Martindale and Staples near the wonderful town of San Marcos.

If you’ve ever spent any time on the San Marcos, you know how magical it can be. It’s a spring fed river whose beginnings bubble up from Edwards Aquifer in downtown San Marcos and run for a mere four miles before joining up with the much more temperamental Blanco river.

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If you could somehow take away the private houses and development that line its shores, appearing like teen age scrawls on a Van Gogh painting, it is truly timeless and sublime stretch of water. Rushing rapids are followed by braids of water covered by canopies of endless amounts of bald cypress along with many other plants and trees that call this river home. Long slow pools play hosts to a variety of turtles, egrets, herons, king fishers and the like, all of them hunting, stalking and subsisting on these luminous azure waters.

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It was the same stretch that i had ventured on years ago with another good friend, and once again i felt the pull, the need to make the float and try to understand this river that seems to mystify me so.

My friend Nate and i put in at Highway 1979 after briefly leaving one of our vehicles down below at highway 1977 further downstream and then consuming some amazing local barbacoa tacos. As we made our way back to the starting point we experienced a small town traffic jam (above) that involved 20+ heads of cattle and an aging farmer that rightfully waved us down and indicated that he was more concerned about his cattle on the road, than us making our float trip in the allotted amount of time.

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In a sign of the times (and not the best, i might add) it appears that “Put-In” and “Take-Out” areas that had existed just a few years ago are now a thing of the past. Water access at both our put-in and take-out were virtually non existent, an uncomfortablle trend I’ve noticed with every new “Bridge Development” that happens in this part of Texas (and i imagine the bigger picture.) Instead of pulling under the 1979 bridge, where there used to be access, we opted to pay and park at Spencer Canoes right across the river which provided at least an allusion of safety, all though there seemed to be nobody around (which makes sense since it is the off season.)

The focus of the trip was obviously to catch fish, and glancing around, every bend and braid seemed to be the logical holding spot for the biggest Guadalupe bass known to man, or at the very least, a small sunfish. I’m not sure if it’s just me, but once again i threw the kitchen sink (floating lines, sinking lines, massive streamers, micro poppers) and nothing seemed to be effective despite glancing all around and seeing waters that seemed to scream “FISH!”

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After three hours of paddling and getting zero bites, we rounded a bend and i went through all the motions that i had for the last few hours, except, this time…there was a bite. Sure it was just a sunfish (above) , but it was a relentless little bastard that easily fooled me into thinking i had a three pound bass on the other end of the line. Within the next handful of casts two more equally sized sunfish came to hand for me while Nate was also landing serious sunfish.

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Then, as quickly as it started, it likewise came to a definitive stop with nary a bite seen again. Realizing we were just a little more than halfway through the float we ushered our crafts onto a gravel bar and broke out the wine, meats and cheeses. Leaning back on my camp chair (which doubles as my seat on the Versa Board) with the wind suddenly picking up drastically, i watched the clouds start to hustle, scurry, and meld into each other in a hurried and very un-cloud like way.

Knowing how far we had to go, and noticing that the wind was shooting straight upstream at about 30MPH and aware that we had hours of paddling to go, i sipped down some Pinot Grigio, turned to Nate and mentioned that this was a lousy fishing trip, but a wonderful paddle.

The shock to my system wasn’t so much that i said it, but that i REALLY and TRULY meant it.

Despite the fish, i was truly happy, likely because of friendship, clear water, blue skies, cheese, salami, wine and good conversation. Just goes to show that sometimes it’s not even about the fish.

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On a previous trip to the Lower Colorado river while unloading i was approached by a groundskeeper that cruised up on his riding lawn mower, stopped, cocked his eyebrows almost painfully and asked if i didn’t get lonely fishing by myself. I remember making some vague comment about working retail and constantly being surrounded by folks, whether customers or employees.

As i mouthed the words though, i really started to wonder whether i really was enjoying fishing by myself any more, or if i this just one of the my few lingering convictions left over from years ago. A few hours later while experiencing a possible partial stroke down river, and then shortly there after chasing a lost and floating paddle 200 yards downstream on foot, i decided it was time to read the subtext in the groundskeeper / fortune tellers words, and invite a friend on the next excursion.

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Nate is a recent convert to fly fishing, and someone who pitches himself 110% into everything he does, whether it’s work (we manage a store together) or slightly addictive hobbies like fly fishing. Being new to the sport, Nate still has an enthusiasm and level of excitement for “Just being on the water!” that many seasoned fisherman i know seem to have lost.

Never was this more clear than on a recent trip to the Lower Colorado that started with us shuttling our boats with two cars from Big Weberville to Little Webberville, in order to float downstream for hours, take out, and instantly be reconnected with our transportation. It was a far cry from putting in solo, paddling for hours upstream, only to float downstream for an hour (against the wind…always) and find myself all to quickly meeting back up with the journeys departure point. Using two vehicles to alleviate the hours of paddling that would be better spent fishing felt live moving up one rung on the evolutionary ladder, we had evolved into shuttling monkeys, now more needless paddling

Sliding the boats in the water, all sun and smooth, flowing water, the day seemed like a blessing, a treat from the fates for branching out of my comfort zone and sharing it with another human. It all seemed so right, flowing waters, slightly overcast skies, and rock solid companionship.

