All Water Guides

• Fly Fishing Central Texas Rivers and Coast • 2016 Orvis Endorsed Guide of the Year Finalist • 2015 Orvis Endorsed Guide Service of the Year Finalist

Texas on the Fly (Day 4 of 4) …….. Guest Post by Tony Wheeler

Day 4 started back under the Utley Bridge.  It was beautiful morning, no wind and a stable air mass.  It is a nippy 39 oF, but the sun is warming things up quick.  Everyone’s expectations for the day were high.

This time we did the 15 mile downstream run to the fisherman’s access in Bastrop.

While Okey and Alvin set our shuttle I get to hang out in the boat and sip my coffee, while watching the sunrise, and the baitfish nipping at midges.  Across the river a whole pack of coyotes were announcing their shift change.  Say what you want I think coyotes are cool.

When we finally get started I tag a nice largemouth right away.  Okey follows up with a really nice Guadalupe.  Then despite what the weatherman promised the pressure changed again and the breeze turns into another blow, and the freaking bass bite shuts off again.

We worked hard for every bass that we boated.

In the afternoon yet again I hook another unknown, unseen sea monster.  The creature clamps down on my crawfish pattern, and then ran like heck to the bushes.  This time I was prepared with 0X tippet and triple checked knots.  I palm my reel trying to slow this beast down, and this time the hook just popped out. 

Let me tell you boys’ and girls’ sea monsters do exist and they live in the Colorado River in Texas.

So I guess in summary over 4 days of fishing in 3 different water crafts, we made a whole lot of fly casts, battling 4 days of bass unfriendly high pressure systems  Despite which we still caught some bass – smallmouth, largemouth, and their native Guadalupe. 

We saw some incredible river scenery which is a lot different than what we have but still sort of familiar.  There was a lot of wildlife -- deer, fox squirrels, red tailed hawks, ospreys, bald eagles, herons, egrets, and a lot of other water fowl.  Oh and there were turtles too, tens of thousands of turtles.

And we ate some great BBQ, (a whole lot of BBQ.)

If you like to fish for smallmouth bass you will absolutely go nuts over Guadalupe’s.  They don’t get very big but they are a flowing water river bass similar in body shape and attitude to our smallmouth, except with a different paint job. It might be blasphemy to say but I think they fight harder too.

 In fact Guads are so close to smallmouth they will naturally hybridize, and the introduced non-native smallmouth bass genes are dominate.  A while back it was pretty much thought that the Guadalupe’s were on their way to being lost.  Texans feel the same way about their Guadalupe’s as we do about our native brook trout.  The State of Texas has done a good job bringing Guadalupe’s back from the brink.

What is even crazier still is that that the largemouth bass are native too.  Largemouth and Guads evolved to share the river, and they don’t hybridize.  Figure that one out?

When it comes right down to it the rivers in the Texas Hill Country offer some great bass fishing from little spring creeks to the much bigger Colorado River.  Throw in some striped bass, white bass, and a host of other strange warm water critters that will eat your fly and Austin is quite the warm water fly-fishing destination.

Compared to West Virginia standards, Austin is a really big city that is still rapidly growing with prosperity.  Everybody wants to live there.

It has this funky mixture of cowboys and hipsters. There is something going on music wise every single night of the year. 

Their traffic is horrendous, with the most courteous drivers I have ever seen.

Everyone must run their own BBQ, as you smell intoxicating hardwood smoke and grilling meat everywhere you go.  I think BBQ must fuel the soul of Austin.

Their catch phrase, “Keep Austin Weird” is kind of true.

I saw two guys dressed as super heroes riding their bicycles covered in white twinkling lights through the traffic on South Congress Street.  Now that might have had something to do with being close to Halloween, then again it might have been their regular commute to work outfits.

Yeah Austin is sort of like that.  And I kind of want to go back….

Texas on the Fly (Day 3 of 4)… Guest Post by Tony Wheeler

Today we are back on the Colorado River fishing with Alvin Dedeaux with All Water Guides.

We start at the Utley Bridge about 25 minutes downstream of Austin on the highway FM-969.  We jet upstream in Austin’s cool Hog Island Boat Works river boat that is half jet boat and half drift boat.  Up on plane it skips over some low water riffles that are barley wet.

After a quick upstream run of 7 miles, it turns into a drift boat and we start back down the river.  For once the put-in and the take-out are truly one and the same.

