“How’s Monday looking for you?”
Depending on the person asking the above question, this phrase can illicit a variety of emotions. From your boss, it might mean you’re about to get more work added to your never-ending pile. From a “friend” who’s in the process of changing residences, you’re probably about to be enlisted into some backbreaking labor in exchange for a handshake, and perhaps your favorite adult beverage if you’re lucky.
However, from this particular amigo, I knew there was a fishing trip in the works. I made it clear that I was in.
My alarm jolted me awake at the unholy hour of 5 AM. As I double-checked my gear by the door, I slowly blinked away the remnants of a particularly strange dream involving a Cliff Outdoors Bugger Beast overflowing with melted soft plastics . Hoping I wasn’t forgetting anything, I threw my gear bag into the back of the fishmobile, pickup up my buddy and his wife, and headed down to the Guadalupe River for the days outing.
To say I was excited was a bit of an understatement. We’re currently in the middle of one of the, if not THE worst, droughts in Texas history. There’s a severe lack of water in the area right now, which puts a big damper on the fishing. However, good fishing can still be found a short drive in just about any direction, so things definitely aren’t as bad as they could be.
The previous night’s brief (but very welcome) shower had the humidity higher than usual, and there was a slight fog coming off of the river. We started on the upper section where my buddy hoped to find a few holdover trout. I was more concerned with locating a sizeable smallmouth, so I tied on my variation of the Autumn Splendor and started working my way downstream.
…right into the side of a submerged log, presumably. The water was about 59 degrees and over my head, so I broke it off and tied on his twin brother. A few casts doomed him to a similar fate; obviously I wasn’t meant to use that fly today.
It had been nearly two months since I had cast a fly rod, but I eventually slipped into the all-too-familar motion of casting, stripping, and heading upstream, while still taking time to enjoy the morning. I spotted a deer and two fawns on the upper bank, making their way through someone’s back yard, and listened to the various species of birds having their morning conversations.
The sun begin to peer over the trees as my friends and I worked our way upstream, leapfrogging each other along the way. It was a long while before any of us hooked up, but my friend Chris took the honor of first fish with a feisty smallmouth. A short time later, Chris’s wife Emily hung into a beauty of a holdover rainbow trout on a gigantic baitfish pattern she had meant for a bass, but the trout threw the hook after a solid tussle.
Sensing it was a “go big or go home” kind-of day, I tied on a muy grande articulated Mike’s Meal Ticket just to see what would happen.
Casting this behemoth on a 5 wt. rod was not fluid and graceful, not that my cast ever is. It was more me flailing wildly in an attempt that would have sent any lesser streamer into the next ZIP code, but this one made it about twenty feet. Imagine my surprise when I hooked a 16″ rainbow, who fought with all the tenacity of a limp dishrag. I supposed I wouldn’t put up much of a fight either if I had two #4 saltwater hooks in my jaw. In my defense, I was fishing for a beast of a smallie. The great underwater log gods decided to take this fly after a few more casts, and my wallet cried out in agony. Good stainless hooks aren’t cheap!
We spent the next couple of hours in the area piddling around. Chris landed a nice trout on a Pat’s Rubber Legs and then another chunky smallie on the way up. The only productive thing I did before we broke for lunch was locate an apparent shrine to the tree gods of the river, as seen below:
After a tasty BBQ lunch, I switched rigs to my Steffen 8’6″ 5/6 glass rod, and we switched to a lower spot on the river. I’ve become somewhat of a glass nut within the past couple years, mainly due to Cameron Mortenson’s excellent blog. Glass also seems to suit my casting stroke much more favorably. Plus, who can resist fishing a classy-looking combo like the one below:
I also swapped over to an Olive Crystal Bugger, and it wasn’t too long before I landed this little guy:
Not the beast I’d hoped for, but still a pretty fish. I didn’t notice when I caught him, but it looks like there’s a chunk missing from his tail as well.
We headed further upstream, as it became increasingly hot. It may be starting to feel like fall in some places, but central Texas is not one of them! I drained half of my water supply pretty quickly and reapplied sunscreen, as it became obvious that the weather forecasters were a bit conservative in their projected 89 F high for the area.
We rounded a bend in the river to reveal a shaded deep emerald green pool, a quasi-oasis amidst the oppressive sun. Sitting on a boulder on the outskirts of the pool, Emily quickly hooked a half-dozen trout, landing three of them:
I couldn’t buy a strike from any ‘bows, but did have a healthy Guadalupe bass slam my streamer before putting on an aerial display that would have rivaled Ringling Bros. He spit my Clouser near my feet after that impressive performance.
We spent a bit longer at the big pool, but were unable to entice any more fish. We quickly decided to hoof it back to the car in search of cold AC and colder Dr. Pepper, and headed back north to Austin.
While I’ve had much better trips fish-count wise, I feel like a few things finally “clicked” for me, providing me a bit more understanding into how to get the most from my gear. as well as a better clue on how fish think and act. I’ll share my findings in another upcoming post here soon!
Until then, tight lines!
Matt is a self-proclaimed fly fishing junkie and fish bum. He mainly focuses on local warmwater haunts in the Texas Hill Country, but also makes a couple forays a year up to some cool air in the Rockies, and hopes to spend some time getting familiar with the salty air on the Texas coast soon. He can be found on Twitter here.