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Then the winds came, and not the “Boy that’s annoying, my backcast can’t unfurl!” sort of winds. I am talking forty mile an hour, knock you over on a sandbar, and blow your craft away gales. As is my custom i raised a middle finger to the sky, and screamed epithets to the blustery void that would make make a trucker blush. Feeling comfortable that the universe was aware of my frustration, even if it didn’t give a rat’s ass about it, i looked over at Nate, and saw him grinning from ear to ear.

Immediately i felt foolish for my tirade and smiled myself, it was good to be out here, winds be damned.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAphoto by Nathan Peck

Paddling with a certain sort of lightness and levity we made our way downstream finding many fish, although they were all on the smaller side. There would be no “record fish” on this trip, but truly that all seemed secondary to the adventure at this point as we discovered riffle after riffle where our light rods were test again and again.

Later in the day with the obtrusive power lines looming malevolently in the distance down stream, i informed Nate that just beyond that was the take out point. Paddling headlong into the blustering winds he quickly made ground on me, so much so that when i turned the final corner he was a good 100 yards plus downstream as well as downwind.

As he past up the take out ramp, and almost set off on an unknowing set of class I rapids that would catapult him another 100 yards downstream i finally got his attention with screams and shouts that doubtlessly put the locals on edge.

When he paddled back up to our exit ramp i was now standing on, he looked at me with an air of frustration before pronouncing that  “This isn’t the ramp we put in on, why are you stopping here!”

Wait.

Nope.

Wait…still nope.

Quickly after reminding him how a shuttle system works and that this was the whole point of us bringing two cars, a huge grin spread across his face that was simultaneously embarrassed and cheerful.

Occasionally fish are the stories, but other times it’s just as likely to be the landscape, a chance encounter or possibly even misfortune. Sometimes it’s just as simple as enjoying the moment, a good laugh with a friend, and a smile.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAphoto by Nathan Peck

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Wow.  Apparently the collective prayers, wishes, and rain dances of millions of people over the last five years have all been answered at once.

If ever there was a state of extremes, Texas in the last five years or so is it. After years of dry and depressing drought we can’t seem to make it a few days without finding ourselves in the endless loop of “possible flash flood” alerts coming at us from every direction.

With all the local creeks and rivers flooding and fishing near impossible on any water, i decided to make the rounds and see what my favorite waters looked like under the most extreme conditions in recent memory.

The first stop was Pedernales State Park, by far my favorite water (next to Barton Creek) and a spot that i’ve seen in many incarnations over the years. However, as someone generally looking for the best “fishing option” i’ve never hit this watershed up during heavy flows, obviously opting for fishable waters rather than flooded ones. With nothing to lose however, i pulled into the parking lot, stepped out of my car and heard the raging hum that one might otherwise hear standing on the tarmac of a big city air port. The roar was mesmerizing, and i wasn’t even close.

Pedernales Falls DryPedernales flows 10-100 CFS in the past.

IMG_0979Pedernales flows at 20,000 CFS on 06/02/16.

Coming around the bend in the trail, to the lookout i was floored…absolutely floored and shocked to see the falls i’ve known over the years turned into something that quite honestly was beyond comprehension. The normal 10-100CFS i had staggered through probably 100 times before had been completely drowned out and replaced by 20,000 CFS of water elbowing its way downstream pummeling everything in its path.

 

Planting myself on one of the few exposed rocks i just sat there and tried to comprehend the sheer power unfolding before me while simultaneously wondering how long it might be before this torrent would be fishable again.

In hopes of fish i drove to Mansfield dam, a favorite haunt, but one that likewise was completely shut off due to flows in the 40,000+CFS range flowing off the bottom of the dam. Because of the amazing flows and the fenced off closures i could only snap the photo below (behind a fence a long way from the flows), the angle of which shrinks these amazing flows completely. With three flood gates open, and each the size of a small house you can only imagine the chaos that was being manifested below the dam.

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Eventually, full of desperation to simply wet a line i ended up driving around most of Lake Travis, finding park after park closed due to the fact that the lake was 5-6 feet above the norm with no sign of things changing any time soon. Eventually, after an hour of driving i managed to find one park (Sandy Creek Park) that was open but with a large part of it (including the boat ramps) off limits. It was here that casually stepping over a knee high guard rail to look for a casting spot (and expecting to find terra firma on the other side) i managed to surprisingly tumble into waters well over my head, ruining another iPhone. After trying to dry the phone i managed to regain my composure somewhat, decided that technology was fleeting and then went on to make my first cast of the day with my 5WT and felt it suddenly snap in half.

Awwww hell.

Don’t get me wrong, i truly appreciate the crazy flows, if nothing else it’s a nice change of pace. Still, i love fishing because it helps me find a calm center in myself that i normally struggle to locate. It’s a little hard to find that zen when fences, flooding waters and “CLOSED” signs keep you from the thing you love.

Fortunately there’s one other thing that fly fishing has taught me that if i can practice might actually see me through to calmer waters.

Patience.

Be careful out there y’all,

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