RSS Feed

Search...

Category Archive:   Trout


IMG_0117

Every year for the past seven or so years i’ve signed up as a member with the local Guadalupe River Trout Unlimited in an effort to take part in their incredible program here in central Texas. In a nutshell, the group collects dues and stocks a portion of the Guadalupe river outside of  New Braunfels with some impressively sized trout. Every one of the years i’ve signed up, i’ve opted to sign my son up for free with me, in hopes that some day i could share my accumulated knowledge of these waters with him.

Seven years later, after this summers “New Mexico Epiphany” where he decided he’d like to fly-fish and immediately succeeded in landing both stocked AND wild trout in one day, he was pleading with me to take him fishing on the Guadalupe. When i informed him that i had in fact signed him up every year in hopes of sharing these local waters i got that watery eye look that let me know that he and i were sharing a mutual admiration and affection that every parent should be lucky enough to experience.

IMG_0118

Had this been any of the previous three or four years, with languid flows slowly creeping through the porous rocks and cracked banks, i would have taken him that instant. However, flows had been hovering around 600CFS for weeks, and personal experience during that time had quickly shown me that the river that seemed like a tamed puppy at the 50-100 CFS i’d come to know, was an uncaring, unflinching, fist of power when cranked up to 600 plus CFS. Hell, i’m about as stubborn as they get, and even i remember standing in the river, half way across, feeling the force of the current forcing me to slowly stumble backwards, with the water eagerly lapping at the top of my waders and thinking “No fish is worth dying over.” before carefully working my way back to the bank, with beads of sweat dripping into my eyes.

Fortunately, a few days after that the flows had dropped to around 300+, and mutual dreams were made as my son and i made our way to the Guadalupe in search of trout TOGETHER for the first time ever. After a brief stop at Cabela’s to pick up an inexpensive pair of waders for Paolo that fit his feet but were otherwise sized to fit someone five times his weight, we arrived at the river, baggy waders in place, and grins bouncing back and forth like some crazed tennis match of smiles

I immediately managed to land a few trout as well as my first rock ever (which felt like a struggling turtle as it came up, and YES, i’ve caught one of those and would know) while waiting for him to get comfortable at the mere thought of standing in water without getting wet which he thought was pretty amazing (do you remember what a strange feeling that was the first time?)

IMG_0119

After a couple of hours of top notch casts by Paolo, trying a few different spots, and still no trout on the hook for him, we were ready to call it a day when i took him to one of the spots that i know best. I was a little hesitant since even for me this spots depth pushed the vertical limit of my waders to the test, usually creeping over the top in aquatic celebration as they absorbed into my otherwise dry clothing. Needless to say my sons clothing was in jeopardy, but i was far to eager to put him on fish, in spite of his reassurance that just hanging out together was all he really needed to make the day complete.

A short while later, tight against the bank, slipping on underwater cypress roots, with extremely technical side casts needed to be made under the low hanging branches, i realized that in my desperation to put my son on a fish i’d put him in a position that was a pain in the ass for an established angler, much less someone who had angling days in the low single digits. Feeling bad for adding so much pressure to the situation, i asked if he wanted to go. As he turned to answer i saw the indicator plunge and yelled “STRIKE” as the rod was lifted, as were the corners of his mouth.

IMG_0120

Seconds later, he landed the beautiful trout in the top picture and smiled with joy as i snapped a photo of him and his first Texas trout. Immediately upon releasing the trout safely he misplaced a foot, went slightly horizontal and experienced the power of a healthy river filling his waders (fortunately i made him wear a wading belt much to his chagrin) as i reached out without thinking and grabbed him by his shoulder straps and threw him on the bank thanks to the kind of strength that only comes in moments of crisis such as these.

It was a little hairy to be sure, and an hour or so later, after buying dry clothes at Target and settling in to a warm booth at the Huisache Grill in New Braunfels for fried food and comforting drinks (wine and root beer) we reassessed the day and agreed on two cardinal rules for what we hope to be a lifetime of shared fishing adventures.

  1. We don’t wade in up to our chest anymore.
  2. Fish together as much as possible.

Other than that, the rest is just details. We’re both hoping that they can all be worked out over the next few decades during endless hours on tree lined banks awash in the sound of flowing water, augmented by the laughter of two anglers enjoying time together.

IMG_0121

IMG_1255 (1)

It’s that time of year again. The cold weather has returned, although in fits and starts, to tease us and remind us that the holidays are closer than we think. For many, this means making plans, booking flights, writing cards, or heading out with everyone else to the malls to knock out that holiday shopping that we told ourselves a year ago we would do back in September.

Being a manager of a retail store, i’m torn around this time EVERY year. One half of me is focused on my store and all it’s needs (although at this point in the season, the real work is done and the nervous waiting begins) while the other part of me realizes that like clockwork the trout season has snuck up on me once again.

So it is that midges are quickly tied en masse at the last minute and spools of 5X tippet are dug out from beneath car seats in an effort to prepare for the stocking of the alien rainbow trout that will soon work their way to the front of the stage, screaming for attention like the prima donnas they are.

IMG_1252

Thanks to annual winter stockings by the local Trout Unlimited chapter the Guadalupe River Trout Unlimited (which i highly recommend becoming a part of if you are even remotely into trout fishing) as well as corresponding stockings by Texas Parks and Wildlife there are not only holdover trout in the waters close to Canyon Lake Dam, but also freshly stocked trout that usually start showing up somewhere around this time at various locations in the upper reaches of the Guadalupe.

