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Category Archive:   Warm Water Fish


Since starting my new job in Gruene, TX. i’ve desperately been trying to find spots on the way home that could not only be accessed quickly, but possibly even hold fish that might satiate my desire to catch something more than small and eager sunfish.

Having hit up the Blanco river, and specifically Five Mile Dam Park numerous times over the last few weeks with little to no success wading or kayaking i was starting to wonder whether maybe i might be chasing windmills? It didn’t seem entirely implausible (as a customer mentioned in conversation) that the flood of 2015 could have stripped the river of not just plant cover, but possibly a majority of the fish as well.

 

Dragging the Versa board down to the water, navigating the throngs of folks camped out on the flood ravaged boat launch, it seemed to me that even if fish did survive the flood they probably wouldn’t have stuck around here with this carnival atmosphere going on in their own backyard. Regardless, i was going to give it one more chance before writing off the park and seeking out other possibilities along the I-35 corridor.

Weaving through the tubers and floaties, i paddled about twenty yards up from even the most adventurous swimmer, tied on a green splattered popper loaded the rod with a false cast and landed the popper directly between two large submerged boulders. So mesmerized was i by the sudden splash and instant disappearance of my fly i almost forgot to set the hook into the bass (above) that just seconds ago i was convinced wasn’t there.

Within the next 30 minutes i managed to land 20 plus sunfish of various type and size. With every strike it felt like the fish were announcing that not only were they present, they were SURVIVORS and had the fight and will power to prove it!

Enjoying the activity i eventually tied on a much larger deer hair popper in an effort to focus on the bass that were surely snaking up and down the steep, muddy and foliaged banks. With nips and nibbles from the sunfish causing the fly to dip and resurface when they realized their appetite outsized their mouths it was a constant game of waiting for just the right take.

Eventually the fly disappeared without immediately re-surfacing which meant a quick strip, a dipping rod and eventually a good size long ear sunfish that was big enough to wrap its jaws around a bass fly that theoretically was out of its league. Not to be out done, shortly after a fly change the bass were back to make sure that i knew who really owned these waters.

This culminated in the bass (below) that took a popper, swam down and out and immediately pulled the tip of my 4WT into the water and started guiding both my board and i around as though it were leading us around on some strange waltz that only it could hear the music to.  Being an easy three pounds, the fish had me not only anticipating my next return, but also knowing that the relationship between me and these waters would be a lasting one.

Paddling upstream, content in the fishing, i found spots of the Blanco that not only felt far removed from I-35, and the crowds downstream, but also from life in general. One only paddle far enough and the traffic noise, housing tracts and political pandemonium seem to be drowned out by the calming noise of water stubbornly forcing its way around, beneath and over rocks, and the sweet, sweet sound of survivors slurping flies off the surface with the confidence of those that have seen some shit and aren’t afraid to let you know that they never disappeared.

For all the joyous things about family life (and there are many) the one disconcerting thing you learn REALLY quickly is that personal time is rare, special and unique and simply can not be squandered away on idle chores like paying bills, mowing the grass or showing up for jury duty.

Suffice to say that when you get two angling parents together (myself and my good friend Nathan) and grant them a handful of hours to peck away at, you’re going to bear witness to a couple of folks, hunched and hectic, sucking the very marrow out of life and breakfast tacos as well.

 photo by Nathan Peck

After meeting up and picking up said tacos, plus the usual rations of jerky, wine and beer at Graceland Grocery and discussing his need to be home by early afternoon, we pulled into Pedernales State Park practically humming with anticipation of a beautiful day spent in perfect flows and perfectly cool weather. After a previous trip here trying to lug around a 3WT (bass, sunfish) and a 6WT (gar, drum) i settled on just taking the 3WT and resigning myself to enjoying catching mostly smaller fish, unencombered by both a second rod and the expectation of catching something huge.

Within minutes of making our way down the rocky pathway and trammel crossing Nathan managed to use a size 12 Wooly Bugger to hook into a  small but spastic bass that quite simply was not excited about being punked by a papa. This scene unfolded time and time again as Nathan caught bass after bass interspersed with the occasional sunfish.

