Austin Fly Fishers January-March Newsletter

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January - March 2024 Volume 26 Issue 1

Veteran’s Day on the San Juan River by Bill Bruglehall

Elevate Your Fly Casting by Austin Orr

Trout Fishing along Route 40, Patagonia by Justine Spence & Patrick Johnson

SKIFF –Soldier’s Kids Involved in Fun Fishing by Bob Maindelle

5 Places to fish within an hour of Taos, NM by Nick Streit

Club Presentations Chris Johnson Grahame Jones

Winter Fly Fishing in Central Texas by Jim Gray White River Tailwater Treat by Dave Ferguson

Treasurer’s Report by Jim Robinson

Bill Buglehall with trout caught on the San Juan River

Officers: President

Vice President Manuel Pena Treasurer Jim Robinson Secretary Kathi Harris Past President Dave Bush Conservation Keith Mars Education Austin Orr Merchandise Shawn Riggs Membership Gary Geddes Newsletter Nils Pearson Outings Jeremy Hancock SKIFF Manuel Pena Webmaster Brandon Rabke Julian Gong To contact officers:

Austin Fly Fishers

Veteran’s Day on the San Juan River . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 by Bill Bruglehall Trout Fishing along Route 40, Patagonia by Justine Spence & Patrick Johnson

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5 Places to fish within an hour of Taos, NM . . . . . . . . . 24 by Nick Streit Winter Fly Fishing in Central Texas . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .36 by Jim Gray White River Tailwater Treat . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44 by Dave Ferguson Elevate Your Fly Casting . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50 by Austin Orr SKIFF –Soldier’s Kids Involved in Fun Fishing . . . . . 56 by Bob Maindelle Club Presentations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58 Chris Johnson Grahame Jones Treasurer’s Report . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 60 by Jim Robinson Lupine Carrileufu River, Chubut Province, Argentina Photo by Justin Spence

Fly Fishing Destinations

Veteran’s Day on the San Juan River by Bill Buglehall

I retired from the U.S. Army in 2014, as a Chief Warrant Officer 3 (CW3), after twenty years of service. I immediately started contracting overseas to support the troops that continue to put their lives on the line every day for our country. Over the past thirty years I spent a good portion of my life in and out of combat zones, accumulating close to two years in Somalia Africa, one and a half years in former Yugoslavian countries, just under two years in Afghanistan, and over three years in Iraq. That much time spent in conflict areas takes a toll and leaves a lot of mental baggage to unpack later in life. As a kid I lived on a lake in Florida where I fished a lot for bass, sunfish, pickerel, and catfish. I didn’t even know fly fishing existed until I saw “A River Runs Through it”. My stepdad, George, has been a fly fisher since his childhood in Connecticut where his dad passed love of the sport down to him. In March 2023 George won a TFO Pro II 4wt in a fishing club raffle. He sent the pole to me to encourage me to get into fly fishing so he could pass down his lifelong love to me. As I fished the local rivers and creeks in the Texas Hill Country, I found that all those years in combat zones slipped from my mind and all that mattered was the river, the fish, and the adventure. I was hooked and it was immensely therapeutic!

Fishing the San Juan River in New Mexico for Veterans Day with Guide Rollie, George Kasper, and Bill Buglehall

This fly-fishing trip, west of Texas in search of Trout, was only my second. My first trip west was a family trip to Almont, Colorado where George and I fished for Rainbows on the Taylor River. The 8-hour float trip was won by George in a raffle at his local fly-fishing club in Las Cruces, NM called Mesilla Valley Fly Fishers. The trip included one full day of guided float fishing on the San Juan River in Northern New Mexico near Aztec in the quality waters below Navaho Lake. The raffle prize was provided by Trout Tempter Fly Fishing’s Evan Claassen. I left Austin, Texas around 7am on a flight to Albuquerque where my mother and George picked me up. During the three-hour ride from Albuquerque to Aztec I got the fishing report for the San Juan in the area where our float will be. Conditions are black, meaning it is as good as it gets, and on the San Juan that means the best in the west! We had dinner that night at the Rubias Fine Mexican Food in Aztec which was satisfying and somewhat authentic. I got the Chile Relleno with black beans and rice and was not disappointed. Prices are affordable, the three of us were able to eat for about $50 total (not including alcoholic drinks).

