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Category Archive:   Warm Water Fish


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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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After a long day (our busiest of the year actually) at the local Whole Earth Provision Company in downtown Austin i needed a quick escape, something involving the last few rays of light, some water, and possibly even a fish on the end of my line.

Within minutes of leaving work i found a parking spot along the re-constructed peninsula between Shoal Creek and Town Lake. A long time favorite spot of mine, over the last year or so the muddy banks have now been off limits while slowly being replaced with massive limestone bricks that have turned a semi-decent spot into one of the best urban fishing spots in Austin.

Re-visiting this spot after a year or so felt oddly familiar except for the massive influx of bass boats using trolling motors on the “wake free” water.

Despite the heavily outfitted competition cruising uncomfortably close, i managed to get a tug on the second cast, immediately putting a bend in my 5WT rod and plastering a smile on my face while also inviting every bass boat in the neighborhood to get uncomfortably close.

Removing the hook quickly, and encouraging the fish to depart in the opposite direction of the bass boats i had one of those moments where all i could think was “I love this town, i love this water, and i love that sanity can be found here in the deep heart of all the chaos.”

Nine hours of stress relieved in fifteen minutes of fishing before the sun set. The happiness was almost audible with each step as i strode back to the car moments later. Everyone should be lucky enough to have moments like these, no matter where they live or what they are passionate about, i just happen to know that mine is fly fishing and the waters in ATX and for that i am eternally thankful.

Happy holidays folks, what are you thankful for?

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I’m lucky as hell. My son is just as curious as i am, and after viewing a shelter building video i had introduced him to recently, he was dead set on having me teach him the knots and lashings i’d learned long ago in Boy Scouts in an effort for him to learn how to make his own hut.

I’m sure everyone has their own opinions about their Boy Scouts, but my own experience was a mixed bag. While i learned wonderful skills like knots, fire building and other helpful outdoor skills that i cherish to this day, i also was shown how to shotgun beer, smoke cigarettes, roll joints and cause havoc in a million different ways.

In an effort to pass on some of the more positive character building aspects i learned, i recently ordered off of Ebay a copy of the Boy Scout Handbook from my era 9the eighties) which has substantially more practical information than the current edition, which reads more like a self help book. The plan was to refresh my mind, as well as teach Paolo the amazing skills that one can learn with the right instructions and some well thought out images.

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So it was that a few days ago the two of us gave my wife some peace and quiet and headed off to Barton Creek, outfitted with survival gear (he) and rods, wine, and cheese (me). With hours to carefully waste, we had four goals for the day, hike, lash, snack and fish. Hiking down the Mopac trail to Twin Falls we were both ecstatic to see a creek pulsing with healthy, clear flows. Skirting the creeks bankside trail we made our way up towards Sculpture Falls in an effort to find a spacious and special gravel bank that we’ve visited a few times together over the years.

Once found, we quickly set up shop and spent the next thirty minutes procurring dead driftwood flushed down the creek by recent floods. Deciding on a simple structure that would provide lashing skills as well as a building block to grow on later, we settled on a four post table/chair/cot/etc.  that immediately intrigued him and took over all his focus. I provided a demonstration of the lashings and then removed it, coaching him through the first two corners before he got it and wrapped the project. The sense of pride he felt when he had a structure he could sit (and even stand on), built with nothing but cord and branches was immense. So proud was he with his creation (and rightfully so) all he wanted to do was sit there for the next hour reading a book on his chair he had made.

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Content as he was, he encouraged me to go fish which i did without the slightest hesitation, wandering into the cool and clear water, stripping the line out, readying myself for who knows what. Shiiiipppp…shiiiiipppp…shiiiippppp…” went the line as a handful of false casts were made to get the Clouser in place on the opposite bank. A simple strip and quickly the line was tight and a fight ensued that resulted in me landing one of my first Rio Grandes in many months. Good karma.

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After that, there were a handful of smaller bass lured from the deeper pools as i strolled up and down the banks, all small for your average water, but good sized for these waters, hit as they were by drought and flood repeatedly in the last few years.

Returning to the Survival Chair, Paolo and i headed a little ways up the creek where some of the larger bass were hanging out deep below the falls. I eventually locked onto the monster in the pool, a three pound behemoth that was cruising the bottom and assuredly aware we were on a high bank right above him. After a few minutes i found the right fly and strip and saw him casually meander over to check out the streamer bouncing with effort along the bottom. After a few feet of tense following, he went for the fly as i over reacted and aggressively set the hook in what i imagined to be his lip.

