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Orvis Endorsed Fly Fishing Guide Service in Central Texas

2016 Orvis Guide of the Year Finalist

2015 Orvis Guide Service of the Year Finalist

Filtering by Category: Austin

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.

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

A Night of Friends and Flip-flops

I had a great time as the guest tyer at Sportsman’s Finest (SF) Tuesday night fly tying class. We tied up the infamous Flip-flop Popper designed by All Water Guides’ head guide Alvin Dedeaux. We had a packed house and plenty of nice poppers for everyone’s fly boxes at the end of the night—bass be aware! The Flip-flop Popper is a staple in my bass fly box and accounts for the majority of all bass caught on the fly.  If you want the “recipe” stop by SF and they will set you up with everything you need.

Watch All Water Guides’ Best of 2012 video to see the Flip-flop Popper in action: https://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=10200769969428745

 

 

As always, the SF crew—Greg, Stacy, Chuck, Ted, and Lindy—was amazing. The Austin area is fortunate to have a great fly shop that always goes the extra mile for it’s customers and the greater fly fishing community. Thanks again to SF and Greg for the invitation!

Remember folks, SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL FLY SHOP!

 

 

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