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Category Archive:   Warm Water Fish


Are you knee deep in summer heat? Do you feel like you’re surrounded (or not surrounded) by slow fish and quickly disappearing water? Does it seem like what little water is left is slowly being choked out by various forms of green algae blooms? Is it possible that you feel that any water that’s not succumbing to one of the above is being over run by fun loving folks with tubes super glued to their posteriors? Then come join me on a little known secret that is sure to put the Mick Jagger Swagger back in your stride.

Imagine it’s 7AM and you’re pulling into any one of the public parks that line the lower Guadalupe River in New Braumfels. There are zero parking problems since nobody else is there except for the random fisherman that was wading the waters right before you got there. Not to worry though, after all, you brought a boat you drag easily down the grass bank as the mist rises off the water in the surprisingly cool morning and you’re able to quickly paddle to where nobody is, or has been for many hours.

Wading into the water, you feel the relatively cool water (cooler than the Pedernales and Barton Creek anyway) wash over your flip flops as you board your canoe / kayak / float tube / paddle board. Within minutes you find a section of river where the water is choked slightly between the two opposing banks, you cast and are immediately rewarded with a  largemouth that fights like a drunk Irishmen, kicking and screaming as your line runs and the fish stirs the water with its fiery attitude. This would be good on any day, you think, doubly so though because it’s the first fish caught on the new 3WT rod you recently purchased and received the day before, delivered in it’s cardboard scabbard, by a swift messenger in all brown clothing.

The smile caused by the bass doesn’t leave your face as you head upstream discovering spot upon spot that you promise to return to. Even though the masses are finally starting to creep out of bed, and make their way to the water in the rising heat, you still manage to round bends in the river that flash in front of you like Technicolor postcards of solitude. Standing, alone in the scenery is reason enough to smile like a lunatic, the small bass you bring to hand in these tiny pools are just the icing on the cake.

As the morning progresses, the bites become less and less, while the people sightings become more and more common. You realize that the warming sun playing on the water is starting to tip the scales as the day slowly becomes the diametric opposite of the what you experienced in the earlier, cooler hours.

Turning around to paddle back to the car, you pick up a few more bass that reassure you that you are slowly figuring it out. Your head probably swells a bit, but that’s to be expected when you’re catching bass in the middle of a drought riddled, sweltering Texas summer. Don’t be ashamed, there are worse things to be to proud about.

Paddling quickly though the rapids, you glance sideways just in time to see a White Crane (below) standing motionless as the water quickly ushers you out of his view. The amount of wildlife is amazing, and in a strange moment of confusion you vow to retire the rod, don some high powered binoculars and take up bird watching.

Tired, sun worn and exhausted you pack up your vehicle as your empty stomach begs to be rewarded with a culinary adventure that it feels entitled to after hours of paddling and “fasting”. Minutes late you pull into the nearby town of Gruene, park the ride, and head straight to Boho Bites for some of the best sausage and potato salad around, as well as maybe a drink or two to loosen you up before you saunter across the road to talk shop with the stellar folks at Gruene Outfitters.

By time you are leaving, the crowds have woken and are descending on the town and the river like locusts. As you leave you catch them in the rear view mirror and think back to the intimate experience you were lucky enough to experience just by giving up a few hours of sleep. You promise to come back soon, but maybe next time you’ll wake a little earlier, after all these memories are priceless, and sleep can come when you don’t have important things like fishing to attend to.

 

Pulling off the paved road, and onto a washed out dirt path that turned sharply and disappeared under the bridge, i fretted about what dangers lurked there. Gangsters, drug dealers, strung out meth heads or possibly worse? I found myself a little shaky with equal parts excitement/anticipation/fear, the unmistakable signs, for me at least, of fishing a new stretch of water.

Armed with my copy of Texas River Bum’s “Blanco River Guidebook” i had set off that day to explore a body of water that, until then, i’d thought of as “off limits” due to its lack of public access as well the fact that its bed always seemed to be either bone dry or flooding. Thanks to the TRB’s guide, i pulled off the road and into a spot framed by tall weeds, that not only had zero signs of zombie crackheads, it showed no signs of anyone…no people, no cars, no discarded beer cans, nothing.