Guide Boats waiting for Clients at Texas Hole

It was a flurry of activity at Texas Hole boat ramp when we get there. Guides were putting their boats in, and other people were in the water dry-wading, as the temperature was barely above freezing. The sky was filled with low clouds and birds are flitting around in the trees, the river looks beautiful and inviting. We linked up our guide, Rollie, in the parking lot at 8:30. A sign at the boat ramp indicates that this is “Red Chile” water which is New Mexican for catch and release only with single barbless hooks. In other words, this is sport fishing water and Trout fishing specifically. Rollie set up the poles and told us to fish off the right side of the boat. On my third cast, after my second mend, I saw the indicator drop below the surface just slightly and I pulled up quickly to set the hook. The fish was a fighter and it took quite a bit of work to wear it out. We eventually got it in the net. It was a beautiful Rainbow with dark coloring. Shortly after I caught my first fish George hooked up on a short but fat Rainbow. The fish put up a good fight and Rollie landed it with the net easily. Later in the Lower Flats we were maneuvering to the side of the river so that I could relieve nature’s call without offending any other anglers. As

18 inch Brown Trout caught by Bill

I reeled in some line to put my pole up, I felt a tug and what do you know and unexpected fish was on! After a long fight up and down the river, we netted a decent Rainbow, and it was still ornery even in the net. Sometimes the best fish are the ones you don’t expect. Unfortunately, he wiggled out of my hand before we could get a good picture, so we release it to avoid stressing it out any more than required. Farther down the river, on the second run through Wranglers Corner I was mending line and made an unexpected hook set and the fight was on. Then the most unfortunate thing happened. As I reached down to adjust drag a little, the whole reel fell off the pole. Rollie jumped into action immediately. As I fought the fish by hand just holding onto the line, Rollie worked diligently to reattach the reel to the pole. Despite the crazy mess and a good fight, I landed a very pretty Brown. I learned an important lesson here, constantly monitor the condition of your equipment while fishing. We finally pulled out at Crusher Hole. The final stretch was not much activity and only a couple bites. Even though it was only one day, this was a great trip and will stay on my mind all winter as I stalk Bass and Sunfish on the rivers and creeks of the Texas Hill Country.

13-inch Rainbow Trout held in net by Trout Tempter Fly Fishing Guide Rollie

Trout Fishing along Route 40, Patagonia by Justin Spence and Patrick Johnson Over the past 20 years, several of us here at Big Sky Anglers have been fortunate enough to spend a good part of every year fishing and guiding down in Argentina and Chile. We started off as young, 20-something trout bums escaping winter in the northern hemisphere, cutting our teeth, exploring new, wild, and uncrowded waters, all while forging deep connections with Argentine and Chilean friends and anglers along the way. Today, Patagonia remains a big part of our personal and work lives. While we may be a bit older, it’s now about sharing that love of the region with friends, family, and whoever else is interested in joining our trips — Have you ever wondered what it would be like to fish Montana, Idaho, or Wyoming 50 years ago? That’s a little bit what it feels like out there — remote, beautiful, and full of healthy and wild brown, rainbow, and brook trout. Throw in delicious meat slowcooked over open coals at a traditional “Asado” barbecue, a few Argentine Malbec Wines, Yerba Mate, and some Gauchos driving cattle down the road and it becomes something else entirely. That feeling — of being a trout bum on the move across wild, unbridled Patagonia, catching fish and experiencing Patagonian culture — is really what we tried to capture with our Route 40 Road Trip which we began hosting back in 2022. While there are plenty of amazing self-contained Fly Fishing trips and lodges to be found across Argentina, we wanted to give our guests a chance to experience the vastness of the region, take in the landscape, and catch amazing wild trout in pretty much every conceivable way there is to get ‘em with a flyrod in hand.