A high pressure bass unfriendly cold front with winds gusting to 30 mph has arrived.  Alvin warns us our chances are grim.

Right near the start some unknown unseen river monster grabs Okey’s crawfish on Alvin’s 7 weight and it bends the rod to the cork.  The creature streaks away diving for a brush pile.  I dig for my camera in the dry-bag and as soon I find it the monster breaks off.  Once again I sure hope that wasn’t a bass.

With the cold temps and howling wind the bite is slow.  We both are getting them on streamers and crawfish patterns – beautifully marked Gauds and their largemouth river cousins.  The hot fly for me was a C.K. Baitfish, a fly those Texas bass had never seen before.  Okey stays consistent on the crawfish pattern.

We all fight the wind (especially poor Alvin on the oars) but our numbers start to climb.  Soon we have exceeded the total of the last two previous days.

For variety Okey hooks and then loses a big gar.  Then a few cast later he lands a catfish on the fly (a first for him.)

Much to the protest of my elbow I throw a sink tip fly line on my 8 weight all day.  Later back in our rented Airbnb apartment in Austin I thought my elbow was going to just dislocate when I popped off my elbow brace.

I have known and done outdoor adventure trips with Okey for over 30 years now.  No amount of coaxing could convince him to massage my shoulders and elbow while I soaked in a hot bubble bath.

I had to settle for a handful of Advil and shot of Tequila.

Texas on the Fly (Day 2 of 4)….. Guest Post by Tony Wheeler

Day 2 dawns with Okey and I on the San Marcos River about 45 minutes South of Austin.  The San Marcos is one of the most beautiful and mysterious river I have ever been on.  It is born several miles upstream of our put-in all at once from a giant spring in the town of San Marcos.  Its water is the color of turquoise.  It is a small meandering little river lined with big Cyprus and Pecan trees.  It is choked with woody debris.

We are fishing with Judson Cole (Hell ‘N Back Outfitters).  Judson’s raft is a nicely outfitted bright lime green Super Puma.  It is narrow and perfect for the smaller San Marcos.  I must admit I got a little bit of boat envy.  That narrow boat would be perfect for the Top Gauley or the Down Elk.

Judson insisted I leave my fly rods in the car and we fish his Echo six weights that were really perfect for the nature of the San Macros.  The bad case of tendonitis in my casting elbow did not object to the lighter rod.

We are into fish immediately right at the put-in.

Within 30 minutes Okey and I boat a smallmouth bass, a largemouth bass, a Guadalupe bass, and a smallmouth-Guad hybrid.  In addition we are into smallish sunfish continuously.

Before 11:00 a.m. I feel a breeze on the back of my neck and I can literally feel the barometric pressure change. 

“Ruh-roh Shaggy”

Sure enough the breeze turns into a blow and we never catch another fish the rest of the day.

Trout on the fly are push overs.  I can catch trout under the worse conditions.  Not so for bass on the fly.  They are moody and sensitive to change.

We have a nice river side sandwich lunch complete with comfy camp chairs, a folding table, and Halloween Cookies.  I provide the ice cold Lone Stars.

We finish early and since we are in the neighborhood I take Okey for a stroll around the historic downtown section of Lockhart with an early dinner in Blacks BBQ again.

This time I order only the brisket.

Texas on the Fly (Day 1 of 4) Guest Post by Tony Wheeler

A couple of springs ago I had a work conference down near Austin Texas. At the end of my work week my fishing partner for over 30 years, Okey from Parkersburg flew down to meet me for 3 days of chasing Texas Bass on the Fly.This time Okey had the work conference and I just showed up to fish.

My little niece who lives in Austin graciously offered to be my Airport Limo driver.  She was quite the spectacle standing at the bottom of the escalator in luggage claim holding up a sign that read “Hook-em” (her nickname for me.).  She was all decked out in her welcome to Austin outfit of cowgirl boots, blue jeans, and an Austin City Limits T-Shirt.As part of that welcome to Austin package she whisks me off in her Toyota Prius at damn near the speed of light to the famous Black’s BBQ in Lockhart, Texas.

