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Category Archive:   Warm Water Fish


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In reality i probably shouldn’t have been out wandering the shores of my beloved Pedernales. I had spent the previous week with an illness that found me slowly slipping back and forth between 14 hour days of sleep and walking around my work like a zombie trying to keep busy just so i wouldn’t notice how miserable i really was.

While i was lucky enough to acquire many wonderful traits from my parents, i was also unfortunate enough to inherit a healthy dose of stubbornness that causes me ignore the advice of others (“Go home and get some rest!”) and do what i think i need to do (“Strap on a 20 pound pack and head out to wade in a raging river and try and catch some fish dam it!”) despite the fact that i really probably should have waited for the illness to leave and the flows to get back down to something resembling normal.

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This scenario played itself out recently when i hiked into the lower waters of the Pedernales with all intents of breaking up the monotony of the sleep/cough/zombie shuffle. Although flows were only hovering around 250CFS that’s enough of a flow in this shallow riverbed  to turn the water into heavy flows from bank to bank. Pools that had previously been waist high and wadable were now over head high and full of such powerful flows that simply trying to stand your own was a chore.

Making my way along the shore i eventually found temporary reprieve in a small pocket out of the main current. Working the ubiquitous black Wooly Bugger through the mellow waters i felt a sudden tug that i figured would likely be an eager sunfish trying to scarf down a quick meal.

As the line went taut, i struggled to catch a glimpse of the sunfish only to find myself playing tug o’ war with a small gar that seemed a little peeved to have been fooled. I oohed and awed over the fish, snapped a couple of quick photos while informing him/her that he/she was my first gar of the season, a noble title to be sure, but the fish just kept eyeballing me without any discernible change in attitude.

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Shortly after that spotted, and needle jawed wonder, i turned and headed back to the car, sweating, exhausted and seriously wondering if i could make it back to the car without passing out. Maybe everyone else was right and i should have stayed at home?

Not that there was ever really any question of course, the great thing about stubbornness is that it not only makes you want to prove everyone else wrong, it also makes you want to prove yourself right.

Exhausted but smiling, i made it to the car, returned home, laid down and immediately fell into an incredibly restful sleep where i dreamt of flowing crystal waters, lines tearing into backing, stalwart cypress, endless sand, majestic black spots and radiant, prehistoric golden scales glistening in the sun.

Maybe stubbornness isn’t always bad after all.

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It happens every year around this time, the previously dormant Barton Creek slowly comes alive again. Multi hued sunfish are once again seen striking the surface for any available morsel and active bass looking to put on  a few calories can be seen lurking in the shadows ready to ambush any protein that unknowingly passes by.

Not coincidentally, this is the time of year that i find myself once again making my way up and down the many dirt paths and waterways of Barton Creek that i’ve come to know intimately over the years. There is something about spending so many hundreds (thousands?) of hours together that pulls me towards looking at this waterway more as a good friend with whom i’ve shared deep and intimate secrets, rather than a simple ditch pulling and pushing flows through it.

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Over the last week i’ve been fortunate enough to spend a lot of time around and in this liquid temple and have been lucky enough to see these vivid waters start to flex again for the first time in months.

Some of the things i’ve learned in the last few days are;

  1. Sunfish are starting to hit the surface, small poppers kill it.
  2. Bigger bass are digging deep sinking streamers, they aren’t hitting surface flies yet.
  3. With last years floods much of these fishes plant shelter are gone, making the banks much more likely holding spots than the middle of the creek.
  4. There are significantly less consolidated fish post floods of 2015 than there were the last five or so years.
  5. They are far more scattered (due to the floods) than they have been in the past few years. Reports of bass from Lost Creek all the way down to Barton Springs Pool have been continuously coming in.

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The ARE there, they’re just a little more difficult to find now that they have such a huge canvas of water to cover with their eclectic and iridescent mix of laser light colors.

A light rod, a variety of flies, and a curious nature will open up an entire world along these waters if you let it. Sure they’re tight quarters, but if you walk (wade) slowly, pay attention, and keep the commotion to a minimum, you might be lucky enough to have a quiet conversation with one of the many small members of the flock. Should your steps, movements and skills be sufficient you might even find yourself tied into one of the few “Pound Plus Priests” that seem to deliver their sermons in the deepest, stillest waters.

