Looking for Shade

Non-Trout pursuits

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Jimbo Roberts
Posts: 1162
Joined: Fri Nov 08, 2002 8:26 am
Location: San Antonio, TX

Looking for Shade

Post by Jimbo Roberts » Mon Sep 26, 2016 5:30 pm

So it's been a while since I posted anything about recent fishing trips. Work has really cut into my time since returning from Colorado. I had a few real estate deals going and then there was getting everything ready for the coming Trout season on the Guadalupe. Renewing leases for the Lease Access Program took way too much time this year. And I've been greedy with my spare time lately catching up with friends and keeping my elbow bent. So this post is going to be a little long to catch you up.

Normally during summers where the Guadalupe is too warm to chase the Trout there, like this year, I am hammering favorite spots all through the Hill Country. So many good spots have been revealed to me over the years that, again normally, it would be hard to pick any one for a given day.

This year was different.
We had so much rain in April and May most of my favorite spots were running too high to easily wade, make that wade without drowning. And this being summer in Texas with temps in the high 90's to "Oh My God", you really want to stay out of the direct sunlight as much as possible to avoid your skin looking something like the bark on a smoked brisket. Most of my favorite Cypress Tunnel stretches of various Hill Country rivers were just not fishable. And I am telling you it's tough to take when you know that no one has fished them, those bigger fish have not seen a fly all summer, and you can't get on them.

That leaves just one option, slather on the sunscreen, fill up the camelback, and head out into the searing microwave that is the Texas Sun.

My first trip was back to the upper Guadalupe.
I did not know how much the spring floods would affect the fishing, but even in the lean times it's fun.
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Now you know how much I love to fish topwater. And this place has some of the better water to do that almost any time.
Then again with very few clouds in the sky, even fish used to looking up, have a hard time doing that with that intense yellow ball staring back at them. Which is not to say it stopped me from trying. And sure enough my favorite Texas Native answered the call.
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The thrill did not last long and I saw most of the fish bolting away from anything landing on the water. They scattered like in all directions as if I was throwing a great white in their playground. A few did come to inspect my floating imitations, but they were all but ignored it as if they sensed a foul taste that they couldn't stomach.

So time to fall back to a few subsurface champions;
Cat's Whiskers, Wooly Buggers, Dave's Red Squirrel nymphs, and my new favorite Carp-it-Bomb.
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This place is famous for it's big Perch as much for it's Guadalupes and occasional 5lb Largemouth Bass.

It couldn't be anymore Summertime in Texas than cactus growing on a rock in the middle of the river.....
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A nice Longear came out to play.....
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The water was clean and clear giving off the aquamarine hue.
I was fishing heavy because of a blustery wind.
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I also picked up the wrong reel. This one is a Billy Pate Bonefish with 250 yards of backing. It's one I used for Big Redfish and Jacks at the coast. It's a couple of ounces heavier than the Salmon reel I normally use and it was wearing me out.
But the results were worth it......
Nice Guadalupes.....
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Big RedBreast Perch.....
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This Big Redear.....
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And then there was this Stud.....
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This is about as Big as they get here.....
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The numbers were good, but it was hot and draining my enthusiasm to continue on downstream to the next pool.
I started walking back upstream, my air conditioner in the truck was calling my name.
I came to the top of the pool and decided I had just enough left in the tank to move down the far side a bit.
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It was a good choice.
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More Big Perch.....
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And a few more Guadalupes.....
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It was early but I think I had endured enough of the Texas Sun that day. I made my way back to the truck turned on the AC, opened the cooler for some Gatorade followed by ice cold tea. Man did that hit the spot !

Next time out I decided to head back to the Pedernales. Last year I had a terrific time fishing this river, but that was in October. It was still August and this place did not have a spec of shade anywhere on the river, but I have seen Bass in the 7-8lb range and that is enough of a reason to go again.
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Normally this is a river where subsurface flys are needed to fish during the day. This trip would be different.

This time instead of the water being very clear there was heavy tannic stain and some milkiness to it. There had been some rain upstream and it carried the color down to this place. Just look at the water here.
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Normally you could count the rocks on the bottom, but not today.
And normally because the water is so clear and usually no shade on the water, topwater will only work at dawn and dusk.
Today they didn't want anything unless it was on top. It took a while for me to rap my mind around that, but it finally came to me.

I started with Boogle poppers, I also tried several different colors, but they were too big today.
I started getting strikes with yellow Foam Hopper Poppers.
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The catching was off, but not non-existent. There was just longer periods between those strikes.

A funny thing today was that I could hear a drummer off to the south. The wind was blowing from that direct and carrying the beat and cymbal crashes, but the volume was in and out as it is when being carried from a long distance off. There was no guitars or bass, but that drummer was really going at it. He seemed to be using a full kit, a multitude of different sized drums and cymbals. He serenaded me for hours as I sought more Bass along the Pedernales.