Malalco River, Quillen Valley, Neuquen Province, Argentina

While planning this trip, we decided to start with the basics — with “The Route”, or “La Ruta” in Spanish. Route 40 can be thought of as the Patagonian equivalent of our Route 66, connecting the entire Argentine side of Patagonia from North to South. Draw a line through the central-most bit of La Ruta from the town of Trevelin in the South, up through the town of San Martin de los Andes in the North and you’re looking at some of the juiciest trout country in South America — covering such famed rivers as the the Chimehuin, Malleo, Alumine, Limay, Futaleufu, Rivadavia, and Tecka to name just a few. In our opinion, there’s no better framework upon which to plan a multi-week trout fishing expedition in Patagonia — and it’s even (mostly) paved! With all of our relationships with fishing guides and lodge owners developed over the last two decades, we’ve been able to string together a phenomenal two-week adventure that takes place across multiple lodges and watersheds. The trip kicks off in the Chubut Province in early December — early Summer in Patagonia — just outside the town of Trevelin on the Futaleufu. The Futa is a giant tailwater that eventually flows into Chile and dumps into the Pacific Ocean. This shockingly deep, swift, aquamarine-colored river serves as a

Floating the Alumine River, Neuquen Province, Argentina

No name spring creek, Quillen Valley, Neuquen Province, Argentina

dramatic introduction to flyfishing in Patagonia. You can spend an entire afternoon casting dries to dozens of voracious trout eating in a back-eddy the size of a football field. If streamers are more your thing, you can also target the banks and dramatic drop offs permeating the entire river. In many places the river bottom drops down 20 or more feet from the relatively shallow, willow-lined banks, offering the perfect ambush spot for a 2-foot brown to inhale your streamer. From Trevelin we fish our way north through Los Alerces National Park and spend several nights in the breathtaking mountain town of Cholila. Los Alerces offers a variety of waters, from medium size rivers like the crystal-clear Rivadavia to large glacial lakes where you’re the only soul in sight. When conditions are right the dragonfly fishing on these lakes can be epic! There is nothing more fun than stripping a giant foam dragonfly imitation along the surface and watching fish come up and do cartwheels to eat them. On rivers like the Rivadavia, seeing another single angler or recreational Kayaker means it’s “busy” — take one look down into the deep crystalline pools while floating the Rivadavia, however, and you’ll see massive pods of healthy rainbows that

Dragonfly eater, high mountain lake in Los Alerces National Park, Chubut Province, Argentina

far outnumber the surrounding area’s human population! Following six days of fishing in the Chubut Province we migrate north to the Neuquen Province where we fish for another six days. We’ll often take a day off from fishing just to “road trip” and take in the dramatic scenery. The journey from Chubut to Neuquen along Route 40 takes us through the scenic 7 Lakes region — marked by its chain of pristine glacial lakes surrounded by stunning landscapes and dense forests in the Andes. It’s a beautiful drive to Neuquen and a great chance to prepare for the second leg of our trip. Just like the Chubut Province, Neuquen offers an incredible diversity of waters and different angling experiences centered around the charming mountain town of San Martin de los Andes. Innumerable spring creeks, small rivers, lagunas, large rivers and glacial lakes dot the landscape of this amazing watershed and provide anglers with a dizzying array of fishing opportunities. From stalking and head-hunting selective trout on the Malleo under the shadow of the Lanin Volcano, to stripping streamers for bait-crazy browns on the Chimehuin, you really have the freedom to catch them any way you like. The early season is also especially fun in this region because many of the no-name rivers and lagunas are in prime