 

Black’s is essentially the holy shine to carnivores everywhere.  The smell of burning animal fat overlaid with the post-oak and pecan hardwood smoke made me want to tear off all my clothes and go running through the woods howling.I had the brisket with a couple of burnt ends, the extra spicy smoked sausage, pork spare ribs, and some of my niece’s smoked turkey.  Everything was great however the brisket was extra special.  The brisket really transcends metaphors, (maybe meat orgasms in my mouth is the best I can do!)

With a distended belly and a serious case of the meat sweats I am dropped off at Lost Pine Resorts near Bastrop, Texas (the site of Okey’s work conference.)

The next morning Okey’s work week is over before noon, so for $80 we rent a canoe with a shuttle for a six mile paddle on the Colorado River from Bastrop River Company.

I absolutely love paddling a canoe although they are not the best craft suited for fly casting.  Okey and I made the best of it and we took turns steering from the back while the guy up-front cast my L.L. Bean 7 weight armed sometimes with poppers and sometimes with streamers.

The Colorado River rises up in in New Mexico and then flows some 900 miles across Texas all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.  It is considered to be in the top 5 bass rivers in the U.S.  It flows essentially clear over a gravel and sand bottom with high clay and limestone bluffs lined with huge old oaks, Cyprus trees, and prickly pear cactus.  Great Blue Herons, snowy egrets, red tailed hawks, ospreys, and giant fox squirrels are everywhere.

The skies were cloudless and the sun was directly overhead.  In hind sight it was probably not the best time to be starting a bass river trip.

The fishing was tough, and the Colorado was not living up to its reputation.  We make lots of fishless casts without a bump.  Several fishless hours pass, and I start worry that we didn’t pack enough beer.

I sink a chartreuse Clouser minnow alongside a brush pile just like the hundreds of other brush piles we had already cast to.  Suddenly some unknown, unseen river monster clamps down on my Clouser and with unstoppable power turns and rushes back under its brush pile breaking me off in the process.  I am shaken and disappointed with the encounter.  I can’t imagine it was a bass (at least I hope not), a big channel cat or their local drum called a Gasper Goo perhaps.

Finally along a rocky shady bank I boat four of those beautifully marked chunky Guadalupe Bass in almost five casts.  Thinking the bite has suddenly changed we trade places and Okey gets one more before the take out.

I put that first down as warmup.  Our spirits are still high.

We end our first day of fishing back in Austin at a great Mexican Restaurant with our plates piled high with fajitas, a super Grande margarita a-piece on the rocks and a really attractive Mexican waitress who must remove her jeans each night with paint thinner.

Winston's take: Bass On The Fly

I recently read a “must do" article for Bass fishing on the fly and watched an older video that put tournament gear fisherman along side a fly guy in the Sacramento Delta.  Both were very informative.  I thought I’d write up something since I can’t just copy and paste the "must do" article and slap my name to it and my movie-making carrier is a long ways off.  I’ll give my take on what I’ve learned in my years of fly fishing for Bass and more recently guiding for them with All Water Guides here in Austin Texas.  We seem to have a unique thing going on here in Texas.  We target Bass in a manner more similar to salt water fishing than fresh.  We row our goofy jet boats as if they were drift boats on some western river.  River Bass bring an element of challenge to the table that requires a well-rounded angler. Here are my thoughts…a few of them at least.

1:  This is work!

As Brian “Lucky” Porter said in the movie "Zero 2 Hero" about fishing for musky… "You’re not gently presenting a number 14 parachute Adams to a rising trout, you’re doing work.” Now, we're not catching Musky but we do work!  I prefer 8wts to 6’s and can realistically expect to hit the bank every 5 feet for hours.  We need to put the fly on the bank with S.W.A.T. team like presentation then start fishing it.  Once that fly hits the water you need to retrieve it in a "come and get me Mr. Bass manner."  Bass in our rivers are aggressive and they want to hunt.  When I have anglers on my boat that understand this, we do well, fish practically jump in the boat.  But it is work and it’s intense.  If you’ve been dead drifting terrestrials with 4wts and haven’t spent much time with bigger gear, ask for a little help.  After all it’s just a fly rod and feathers.  Line loads the rod and the rod reciprocates that back into the line. I love trout fishing but Bass aren’t trout and our Bass are big, aggressive and live on treadmills.  So eat your Wheaties and be ready to do a lot of casting with big gear.  Regarding the retrieval, sometimes the fish want it fast or sometimes slow.  Find a cadence that you can reproduce. It’s easier to deviate from a constant, meaning if what your doing isn’t working, know what isn’t working so you can slow it down or speed it up.

