Guest Post - A Day on the Llano River

Originally Posted on Troutrageous!

Social media is a pretty cool thing.  Brandon Robinson, a friend made over on Google Plus, was busy writing a blog post the other night and asking some of the folks in his "circles" for some advice.  You could tell he wanted to make this blog post memorable.  Problem is...he doesn't have a blog of his own...and despite an obvious talent for writing and the pleas of many...he remains a holdout.  

No worries.  A few quick "mi casa es su casa" emails and Troutrageous! scores one heck of a guest post.  Enjoy.


A Day on the Llano River
by Brandon Robinson

Getting cussed out by a student is always an interesting ordeal. As an instructor/teacher you have to just swallow pride and not let your anger show. Sometimes this is especially hard, for example if your student doing the cussing and storming out is old enough to be your father. Today, the cry-baby was old enough to be my Grandfather. After his display of poise and maturity, that student decided to jump the "Chain of Command" and went straight to the President, catching her BEFORE she even got out of her car.

This meant there would inevitably be a "discussion" with me when class was over. Awesome! After class was let go as I predicted, I was called in to go over what happened, then kicked out, then waiting for forty-five minutes, and then in again for another discussion.

Great, over an hour and a half of unpaid and unscheduled time at work is bad, but the worst part about it? I had fishing plans! When you work Monday-Sunday, finding time to go fishing is a rarity and because of that schedule I had other errands to run (FlyStock for instance), so there existed an increased sense of urgency to get out of there.

Coming in October...

The “Brass” teased me for being so serious, reassured me that this didn't shine a negative light on me and then finally, released me. Stretching the limits of traffic laws I raced home. This was the fastest anyone has witnessed this fat-boy moving since, well, I don't know (I am sure there was free food involved though). Off with the work clothes. On with the fishing clothes while shoveling canned spaghetti down my pie-hole, straight from the can. Errand number one had to be done before I could leave, paying rent. The property manager was there and asked me if I could take a look at the boilers, said one was down. Frack. Quick detour to investigate, pacify, and buy time. Quickly as possible I was back on track and making up for lost minutes.

Finally out to the Jeep to see if my fishing partner was already there. She was: fully rigged out and ready to go as if the fish were going to jump up at any moment and catch her ill-prepared. I had to admire that, fish are rather sneaky.

Quick disclaimer: "She" is my Ex. We started fly fishing together when we were an item. She is also the best photographer I know, and I wanted pictures.

Don't judge.

With magical prospects dancing across my mind, the road unfolding in front of me, and life being left behind my spirits began to soar. I didn’t think about how long it took me to enjoy fly fishing again after the break-up. I didn’t think about the fallout from not being able to keep one student from jumping rank like that. I tried not to think about how hungry I still was. I lost that last battle. Time for fish fuel. Music pumping from my phone through the Jeep speakers and a full belly, my mind returned to the interesting prospects that the day was still holding from me. I barely noticed a tiny cloud to the North of us that was just a bit darker than the rest. I was in top form; funny, high spirited, and optimistic as hell, nothing would ruin what was left of this day.

A little while later we arrived at the site of the first annual FlyStock. Popping in to say hello to the property owner, drop off some flyers, and pay for our day of fishing became check marks on my list of errands. Mapping out our site with GPS was the next to thing to get accomplished on my list. Now it was time for the final item, investigating water levels and ecosystem health. (Insert big cheesy grin here. ) Translation: FISHING!

Crack, flash, BOOM! That little cloud had suddenly expanded and it looked rather menacing for an area of Texas that has almost received more snow than rain this year. She looked at me intently, calmly trusting my judgment and ready to follow my lead. "What do you want to do?"

"I need to fish.”

After tying, strapping, and adjusting everything I needed for wet wading, we headed towards the fish. I looked at the sky once more, decided against some of the gear, plus her camera, and went back to the water. Always the gentleman, I offered up previously gained intelligence and first cast. More like first multiple casts, with do-overs. It had been a while since she had been out. Once my southern upbringing allowed it, I called next. I picked up my fly rod (I had laid it down due to lightning) and started to false cast working my line out. I got pelted in the back of my head, confusing me for a split-second. My fly was out in front of me. Then another. Yet another. This, this was rain! It rained for a minute or so until I decided to climb out of the river bed. Sitting on the bank, low enough to be safe from lightning and yet high enough to scramble out if a wall of wishful thinking came rushing downstream, I had nothing to stop me from drawing parallels to the last time her and I came out to that spot. We spent most of that day on the bank as the water was too high, fast, and murky to wade safely. Here we were again, but the water was wade-friendly and the rain looked to be letting up.