Malleo River, Lanin Volcano, Neuquen Province, Atgentina

shape, and big fish are eager to take well-presented flies after a long winter. You’ll be shocked to see what kind of fish come out of water that looks like “nothing water” — at first glance what seems to be a series of puddles bubbling up from the ground. Most of the time we end the trip back at the lodge with a traditional Argentine Asado. After two weeks of fishing, meat cooking over an open fire is a great excuse for us to all gather, share fishy tales, reminisce about our shared two-week odyssey, and enjoy a glass of Malbec. It’s often hard to put into words, but shockingly enough our friends and guests are often left wanting more. Despite being sun-burnt and gassed — there’s still just so much water out there and so little time. If a trip like this sounds like it’s up your alley, don’t hesitate to give us a call! Justin Spence, Co-Owner Big Sky Anglers 39 Madison Ave West Yellowstone, MT 59758 (406) 646-7801 Patrick Johnson Outfitting & Travel Manager


ustin Spence holding a Brown trout caught on a Dry Fly, Quillen Valley Spring Creek, Neuquen Province, Argentina

5 Places to Fish within an hour of Taos, NM by Nick Streit Though most people consider New Mexico to be a desert, the high peaks of the Sangre de Cristo’s and San Juans yield ample streams, rivers and lakes for trout to reside. In fact, the Taos area offers fly angler’s world-class fishing the likes of Montana or Idaho. Being unknown as a fly fishing destination, our rivers are fished far less, deeming our trout much easier to catch. While there are many places where you can wet a line within an hour’s drive, here are the top five. The Rio Grande The Rio Grande cuts a slice through the heart of the Taos Valley. Starting at the Colorado state line, the river begins a dramatic descent into an 800 foot deep gorge. For nearly 50 miles the river is accessed by foot- with only one location, the John Dunn Bridge, being the exception. Because of the rugged nature of the canyon, and the physical exertion required to get to the river and back, trout in this section of the Rio are rarely chased, and fishing here can be fantastic. This gorge is not to be taken lightly. Hiring a guide familiar with its trails, and more importantly its fish, is the best option for visiting anglers. The lower stretch of the Rio Grande near Pilar fishes well, especially early in the year before run-off and the fall. The Pilar area is much easier to access; take Highway 68 south toward Santa Fe approx. 25 minutes. At the small town of Pilar, turn right on Highway 570 and follow the road upstream until you enter the Orilla Verde Recreation Area ($3 per day use fee). There are approximately 5 miles of river that the road parallels in which fishing can be productive.

The Red River While the upper portion of the Red (from town of Red River upstream) is worth mention, the best fishing is usually found from the Fish Hatchery (south of Questa) downstream to the confluence of the Rio Grande. Spring water in this section keeps the water warm in the winter, making the lower Red the best option for fishing from December-March. Summer months can also produce good fishing, though the river often runs muddy after summer thunder showers. To get to the Hatchery, take Hwy 522 north about 20 minutes and look for Hwy 515 to the left. (There is a sign for ”Red River Fish Hatchery” on 522). Fisherman can park at the hatchery and walk down or upstream. Note: do not attempt to walk down the Red River to the Rio Grande- it is too far. Use the La Junta trail from Wild and Scenic Rivers area instead.

Nick Streit

The Rio Costilla July 1st marks the opening of the Valle Vidal, a special unit of the Carson National Forest which the Rio Costilla runs through. This is one of the most beautiful locals in northern NM, and it’s wide open meadows and prolific numbers of Cutthroat trout make it ideal for first time anglers. Fish here are notoriously fast fly spitters, so be ready to set the hook. Note: The Valle Vidal is catch and release only, with barbless hooks. Take Hwy 522 north about 45 minutes to the small town of Costilla and turn right on hwy 196. 196 will eventually turn to dirt- continue along the creek until you get to the boundary of the Valle Vidal. Fishing is best from there upstream.

The Cimarron Flowing east from Eagle’s Nest Lake, the Cimarron has the luxury of stable flows from the reservoir, thus making it a good option when other streams are too low/high. If you want to catch one of the stream’s numerous Brown Trout, take a short rod as lengthy Fly Rods are cumbersome in this brushy stream. The Cimarron State park is about a 45 minute drive east on Hwy 64. Anglers can park alongside the stream and fish anywhere in the park. ($5 parking pass required.)

