Casts and Drifts: Newsletter of the Central Texas Flyfishers
January 2005 • Volume 11 Number 1

Newsletter Editorial Change

A bit of time has passed since we last had an issue of our newsletter; I have volunteered to take over the editorial duties. I plan to have issues out on a monthly basis, but I will your help for article suggestions, equipment reviews, fly-tying, location reviews, book reviews, insights, and the many other things you'd like to see in our newsletter.

— Michael Brown


President: to be announced
Vice President: Brian Watson
Conservation: Billy Wofford
Outings: Jack James & Paul Muller
Secretary: Michael Brown
Treasurer: Brian Watson


Tuesday, January 11, 2005
CTFF Meeting
Old Fish Hatchery Building, City Park in San Marcos
7:00 p.m.
Saturday, January 15, 2005
Annual Banquet
San Marcos Southside Community Center
518 S. Guadalupe, San Marcos
6:00 p.m.
Tuesday, January 25, 2005
Fourth Tuesday Fly Tying,
Tickle-Blagg Veterinary Clinic, San Marcos,
7:00 p.m.
Friday, January 28, 2005
Fun Fish Day
A.E. Wood Fish Hatchery in San Marcos
8:30 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.
"There's something therapeutic about seeing rising fish. " — anonymous

December Meeting Notes

We met in our old location on December 14, 2004 to discuss plans for 2005, including the selection of club officers. Brian Watson, volunteered to be Vice President and continue on as Treasurer, Michael Brown volunteered to be Secretary, Billy Wofford will continue in his duties as education, conservation and community outreach officer, Jack James and Paul Muller volunteered to be our Outings officers. Bob Blagg and Marcus Rodriguez were mentioned as possible presidents (neither were in attendance).

Billy Wofford has coordinated with the Southside Community Center in reserving the location for our Banquet on January 15, 2005. The members in attendance came to the consensus that the club would pay for BBQ and the members would bring a side dish or dessert. Monies were allocated to acquire a gift certificate for Gruene Outfitters to be awarded at the banquet.

The club once again has parking access at Rio Raft on the Guadalupe River. Parking passes will be available at both the January meeting and Banquet.

Annual Banquet

Our annual banquet will be held on Saturday, January 15, 2005 at 6:00 p.m. in the Southside Community Center on Guadalupe Street in San Marcos. The club will provide BBQ 'd meats. Members are encouraged to bring a side dish, beverage, or dessert. This event is for Members and their families. As part of our tradition, we "pay" for use of the facilities by bringing canned foods and other staples such as flour, rice, and beans, to be used in their kitchen in support of their community outreach.

Fun Fish Day

January 28, 2005 is going to be a special day, the annual Fun Fish Day for disabled San Marcos CISD students will be held at the A.E. Wood Fish Hatchery (9:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.). This event is co-sponsored by the City of San Marcos Parks and Recreation Department and the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife. Volunteers are needed to assist the kids in fishing and fish handling. Please note that during the previous two events, flies have out fished powerbait.

CTFF members have volunteered each year and have enjoyed this event tremendously. If you plan on volunteering for either the entire day or just part of it, volunteers are requested to arrive at 8:30 a.m. or at 11:30 a.m. For more information, contact Billy Wofford via email or Lisa Morris, Recreation Manager, City of San Marcos Parks and Recreation Department at 512-393-8400.


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January Fishing

As usual during the cool gray days of January, after the Christmas decorations have been taken down, the honey do's have been taken care of, errands run, hair cut, etc, etc, the day would lend itself to a side trip to the river. The wind was not favorable, a consistent southeaster of 5 to 10mph, hitting square on in the face. Not a real good position to be in when flinging a small caddis fly, the fly would usually land5 to 10 feet downwind from where you wanted it to go. Trying to compensate for the windage sometime made matters worse by landing in a tree rather than upon the waters. However, when the opportunity presents itself one must take advantage of it.

You could see the perch holding about two feet under water and they would not rise to take this delectable caddis fly, so after several attempts and with no success, I switched patterns. Pulling out a bead head nymph and allowing it to sink, which was difficult to do considering the current of the San Marcos River at the time. Just about the time it hit bottom, a long eared sunfish decided dinner was ready and inhaled it. Now my fun was just beginning.