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In that split second i had a range of emotions which are as follows:

  • “Yes, i got him!”
  • “Crap! He was only mouthing it and i pulled it away!”
  • “I suck.”
  • “Whoa, that other bass inhaled it directly in front of him!”
  • “YES! I have a bass!”
  • “I ROCK!”

I landed the bass, and had my son snap the photo below. As i looked up at the photographer i couldn’t help but notice that the same sense of pride he felt about his lashings and their end result were back and in full bloom when he snapped the photo of me and the fish.

That’s the great thing about pride, you can feel it for yourself when you pull off something you’ve worked hard at, but also feel it for others (especially those you love or admire) when they do they same as well, whether it’s a hike, a lashing, or a fish brought to hand.

There’s a lot of stuff i need to teach him from the book, but love of nature, love of the moment, and gratefulness aren’t among them. Guess he picked that up somewhere along the way.

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“When it rains, it pours.”

It’s a common expression generally used to refer to good or bad things happening en masse in a short duration of time. I myself, like most of us, have used this expression countless times throughout my time spent on this planet, but always in a metaphorical way. After recent events here in Texas though (flood, almost flood, flood) i now realize this can never be a mere colloquialism for me and many others (that undoubtedly got it worse). There is now a heavy gravitas to this expression and one i hoped to escape by breaking the cycle and leaving the looming threat of watery workspace behind, even if just for a couple of days.

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With our son off with on vacation in Washington D.C., my wife and i loaded up my parents pop up camper being wintered here, and headed to the gorgeous Guadalupe River State Park for some adult (plus a puppy) time in almost fall weather.

If you’ve never been to the Guadalupe River State Park but enjoy fishing, clear moving waters flowing through beautiful backdrops, drop what you’re doing and GO NOW! While i avoid this park like the plague during the summer months when throngs of folks are trying to cool off along the four mile stretch of water, once the weather dips into coolish fall temperatures the crowds quickly clear leaving the river and all its splendor naked and bare, ripe for exploration.

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After days of inability to reserve a campsite we were lucky enough to land one at the last moment when heavy rains once again loomed large in the forecast. Pulling up to the rangers station i was shocked to find that 90% of the campgrounds were now open due to cancellations all because some rain was in the forecast. Choosing the best site, we settled in for a night of Scrabble, wine, cheese and crackers and a rythmic “pitter patter” on the popup’s roof.

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The next morning, after coffee and bacon (is there anything better for breakfast when camping?) i set off to the river, curious to see what recent rains had brought. It didn’t take long to stumble on signs of the previous weeks flooding waters which had found the Guadalupe, like many of the central Texas rivers, taking on immense amounts of waters that pushed the average 200 CFS up to 40,000 CFS and a massive 30 feet+ above the bank, resulting in trees being lodged three stories high in other trees (above).

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Even though things had calmed down considerably in the intervening days, the flows were still up around 250CFS creating some incredible runs and riffles in the rockier stretches of the river. Wading across the forceful stream, perching on a rock and letting a large streamer fly into the tumultuous water only to be hit by aggressive Guadalupe bass that fought in a manner reminiscent of trout, everything felt slightly foreign. Yet while it all felt more like Colorado than the drought riddled Texas i’ve come to know, there was no mistaking where i was when lifting my gaze. As with many of my favorite local fishing spots, bald cypress flank the banks here, something that rounds out the Texas fishing experience for me and i imagine many others.

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If i’d never had the pleasure of hanging out in their shadows, i’d probably think that bald cypress were more myth than tree upon hearing them described. After all, not only are they regal, stalwart and steadfast, they’re also tenacious, vigorous and whimsical in a rough-hewn sort of way. They also hibernate in a fashion, dropping their needles as the cooler days of winter descend, a sort of barometer for warm water fishing. When the needles drop off, so does the fishing.

Releasing the healthiest catch of the weekend, a two pound Guadalupe (a brute in these waters) i couldn’t help but feeling simultaneously happy and sad when i noticed a few brown, floating cypress needles parting in his wake.

This window is closing. I suggest you call in sick and get out there now.

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