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Category Archive:   Warm Water Fish


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!

It wasn’t even midnight on my last day of work at Whole Earth Provision Co., the ink still wet on the day when the text from Winston came late in the evening,

“Want to fish tomorrow on the LCR?”

Winston is one of the most unique people i know, harnessing both a fiery intensity and endless curiosity to everything, seemingly all the time. Being a somewhat more laid back introvert its stimulating just to be in his presence where you can practically hear the hum radiating around him.

When he’s not saving lives as a paramedic north of Austin, he swaps the ambulance for a jet boat and buzzes clients up and down the Lower Colorado via All Water Guides here in Austin. Working along side some of the most knowledgeable guides on the water he’s got this water dialed.

Suffice to say, if you get a text from a friend like this on the first day of your month long vacation, asking if you want to sled up and down the Colorado, you’ll want to say “Yes.”

 

photo by Winston Cundiff

The only other time i’ve experienced a jet boat was once on the Deschutes while fishing for steelhead with my family, where we flew up some up amazing class three rapids, still one of the most thrilling things i’ve ever done. Here on the Colorado though i constantly found myself shaking my head (and bracing my feet) as we jetted up stretches of shallow waters that were barely two inches deep while traveling at warp speed. Adrenaline hit for sure.

Early in the day we ended up at a weir and cut the engine in order to start floating casually downstream while waiting for the other All Water Guides to show up with their Yeti ambassadors aboard. It didn’t take long to land a handsome white bass and just a few moments later a nice largemouth which immediately set our expectations much to high, as we’d find out later.

Hours of this perspective felt unreal.

To cut to the chase, the rest of the day was fruitless, with hundreds (?) of casts going unnoticed, or at the very least being ignored. Eventually we switched roles and i found myself on the sticks (oars for those not in the know) and constantly being coached on how to position the boat, work the current, and set the boat up moves ahead as though playing a chess game. In all honesty, being given the chance to row a boat that many in the scene refer to “The Most Bitching Boat in Austin” was an honor of far greater reward than any fat ass bass could provide.

Eventually the Yeti crew arrived with David Mangum and his crew in tow, but unfortunately, as mentioned, things had long since shut down. I wish the day had been more amazing, with 5 pound bass constantly being netted for our visiting ambasadors, but that wasn’t the case. Hopefully they each found something amazing about the experience to take home with them despite the difficult day. For me i just enjoyed catching up with a good friend, learning a new skill, and taking in the glory of the day.

Just one day into my time off and here i was lying across the bow of the boat, watching the ospreys circling high in the sky, soaking in the sun and humming a tune we all know…

Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream.

Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream…

David Mangum casting like a pro at my camera!