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Category Archive:   Warm Water Fish


As any fan of this blog will know, gar are hands down one of my favorite fish to catch on a fly. So imagine my delight to see that Texas Park and Wildlife is now treating at least one of the gar (the Alligator Gar) like an actual respectable gamefish. To see these prehistoric creatures suddenly go from an unwelcome, unloved trash fish, discarded on riverbanks to die a slow death to a species venerated as a “game fish” is mind boggling, but also deeply satisfying for not only me, but also the many others that know the exhilaration of catching any gar on a fly. Fisherman, and especially fly fisherman, constantly seem to look down on “trash fish” like gar, carp, freshwater drum, etc., but if you’ve ever hooked into one you’ll know that gar and carp are capable of bending an 8WT into two and putting up a fight that resembles saltwater fishing much more than your typical freshwater fishing.

TPWD has set up a special site for the alligator gar at https://tpwd.texas.gov/fishboat/fish/management/alligator-gar/index.phtml and they are looking for folks like you and I to try and shape the future of gar fishing in Texas by taking a survey to see where they should be devoting their resources. If you are interested in helping fly fishing in Texas progress please take a moment to check out this website.

P.S. “Yes” these are long-nose gar photos. I have yet to catch an alligator gar, but don’t worry, that’s my summer’s goal.

I love Texas. I also love wandering.

Unfortunately less than 2% of Texas is public land, which makes wandering and exploring almost as difficult as trying to explore a distant planet. As a reminder to those that venture to far to far, barbwire is an ever-present deterrent around here. There are also a wealth of signs that practically beat one over the head with suggestions, warnings or out right threats that might or might not be enforced. All of which is to say, you never, ever know in Texas. You are equally likely to be greeted by a hand squeezed lemonade as you are a salt rock shot in the ass.

Unless you’re connected to wealth some of the best spots to meander in Texas are the state parks, which is exactly why I found myself at one of my favorite spots, the South Llano State Park.  I was here alone, in search of a couple of days of relative solitude in an effort to re-charge my batteries and squeeze in some fishing time that wasn’t book ended on either end by drives to and from the water. I’ve camped / fished here for years and have always found the park to be one of the more mellow parks, likely because of its rather limited amount of campgrounds as well as its distance from any major cities (it’s 3 hours from Austin).

Upon arriving  I started wade fishing the stretch that any person visiting the state park would decide was the obvious route. I ventured from the low water crossing (most upstream access at the park) all the way down towards the “Tube Exit” sign without landing a single fish. We’re talking hundreds of yards, all with no observable foot traffic ahead of me, multiple flies tried and not a single bite. However, immediately after passing the aforementioned sign I found myself hooked into the beautiful bass above that instantly put the 3WT through its paces and made the entire evening worth it.

The next morning I was on the water early, sliding the paddle board into the river at the second crossing, visions of an epic day of thigh length bass and endless pools of gullible, gaping mouths ready to inhale anything I through their way. The downstream wind quickly assaulted and aggravated, turning a leisurely upstream paddle into some sort of death march that if paused, even for a second,  would send me downstream faster than the current could carry me. The day was not what I was hoping for, the one or two fish landed were a small reward for hour upon hour of relentless paddling against a headwind.

Still, at least I was experiencing the illusion of wandering even if it was hemmed in by a limestone cliff to my left and a two lane highway a few yards over my right shoulder. I have to say though, if I’m going to spend my time constrained to a space of flowing water between two opposing banks of private property, Texas is where I want to do it. Warning signs be damned.

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.

There are so many benefits of bringing together your personal passion with your professional life that it’s hard not to make the analogy of heaven or nirvana. In a perfect symbiosis such as this, one fuels the other and vice versa.

As a decade long fly-fisherman i’ve always hoped to merge that aspect of me with the outdoor store manager that has been my role for decades. Since taking my new job as buyer (etc.) for Gruene Outfitters i’ve had the wonderful fortune of falling into a wide array of wonderful adventures that would likely never had occurred had i stuck to the safe and familiar.

One such adventure arose recently after sitting through a line showing for Simms with the excellent rep. Eric Kraimer. The showing (where product for next year is shown by him and pondered over by me) was held on the shores of Lake Bastrop that coincidentally happened to have his bass boat (circa the 80’s?) sitting close at hand.

Ending the meeting he asked if I was interested in some late afternoon fishing? Graciously accepting the invitation we loaded the boat with the sparse but important tools to suck the marrow out of the next few hours before sundown.

As someone who has spent a LOT of time paddling my kayaks around this lake, working hard to make it from shore to shore, it was pure joy to zip from spot to spot in minutes though there was definitely the catholic / white guilt of having it a little to easy.

The first two cast really were the short story in and of themselves. Cast one was a strike without a hook up, but the second cast landed with the Mr. Minnow popper landing within a hair’s breadth of the grass 20 feet out from the bank. There was an awkward silence after the popper hit the water that was immediately punctuated by what seemed like a toilet being flushed in the reeds as a decent size largemouth sucked everything in front if it through its gills and in the process inhaling my popper.

While it was a great fight, the real excitement of the day was hooking up with someone who was not only passionate about fly fishing but full of stories and thoughts that tend to only come out while fishing for bass, at sunset, while motoring in and out of endless possibilities.