For reasons that are still unclear to me, i somehow managed to hit these waters four times in the last week or so, and can attest that at 300CFS (the first time i was there, and when these trout were landed) these waters are ideal for trout fishing, but at the current 500+ CFS, as they’ve been the last three times i’ve been there, it’s quite simply to much water. To much for the fisherman and to much for the fish. It’s a sad state of affairs that around here we seem to have no water, or to much water, but apparently, like the fish, the angler must learn to adapt.

IMG_1258

For now though i advise waiting it out, (as opposed to wading it out), tying flies, and saving your fishing days for lower flows, colder weather, and more stocked possibilities. Then again, even knowing what i know, i still hit the water when all the odds are stocked against me, so use that advice however you see fit

As a top notch fly fishing guide said the other day while floating past, me on the bank and he in his raft with a client.

“You sure are a glutton for punishment.”

“Yes,” i agreed “there’s something wrong with me for sure.” i yelled knowingly over the hum of the whitewater.

Thinking about this over the next few fish-less hours i realized i really am a glutton for punishment. Here i was, with the sun beating on my face, the wind not only drying out my skin but also tying my tippet into endlessly intricate knots, branches alternating between scratching my skin and eating my flies, and shifty rocks sending me head over heels into cold flows that quickly filled my waders with not just coldness, but incredible weight and not a fish to show for it.

Then again, i wasn’t sitting in the parking lot at the mall, jockeying for position in the parking lot only to delve into the insanity in effort to grab a gift that would likely be re-gifted or donated next year to Goodwill. That in itself was a huge plus.

So the trout days are among us. Even if you do head down during the heavy flows, receive a bump or bruise from shifting rocks, a minor cut from branches, or an unfortunate fish-less day, just remember, you could be working retail!

IMG_1256

 

If you (like me) had no idea that Georgia was home to some handsome trout, check out this beautiful work of equal parts art and stoke from Livit Films.

IMG_1201photo by David Feldkamp

I know this might sound absurd, but at one time fly fishing seemed to me to be one of the most rebellious activities one could participate in. Heading off alone with a “stick and string” to wander aquatic avenues felt like the ultimate way to raise the middle finger to this cultures growing desire to experience everything together, all the time.

In addition, fly-fishing had much of the attraction that drew me intensely to surfing and skateboarding years before, the chance for an individual to learn and refine a skill to a point that one’s personality bleeds into the technique and suddenly an individual style blossoms and grows. There’s probably an art in everything, but for me it’s most obvious at those moments when i find the perfect trim on a wave, grind the edge of a ditch, or unroll  30 yards of line right onto the nose of an startled gar.

For years my  younger brother David (below) and i were the only two in our family that shared this fly fishing passion despite the fact that our fisheries are wildly different, his being explosive, torpedo like steelhead in Oregon and mine being the mixed bag of warm water species found in central Texas. Despite these incongruities, upon seeing each other we quickly wade through the pleasantries before rapidly having our conversations to the common bond, the love of water, and the love of fish.

IMG_1189photo by Alex Freddi

Fast forward a few years (2009) and suddenly our dad, who was starting to wind down a long and honored career in the Air Force and post-military work, was throwing around terms like “mend”, “riffle” and “LDR”, a shock to the system and a pleasant surprise. Not long after catching the bug he began taking guided trips that David and i were lucky enough to be invited to on occasion. One of these much appreciated adventures happened to be a steelhead trip a few years ago where everybody on the trip landed a steelhead except for our dad which was especially unfortunate since nobody wants to see the person who picks up the tab get skunked. Fortunately that was corrected a few weeks ago when David, his friend Alex and our dad hit the Deschutes and more or less put our dad on to steelhead immediately, a rare and fortunate closure for all of us.

Along the way our youngest brother Andrew took up the sport, although i have a feeling there’s a little pressure to do so when all the other males in the family plan time spent together around fishing seasons more than holidays. He’s an incredibly smart and intelligent person which is likely why he has the sense to take a job and a career more seriously than i can possibly muster. Likely this means he’ll be rewarded for his drive by retiring early and fishing the world while i’m still working and fishing local creeks. If so he deserves it.

IMG_1191photo by David Feldkamp

I never could have imagined a decade ago that anyone else in the family other than David and i would be as passionate and over the top about something that in some ways is so incredibly rewarding, but in others so poignantly pointless. It seemed to good to be true, and surely (or so i thought) there was no way the universe could top itself.

Then my mom took up fly-fishing.

Since taking up fly-fishing she’s managed to land more fish (including this beautiful Greenback Cutthroat below) than i did in my first few years combined. Her and my father have spent the year hitting up some of their local watering holes in Colorado and she’s probably quickly outpaced not only her husband, but all her children in figuring out the technique while also finding her own style. I guess it makes sense, if you can figure out how to raise three usually decent, thoughtful and responsible (if sometimes distracted) human beings, you can probably figure out what it takes to get a fish to bite.

Strange.

It started as an act of rebellion, an attempt to keep everyone at arm’s length, and a way to escape from everyone including myself. Ultimately however, fly-fishing has caused me to do a complete 180˚ bringing me closer to myself and loved ones than i ever would have thought possible.

Thank you fly-fishing.

IMG_1195photo by Alan Feldkamp