Filtering by Tag: fly fishing Austin Texas
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….
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.
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.
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.
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.
We used to get out there at the drop of a hat to fish together, but now as middle aged men with wives, children, jobs, lives, it takes a bit more effort. I mean, we fish for a living but to fish for pleasure is rare. On Nov 2nd 2014, I met my old friend Alvin Dedeaux for a day of fishing on the Colorado River in Central Texas. It was the coldest morning of the fall season thus far with a temperature of just over 40° fahrenheit. A much welcomed change for all inhabitants of this region. Alvin and I were to meet around 9am, but an exchange of text messages indicated that we both got out of the house early in anticipation of a day of fishing with an old friend. I arrived at the put in just before Alvin and hopped out of the truck with my coffee to judge how the weather fit my clothes. It was a perfectly brisk morning, and steam was rising from the river like a curtain rising before the show begins. With a deep sigh, I tried to let go of the anxiety brought on by the morning news on my satellite radio. Ebola, ISIS, global warming, pivotal elections all looming as imminent threats, and I think to myself, “Was it selfish to bring children into this world?”
A few disappointed duck hunters were arriving back at the boat ramp from a fruitless dawn with their soaked camouflage and droopy perspectives as we put our gear in the boat. They seemed like solders of a beaten army who’s enemy had escaped unharmed. Our shift was beginning as theirs was ending, and hopefully our luck would be better. After shoving off, Alvin rowed the boat out beyond the grass line before starting the motor and we took off downstream towards the first sign of fish. His boat is a Hog Island Skiff with a jet drive outboard and oars. A rare craft for this region but perfectly suited for the terrain because you can fish and row through productive sections of river, and motor through non productive sections. Alvin and I both prefer to fish moving water rather than the backed up lake sections of the river because moving water offers a little more excitement, and also a better chance of catching the Guadalupe Bass which prefers current to slack water. The Guadalupe bass is at the top of our admired species list. Not only is it the state fish of Texas, but it also offers a fight equivalent to a largemouth of nearly twice its size. Like my friend Riverhorse says “ They’re half sack and half heart!”. I was transfixed and nearly hypnotized while Alvin motored the boat downstream as I stared at the glassy surface of the river over the bow and studied the perfect reflection of the sky as we slid around obstructions and hovered over shallow rocks and sand bottom. My mind was slowly letting go of the world news and other peripheral stresses when Alvin killed the motor and said “Alright, lets fish”.
Alvin and I met around 1991 when I walked into Whole Earth Provision Company where he worked and proclaimed that we would be fishing together soon. He said ok, with a slight hesitant chuckle. You see, previously, upon buying my first fly outfit at The Austin Angler a few days before, I asked the owner Larry “who should I go fish with to learn?” I could hardly believe it when he said “you should hook up with Alvin to fish” because I was already familiar with Alvin and was a fan of the band he played in back in those days called Bad Mutha Goose. I had no idea he was a fly fisherman. I couldn't wait for a random encounter, I had to go find him and force the issue so I went to where he worked and invited myself on the next fishing trip. We ended up going fishing on the gulf coast for reds and trout that weekend, became best friends for life and have fished together ever since.
Within moments of killing the motor, I was hooked into my first bass. It was an average sized Guadalupe, full of spirit and worthy of the name. Shortly after, another came, then another, and another. The fifth fish grabbed the fly with extreme aggression as it passed over a submerged log and took off sideways with surprising speed. I kept even pressure but with a violent head shake the line was broken and it was gone in less than 5 seconds of being hooked. I am presuming that it was a state record, no, world record Guadalupe bass, what else could it have been? None the less, the loss sat me down in front of the boat while the reality of what happened sank deep into my bones causing me to slump. Alvin said “ok then , let me try that shit!” and I handed over the rod and grabbed the oars to row for a while. My depressed state was uplifted quickly as Alvin began to catch fish, also one after the other. Alvin is the Zen master of the sport of fly fishing. He is likely the most laid-back individual you’ll ever meet who only speaks in profound truths. I've seen him upset only a couple times in the 24 years I've known him and even then he was subdued. A certified casting instructor from Joan Wolf’s School of fly casters, he has perfect form and a cast that seems to straighten out further than the effort suggests and always within inches of the bank, stump, weed bed or any other target. Once again my mind was drifting into a blissful absence as he casted, stripped line, and set the hook on a half a dozen fish, one of which was an exemplary Guadalupe worthy of a photograph. After which Alvin proclaimed “Let’s get the hell out of here” as we drifted along the bank through the current and into a large slow pool of the river. And that's how it went; we fished through stretches with current, and we motored through large deep sections without current. Not that the deep slow pools don’t fish. In fact, there is excellent fishing in the slow deep stretches, but you have to fish them slow and deep. We were covering many miles of river that day and needed to keep moving. Every place we stopped to fish looked like a picture out of a fly fishing for bass book. Large rock formations in the river created deep eddies and swirling current gathered debris around downed trees and other obstructions, and with fish in all of it. We were throwing flies of Alvin’s creation. Long colorful rabbit strip flies with dear hair, wool, or synthetic heads and large bobble eyes on them. When he opened his guide box of flies it looked like the entire cast of the Muppets were trying to bust out of it. It made me quite jealous because fly tying is a longtime passion of mine but somehow, I hadn't tied one in forever. Constantly working and having children hadn't stopped my buddy Alvin from tying. I vowed to myself to get busy!
