RSS Feed

Search...

Category Archive:   Warm Water Fish


IMG_0107

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?

IMG_0106

IMG_1230

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.

IMG_1221

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.

IMG_1225

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.

IMG_1223

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.

IMG_1224

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.

IMG_1222

IMG_1211

“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.

IMG_1212

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.

IMG_1215

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.

IMG_1217

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).

IMG_1213

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.

IMG_1216

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.

IMG_1214

IMG_1180

Winding down the rock strewn path that is half trail and half wash out, i bottomed out my local creek/temple, took two small steps into the water, paused, and drew in a slow breath.

After two weeks of non-stop 10-12 hour days at work, i’d reached the point of utter exhaustion and been forced to take a day off to snap out of the zombie like state that i’d slipped into. Tired beyond belief, and sporting a freshly fractured rib (don’t ask) paddling for bigger bass was out of the question. Breaking down the six weight, i opted for my 3WT and a specially loaded fly box of small micro poppers and decided to get back to my roots, small water, small flies, and small fish.

IMG_1169

Not that i don’t love big flies and big fish, but after a few quick trips to local lakes brought nothing but untouched flies and endless frustration, it was time for fishing that was less work than my job instead of the other way around. I’m sure that somebody out there can chase big bass and watch them hit every single thing on the water other than their fly and stay non-chelant after 100 fruitless casts, but that sure as hell isn’t me.

Barton Creek has and always will be my fishing sanctuary, especially this time of year when many folks (usually college students from out of town) are more interested in keg fueled frat parties than continuing to drag pony kegs and camping furniture 400 yards in to a spot only to later drunkenly abandon them creek side upon realizing that staggering out with shitty Academy camp chairs in tow sucks.

IMG_1182

Anyway, the throngs were gone, the water was flowing (though next to nothing), and the springs were doing their part in keeping what little water was left cool to the touch. Pools that usually were un-wadable were no more than waist high, a god send for wading them from top to bottom, but also making for incredibly perceptive and skittish fish.

It was the first true fishing day in a while and it turned out to be exactly what i needed. No big fish for sure, but then that’s not what waters like this are for. They aren’t just the fish, they’re the complete package.

They are the cardinals that zipped back and forth between trees like a conductors baton bouncing between trees. They are the toad bigger than my two fists kicking relentlessly on the grassy bank with a huge snakes locked jaw wrenched on its torso until i butted in, startling the snake with my rod tip as the toad winked at me and pounced away to freedom. They’re the rock by the falls where you can assume a cross legged position like native americans of days of old, close your eyes and hear the falling water hum out that relaxing white noise so familiar to the analog television generation, but never to be heard again by the digital generation, unless placed quietly by rolling white water and informed by the elders that this is the sound of a past they can never know.

IMG_1184

I needed to get out and fish, but even more than that i really just needed to get out of a building and suck in all this mysterious beauty that is happening every minute of every day out THERE.

Every un-noticed fish, or magic moment of nature reminds me of the feeling that i used to have when i lived in Oregon and surfed the coast fairly often. There was a constant, nagging feeling while at work, doing dishes, shopping for groceries or making my way to the coast, that every few seconds there was another beautiful wave rolling in, and i often wondered if nobody was there to catch it, did it exist at all? On top of that, if it did, was the wave more pure left to its own devices or did an artist equipped with skills, respect and a board bring out something in the wave that pushed its beauty into another transcendental realm?

The same can be said for rolling waters and the fish that live there.

I don’t have the answers, but as always, i’m more than happy to spend every possible moment trying to find them. Maybe you should too, it’s good for the soul.

IMG_1183