For me at least, Barton Creek is a special place to feel connected to things that are much larger than me, a mecca, temple, a shrine to all things watery and mysterious. The fact that these holy waters sit in the heart of this blossoming town is mind boggling. Luckily the waters are nondenominational, so feel free to visit them regardless of your beliefs, and bow to the fish as much as you can. They might just repay you with the best day of fishing you’ve ever had.

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Pulling into Colorado Bend State Park, the expectations were running high indeed. With the drought of the last few years, the flows where the Colorado River flowed into Lake Buchanan had essentially become non existent, physically cutting off the white bass from their natural inclination to head upstream and spawn. Fortunately with all the recent rains of the last six months, much of Texas is seeing life move back into areas that they once called home. Chief among these are the white bass and the fisherman that chase them, both once again calling Colorado Bend SP home.

If you’ve never fished for white bass before, it can be summed up rather succinctly by stating that “It’s all or nothing.” Traveling in schools as they do, if you’re fortunate enough to find one, you’ll probably find many more. Because of this, one persons skunk on a particular stretch of water one day can easily be someones double digit bonanza just 24 hours later.

While there are many spots around central Texas to wade in hopes of finding some of these white magic bullets, Colorado Bend State Park is one of the classics. However the drought of the last few years has kept the flows from being enough to facilitate the bass making it from the lake up into the river. Fortunately, this year the rains have been kind and the white bass are once again moving up the Colorado again which meant it was time to cash in some favors and spend some time alone with just water, fish, a rod and myself.

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The first sign of abundance happened as soon as i pulled into my campsite and placed a few random items on the pot marked and weathered picnic table. The wind whipped into a furry and instantly sent a stove, a sleeping bag, two boxes of flies, and various other items over the edge of the table and scattered them on the ground as though it wanted to play a round of Pick-Up Stix. I’m not sure why, but i just chuckled and laughed at the chaos, possibly because i was on the beginning side of three full days of fishing. One thing is for sure, i was not laughing about the wind long after that, and certainly not at the end of the trip, after being buffeted by 30-45mph winds non-stop for three days solid.

While a steady wind is nothing short of nerve wracking, a steady flow of water can be absolute bliss and that’s where the river delivered, showing no signs of ebbing over the three days i spent moving up, down, and across its gripping current. While the heavy flows would have kept lesser fish wary due to the one inch visibility, these fish were here, they were horny, and more than anything else they were hungry.

How hungry? Despite the chocolate milk consistency of the water, double digit fish within an hour were far from uncommon. While my new 7’6″ Winston 3WT was complaining out loud with every gust that blew the water upstream, it definitely doubled over in laughter with every hook-up and bolting bass caught despite the ceaseless buffeting of the wind.

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After a couple of days of way to much sun and wind on the river i headed out to the Spicewood Springs trail in the park eager to see it once again full of flowing water. It’s a small but heavenly creek full of waterfalls, verdant plant life, and crystal clear spring waters. Many years ago, when water was still abundant, my family and i had hiked this trail and the sunfish and small bass were plentiful to a degree that i now realize was a blessing. Now, using the two weight, three inch fish that had obviously never seen an angler were caught and released quickly. Back on the river, 20-30 fishermen were casting uncomfortably close to each other in muddy waters, but here it felt like fishing in Eden, despite the small size of the fish.

The last day was more white bass, more sun, more wind and more frustration about the two things (in addition to the wind) that had been plaguing me since i pulled in to camp that first night. One was the incessant rumbling of a tractors engine that was blown upstream by the endless wind. The other was that i had lost my waterproof camera of 5+ years in the first evening of fishing, lost (i imagined) in the muddy waters of the Colorado while grabbing a fly box.

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Breaking camp, i headed out on the dirt road only to hear the tractor hum that had plagued me for days approach, and feel the anger caused by this audible abomination to nature swell up in me. At the peak of frustration i realized what they had been doing, using an auger to plant a plethora of trees throughout the park. Smile.

So inspired was i by the fact that my frustration had turned out to be something so wonderful, i actually made a choice at the moment to embrace the positive aspect of every seemingly annoying setback. After stopping in the park rangers station a couple of times over the last few days to inquire about my lost camera only to be disappointed, i decided to make one last inquiry based on this recent turn of events.