For the most part i was somehow coming up empty as Nathan managed to bring in a small collection of fish, despite the fact that i was tying on progressively smaller flies in an effort to increase my odds of landing anything…anything at all.

photo by Nathan Peck

Working our way to the far eastern side of the park, i wandered slightly ahead and found a deep pool, barely wider than a kiddie pool, but still 6 feet deep or so, with two 20 pound drum hanging out, hugging the bottom, little more than dark shadows shapeshifting far down in the quickly moving water.

Arrow casting upstream amongst the tight wall of cypress and wishing for the streamer to sink faster than it physically could, i watched as the sculpin pattern quickly moved passed their heads before a small mysterious dragon, radiant in a coat of grey and yellows shot up from the dark depths and slammed the fly without hesitation, fully intent on making quick work of my fly.

With a nimble 3WT connecting me two the fish and a healthier than normal flow, the catfish ran amok with added leverage, intent on snapping every inch of tippet that would result in its immediate freedom. Steering it away from rough edged rocks and snarls of downed cypress limbs, eventually i escorted it to the net while simultaneously yelling for Nate to come and hopefully capture this this odd catch on film.

After having Nate take the ubiquitous photo, i quickly released the catfish and surrendered the spot to him in order to see what else could be found. Within a few casts he quickly hooked up with yet another in a menagerie of bass that once again brought smiles, whoops and hollers like any take really should.

Glancing at the time, Nate mentioned a little hesitantly that we needed to start heading back so that fatherly duties could be attended to. Had it been any of the numerous recent days of fishing this news would have likely have been followed with hand wringing, nervous shifting, or at the very least some profanities muttered quietly under my breath.

Instead i glanced downstream towards the possible future, glanced back upstream at the past and thought about the many fish and unique characters that had created our day, and finally shrugged honestly and contently.

“Sure! Let’s go.” I was able to say happily without even a trace of regret or bitterness. After all, it’s easy to be at peace with the present when the past has been so generous to you and your friends. Carpe diem indeed.

If you had only this blog to know me by, you might perchance think i fell off the face of the earth, or at the very least somehow developed a waning interest in the sport of angling after the last post on dismal days wandering through northern New Mexico and southern Colorado. However, nothing could be further from the truth.

Since returning from my ill fated (and far too early) trip of the Rockies i’ve taken up residence at Gruene Outfitters, a place i’ve longed to work at for over a decade. As a long time customer of the store it still feels strange to hang out there without having longtime employee Jacob hand me a beer and fill my ears with his jovial laughter and wonderful rambling stories. Fortunately the responsibility of dispensing stories and receiving them now falls squarely on my shoulders, something i’m more than willing to take on.

In order to give myself the most immersive education i can manage i’ve spent the last few weeks fishing as many spots, rods, leaders, flies, etc. as i can in an order to figure out what works, what doesn’t and what we simply need to have in the shop.

This has meant evenings on the Guadalupe with nymph rigs on 10′ 3 weights followed by passes with a 6WT and streamer flies longer than my finger in search of trout. It’s also been early mornings on the Guadalupe along Cypress Bend park with 2WT panfish flies followed by an 8WT and gar flies for said species.

In order to test sinking tips and sinking leaders i’ve wandered the endless dunes of the Llano near Kingsland in hopes of a late season white bass. After hours of fruitless casts and slowly losing hope i eventually made my way across the river and up the six foot sand bank where i was able to look down on a variety of warm water species sitting there, oblivious to the fact that an angler was surmising the circumstances. There were fish…oh man…there were fish…so many fish. Heading back down stream and wading slowly and quietly i set myself upstream so that the closer minnow could be worked low and deep across the deep gut that had formed along the bank.

Minutes later the 3WT jerked and bowed towards the water, indicating that some sort of peace had been made after many fruitless hours wandering the gravel bars. Lifting the rod to its apex and guiding the net down the length of the tippet i managed to coral the white bass into the translucent net where i stared at it in disbelief for what felt like hours. This late in the season it almost felt like a blessing from the Fishing Gods, some sort of late season token of appreciation for delving that much deeper both personally and professionally into the magical world that is fly fishing.