Across the walkway to the small island near Pavilion A was a family of three and the cutest little girl about four years of age really testing her parents about just how far she could venture before being called back. I walked the fish over to their side and ask if it would be OK if I let her bring it in. Her mom said yes. I handed the rod to the little girl to hold with both hands and began to strip the line in, when the fish surfaced there was a loud shrill exclamation of excitement. Her first ever, real live fish. She touched it, admired it, and was saddened when we let it go, but she was OK when we told her that it had to return to its 'mommy'. Yes there were pictures made and I am sure that in years to come she will remember some old guy fishing that let her pull in her first fish.

They left and I continued fishing catching several perch but none as significant as the first one when a little girl made some memories of her own. Take advantage of every situation to fish, you never know what delights are around the corner or even with the next cast.

— Bill Wofford

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Fly Fishing in the Winter

I was slightly apprehensive sliding my kick boat into the hard flowing river. Floods had recently ripped through the San Marcos River Valley and I did not know what I might encounter on a float down the powerful river. The river was cold and flowing at about 750 cubic feet per second (cfs). Normal flows are about 150cfs. I had floated the river before in slightly higher water, but this would be the first time I floated the river, by myself, in semi-dangerous water conditions.

I could tell the water was flowing hard by the sound it made gushing over Staples Dam. A heavy mist filled the air. As I portaged the dam, I felt the mist where my skin was exposed. I immediately started to feel cold and I knew that the next nine miles could be a shivering experience.

I kicked down to the first riffle past the dam. The clear turquoise water carried me downstream. The water according to my thermometer was a cool 56 degrees. I knew fishing would be slow, but I had prepared the night before by tying heavy lead-eyed flies.

At the first cut bank, I made a cast where the hard flow of the river was blocked by a jut of dirt bank. The cast was about 10 feet and I mended my line upstream to allow the fly to sink into the turquoise depths. The fly had been caught in a slight pillow of turbulence and when I mended the line, I watched the fly disappear. Immediately afterwards, I saw a slight flash just below where the fly had been. I made a strip set and felt the weight of a fish. It was my first cast of the day and it had been successful. I fought the fish for about thirty seconds and brought it to hand. The Guadalupe Bass was a solid 15 inches and was surprisingly fat. As I moved to dislodge the hook, I saw a minnow and a crayfish claw in the back of fish’s mouth. I took one last look at the bass and let it slide slowly from my hand and back into the river. The trip was already a success. I kicked downstream without the worry about catching another fish.

Central Texas has been blessed with several beautiful, strong flowing rivers. Central Texas is also blessed with mild winter temperatures. With the exception of a few bitterly cold days during the season, a fly angler has the opportunity to cast a fly at eager warm water species throughout the winter.

Winter is my favorite time to fly fish Central Texas. The fishing may not be as action-packed as it is in the other seasons, it is definitely more challenging. The winter is also the time that many anglers, both fly and conventional, catch the biggest fish of the year. The angler who fishes in the winter will catch quality fish over quantity. There are several reasons why I like to fly fish in the winter. The main reason that I go in the winter is for the solitude. Rivers take on a deathly silence in the winter. The surrounding landscape is gray and quiet and other anglers are almost non-existent. Many clear streams like the Blanco, Llano, Medina, and the Sabinal become gin clear and still in the winter. I used to describe the rivers as looking dead, but after realizing that some of the best fishing could be had during these times, my opinion changed. I remember wandering the banks of the Blanco River as a very young child and into my early adulthood. These were back in the days when I would spin fish. There are a couple of creeks that came into to the river that have a few deep pools, full of little minnows, suckers, and crawdads. I would catch a few crawdads and put them in my pocket. Sometimes the crawdads were freshly molted and were as soft as a wet noodle. I would crash through the underbrush to the river. I think that the trick to fishing these clear rivers is not to cast blindly, but to wait and spot fish. There are times when casting blindly on these rivers is a good thing to do, but when the water is cold and clear, it is my opinion that it is best to sit and wait allowing a cruising bass present itself. There were a few places that I could stand and overlook the river and make a fairly easy cast. I would head off to one of these places and wait for fish. If lucky, I would spot one or several smallmouth bass cruising on a shallow limestone flat. I would grab a crawdad, put it on a single hook without a weight and toss it out in front of the fish. As the crawdad raced toward the safety of the river bottom the bass would intercept the morsel. Sometimes the crawdad would make it to the bottom and I would give it a slight twitch. The bass would hover over the crawdad and suck it up with a flare of gills. As the bass would turn I would set the hook. Smallies in a cold, well oxygenated river are a force to be reckoned with. Those cold gray days are responsible for making me enjoy the beautiful rivers where I live.