Nervously sliding the paddle-board into the shallow water and pushing off with the meager current, i made my way downstream, feeling like i was drifting into a dream. The waters depth gradually changed, deepening as i worked my way down a long pool. First came the redhorse suckers, followed shortly by carp working the shallower, warmer waters. Next were the catfish and sunfish as the waters depth slowly dropped and increased to three feet. Slightly further along the pool giant largemouth bass appeared like an apparition before darting off, all 30 inches, into the shadows of the bank, and nobody was there to witness me gawking and taking it all in, not a soul.

Working my way down stream, it was pool after pool, broken by tight stretches where the limestone and soil constricted the water’s flow, the current would quickly increase over the rocky bed, and the smallmouth could be found eagerly snagging food as it drifted by them like speeding morsels. It was at the base of one of these runs that i cast, let my popper ride the current, got distracted taking in all the color, quietness and solitude the river offered and slowly started floating out of my body and on to somewhere else.

“BAM!”

Of course the spotted bass would hit then, and of course it would be big (around 22-24 inches), it undoubtedly would run and jump like the best of them as we battled for a good 40 seconds, and of course…i would lose it. I would have screamed an epitaph, but with the heavy, natural silence surrounding me, the idea of an obscenity leaving my throat seemed even more vulgar than it normally would. Instead i clasped my head in my hands and let the trees and the water comment on my folly.

Hours later as i alternatively paddled and dragged my board back up the river to where i had put in, a voice suddenly snapped me out of the dream state that i had sunk into hours before.

“Have you fished this hole?” the woman walking her dog asked me, pointing to a spot on a stretch of water that ran along her property 30 yards below where she saw me.

“Yes.” For indeed i had just fished it hard twenty minutes before.

“It’s a good spot.” she replied.

“It’s a beautiful river.” i replied, at which point she smiled and agreed. And just like that all my fear of and concerns about this river (or at least this stretch) vanished.  I had seen only one person along the water all day, and she was smiling and making sure i had fished the waters along her bank.

It should be noted that this was on a 100˚ plus Sunday afternoon, a time when the Guadalupe, San Marcos, Barton Creek etc. are at their peak capacity, with throngs of people seeking a cool (or lukewarm) respite from the intense Texas summer heat. During the whole two mile trip, i saw one person, two items of trash (picked them up), and a ridiculous amount of fish. So pick up a copy of the guide, load your boat, stay quiet and be respectful of peoples property, stay focused and you may just land the fish of your life. Just be sure to pick up any trash on the way out.

 

Let’s see now, where was i…OH YEAH, trying to win a Diablo Paddleboard by coming in first place on the Texas Hill Country contest being put on by Texas River Bum.

Since getting back from my trip to Colorado i’ve managed only a couple of days on the water and most of those were about as unproductive as it gets around here. With the dog days of summer beating down on us, and the waters flows slowing to a trickle, it’s not surprising that the fish are hunkering down and lying low until conditions improve. But on my recent day off i couldn’t take the indoors any more and needed an excuse to get out and stretch my legs, besides, there HAD to be some fish out there feeding, maybe just not the fish that everyone is looking for (bass). Slowly the wheels turned, i remembered the contest and the fact that i still needed a carp, who love the sun and heat, to score some points. Ten minutes later i was out the door, and little more than an hour later i was standing in the middle of my favorite river, rod in hand and ready to get down to business.

Before Colorado i had taken the contest possibly a little to seriously (okay, way to seriously), a  symptom of my extremely competitive nature. However, during my stay in Colorado i hooked into fish after fish that offered me nothing more than the adventure and experience of being tied into the wildness of nature and life. It didn’t matter if i caught one fish or twenty, and so i was able to rediscover the joy of fishing just for the sake of fishing, something that i hadn’t done in a while. Now, as i stalked the shallow waters of the Pedernales, i was able to find a happy medium, being able to target the fish i needed with a concentrated focus, but at the same time appreciating the random small catch like this Rio with warmth and affection.