2: We're fly fishing not casting. Fish every cast.
Just today I had this conversation with a client.  He hadn't fished in a year and was rusty. His casts were less than perfect but probably better than most. Again and again he'd pick up a perfectly fishable cast that he didn't think was good enough.  There is no such thing as a bad cast on my boat. If that fly hits the water you're fishing, make the most of it.  It's become my mantra (I have many) while on the oars, to say, “Fish that cast” meaning exactly that. What you may think is a horrible cast and it probably was (I’m a terrible caster I don’t mind saying it) that fly is in the water and that’s where the fish are, so leave it and start fishing.  I think a problem with folks sometimes (and again, me included) is we spend way too much time re-casting a perfectly good and fishable presentation because of what we thought of our cast. As Xienie in the movie "Low and Clear" states, “Ugly casts catch fish too.”  After all we’re fishing not casting.

3:  They ain't always on the surface.
I’m a weirdo and any one that knows me will not argue that point.  I like streamer fishing, not sure why but I do.  I don’t fall in the group of anglers that say “nothing like top water action." Don’t get me wrong - it’s a blast, I however would much rather throw big shad patterns on a sinking line any day.  To each their own though.  I am in the business of putting clients on fish and when the frogs are singing and the conditions call for its poppers…poppers…poppers. The other 99% of the time you gotta do what the river tells ya.  Get your head out of the boat and watch what’s happening around you. If you’re not seeing action on the surface go to where the fish are.  I’ve had folks in my boat mention “those Bass Masters” and their “glitter boats with all those rods” in a typical fly fisherman manner. What they don’t get is all those rods allow them to, in a systematic manner, dissect the water column.  What they also don't get is those dudes catch fish and we could learn a lot from them. When I go fishing I’ve got at least 2 rigged rods, surface and sub surface. I think 2 could easily be 4 though. Surface, sink tip, intermediate and full on get down and dirty depth finders. If having multiple rods doesn't fit the budget purchase some spools.  If the fish don’t come to you go get them. If you feed them they will eat.

4.  Your confidence fly.
One of my more recent clients while fishing stated, “Winston, I just don’t have any confidence in this fly.” I could have hugged him!  It was a good fly, one of my go to flies that always produces. He didn’t like it and that was it, out came the pliers and the fly box.  Fish with what you’re confident in. In the subconscious of your deep inner fishing-ness it matters and the fishing will get better.  This could be a touchy subject if you’ve hired a guide to fish water that he knows like the back of his hand. I get that and have been there.  He’s the guide and who are we to tell him what we want to fish?  I don’t think the fish care so neither should the guide.  At the end of the day it’s your time on the water. If you're not excited about what you're throwing, our fishing (the actual act of fishing) will suffer. In a professional manner I handed the client my fly box, he picked a fly and on it went.  We still got skunked but his whole essence changed by fishing a fly he had confidence in.  That, I feel, is as important as fly selection. Listen to your guide but also interact with your guide.

5.  Be systematic, be vocal.
I try to always verbalize my ideas with whoever is rowing while I’m fishing and vice versa.  This gets the boat working like a team. With clients I try to take a second as the river transitions to clue them in on what lies ahead and open them up to the marvelous thoughts that may or may not be running through my head at the time.  I know it’s just fishing but having everyone on the same page really helps.  It truly can be a team sport and systematically approaching a section of water and picking it apart as a team is as simple as coming up with a game plan and sticking to it.  Fish the water in a manner that will produce more chances of hooking up.  Don’t cast over spots 1, 2 and 3 for that fish that "just has to be" hiding in spot 4. Be patient. You never know what bruiser you could be casting over and longer casts have a lower success rate hook set wise.  Be systematic, be deliberate and be calculating like the WBD (Weapon of Bass Destruction) you are.

6.  Take a break.
Sometimes you get in that grove.  Your loops are tight; that fly is kissing the bank and you haven’t hit a tree in an hour… the world is right. Sometimes it’s like this all day; sometimes you lose that magic though. When this happens to me it’s time to get on the oars. I’ve never been able to “will” my way back into the magic.  Instead my cast falls apart and I get frustrated and the fishing starts to suck. Take a break.  Sit down; tell some more lies about the Yellowstone or throw ice cubes at your buddy if you’re out with one, snap some pictures or smoke a joint.  Just stop.  Smell the roses (or whatever) and break that cycle.  Rest for a minute or 30 and get back after it.  We’ve got all the time in the world to fish with focus and intensity and none to waste on being frustrated that our cast has all of a sudden gone to hell.  Put the rod down, your muscles will know what to do when you pick it back up.  Our brains get in the way sometimes.

