Bluelining South Austin: Gotcha, sucka!

A scheduled fishing trip – book research – fell through last Thursday just as I was leaving the house. Naturally, my destination defaulted to the fly shop.

The Hardest Working Man in Fly Fishing suggested Brushy Creek above Chisholm Park; I knew from Wednesday’s stop at Memorial Park that the redbreast and longear sunfish were eating well, and I saw a big bass flip out of the water after a damsel fly (something those of us lucky enough to spend time on these streams witness more often than you might think).

I considered backtracking to the Gabe for white bass, either above Lake Georgetown or Granger Lake – the spring spawning run is just getting underway.

But … I just wasn’t feeling it. I’ll catch the sandies in another week or two, when the big females show up in force.

The Brushy Creek chapter is done, and while I love that stream and revisit it as often as I can squeeze a trip in, I was feeling some urgency to keep moving forward, to explore some water for a chapter I haven’t written yet.

Since I was already pointed south, I decided to revisit a section of Onion Creek that will be making an appearance in the book.

I’ve covered the water many times already, but this time decided to add a good half mile to the wade.

An entire, sunny afternoon gave up just a handful of palm-sized red-ear sunfish and small Guadalupe bass, but I did finally crack the code on the elusive gray redhorse sucker.

Let me say that again, I caught not just one, but two redhorse!

“So what?” you’re thinking …. or maybe you catch them all the time.

I’ve been mistaking these fish for common carp at first glance, casting to them fruitlessly, and spooking them on a regular basis for a couple of years now.

Thursday I was fortunate enough to see them first, in a spawning aggregation on a gravel bar in fast water I snuck up behind them.

They were all looking upstream (as they almost always are) and I was downstream. They had baby brain. I was laser-focused on getting an eat.

Analysis of stomach contents of specimens biologists have collected show that 47 percent of the redhorse’s diet is aquatic insects. About an equal amount is freshwater clams and mussels. Less than 0.1 percent is algae: suckers may be bottom-feeders, but they ain’t vegetarians.

So I tied-on the buggiest little thing I had in the box and started casting.

The first take was explosive. The fish went airborne and then made a sizzling run toward deeper water before I turned him (the “nuptial tubercles,” or hard deposits on the fins, suggested the fish was a male). The hook was in the mouth, but just to be sure it wasn’t an accident, I went for #2.

Pow! Another eat and leap and run: fish to hand.

I figure I could have caught all dozen or so in the school, maybe twice, but I pressed on.

Later in the week, on Sunday, I had another shot at redhorse – and these guys were doing what I usually see them doing: slowly cruising a shelf in a long pool in clear water. I got another good eat, and as I was leadering the fish – my mind already thinking ahead to the photo – I snapped the tippet.

I’m not going to say I have these fish dialed-in at this point, but I’m hopeful I’ll start catching them with greater regularity.

Picky, spooky and fast, redhorses are a bit like a freshwater version of a bonefish.

The black-bands edging the spines in the dorsal and caudal fins (this is a distinguishing feature – gray redhorse are the only members of the genus Moxostoma that sport these racing stripes) and the golden body and reddish fins make for a handsome fish.

For a sucker.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *