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Filtering by Tag: Bass on the fly

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.

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