After 5 or so minutes went by without any more rain, we decided to fish again. Still sans gear, soaking wet, but naturally cool for the first time in months. Two casts out, more rain. "It'll let up," I thought. "I won't," it replied. Time to take refuge. We found an open and unoccupied cabin and got her camera out of the danger zone. We waited, watching from the porch as the rain moved past, waited a little bit more as the sun came out, I was not going to get fooled again. Satisfied, I geared up and grabbed my fly rod as she watched with doubt in her eyes. All of a sudden, the wind shifted direction, bringing the rain back. Normally I would complain, but knowing how bad we needed the rain, the whole scene un-folding was just funny. Murphy's Law was definitely in full effect. Twenty minutes or so passed, twenty minutes of, “It’ll let up” and, “Nope, it’s starting again.”

(Photo: Amanda Fowler)

Finally, it let up as a huge insect hatch appeared out of nowhere. Thousands of slow moving winged creatures seemingly materialized from the rocks and soil, we were surprised, but Nature wasn’t. All sorts of insect eating creatures came out from underneath the enormous rust colored granite slabs that make up the landscape. I was eager to get some time on the water. After failing at fishing not once, but two times on the Pedernales, I really wanted something good to happen. I was fishing with a brand new rod, picked up on sale at Cabela's only the day before out of necessity. The rain seemed like it might be done, which was bittersweet, but eager as I was to get to the water I wasn’t going to complain too much.

(Photo: Amanda Fowler)

As quickly as possible, vividly colored lines of energy flew forward, waiting for the desired combination of latitude and longitude to drop into the reflected sky. The conversation as we fished was easy and light. The rain had us both in good spirits and the fish were hitting the surface. I tried a mouse pattern and she, we didn’t have anything exact to match the hatch, but I figured an Adams would be close enough for her to snag first catch. It wasn’t. I had to admire her cast though. Mine is a little off, to the point that it is a joke at the local Fly Shop (my nickname there is “ProStaff” saturated with heavy sarcasm) and her cast is well, delicate. She has yet to catch a trout though, so I say again, “Ugly casts catch fish too.”

Getting back on target, I switched to a worm pattern I had and cast out into a pool. I let it rest, popped it once, and let it rest again. Popping the line, I felt it snag. I popped the line a few more times, hoping the limb was rotten. I was going to try and cast over it and then jerk it back quickly. Sometimes the surface tension of the water adds enough drag to pull the fly out the opposite way it went in. (Pro-tip: if you haven’t figured that out yet, it has a rough 50% success rate.) The line was tight, in preparation of the roll cast I was going to make, when the line lifted, slid over about a foot, and dropped back down. Holy crap, it’s a turtle and it was not going to budge again. Whelp, the pattern worked at least…

We hop-scotched downstream, half fishing and half trying to determine the health of the river. We hit the last pool of the day, and both hooked up with our own dinks. Then we saw the prize: Golden Ghosts, Poorman’s Bonefish, Cyprinus carpio, one of my favorite fish on the fly, the Common Carp. I switched to my favorite bottom feeder fly, the Mad-Chicken Leech. Spooking two or three, I finally snuck up on a big one. The water was murky, but he was tailing like a carp, and I had the upper hand. I cast out. It was too far to the left. I picked up the line, and cast again. This time it landed a few feet past and just to the left. It was in the sweet spot, and it worked.

The fight
(Photo: Amanda Fowler)

The fish took the fly and I set the hook expertly. This is where things got a little weird; the fish in question didn’t streak like a carp, peeling off line so fast you can smell cork burning. It pulled slowly, but nothing was stopping him. Left then right and then left again. I almost wished it would have just run off straight, instead of banging around a LOT of rocks trying to throw the fly. She was lying on a boulder behind me, watching the whole scene unfold and God bless her, she had her camera out. The fish rolled on the surface; it wasn’t a carp at all.

It was a drum!

Panic settled around me like an early morning fog. I have been in this scenario before, landing a ‘what- a-fish’ has largely eluded me in the past and especially so when it is a new species. History has proven that the “fish-gods” are against me on this, so I let the fish play. Drum are tough, this guy can afford an inexperienced angler. It paid off, and I landed him. Victory was slimy, ugly, and apparently the survivor of several prison riots. This guy was scarred, missing chunks, and absolutely beautiful.

Cashing out
(Photo: Amanda Fowler)

When I win by any margin with scratch-offs, I cash out. Same with Casinos, I have only been in one, but I won 60 bucks, and walked out. I’m like that with fishing. When it pays off, I don’t get greedy; I just leave. To quote Chris LeDoux, “Jump while he’s movin’, tip your hat boys, and walk away.” That’s just what I did.


About the Author:

FlyStock founder, Brandon Robinson is a USAF veteran and Trade School Instructor. Like most fly fishermen, he fishes enough that people doubt his sanity. When he is not chunking big ugly streamers he can be found lurking about the internet on Twitter (@OneBugIsFake) and Google Plus.  Recently, he has taken up “Freelance Blogging” and has a complete list of guest posts on his Google Plus page.