NO TROUT SETTING

 

7.  No trout setting, rod tips in the water.
This could also be a mantra... I’m guilty as all hell about the trout setting thing too especially after I've been guiding a lot and haven't fished much. Rod tip on the water and pointing in the direction of the fly keeps the fly where it needs to be and slack line to a minimum. Whether it’s a popper or streamer it’s all about the initial grab and your strip set.  Sure fish will be lost but if your fishing for Bass (or Redfish etc. etc) keep that rod out of the picture for now, it’s made to bend for casting purposes definitely not hook setting.  Use that line instead. Tip down, rod butt out in front of you and strip set that hook.  The salt guys have been preaching this for a long time and so have we.  Once you’re tight, fight that fish in the normal manner. I’m not a huge fan of the rod up at a 45-degree angle all the time; I tend to keep my rod low using lots of lateral pressure on the fish, which also helps when they jump.  Oh and Bass jump, it’s a predictable event though.  They are deep, then less deep, then lesser deep, just like Tarpon (without the Tarpon) bow to the king of fresh water or Mr. Bass will throw that fly right back at you when he goes maverick. Be aggressive landing Mr. Bass and don’t worry about the reel, if that fish needs to be on the reel he’ll put himself there.

As always take it or leave it, I had fun writing it.  Get out there and get you some ditch pickles…
 

Winston Cundiff
All Water Guides


 

 

Jet Sled version 2 second edition


how to park a let sled on the river

So here it is.  I’m actually glad my laziness got the better of me as I’ll be able to do this in one sitting versus boring you all to tears with each individual step.  I assumed this would take much longer than it did.

First picture of my new boat.  About 30 seconds later my wife was informed of our new purchase. 

After a bunch of research I decided on a SeaArk 1652 MVT (tunneled hull version).  16’ seemed about the right amount of boat, length wise and the wider the better.  The decision to go with SeaArk was made after talking to several smaller boat builders in the Midwest, as they all seemed to, at some point in the conversation compare their boats to SeaArks in build, materials, etc.  Alvin and JD had already made a couple trips to Currant River Marine (CRM) and under their advice I called Freddy to see what he had available.  Long story short I was soon on my way to Currant River Marine in Doniphan, MO with my engine in the back of the Xterra.  After a 16 hour drive they hung the engine, we ran the Currant River for a few minutes, and I signed some paperwork.  By 5pm I was checked in to a cheap hotel ready to get a zero dark thirty start for the 16 hours back to Austin.  

Freddy and the gang were worth every minute of the drive and their knowledge of lower-unit-less engines and boats is beyond awesome.  I look forward to my return for a new engine.

Like I said in the previous post, I was going to do the exact same thing to this boat that I had done to the blue one.  The SeaArk had a slight V in the Hull and I decided that needed to be addressed first.  I had 4”x 4” 90 degree angle aluminium welded into the ribs to create a flat surface to build the flooring on.  The flooring was Cedar planks that I sanded, epoxied, sanded, epoxied, sanded, epoxied and then sanded one more time with a final coat of spar varnish for the UV protection.  I love wooden boats.  My grandfather used to build them.  I couldn’t not have the wood floors again, however, they are a huge pain in the ass to fit.  I’m a huge fan of brute force and ignorance and in my diving days solved many problems with the idea that if a hammer wasn’t working a bigger one would.  Fortunately, I was able to use the same tools my grandfather had used in his boat building; unfortunately his knowledge and experience did not magically pass through the tools as I had hoped it would.  He died many years ago and I thought of him a lot while using them mostly during my many moments of frustration in not being able to beat the wood into submission with a larger hammer.  The floors look great, however I can see every moment of frustration when my patience (or lack thereof) got the better of me.  Guests don’t seem to mind.

Supervision a year later...

 

Once the side pieces were cut and fitted to the ribs of the boat the rest went pretty quickly.  I also can’t help but to think of my daughter, Poppy, who supervised the last boat, she was only a few months old and was pretty easy to occupy.  She’s now almost 2 and has ZERO ability to sit and keep my company.