The Upper Rio Hondo In the heat of the summer, when low elevation rivers are too warm, fish swimming the cold waters of the upper Rio Hondo will feed all afternoon. It’s small and brushy, but wild trout will readily take just about any dry fly with a decent drift- as long as they haven’t spied the anglers in pursuit of them. Take care to be stealthy in this crystal clear stream. The Upper Hondo is a short drive from Taos; just take Hwy 150 towards Taos Ski Valley. You will drop into the canyon and parallel the stream just beyond the small town of Arroyo Seco. Taos Fly Shop offers a full service, year-round, fly shop and guide service. Family owned and operated since 1980, we have northern New Mexico’s most experienced guide staff. (575)751-1312

Winter Fly Fishing in Central Texas by Jim Gray Winter can be a challenging time for fly angers in Central Texas. Most anglers turn to the Guadalupe River for trout, or wait until the white bass start to run in the spring; but you can still target and catch warm water species during the winter months. You just have to watch for the right conditions and temper your expectations. While it is possible to have snow and ice, Central Texas winters are generally mild, with the average highs in December, January and February in the low to mid 60’s. It’s not uncommon to have a week of temperatures in the 70’s or even higher. So far, our winter has been mild, with extended periods of temperatures reaching the upper 60’s and 70’s. I’ve been taking advantage of these warm spells with good results. While winter fishing will never be as good as spring, summer and fall fishing, it is possible to have a great day on the water. Here are my 4 top options for winter fly fishing Floating the Colorado River for Big Bass Kayaking the Colorado below Austin is my go-to during the winter months. After just a few days of warm weather, the fishing will turn on. You will catch fewer fish in the winter, but the quality will be better. There’s a real chance to catch a trophy Gaudalupe bass or a PB largemouth. I also catch fat white bass starting in December. The 5 mile float from the city park in Webberville to county park in Webberville is my favorite winter float. There is a lot of open water, so you want to pay attention to both the temperature and the wind. I use for an accurate forecast. I’ve had the most success throwing bigger streamers and articulated flies on a sink tip line. Work the banks and structures. Fishing “low and slow” is the key to get big fish.

Jim Gray with Ben Patrick

Targeting Picky Sunfish on Brushy Creek. Question - What’s harder that tricking selective trout on a western spring creek? Answer - Winter sunfish on Brushy Creek. This might be a slight exaggeration, but it’s not far off. After a few days of warm weather, afternoon hatches are common on stretches of Brushy Creek. Often, it’s tiny emergers. You might not see the bugs, but you will see the rising sunfish. Lots of them. These aren’t like greedy summer sunfish that will eat just about anything. These fish are selective, only eating tiny dries and emergers. To be successful, you will need light tippet, small flies and a dragfree drift. My set up is either a size 20 dry with a size 22 emerger as the dropper; or a size 22 emerger with a size 24 emerger below. I love the challenge of fooling these selective winter fish.

Wading the Llano River for Guadalupe Bass The Llano doesn’t turn on as quickly as some of the other rivers; but if you get 4 or 5 days of highs reaching 70 degrees, the fish will respond. Overnight temperatures are lower than we see in Austin, so even on warm days, it’s best to target the afternoons. I’ve fished the Llano a number of times this winter, and it’s been my experience that the fishing turns on around 1PM. Have lunch at Coopers, and then hit the water. I prefer smaller flies in natural colors. A small tan clouser is hard to beat. The Llano River is very accessible, with easy wading. If you want a comprehensive list of all the access points, check out Kevin Hutchinson book “Fly Fishing the Texas Hill Country”.

Hitting the Texas Coast for Redfish and Black Drum Fall is the best time to fish the middle coast, but even in winter, temperatures rarely fall below 50 degrees. Combine this with low fishing pressure and winter fishing is some of the besting fishing you will find. If you are kayaking, use and look for calmer days. I like days where the sustained winds are less than 15 knots. On cooler days, expect the fish to stay in deeper water. I’ll focus on channels and cuts. On warmer sunny days, I’ll search the flats for tailing reds and schools of black drum. Winter is trophy time for bull reds and gator trout. Shrimp and crab patterns are my go-to flies, but I’ll throw a grey/white craft fur baitfish if I think big trout are around. If you aren’t sure where to go or what flies to use, Chris Fowler at The Fly Trap in Rockport will sort you out.

