Bluelining South Texas

I’m writing a book about fly fishing Central Texas (The Local Angler: Fly Fishing Austin & Central Texas, due out in 2019 from Imbrifex Books) – have been these past six months, and will be for the next half year. It’s a ton of fun, and a whole lot of work, too.

Between my day job, the family, and the book project, I don’t have much time lately to just go fish (or write!) without an agenda.

Except for yesterday.

For a while now I’ve been lobbying to switch “watches,” – basically flip-flop my week-on, week-off schedule on the tugboat – for a variety of reasons both personal and professional.

On the personal side, one of my best friends of nearly a decade, Jess, works opposite me and we haven’t had a day off at the same time in more than a year, since his wedding in fact.

One of the things we have in common is a love of ultralight fly fishing, so that sort of sucks.

My swap request was finally approved, and last week we were able to hop across boats a few times and tie up some flies while we waited-out the fog.

Yesterday when we got off, we headed to a gem of a little creek about 90 minutes from the dock. It was on my way home to Georgetown, or at least not far out of the way.

At home, there are two clear, spring-fed rivers within walking distance of my house (one is, literally, my back property line), and another dozen or so quality streams within an hour’s drive.

Taken together, these waters are possibly the finest warmwater fishery in the nation that not everyone knows about. Thus the book project.

South Texas, on the other hand – I mean the part of the state that falls below a line from Del Rio to, oh … maybe the vicinity of Port O’Connor – is a searingly unwatered place, if by water you mean streams.

If you’re thinking spartina marsh and mangroves and seemingly endless flats of turtle grass and sand, well, it’s kind of awesome. It’s where I took up fly fishing, in pursuit of redfish and speckled trout and snook, but most days it’s not work for ultralight rods.

The few rivers down that way are turbid and – in their lower reaches – tidal. Access is difficult. But … if you have time to pour over maps, and can make some detours down Farm-to-Market and county roads while going to and fro, you might get lucky.

We did.

This particular creek is a gem. Where we walk in, the water is clear but tannin-stained, and the low gradient of the coastal plain causes the stream to meander and pool in its broad, sand and gravel bed. It’s chock-full of bass, various sunfish, carp and catfish.

Because I have a job and children and deadlines, I fish when I can, not when conditions are optimal. Yesterday was not optimal, not for ultralight glass rods, but it sure was fun.

I put my new Ben’s Fly Rods 1wt. through its paces in 15-20 knots of wind. Jess threw my C. Barclay Fly Rod Co. 3wt.* Coincidentally (or not), his best fly fishing days have happened when he had that rod in hand.

When he started chewing on it yesterday, I told him he’s going to have to break down and get his own. He called Chris during a break streamside. Maybe I’ll get him one of those Scotts or Sages in the meantime, until he’s done teething.

Anyway, it was a good day after a long two weeks (working over to swap watches) on the boat. Lots of sunfish and some really nice river bass to hand. Jess even managed two catfish on the fly.

The new 1wt? It did everything I asked of it, and I asked more than I should have – hurling #8 and #10 weighted Carp-it bombs and hooking up with some chunky largemouths as well as the ubiquitous sunnies the rod was designed for (I imagine it will be pretty awesome for wild cutthroats, too, but that will have to wait until the manuscript is put to bed).

I wonder how much joy it would bring with a #14 foam spider? Hmm. I might just have to walk down to the end of the road sometime today.

*I think I wrote in my last post that both C Barclay or Ben’s fly rods were distant aspirations for this working Joe. I am humbled and grateful that both came to my hand much sooner than I expected. Each is a joy to fish and they are heirloom-quality tools I will pass down to my children, hopefully may years from now.

But I stand by my recommendations for terrific value rods(I hate the word “budget” in this context … actually I hate the word “budget” in any context; ask my wife) in the post below.

**Lagniappe: the beer pictured, Redfish IPA, was brewed and bottled about five miles from our fishing adventure.

One thought on “Bluelining South Texas

  • March 1, 2018 at 15:48

    I enjoyed this article as well as the rod recommendation one. I decided I had more fly rods than I really needed, so won’t order one of Ben’s. However, I did see that right now, the Cabela flberglass rod is on sale for just under $40, so I ordered a 2 wt and a 5 wt. Can’t beat that price, and I really do like my 3 wt CGR. Thanks for the great reads!


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