Saturday, February 28, 2009

New edition of Fly-Fishing the Texas Hill Country

We had a cold front come in through the area last night that put a damper on my fishing plans this weekend. This is not necessarily because of the cold as the highs are supposed to break 60F but due to the very windy conditions with gusts to 40mph during the day. In any event, Chris Johnson, owner of my favorite local fly shop Living Waters Fly Fishing, was holding an all day event today at his shop with some presentations from local guides on fly fishing for white bass. In addition, local guide Kevin Hutchison and now author, would be selling and doing a book signing of the long-in-coming 4th edition of the "Fly-Fishing the Texas Hill Country". Kevin is a very well known and respected fly fishing guide in the central Texas area and he's a heck of a nice guy to boot. Funny, too.

I have a dog eared copy of the 3rd edition of the "Fly-Fishing the Texas Hill Country" published in 2000 that I bought in 2005 after searching high and low until I located a few copies at a fly shop that Kevin worked at. They sold out quickly so I was glad to have gotten a copy.

The third edition contained some updates contributed by a variety of experienced Texas fly fishers. It still had a lot of the original knowledge from the original author, the legendary Bud Priddy, in those pages. The book is more than just a collection of access points about the local rivers and streams; it contains information on the species that can be found in each river, flies that are appropriate for each as well some guidance on techniques to catching them. The book is an invaluable treasure trove of information for fly fishing the Texas Hill Country. As good as it is/was, it had been some time since it had been updated and so of course, like the rivers and streams themselves, things change.

This latest edition took nine years to present itself primarily thanks to Kevin. I am not sure anyone else was better apt to make it happen. I've attended several presentations of his and he is a great instructor. He's personable, knowledgeable, witty and the one quality I think that is the reason for this new addition seeing the light of day...passionate. Passionate about fishing and traversing the area lakes, rivers, and streams. Passionate about the fish that swim in them. Passionate about providing fly fishers with the knowledge to make their experience fishing these waters all the more productive and memorable.

There has been a lot of anticipation these past couple of years about this book once word got out that Kevin had acquired the rights and permission to publish the 4th edition. I can only imagine the stress. I am sure Kevin is relieved now that the book is out. There are a lot of fly fishers looking forward to it.

I had several family commitments today so I couldn't spend more than an hour at the fly shop. Just as I was going to leave, Kevin showed up with a box full of the new edition. Chris laid them out on a shelf. I took the first one and asked Kevin to sign it and apologized for having to leave early. He made some joke about me probably getting bored with his presentation that afternoon but I really wish I could have stayed.

When I was finally done with all of my family commitments, I started reading the book at home. To begin with, the cover art is fantastic. It's a watercolor of a sunfish. For some reason it reminded me of another favorite book of mine, "The Sunfishes" by Jack Ellis, though the cover art is not at all similar just the subject.

The sections on the local fish species and techniques for catching them was improved quite a bit. In addition, now there are four complete pages listing descriptions of recommended flies along with color photos of each. Very nice though tying recipes would have been very much appreciated. Maybe they can be added to Kevin's website in the future. By the way, this is another appreciable difference in this latest edition which is the introduction of references to Internet web pages. It also opens the possibility to have a vehicle to extend the book and accommodate change.

Another improvement is the introduction of GPS coordinates for all of the access points listed. I have a handheld GPS unit that I have used a few times to locate some lake and bay fishing spots and for measuring paddling distance that I now have a new use for. Very practical improvement.

While I have not read every page yet, it is obvious that a large majority of the information across the book has been revised or completely improved upon. This is no small feat as I am sure it required a lot of verification in the field to ensure it was correct.

Lastly, one subtle but very welcome improvement in this edition of the book is that it is spiral bound. This make it possible for it to be placed flat on a table and the pages stay put while, for example, you are typing an entry in your blog on your laptop while enjoying a read or two of the book at the same time. :-)

In summary, this latest edition of "Fly-Fishing the Texas Hill Country" should be required reading for anyone wanting to get the most out of fly fishing this area of Texas. For those folks that don't have access to one of the local Austin area fly shops, I would recommend they visit the publishers web site at and contact them directly as to how to obtain a copy of it for yourself.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

No longer hardcore?

I haven't been fishing in over a month (no tears please). Last night the planets aligned and I loaded up the kayak to try and do some night fishing. I loaded my 5wt reel with Teeny T-130 sinking line as the hope was that I would get into some white bass.

I got to the lake around midnight and paddled out to a boat dock in water 8 to 10 feet deep and adjacent to a deep channel. The dock had several bright lights illuminating over the water. I could see baitfish nervously swimming about and then a couple of splashes. I tied on a #8 Cypert Minnow and made a poor cast. I let it sink, put the tip of my rod down below the surface of the water and started to strip it in. In that first cast I caught my first white bass. Cool!

In the next hour I proceeded to catch seven white bass, males between 11 and 12 1/2 inches long. From 1am to 1:30am not a single bite. At this point, the wind started to pickup and the temperature dropped as a week cold front started pushing through. My legs were still wet from the paddling and I was getting cold. My shoulder was also starting to hurt a bit. In the old days, I would have kept on fishing until dawn. I paddled back to the ramp and headed home. I was back in a warm bed just before 3am.

I got up four hours later as I had promised my daughter that I would take her and her boyfriend fishing today. We were back at the lake by 9:30am. The wind was a steady 15mph coming from the NNE. Air temperature was in the mid 40s and so it felt pretty cold. We found a spot somewhat sheltered by the wind where we fished for about an hour and a half and then we decided to come back home.

I filleted the fish I had caught the night before and we had them for lunch. I then remembered why white bass are more trouble than they are worth. The fillets aren't all that big and so it takes more fish for a decent fish fry. This means a long time filleting fish.

Once again, in the old days I would not have been complaining. I must be getting old and losing my hardcore fishing attitude. Man, I hope not!

Right now, after cleaning everything and putting it all away, I am dead tired. I think I am going to take a shower and go to sleep early. I am such as wuss! :-(

Oh yeah, Happy Valentine's Day! Hope you get some today! Fish that is! ;-)