So that’s the floors.  I was, at first, going to do lean bars and knee braces however after the first couple trips I’ve found out they aren’t really needed.  It’s my opinion that maybe they create a false since of security for the anglers and without them my clients seem to have a better awareness of themselves and their movements while in the boat as long as I communicate my intentions while on the oars which is better for a lot of reasons.  Speaking of the oars, I also didn’t have to create the “frame” like I had before.  Oar locks u-bolt directly to the gunwales, which I need to move about a foot forward (boat forward) to give the front guy a little more room.

I, of course, have a laundry list of things to do still with rod holders being the first and some sea deck type stuff for the front casting platform (it gets hot) but since the boat was new there was no need to paint and do all that other nonsense that kept me so busy on the last project.  Having the blue boat in my past made doing this boat so much easier, mainly because it was new…

Please contact me with any questions that I most likely did not answer.  Alvin, JD and I would be more than happy to share what we’ve learned.  We all run different rigs each having their own pros and cons.

Enjoy,

 

AWG

The Landing Net

One of the many attributes of fly fishing lies in the simple beauty of handcrafted gear commonly found in fly shops. Fortunately some companies continue to make a name for themselves by producing these finely crafted goods and products. Accordingly, whether it’s hand-tied flies or a custom rod, fly fisherman seem to have always coveted these artisan made goods.

Over the years I have had the luxury and opportunity to own many great hand-crafted fly fishing products—no matter the cost or the sacrifice. These cost were always justifiable, usually qualified as, “a legacy purchase to pass on to my grandchildren”, “one-of-a-kind”, “a-dying-art”, etc. When I was younger, single, and childless I could always find a way to afford those expensive aforementioned purchases and never regretted it one bit. Now I’m older, a bit less selfish, and married with kids who always seem to be needing braces, glasses, blank checks for after school activities, and a long list of other expenses. Frankly, it’s getting harder to justify buying expensive fly fishing gear or any gear for that reason. Fortunately, when you buy the best it seems to last forever and I want for nothing—well almost nothing.

For the good part of a decade — right about the time my second daughter was born — I have been wanting a hand-crafted landing net for my guiding. I have made due with a myriad of so-so mass-produced nets that never seem to hold up and always fall short of my expectations. Disclaimer: I am also very hard on my equipment. It’s been said more than a few times, “dude… you could brake an anvil!” As a result I usually am disappointed by mass-produced and poorly crafted gear.

A few months back I asked my good friend Jeff Robuck if he wanted to go on a float on a local river. Jeff was in, however, he made it clear that he wanted to do some wading in order to test out his new net. Once I heard net I was all ears. You see, Jeff is a very talented wood worker, sculptor, and world class craftsmen. How many of you reading this have ever built a bamboo rod, an electric guitar, custom furniture, countless cabinets, etc? My guess is that your answer is along the lines of, “nope”, “never” or “once, but it was a disaster”. Well, in Jeff’s case he has done it all and always better than most. I have friends that are richer than Jeff but few are more talented. When he showed up to go fishing that day his net was one of his own creations, a true one-of-a-kind, beautifully crafted, and most astonishingly, it was the first one he had ever built. I have seen a lot of great nets in my day and this one was a beauty and near perfect. I remember thinking that net is too beautiful to ride in the back of my truck.

We had a heck of a day fishing and his net got a work out — especially when he caught a nice 20” hooked-jawed rainbow. It was that giant fish that convinced Jeff that he needed to build a much bigger second net for himself. On the way back from the river Jeff reflected on the day and all of the great days we have shared in my boat over the last several seasons. All I could do is think about that damn net and how he could craft something that beautiful without previous knowledge of net building, no plans, or a jig to go by. Finally, I had to ask the unthinkable, “Hey Jeff, could you build me a landing net and what would it cost?” His answer floored me, “Yes, I can build you a net, and it won’t cost you a dime.” I insisted that I must pay something. I didn’t have any money but had a hunch that I could talk my wife and daughters into buying it as a Christmas/birthday/anniversary/father’s day gift. Jeff replied, “Yeck no, you take me fishing and I want repay the favor”. He then added, “You can help me build it and then it will have even more importance to you.” It’s funny that Jeff would even think of involving me in this process. On several ocassions he has seen firsthand my poor wood-working skills on more than one ill-fated projects ranging from rod racks to floors for my raft to a bed for my truck. All were laughably none were successful.

