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Category Archive:   Texas Rivers


Wow. 

What a day. It was around 45-50 degrees today with some nasty wind making casting ridiculously difficult at some points throughout the day. Never the less, it was a beautiful day. It was after all the first day of Trout season for me today. Trout Unlimited and the Texas Parks have been stocking the Guadalupe below Canyon Lake since last Friday. It was my first day off since the stocking and i was hoping that the trout had had enough time to at least get slightly settled into their new place. Unfortunately a cold fron came in late yesterday evening that brought freezing temperatures and even some sleet to our neck of the woods. 

So it was time pull out the waders and thermal underwear. Time to string up the tandem fly rigs, and string up the strike indicators. And last but not least, time to fill the flask with a little port for the late afternoon numbness that was sure to set in.
I started off at Hueco Springs which was beautiful, but exceptionally low. This is where the TPWD stocks but i didn’t see any sign of fish except for a medium size sunfish that i coaxed out of one of the deeper pools. Things didn’t get interesting until i headed upstream to the Lazy L&L. It was there that i ran into a nice fisherman that gave me the tip “Midges…midges!” He was catching trout on size 24 midges and then tossing size 10-12 Wooly Buggers and still landing them. While taking a snack break some fly fisherman and an entire entourage loaded down with HUGE video cameras, sound equipment, etc.  showed up and pretty much took over the pools that i was working. It was pretty strange to see this stretch of the river go from two people to twelve people in the blink of an eye. I hope they got some good shots but geez, it was weird watching it be about the video instead of the fishing. At one point one of the guys was on the top of the cliff near me (snacking) pointing out to the “actors” where the fish were.

 

“No, no, no, a rod length in front of you…45 degrees to your left is a rock. There’s a 20 incher hanging out under a ledge.”

 

Hmmmmm….i’m sure it will all look great on the screen but it seemed like blatant cheating to me.

 

Anyway, after they all left the other lone fisher took off and it was just me. I worked my way back up to the pool that i had gotten some strikes on. After casting all day with practically nothing it was a little awkward when it finally happened. One second the strike indicator was there, and then…nothing. SET THE HOOK! Suddenly water shooting skyward with a Rainbow at the epicenter. Next thing i know my 5WT is bowing to the fish as if it was the second coming of Christ! YEEEEESSSSSS! As i brought the fish in close i saw that it was about 18-20 inches and solid muscle. It was probably only thirty seconds but it felt like forever as i stood there staring at the fish on my fly.

 I have no net so it just lay there in the water looking at me as the thoughts raced through my head. They switched from sheer astonishment, to thoughts of fishing limits, from bewilderment to thinking about the case for releasing all fish. And as my gears locked up the fish saw it’s chance and tossed the hook. I plunged my arm after it in the icy water, but he/she was gone. For a brief second i was so upset i could spit nails. But then i cast again and realized what that fish had given me. My cast was effortless and free of tenseness for the first time all day. The first trout had been caught, everything else for the next three months would just be icing on the cake.

Finally it was here. After waiting for close to a year the Patagonia Stormfront pack was here in my hands. Durable, waterproof and (it must be said) a little bit dull. I assured myself that this merely meant it was much less likely to be noticed by intelligent fish and the not so intelligent thieves lying in wait. But the important thing was that it was here and i had a full day off to enjoy it in the wilds where there was nobody around to care what it looked like…AMEN! So this last Wednesday i took it and the 4WT out to fish the incredible Pedernales River.

After spending a good part of the summer on a particular three mile stretch of the river i finally decided to ask the park ranger for their recommendation on the best area to fish.

Only one section i was familiar with crossed their lips. Two other medium sized pools as well as a very large pool at the base of the falls were mentioned. Although i’d explored the falls quite a bit before, i somehow had missed the large pool at the base of the falls that was about 50 yards wide and 80 yards long. It had incredibly beautiful blue/green water and a large sandy beach. I know where i’ll be next summer.

From the large pool i slowly worked my way downstream following the “deer trails”, a series of unofficial trail networks created by both human and animal foot traffic alike. What i originally thought would be a four mile trek in and back ended up being closer to nine miles. A lot of hiking with some fishing thrown in. Even when i thought i was in for a few miles i thought the Stormfront might not be a good idea for such a hike, but after nine plus miles i have to say that i utterly forgot it was on my back except for when i was hauling it through low lying thicket, and even then it fought bravely and came out unscathed.
The main joys of the day were the river banks carpeted in fallen Bald Cypress needles that were shaded of red and brown. Seeing some sort of bass the size of my leg sitting in about seven inches of water. I tried desperately to land him, but you don’t get that big by being caught. Guadalupe Bass working the currents like wise Trout.

Eventually finding the Sunfish that were so hungry they actually jumped out of the water and over obstacles to take a bead head wooly bugger. The crazy clouds that brought winds so violent that standing in place on the moons landscape (the Falls) was almost impossible, my rod actually started skating away from me on the limestone following the winds whims. 

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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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