The day raced by which they seem to do when you’re perfectly content. We shared recent stories about our kids, our wives and talked mostly about fishing, specifically for bass. Why they do the things they do? At some point we had caught so many fish that we switched to poppers permanently and were often interrupted by unexpected blow ups on our fly. We also spoke of Austin and its growth over the past 20 years and how it had changed. We remarked at how shocking it was to be in such a beautiful place so close to a major city without any people around us. I mean we saw nobody! Like the river was our own secret. Why? On one hand, we felt lucky that such a resource was ours and ours alone to enjoy, but then a dark cloud moved over that notion. If no one knows about it, then how does one care about it? One doesn't care about it, or doesn't know to care about it. One needs to care about it!
20 years ago, Austin was not in the drought stricken condition it is now, and it also supported a fraction of the human population that it does now. Many small rivers and creeks that Alvin and I used to fish around Austin have dried up, never to flow again some fear. The Highland Lakes and it’s tributaries that we fished were spilling over with water and the dams were regularly open. There were endless striper and white bass migrations to the dams and up the rivers, and the Pedernales River at 71 was always full. All could be due to natural variations in our climate throughout time perhaps and even more likely that we all have something to do with it. Regardless, after a quick study of our recent history it is conceivable that the lower Colorado River could stop flowing, is likely to stop flowing! I circled back on the idea of having children in such an age, and came to realize that our only salvation is to educate children about the urgency to protect and conserve our waterways, about their consumption of water, about their stewardship of the environment and their respect for living things.
My contemplative thought was interrupted suddenly by a text from my wife which read “Status?”. Both of our wives had been watching our children all day while we fished, and so it was time to get back to it. Alvin and I could have stopped fishing hours ago and been plenty happy. It was a day to remember! The River and her bass had been more than kind to us. We arrived at the boat ramp, trailered the boat and hurried to the local grocery store for a six pack, since I had accidentally left the Yeti full of beer in my garage that morning - ouch! The main highway back to Austin looked busy but moving. There is an old county road that meanders back to Austin on the north side of the river. Zen master Alvin said he would take the back road home out of principle, so I said I’d take the highway and race him back to town. Within a few miles back towards Austin I hit a wall of traffic which wasn't moving at all. The Formula One race had just ended and the international crowd had left the race track and inundated the insufficient infrastructure. After a while of sitting still, I decided to turn around and head back for the country road on the other side of the river. I called Alvin, he was almost home.
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.
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.
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.
Dressing for Success: Or at least being able to stay on the water without suffering from heat exhaustion.
While Alvin and JD get to escape the summer heat of Texas, the rest of us will still run trips in the usual manner, however we’re going to be a little more inclined to do “half days” as opposed to the “full day trip” focusing on the early morning and late evenings.
During the next couple months we (as guides and fisherman) expect the brutal heat while on the water and do everything we can to prepare ourselves for it. Many of us guide and have “real jobs” on the side. Our preparation for the heat of the day not only keeps us fishing and guiding but allows us to not need a day off from our ‘day on the water’ to recuperate. Clients that show up dressed for the sun and heat in my experience catch more fish because they are able to fish hard from the first cast to last cast. Sun block, while an important part of the equation, can only go so far.
While on the water whether I’m fishing or guiding during the summer, you’ll find me covered from head to toe in clothing. Big straw hats, Buff sun masks, long sleeve shirts, pants and (yes, gloves). I’ve hyperlinked what I’m wearing in the picture. It seems to counter common sense that wearing so much clothing when its 105 will help keep you cool but it does. With the advances in outdoor clothing these technical garments create a barrier from the sun and “wick” moister (perspiration) in a way that you actually sweat less and what you do sweat evaporates in a more controlled manner. I’m not going to “cut and paste” a bunch of scientific evidence into this article as it is my experience that when I dress in this manner I’m a better guide for my clients and a better husband/father when my day on the water ends and the real work starts upon getting home.
Proper hydration isn’t something you can fix the day of. We all should be drinking water on a day-to-day basis. Bottled water won’t solve a dehydration or volume depletion problem the day of and while on the water, it can actually create serious complications (wearing my paramedic hat now) by flushing out electrolytes that well, are pretty damn important to being alive. As a medic this time of year we see a lot of people that don’t drink enough water on a day to day basis only to have it bite them in the ass after a full day in the sun. I’ve seen some scary cardiac rhythms associated with dehydration in “normal enough folks” that could have been avoided by just drinking a normal amount of water during the days before and wearing appropriate clothing. Shorts and t-shirts won’t cut it.
I think we all could easily drop a small fortune on gear without out a second thought. Personally it doesn’t take much to convince me that some shiny object to replace my perfectly good “older” shiny object is a must have for an upcoming trip (I’ve got a few coming). If you look at clothing as “gear” than it’s easy to justify a couple outfits for the elements. Rationally speaking it makes absolute sense to wear clothing that will keep you in the game longer whether it’s the trip of a lifetime or an afternoon on the Lower Colorado River with us.
See ya on the water!