As I fished I noticed thunderstorms building to south and headed my way.
Finally some significant shade in the form of clouds.....
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The fish seemed to like it too.....
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The storm was coming for sure. The flashes of lightning increasing and the thunder getting louder and starting to roll.
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One last decent Bass on my way back to Karen's Porch.....
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It was only about 3pm.
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I took shelter on the porch looking north as the rain blew through. I enjoyed not wearing my vest and sipping on cold ice tea as I downed my jelly and peanutbutter sandwich. It rained for over an hour and ended up taking a nap in the coolness of the passing storm.

When I opened my eyes again the storm had moved north and east of the house.
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I watched it awhile as the afternoon waned.

About 5pm it was time to get back out there and see if some of the bigger fish would come out to play.
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I caught more fish, but most under 14". Usually this place is good for numerous fish 2-4lbs and a shot at some Big Girls, but not today.
Was it the hot weather?
Was it the off colored water?
Was it the spring Floods?
I just don't know.
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Whatever..... I would be back.

I used to be a big hunter. We used to hunt everything when I was younger; Deer, Hogs, Ducks, Turkeys, Quail and Doves. It is a Texas tradition and I was well endoctrinated. But as I got more and more into flyfishing, those hunts became less frequent. Nowadays I mainly hunt Doves and a few Quail every now and then.

When I was a boy and we hunted Doves, Morning Doves were just about the only Doves around central Texas. Very few Whitewings were seen around here and if you shot one it was cause to celebrate. Then the big freeze of 1986 came. We had sub freezing weather over most of south Texas for a week. Water Pipes were bursting all over the place. And importantly it killed most of the citrus trees in the valley that the Whitewings used to nest. Funny thing was those birds moved north, instead of south into Mexico, and found plenty of oak trees to nest here in central Texas. It took a few years, but those Whitewings displaced almost all the Morning Doves all around us. Now you rarely see a Morning Dove here until a cold front or two start pushing the birds down from the north.

Dove hunts are a social thing here in Texas. Starting off with cold cokes, furious shooting to see who can limit first along with competitive ribbing back and forth, followed by cold beer, bourbon, and BBQ. Finding a good spot to hunt with plenty of birds used to be a roll of the dice. Then about 8 years ago we met Greg Kempf. He had a place just outside Castroville along the Medina river and he raised a sunflower crop just to attract birds for his hunters.

To hunt Kempf's place you have to reserve your spot a year in advance and today we have standing reservations for the first two weekends in this Special South Whitewing Zone. These are Saturday and Sunday only hunts those first 2 weeks, then a break for another 2 weeks before the hunting is continuous till the close of the season. These are also noon to sunset hunts by law. Very gentlemanly hours lend to the social aspect of this kind of hunting. There are about 15 in our group most years and he allows about 50 hunters around his 40-50 acres of sunflowers. You are assigned different locations to hunt based on first to leave deposits and no one is allowed to roam and hunt out in the field itself to prevent any accidents. It works out pretty well for everybody.

We were assigned this side of the farm with the road along the Medina River.
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Early in the afternoon the birds usually fly from the river into the field. So you hunt with your backs to the sunflowers and facing the river.
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Then later in the afternoon the birds are flying out of the fields and back towards the river so you stand, or sit, facing the sunflowers with your back to the river. Also Greg Kempf does not knock down any of the sunflowers and just leaves them standing there, as is the law. So we are hunting this strip of open ground between the sunflowers and the dense underbrush along the river. You have to be good at dropping your bird in this area where they are easy to find. If they are wounded and set their wings, gliding into the brush next to the river they are usually hopelessly lost. If they make it too far out into the sunflowers, they are also hard to find too as there is also broomweed at the bases of the sunflowers. Out there they can submarine into the thick stuff making them difficult to spot. Plus it's no fun brushing aside the scratchy sunflower stalks making your way out into the field to find your bird. More dogs would help but we usually only have 1 or 2 with our group. All this aside these Dove Hunts are all lots of fun. I once limited here, 15 Doves, in 40 minutes of shooting. Now I'm a pretty good shot but most years it still takes me a couple of hours to get my limit.
Also I can usually judge how well I am going to shoot with the first shot.
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First shot,.... First bird down. I did this 3 out of 4 days this year.
This year I had limits 3 out of 4 days with the last day messed up by a front and rain.

Also I made a shot that was almost comical.
Like most hunters you try and shoot the bird in such a way that it falls close to your feet.
Sometimes I have actually caught the bird as it fell and before it even hit the ground. Good times.....
This year as we were hunting along the road and my drivers window was open along with the tailgate to keep it cool inside.
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One dove I shot, fell from the sky, through that open window, and landed in the drivers side footwell.
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That was one in a Million ! They laughed about me just not wanting to bend over to pick birds up anymore.
It was another very good Dove hunt.
I'll be back there every year I can stand and hold a gun.