I couldn’t be happier than to be where i am, knee deep in fly fishing, the community it helps foster and the waters that always feel like home. Thank you, and there is so much more to come.

The winter never seemed to happen, the summer slowly dragging out unto itself. Here we were, knee deep into February and already the stocked trout seemed lethargic after endless 80˚ plus days. The heat not only slowed the fish down, it also meant that waders and boots could be left behind if you wished, this was not the winter trout fishing i’d become accustomed to. Add to that strangeness the fact that the flows off of Canyon Lake were suddenly being cranked up to four times their “new norm” of 300cfs (meaning they were above 1,200cfs) and the bass waters were starting to seem like good alternatives, despite being early in the season for these warm water fish.

The San Marcos

My first recent bass adventure was when i was headed down I-35 and suddenly realized that my wading boots (much needed footwear for the Guadalupe River) were still sitting in my back yard drying out. Equipped with nothing more than a rapidly deteriorating pair of Reef sandals, i decided to seize the last few hours of daylight by pulling off into the San Marcos area to wet wade with my 7’6″ 3WT, expecting to enchant a few sunfish to my fly, and nothing more.

With flows slightly higher than normal and many folks wading, paddling, and rope swinging into the pool i was desperately trying to work, my hope to catch a sunfish seemed like a best case scenario. After a few decent sunfish, i cast tight against the bank, stripped once or twice and felt my hook set into what i was sure was a downed log. After a few roll casts and tugs on my part to set the hook free, my line suddenly darted back and forth across the pool, with whitewater being kicked up left and right. Eventually the culprit, a healthy sized largemouth, came to hand seconds before i felt sure the tiny three weight would crack under pressure.

San Marcos largemouth.

A day later i took a cue from the budding Red Buds and headed out west to the Llano river in hopes of encountering the beginning of the annual white bass run. After slowly sifting my way across the seemingly endless sand i ended up near the junction of the Llano and Lake L.B.J (The Slab area). Although I’d been coming to this spot like clockwork for the last few years, the flows were higher than i was used to, making the deep pockets much less obvious and all but eliminating the sight casting i’d become used to in years previous.

After hours of wading, casting and cursing, i ended up on a familiar sandbar casting into a four foot deep bend working the Hill Country Clouser (from Sportsmans Finest) across the current with precious nothing to show for it. Confused i tried shuffling 15 feet above the pool and casting directly into the opposite bank, allowing the fly to sink enough that it allowed the fly to flow into the pool already scraping the bottom of the river, and just like that…BAM! Fish on!

I was so shocked at how well the minor adjustment worked that i spent the next three hours trying multiple variations on the theme, but unfortunately it seemed to be a one time deal, at least this time.

A few days later i met up with my good friend Nathan in south Austin, anxious to introduce him to some very fishy waters on Barton Creek that are easily accessible but seldom fished. Both of us recently purchased some tenkara rods from Tenkara Rod Co. and eagerly tucked them into our small daypacks before heading down into the heart of Barton Creek.

Making our way past the crowds casting tentative toes into the still cool waters, and the numerous dogs out walking their owners, we made our way to the special spot that i wanted to show Nathan. I was nervous, knowing it was still early for these waters, but still i hoped that we could somehow coax a fish or two out of the shadows just so my friend could see what these waters were capable of.

After a few casts into the shadows of a steep bank were met with little to no fanfare, a 2.5 pound bass (see title photo) visibly lunged out of the shadows, engulfed the wooly bugger and put such a bend in the Tenkara rod that i was convinced the rod tip was going to snap, although a passerby would be hard pressed to notice my concern since i was laughing maniacally. Needless to say, Nate now understands why i was hyping this spot up as much as i was, and i’m thankful to have a spot not only live up to, but exceed, the hype i built up around it.

Now is the time! The waters are coming alive and the fishing for bass will only get better over the next month, so do what you must, but get out there now and enjoy some of the best bass fishing of the year (on the flowing waters) before the heat sets in. They’re out there, and you should be too!