In San Marcos, we are very lucky to live at the foot of the Balcones Escarpment. We have two nearby spring-fed rivers, the San Marcos and the Comal, that flow at 72 degrees year around. When I am looking to do some fishing on the coldest days, I will head out to one of these rivers. The fishing is usually action packed. Bass and bream will explode on flies in the warm amniotic waters. The fishing can be difficult on these rivers when chasing bass over three and four pounds, but, a well-presented fly will at least be investigated by a hungry fish. The Comal River has a lot of huge bass and bream. The biggest bass I have ever caught came from the Comal River on a cold January day. The bass was 29 inches and weighed a measly 10 pounds. I often see big fish on the Comal, but it is my opinion that there are much bigger fish in the San Marcos, especially downstream of Stokes Park. There are so many places for fish to hide and ambush prey. I have had much success using small Matt’s Bugs and casting them behind any structure that slows the river flow. The bream I catch in the river average about hand size. I can usually catch a few good bass. The biggest bass I have ever caught on this stretch was a five pound largemouth. I know that somewhere on this stretch lurks a monster. On my winter fishing trips, I rarely encounter another angler on the river.

I continued downstream in my kick boat. Having just released the stocky Guadalupe Bass, I was not too worried about not catching any more fish. I would cast to likely looking spots, but I was more interested in seeing what the latest floods had done to the river. As I rounded the next river bend, a nice fat mallard duck swam out from and undercut bank. I had startled him from his cover, but we were still far enough away from each other that he did not feel threatened enough to fly away. We floated downstream together, though we stayed about the same distance apart for most of the time that I watched him. I took a few casts at some good fish holding structure, when out of the corner of my eye, I saw the mallard lunge to take flight. The duck quacked in a panic and before I realized what was happening a large hawk swooped down upon the duck and pierced him with his talons. The two birds struggled for a second or two. The hawk tried to lift the struggling mallard skyward, but the duck was too big. The hawk picked the duck up about two feet above the water and then they both came down with a splash. The hawk let go of the duck and flew up to a nearby perch on a naked sycamore limb. The duck, though it must have had injuries, looked no worse for wear. The duck took flight seconds after being released from the hawk’s deadly grip. I stripped the fly line that I had just cast. As soon as I made a strip, I felt the familiar tension of a fish. I fought the fish up to the boat. This time I had hooked a very nice largemouth bass. The bass was slightly larger than the Guadalupe I had hooked minutes before. I started to question my predictions of a slow day.

— Marcus Rodriguez

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Around the Next Bend

The year 2004 will be memorable for me two reasons, primarily people and places. This makes it similar to those that came before it and those that will follow. The memories, however, are what make it unique, and some of those would be considered "learning experiences:"