Well enough about hunting, back to fishing.
It was still the middle of September and I wanted to get back to the Pedernales and see if things improved.
There is this unmistakable landmark as you near Johnson City.
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It's hard to see in this picture but there are 2 perfectly symmetrical hills that stand out between the Blanco and Pedernales basins.
Once you see them you know your just about 15 miles away.

Again is was unusually hot 97 degrees and about 70% humidity, but I really wanted to fish.
Well I started off with a Hopper Popper and it worked.
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This trip though the water was once again relatively clear. I knew that surely the Carp-it-Bombs would be the ticket under bright skies and in the middle of the day. I started off with a new color... Junebug.
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Good decision.....
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Guadalupes like purple too.....
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It was a beautiful day.....
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I just wish it wasn't so stinkin' hot !!!!!

Catching was better than the last time.
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But they were still averaging on the smaller size of historical averages.....

Throughout the day I experimented with different colors of Carp-it-Bombs.
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Here a brown/rust colored one worked just as well.

About 3pm again I decided to take a break again and get out of the sun during the heat of the day.
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Karen saw me and came over to talk awhile. We had a nice talk about the fishing, which she admitted, seemed to be slower this summer, and the bigger fish hard to come by. We also talked about her Casting For Recovery retreat coming up. Chris at Living Waters had used the recent Wednesday Fly tying night at the shop to tie up dozens and dozens of flys to use at Big Joshua Creek gathering. She was excited about what they looked like and I told her just look at their Facebook page and she could see what was coming.

We talked a long while. It was more like 5:30 before I headed back down to the water. Fishing was steady.....
Right away I saw something chasing minnows on the surface, the Carp-it-Bomb drew no strikes.
Back on went the Hopper and I caught 2 fish on back to back casts. Second one was a good one.....
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That's more like what I expect when I fish this water.
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It's such a beautiful place..... If only there was some shade !!!

After those 2 fish nothing more was looking at the hopper, so back on went the Carp-it-Bomb, and back to more regular hookups.
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Again fishing was good, but not as good as last year. A fish would come to hand about every 10-15 minutes.
And that's the way it went till dusk.
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When the sun was fully down and light beginning to fade the river came alive.
In about 45 minutes I caught a dozen Bass and another half-dozen Big Perch.
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Mostly Guadalupes now.....
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It was getting so dark I switched back to the Hopper so I could see what I was doing in the fading light and it caught a couple more.
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I decided while walking back to the house that I needed to come back and fish in late October or early November as the weather cools off.
I wanted another shot at those Big Females which must be somewhere here before winter really sets in.

Now it's late September. Our Hill Country rivers are finally starting to drop to wadeable levels.
I could now start to get back into my shaded rivers and streams. I hadn't fished around Austin in years. It seemed like the right time to go back.
Then the weatherman came with the news. We were going to have the first real cold front of the year along with a low pressure system coming out of Mexico meet right over Central Texas. That is a recipe for flooding rains. If I was going to fish I needed to go now versus waiting.

So I loaded up and headed north of Austin.
First stop was Living Waters Fly Shop.
Being on the other side of Austin from San Antonio I don't make the trip up here near as often as I'd like to.
What's the big deal you ask? Austin is only 75 miles from SA and Round Rock just 20 miles further?
Well the answer is Austin lies in the middle and it seems like every techie in the nation is moving to Austin. They have been growing at a rate of some 50,000 new people every year for a while now. IH35 runs right through the heart of Austin and covering those 20 miles can take an hour or more. It's traffic congestion at it's worst.
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So I selected flys I knew were available here. A bunch of flys actually. No matter I will get around to using them all.

Then it was on to a secret little creek I know. Not many will bother fishing it. It is very small, and the fish are not big, but as my friends have said, it's like fishing many of the Cutthroat Creeks we fish in the mountains. It's in the shade mainly..... check. You'll probably be the only one fishing it..... check. It's tight quarters..... check. Sounds like fun to me and I had an unused Sage LL 469 that needed to get wet. I was going to christen this rod on a little creek in Wyoming that I know, but I didn't get that far this summer, this little creek would have to do.

It's one of those places. It takes a little recon and bushwacking to get to the water.
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Keep you head down, watch out for the briars, and you'll be OK.
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You need to use a little creative casting but I like the challenge.
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Again the open areas the fish were real spooky. They would scatter from just a shadow of the flyline overhead.
The first hoppers and beetles I used were ignored.
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At this spot I saw something sizable move in the water just on the other side of that patch of Ruella in the shade. I remember Chris telling me this fishes just like a Cutthroat Creek. And just like the Cutthroat Creeks in the mountains I tied on a Wilcox Special. The fly landed perfect and in a flash that Bass slurped it under, felt the sting of the hook, and raced off. That fight lasted all of 2 seconds as that fish ran into a brush pile and it was gone. I estimate it was 2 1/2lbs or so. Nothing I could do. 5X is unforgiving.