I guess that somehow my attitude pleased somebody or something out there (or in there), because after a few hours of hiking and fishing under the heat lamp of a sun i stumbled onto 30 minutes of fishing nirvana.

Rounding a bend in the river i chanced upon a couple of active carp that hadn’t noticed me approach, a welcome change from the 20 or so earlier that day that detected me before i even saw them. After casting a small black Wooly Bugger directly in front of the closest one, i found myself tied into 21 inches of stubbornness that took my 7’6″ 3WT and i close to ten minutes to land (top photo). It was an incredible rush as i netted my first carp of the year and snapped all the required photos to enter him for some points all the while thanking him for allowing me to catch him.

No more than fifteen minutes later i was targeting a drum lurking in a deep pool a few yards away. After a few cast i stripped the line, watched the Bugger lunge forward, the drum suddenly spotting it, accelerating rapidly to strike and looking bewildered and confused as a mysterious shadow shot up from below and stole the Bugger inches from the drum’s mouth. Reeling in the thief i was shocked to find a channel cat was the culprit. BINGO, one of the other species i needed.

Releasing the fish i suddenly felt giddy, so much so that i started laughing a little eerily out loud. In less than 30 minutes i had landed two of the species i needed, and most importantly, both were caught happily and merrily, without the dying sense of urgency that previous fish in this contest had been caught (other than the gar, that was an immense joy).

With the sun beating down (103˚ that day), and my water depleted i reluctantly ended the awesome fishing streak and started the two mile hike back to my car, after all, passing out dehydrated where nobody knows you are is a sure way to loose a contest. Passing the remaining half of a Tarpon kayak i had last encountered broken, battered and beached here over two years before, it dawned on me how fast the time goes. The kayak encounter seemed like a year but was actually two. The last carp? Seemed like a few months but had been close to ten. Up until then It seemed like i had all the time in the world to fish and win, but it suddenly dawned on me that it’s really little more than two months, that will undoubtedly pass by in a blur. But it can be done, i just need to keep myself in check, bring more water, and above all else, remember to smile.

After returning from Colorado a week or so ago i was stunned to see that the many plants in my yard had gone berserk with new growth, happy victims of some hard rains while i was MIA in the Rockies. Unfortunately even a few heavy rains can’t break the stranglehold that the drought seems to have on this part of Texas. If you need proof that we need water, all you have to do is paddle the normally flowing Colorado River, marvel at the lack of flow, and the abundance of plant life now vying for space on the water’s surface.

That’s exactly what i was lucky enough to do recently with a wonderful group of people on a recent day off. The day started early at the always helpful MOC Kayak just a ways below Longhorn Dam on the east side. Although it was early, the entire crew of folks seemed to be in good spirits, hoping for a great day of fishing.

Other than the super rad folks i got to spend the day with, the highlight for me was getting to fish for gar in a wide deep pool that i’d actually been dreaming about since my last visit there. It should have been much more fruitful, after all, just like last time they were surfacing left and right, gulping air and diving quickly, but unfortunately it wasn’t in the cards. I managed to get ten or so to bite but was only able to get one huge fella, around four feet long, to run with the hook for a couple of minutes before casually dislodging it and tossing it aside.

Not long after that i managed to lose a good size Guadalupe in the same spot that i had caught one on the previous trip, bummer upon bummer. Rounding a corner in the river i headed to a spot that FINALLY offered up my first actual catch of the day, a feisty 16-18″ largemouth that skated and flipped across the water like a teenage gymnast on meth.

As much as i would love to steer business to Danny at MOC, i have to say that now is not the time to be hitting the Colorado. However, if we get any rain in the next month or so you might want to call ahead and book him before everyone else does. The fall, and the bass fishing, aren’t far around the corner, and in case you didn’t know, it’s stellar.

Thanks to Rob, Ron, Banning, David and especially Jose for the awesome dinner and conversation at Shady Grove.