Standing there inquiring about an “orange camera” i noticed the park ranger smiling in a peculiar way that had me wondering what was going on. When she returned with the camera my desperation / exaltation must have emanated from every pore.

Turns out that a young angler named Will had found my camera in his campsite (the one i initially took before moving sites) and turned it in that day. Turning around, i headed back to the small trailer that Will and his grandpa were camping in and was lucky enough to encounter them walking up the road to take a break from slaying the fish. I practically tripped over myself offering Will gifts and praise, grateful as i was for his honesty and virtue.

If you haven’t been to Colorado State Park yet i suggest you head there ASAP, it’s an amazing place with some incredible fishing . If your lucky, the wind and muddy waters will be long gone, but i’m sure the fish and positive vibes that Will tapped into will still be there for you to enjoy.

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“Are you die Fische?” the young man asked as i strolled by, my breakfast tacos in hand, and my mind on the long day ahead and the adventure that awaited near Smithville. The recognition is always a shock, and no much less so since i was exiting Buck’ees (essentially a gussied truck stop, Texas style) in Bastrop, a small town on the eastern outskirts of Austin.

I took the mild ego boost as a sign that this day…no…wait…THIS DAY…was going to be different from the previous few weeks. The dark cloud of misfortune i seemed to be living under was was about to be dissipated and scattered to the winds. Farewell to funerals, automotive tire replacements, busted door locks, and parking lot dings caused by others. Sayonara ruined iPhones, clogged house drains, broken house appliances and and lost fly rods. With the opening chords of AC/DC’s “Hells Bells” ripping out of the speakers i pointed the car in the direction of the bass laced waters of the lower Colorado, nary a cloud in sight

The plan was to pedal the Hobie upstream as far as possible and then ride the current back while pounding the banks with a small armada of poppers and streamers. It was a slow start, as i spent an inordinate amount of time trolling the banks in search of the top three sections of my 6WT, lost on a previous trip the week before. Once beyond the limits of that earlier trip, with zero chance of stumbling on an errant rod tip, the speed of my progress picked up, helped by a slight upstream breeze blowing against my back.

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Freed from paddling (i’m lucky to be wintering my fathers Hobie Pro Angler) i was afforded the luxury of being able to cast while simultaneously making progress, something that as a long time kayak fisherman i can attest is pretty much revolutionary. It was during that upstream haul that i managed to land a few bass, though they all were small in stature, hardly the behemoths whose images fill the internet.

Still, i expected that the best was yet to come since there would be a long float on the return trip that would provide a few hours of coasting and casting for the elusive five pounder. Such it was that i turned the craft around with expectations of all sorts running high.

Remember that breeze?

Shortly after turning to head downstream the previously gentle wind breeze into a frenzy. Gale force winds tore upstream creating white capped wind waves that created the illusion of the river suddenly having its course reversed. The constant gusts were so great and relentless that i found myself being blown upstream if i paused pedaling, river currents be damned. On top of that i busted the pedaling apparatus (fixed now) on an unseen water pipe in the whitewater and ended up making a million half pedals all the way downstream as the wind fought me tooth and nail. Already exhausted from the trip up, i finally made it back to the car uncomfortably close to sundown, tail between my legs, drained and wind burned.

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I never found the rest of my rod or the monster bass, two things that seemed almost inevitable earlier in the optimistic beginnings of the day. It was a shocking disappointment that seemed best drowned out with a good meal and a nice glass of wine if only i could find such a place in a small town of 4,000 people. Thankfully i chanced upon the Back Door Cafe, a simple yet charming fine dining restaurant in Smithville where i managed to find a nice Pinot Grigio that paired well with the most amazing chicken fried steak that’s ever crossed my palette.

The stomach situated by the succulent meal and the mind loosened by the dry wine, i imagined running into that reader after the difficult day and relating my story of “hardship”. Really? A day on the water, fishing at all was really that difficult? I don’t think so.

For now i’m working hard to accentuate the positive, but in all honesty a five pound bass would make it switch all the quicker. Still, i’ll take what i can get and try to remember to smile all the while, after all, it’s a good life.

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