During a trip to Tahlequah, Oklahoma, to attend the Smallmouth Rendezvous and Fly Tying Extravaganza, my friend Scott Kelley (of the Fort Worth Fly Fishers) and I decided to take a break from tying and fish Barren Fork Creek. When we arrived at the creek we found that it was higher than normal for May, due to the heavy rains of the week before. It was wadeable to a small extent, we'd cast and cast again not finding any willing fish. We worked upstream as far as we could and found that the water got deeper than we wanted to wade in the strong current. We noticed a trail on the bank and decided to take it upstream in search of another entry point… when we went upstream as far as the trail would allow, we spotted several nice-sized spotted bass and bluegill holding in a deep eddy but no way of casting to them or entering the stream. Encouraged by our observation of fish, we spotted a possible access point upstream that we thought we could get to from the opposite bank, we quickly retraced our steps and forded the stream where we originally got in. On our way to where we thought we could ford the stream we were met with a cane break. We thought to ourselves, "how hard can it be to cut through this?" So we attempted to do so and made slow but steady progress, yet we found our potential crossing point to be out-of-reach. As luck would have it, we heard the rumble of thunder in the distance, and decided to make a hasty retreat. This is when we found out how easy it is to get disoriented in a cane break, and that even a short distance isn't so short. You cannot do anything quick in a cane break. We returned to the community center, looking like we came out of a war zone … other friends had a good laugh and we just smiled.

On a trip to the Norfork River just east of Mountain Home, Arkansas, I witnessed a pair of anglers catch fish after fish, while I would inconsistently have bumps and a few hook-ups, even though I was using the exact same pattern. Since it was time for lunch, I decided to eat my sandwich and observe what they were doing… the secret turned out to be a longer leader and a bit more weight. After lunch, I added tippet and weight and caught a few fish, and began to think, "This is going to be great!" of course being a tailwater fishery, the release siren wailed, driving us from the water… I had to wait for the next morning to fish… I then learned that patience can be more than a virtue, it can be downright fishy.

Ken Jones had often commented that "there's nothing like fly fishing at night." In the past I've fished for a couple hours after dark, not wanting to go home after a day's fishing, or fishing the hexegenia hatch on the Lower Mountain Fork River… but I had never started fishing at 2:00 a.m. In October, I traveled to Lake Taneycomo, just south of Branson, Missouri, and met up with Leonard Keeney, a friend of mine from Joplin, Missouri, who has fished this tailwater nearly his entire life, and made the suggestion to go night fishing for brown trout. He guided me to one of his favorite spots, a deep hole just downstream of Hatchery Outlet #3, with the added advise of not taking another step downstream once we were in position to cast due to the ledge dropping into several feet of water. Leonard tied on a white wooly bugger and proceeded to catch several rainbows during the first hour or so, I had nary a bump fishing a Matt's Bug, apparently the moon was in the phase where white presented a better silhouette in the darkness than did darker colors. Being the gracious host Leonard gave me one of his flies to try, and soon I was having strikes on a regular basis, and the occasional hookup. You'd think that a moonless night sky wouldn't provide much light to fish with, but after a few minutes of fishing, you learn to trust your senses of touch and hearing to let you know how you're doing… "it feels right," and "it sounds right" take on new meanings.

I also had the opportunity visit the Jennings family, near Chicago, and explore the area and Wisconsin. It was an experience; Wisconsin is diverse in its natural beauty, with rolling hills, rivers and creeks of all sizes, aspen groves, pasturelands, not to mention its flora and fauna. It was nice to have Matt guide Paul Muller and myself. (We also have incriminating photos of Paul being nice to a cat.)

My journeys around the next bend have provided me with opportunities to explore new places, meet interesting people, renew old friendships, and contemplate what's "really important." I look forward to seeing what lies ahead.

— Michael Brown

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Equipment Review

Product: Dr. Slick's Razor Scissors
Cost: $20 approx.
Description: Adjustable tension, bypass cutting scissors.

More than a year ago I purchased these scissors, to replace a an older pair of scissors that weren't as sharp as they had been. I had seen the ads for these scissors in all the fly-fishing and fly-tying magazines and was curious. The local fly shop had a couple pairs in stock, so I opened the package in the store to see how they fit my hand, they felt good, the loops are big enough for most anyone's fingers. I next found some scrap material to see how they'd cut -- very precise and with very little effort... they were very sharp. I made a promise to myself that after I bought the pair, I would use them only on thread, fine quills, fine hair, and hackle. After extensively using the scissors, I'm happy to say they remain very sharp. Would I buy another pair for myself or to give as a gift to a fellow fly-tyer? Most definitely.

— Michael Brown

If you'd like to submit a review, please send it to the editor


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