On a warm winter day last week and a rare day off I went over to Jeff’s workshop and began my apprenticeship as a “net builder in training”. Upon my arrival he had already traced out a 54” long landing net based on his recollection of our previous conversations. He wanted my input all I could do is smile and reply “it’s freakin' awesome”. From there we proceeded to make the plywood jig that would house the strips of teak and Brazilian tiger wood. After cutting all the components and a dry-fit in the jig it was time to mix up the epoxy and start clamping up the net.

For the next 72 hours time seemed to stand still until I received the text from Jeff containing the image of “the net” out of the jig and ready for routing, sanding, and spar varnish. Fast forward to the day of the Super Bowl (AKA: Floyd Mayweather’s Last Day as a Millionaire). My full-day float trip had turned into a half-day trip due to my client’s kiddo’s frozen hands and feet (remember I guide in Texas — not BC or Michigan — and we aren’t built for temperatures below 30°F). Heading home from the river early I picked up the phone and invited Jeff over for my not-so-famous turkey chili, beers, and the big game. Jeff insisted—as always—on bringing something and I insisted back that we needed nothing. In true Jeff Robuck fashion he didn’t show up empty handed. In walked Jeff with the most beautiful landing net I have ever seen, which turned out to be the best part of the Super Bowl.

In a few years none of us will remember that Superbowl, but mark my words, I’ll remember that Sunday as the day I first laid eyes on my landing net. Like all of you, I will always remember and appreciate those special one-of-a-kind, hand-crafted, artisian-made goods that someone somewhere took the time to build and cared enough to craft. In the end, handcrafted fly-fishing goods are worth every penny and are a longstanding tradition of fly fishing that is worth preserving.

Jeff Robuck might (I repeat, might) build you a net, a bamboo rod, or even a custom guitar for the right price—the price might shock you but the end result will truly amaze you. It’s hard to put a price for a one-of-a-kind work of art that you will enjoy for a lifetime and more.

finished_net.jpg

PS: The Landing net is now getting spar varnished and the clear net attached. Hoping to have it on the boat by this weekend. Fingers crossed!

REALITY CHECK

Being the greenest member of this group when it comes to guiding I had a less than comfort level with the Guadalupe, professionally speaking.  With a couple trips around the corner I asked Alvin to play Client for a day and join me on the Guadalupe on his next day off.   First, this says a lot about Alvin.  He knew it was important enough to me to do and as the Boss his “open door” policy meant that on his day off (a cold and windy one at that) he would spend it with me on the water and away from home. Honesty, any of the guys would have done it.  Good dudes for sure!

A walk to the boat

So now that I’m done kissing ass I’ll say this.  I’ve got no problem rolling into a joint I know nothing about and catching fish.  Fish gotta eat, and I’m good enough to catch them, as I did last month in the “middle of nowhere” Kentucky.  This “lunch with the boss” was all about AWG clients. I’ve fished the Guad enough to know the “fishing” aspect this trip was more logistics.

With an open seat on the boat and my spot for the day being understood (just row, Winston) I invited a dude who, in my opinion, is Central Texas fly-fishing, Mr Diefische.  If you follow Diefische (I think you should) you know that last year he unlocked the Guad and will probably do so again this year.  He is a great writer, a solid fisherman and  humble, as the day we were about to have is long.  Fun dudes to have on the boat for sure!

So we pushed off around 1200 and to make a long story short, 4 hours later we had managed 1 fish.  I had 2 dudes that knew that river as well as anyone.  We fished flies we knew work and when they didn’t we changed it up to others.  We didn’t “throw the kitchen sink” at them instead we focused in finer on what we knew had worked in the past and fished a little harder.

 

Say Cheese Mr fische

I was out for other reasons than just catching fish, so for me the day was hugely successful.  Tail Waters are tricky; they seem to have an on/off switch.  This was a good reminder that when the fishing is off the fish don’t care who is in the boat.  As we said our goodbyes I remembered what my friend Jake said once “a skunk day will show you more about the character of your fishing buddies than anything else” but we didn’t get skunked so who cares what Jake and those “chi Wulff guys” think.

That dreaded ramp, "joe client" no more...crank it Alvin

A good reality check sure does sting sometimes.

