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Ever since taking up a fly rod, and especially since starting this blog, i’ve been asked on a regular basis what it is about fly fishing that grabs me by the gut and keeps me so passionate and enveloped in it. The responses are usually along the lines of connecting with nature, or the tug on the line awakening the inner hunter in me while the careful release reveals the compassionate side of humanity, and so on and so on.

Yet the reason i almost never mention is the simple fact that i like to wander,  probably because the word itself has so many bad connotations. Even Merriam-Webster defines “wander” as;  1) to go astray morally or 2) to lose normal mental contact, and while i might in fact lose myself mentally and enjoy it, it’s the third definition that i can relate to, 3) to move about without a fixed course, aim, or goal”.

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With my family in Germany this whole month, and the store still far from opening after the flood, i’ve had a lot of options to get out and wander my heart out. The only limitations have been the incredible number of storms and the high flows they’ve brought with them, making being in the right spot at the right time something akin to shooting craps.

Waters as vast and varied as Canyon Lake, the Narrows, and Barton Creek have all been explored by foot and paddle with varying levels of success and consternation. While i don’t feel that i know them any better now than i did going in, i was hoping to share some thoughts with you in hopes of getting you on the right water at the right time.

Barton Creek: As even an occasional reader will know, Barton Creek is hands down my favorite water to fish, bar none. However, since the drought started in 2010 it’s been a fickle mistress, occasionally flowing with raging torrents of emotion, but usually dehydrated and depressed.

I’m happy to say that at least for now (and hopefully all this year) that is not the case. Barton Creek is back in form, flowing and fishing better than it has in a long time. In addition, because of all the rain, it’s now bordered and framed in trees and plants that seem to be glowing in Technicolor.

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While you can undoubtedly wade many of its most productive stretches (between the Hill of Life and Sculpture Falls), the ideal way to find the fish and avoid the crowds is to float her. Having done so numerous times over the last few weeks i can tell you this:

1) You’ll catch a lot of fish, maybe not huge fish, but a lot of them.

2) You don’t need anything fancy, even $20 raft will do.

3) You will experience one of the most amazing experiences you will ever have in Austin.

Note: While the Creek can safely be floated and fished while running up to 250CFS, beyond that you really need to be armed with the proper gear, experience and advice. Get more information on floating Barton Creek at Southwest Paddler.

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The Narrows: In all the years i’ve fished this spot near Spicewood Springs, where the Colorado meanders into Lake Travis, it was so narrow you could easily skip a rock across it, and at one point could wade across without even wetting your knees. Suffice to say, that is not the case anymore, the river is “gone” and the Narrows has returned to being an extension of Lake Travis again.

Of all my favorite spots, this is the one that has changed the most. The boulders that once indicated deep pools have been submerged along with the riffles and runs that i knew so well. Two of the most prolific gar fishing spots i’ve ever discovered are now indistinguishable from the rest of the water, buried under untold feet of rainwater. The gars are still there, i spotted many of them hitting the surface, but with so much room to maneuver they always seemed to be out of casting range, something that wasn’t a problem when the water was so low even a novice could cast from one bank to the other.

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Adding to the frustration of being in the process of getting skunked was the fact that speed boats, and jet skis were constantly speeding up and down the waters directly over my shoulder sending wakes my way that had me feeling like i’d been dumped into a washing machine to be agitated. Still, i did have an ultralight buzz me which was a first, and actually pretty cool.

Note: This place can be amazing, but i definitely recommend taking deep sinking lines and hitting it up on a weekday, not a weekend (like i did).

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Canyon Lake: While others have had incredible luck on this flooded lake working the submerged grasses, my luck has been anything but, at least as far as fishing goes. On the other hand, having an immense island to yourself (Canyon Park peninsula, now cut off from the mainland by the risen water level) and setting up camp at submerged picnic spots without a single soul around is a pretty good way to spend a fish-less day. Just the simple fact that you can stalk the shallow waters amidst oaks and submerged buildings and signs, feeling like some avant-garde fly fisherman wading and casting through the set of Waterworld is more than enough to return at least a time or two.

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While i’ve enjoyed the aimlessness of the last few weeks, traveling from spot to spot on nothing more than a whim, i look forward to being rejoined with my family and hopefully soon being back in the store and having some parameters placed on my days off. Maybe it’s just my incredible love for my family and the need for the routine of work, but i do know this, it’s hard to appreciate being able to color outside of the lines if you’re looking at a blank page.

Lesson learned.

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