I worked the shade hard and they were willing.
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Not big but on this short light rod they were a blast.
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Today I was using another small version of a Carp-it-Bomb. This one downsized on a #10 hook versus the 6's and 8's I used everywhere else.
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These are mostly Redbreast Sunfish.....
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I was enjoying the shade.....
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There were little Bass here too.....
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I landed 3 Bass all about 6-9",... perfect little miniaturized Bass.

Love this place.....
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Several spots, I would sneak up on and catch 5-10 Perch before it turned off, then on to the next spot.
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Just gorgeous.....
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Longears too.....
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In this drainage they show more copper than other places.
I will let the pictures do the talking.....
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Every place with willing fish......
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Finally the creek narrowed to where even my 6'9" flyrod was too long.
Well it was a good time for a break and lunch at Whataburger.
Today it was a grilled chicken sandwich and a large half and half sweet tea.
Delicious !!!

It was about 3pm now and clouds were gathering in the sky. There were going to be some popcorn showers scattered around this afternoon before the heavy stuff would come through on Sunday. I knew the South Fork of the San Gabriel was not too far away and it fished well back in the 80's, so let's give it a try. I remembered an access point somewhere around 183, but nothing looked the same to me. I found a road that went close to the water. I got out and knew the river was just a couple hundred yards over there somewhere.
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The bad news is I sure don't remember this 60-70' slope here. Well the rain was coming and there was no time to waste.
That slope was covered in bramble and it was not easy going down.
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Looking back I was not looking forward to going back up it when it was time to leave.

The river was as I remembered it.
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The first one was a Guadalupe Bass.....
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there were Perch too.....
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Moving upstream the river widened and got shallow. This was not good. There was not enough cover to hold many fish. They would be too exposed in the daytime. I waded past long stretches no more than a foot deep without even seeing a fish. Maybe I was pushing too much water wading through. When I did get to some riffles I would find some fish.
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Perch but no Bass.....
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Where were the Bass?

I came to this stretch of water. The first water I seen that was 4 feet deep.
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I saw some larger Bass here too, but in the sunlight these fish would come over inspect the fly and then swim off.
It's like I was fishing some highly pressurized spring creek where the fish all had their PHD's in fishermen.
I got lucky and picked up a few of the smaller speciems.....
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But all the good Bass were not having any of my flys, big or small, subsurface or on top..... Nothing !

Again as the sun went below the ridges they started to look up again and on went the Hopper.
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On the way back that long deep pool, the only one I seen on the river produced another.....
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But the Big Boys thumbed their nose at me today. I caught a few more Perch, but decided it was time to pick up the pace, get back to the truck, and it's air conditioning.

Moving quickly downstream I looked down as I walked the bank and there was a large fossilized Nautilus.....
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I though about picking it up and taking it home, but it weighed at least 5lbs and my back was already getting tight and sore.
All told it was another good day. The thumb reveals all you need to know.....
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So it was back up the slope and get to truck, the AC and some cold gatorades.
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So there you have it. That is what I done these past 2 months between; contracts, amendments, acknowledgements, trimming the trees, allowances, Mortgage loans, mowing the yard, working on my R32, fixing the fence,.....
All the things you and I do to get some quality time away from it all.....
Fishing, hunting and looking for some shade.

Jimbo
Last edited by Jimbo Roberts on Sat Nov 26, 2016 11:38 pm, edited 2 times in total.

Alex Argyros
Posts: 369
Joined: Mon Apr 23, 2007 12:52 pm
Location: Austin

Re: Looking for Shade

Post by Alex Argyros » Wed Sep 28, 2016 6:49 am

Thanks for the report, Jimbo. Makes me wonder why I haven't fished as much this summer as I needed to. There's still time, but now I'm beginning to fantasize about trout.

Jimbo Roberts
Posts: 1162
Joined: Fri Nov 08, 2002 8:26 am
Location: San Antonio, TX

Re: Looking for Shade

Post by Jimbo Roberts » Thu Sep 29, 2016 1:57 am

I wish we could fish for the Guadalupe's Trout right now.
It was so close to happening this summer..... then one heavy rainfall too many.
I would say it's still 2 months off at the earliest before our first stockings.
So get out there and chase Bass and Perch, it's just starting to get good now.

Jimbo

radjemian1
Posts: 2
Joined: Mon Feb 01, 2016 5:00 pm

Re: Looking for Shade

Post by radjemian1 » Mon Oct 03, 2016 4:00 pm

Thank you for the great update ; loved the effort and reward of your report. Fishing and catching big or small ; it's being connect to nature. I enjoy fishing my 2 wt. for the fun of catching fish too.

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