Tight Lines,

AWG

What's working?

Lately, a lot of folks are asking me the same question, "what flies are working?" We are keeping it simple throwing crawfish patterns in black and brown as well as Clouser Minnows in chartreuse and white. Also, we did manage to catch a few nice fish on poppers this past week when the weather and water temps permitted. Pretty basic patterns are the ticket for winter bass on the Colorado River.

My new favorite crawfish pattern is the Lead-eyed Double Bunny Crawfish (AKA "DB Craw") tied on 1/0 — 2X Mustad Signature hook. The two most productive colors are black and brown/orange. As predicted all of my crawfish patterns are tied with with a 25# mono (Hard Mason) weed-guard.

In the winter we get a really good run of white bass mixed in with our usual catches of Guadalupe and large mouth bass. We have yet to find a more productive fly for white bass than the Clouser Minnow. The best color has been chartreuse and white Clousers using 1/32 oz. on lead-eyes tied on a 1/0 — 2X Mustad Signature hook with a 25# mono (Hard Mason) weed-guard.

Winter bass fishing is great right now so grab a handful of crawfish and Clouser patterns and your favorite 6-weight the bass are ready and willing!

The Bench Warmer

No one wants to be called a “bench warmer”, but the truth is, every team relies on crucial players that spend most of their time on the bench. So, what does this have to do with fly fishing? As fishing guides we are all very reliant on fly boxes stuffed full of well-crafted flies, which have to be tied by someone with special skills manning a fly tying “bench”.  For us a bench warmer is someone who can spend hour after hour at the tying bench cranking out flies.

Over the course of a season we go through a ton of flies and we can’t physically—or mentally—handle tying flies day-in and day-out. We are talking about hundreds of flies, some of which are difficult and time consuming to tie and quite frankly, beyond our skill set. Additionally, many of our favorite patterns are custom, meaning that they vary greatly from the flies you can find in your local fly shop or online retailer. In almost all cases our flies need to be more durable, have specific color variations, and other incorporate finishes like heavy weighted eyes and stout weed guards.

For the last couple of years I kept seeing photos and reading post from a group of hardcore smallmouth and pike fisherman in the northeast who were catching nice fish on beautiful flies tied by this crazy bearded and tattooed fly tier named Pat Cohen. Sure enough I checked out Pat’s website and friended him on Facebook and it didn’t take long for me to realize that Pat has some mad tying skills that I will never master.

Pat not only speaks bass fishing, he is also a diehard bass fisherman. It shows in his flies, which reflect his vast knowledge of bass, where they hide, what they eat, and most importantly, what they can be fooled by. I am excited that Pat has offered to work with me and All Water Guides to further develop a his already incredible line of crawfish, baitfish, popper and diver patterns. With our year-round bass fishery here in Texas—our northern brethren don’t get to bass fish all winter like us—and plenty of huge river bass we have the ability to field test new prototypes and refine existing patterns giving Pat “real-time” data all year long.

I spent the weekend testing some custom divers Pat recently tied for me. Despite poor water visibility, cold temperatures and heavy weekend fishing pressure these divers moved some huge bass. See for your self how beautiful Pat’s flies are—follow him on Facebook or better yet visit his website and order flies from him direct.

Imagine this. Pat ties every fly himself—using the absolute best materials—and when you call him on the phone you actually get to speak to Pat. As far as we are concerned a bench warmer is a good thing and when Pat Cohen is at his bench that means we can all be catching fish.

http://www.rusuperfly.com/

 

Jet Boatin' Road Trip

Jeff Davis and I took a little road trip to southern Missouri the other day. The reason was to pick up a jet drive outboard for my new Hog Island Skiff. We kept getting asked why we were driving so far to buy a boat motor.

Well you see this is no ordinary boat motor. Outboard jets are not real common in this part of the country. Anglers in Arkansas and Missouri have used jet powered boats for years to access shallow rocky sections of their rivers that conventional prop driven boats would never survive in. 

On rivers where there is little access or long distances between put ins and takeouts, a jet boat can open up miles of seldom fished water. When floating under oar or paddle power fishing a 6 mile section of the river can take all day. With the option to use the engine we can cover 12 to 20 miles of water with no problem.  Because we are in no hurry to get downstream we can take our time in the best water and motor through the less productive sections.