White River Tailwater Treat by Dave Ferguson The Ozark Mountains in Southern Missouri and Northern Arkansas offer a myriad of opportunities for anglers eager to put their trout fishing skills to the test. Amidst the rolling hills and picturesque valleys lies the renowned White River, a hub for world-class trout fishing, thanks to the hydroelectric power dams constructed by the Army Corps of Engineers in the 1950s and 1960s. The White River tailwaters, situated below the dams at Beaver Lake (Eureka Springs, AR), Table Rock Lake (also known as Lake Taneycomo, Branson, MO), and Bull Shoals Lake (Bull Shoals, AR), are fed by the cold depths of these lakes, ensuring a thriving trout population year-round. For those eager to explore the Beaver Lake tailwater, free public access is available at the campground near the dam, Houseman access, or Parkers Bend, my personal favorite located about a half-mile downstream. The Table Rock tailwater offers public access near the fish hatchery below the dam, as well as at the Cooper Creek and Rockaway Beach access points. Bull Shoals tailwater enthusiasts can enjoy public access at Bull Shoals State Park and The Narrows, a new access point upstream from Wildcat Shoals. Additional access points can be found in downtown Cotter at Roundhouse Shoals and at Rim Shoals, although a boat may be necessary for the latter. During my recent excursion to the Table Rock tailwater, I joined a friend well-versed in its fishing secrets. We planned a two-day adventure, with a night’s stay in the nearby entertainment haven of Branson, Missouri. The weather graced us with mild conditions for late January – cold mornings followed by sunny skies and temperatures reaching the low 60s.

The White River at this location is wide and shallow, inviting anglers to wade across in many places, provided the hydroelectric power plant isn’t generating. Proactively checking the power generation schedules is imperative for a successful day on the White River. Like true fly fishers, we conducted advanced research on the preferred flies for the season – gray scuds, orange eggs, crackle backs, and chartreuse mega worms. The first morning yielded only three fish, but we knew the hunger was there, with trout swimming between our legs in search of bug larvae stirred by our boots. We decided to break for lunch at the Cheeky Monkey, a roadside smoked barbecue joint, where we indulged in excellent brisket and cold suds, devising an afternoon battle plan. After lunch, we went across the street to Anglers Outfitters fly shop for advice and a better supply of flies, then returned to the river with renewed fervor. The afternoon proved more fruitful, with nine fish netted between us, most captured late in the day while drifting the chartreuse mega worm on 6X tippet at 18 inches below a strike indicator. The following morning, energized and armed with the effective chartreuse worm, we were on the river by 9:00 am. Success struck early, with my friend landing a nice rainbow on his first cast. We continued fishing throughout the day, exploring downstream and then moving further upstream after lunch. The mega worm lived up to its reputation, and by 4:00 pm, we had netted over forty fish, including rainbows and browns, with many reaching 16-17 inches. Although we didn’t snag any trophy fish, we witnessed a few, leaving us eager to explore further downstream for potential giants. It was a fantastic two days of fishing, and as we mischievously plotted ways to convince our spouses to join us

next time, we couldn’t help but relish the natural beauty of the area, coupled with the shopping, dining, and entertainment of Branson. With or without our partners, a return to the White River for another tailwater treat is inevitable. If you are planning a trip to fish the White River tailwaters, below are a few helpful tips and websites. Check for dam power generation schedules. These are typically updated after 4pm each day and are sometimes subject to change. A good rule of thumb is to wait 1 hour after power generation ends to allow the river to get back to normal flow if wading. https://www.swl-wc. Out of state fishing licenses for Arkansas and Missouri will be required (depending on where you go). Trout permits are also required. Arkansas fishing-license-descriptions-and-fees/ Missouri The White River tailwaters have various restrictions, depending on time of the year, for slot size, catch and release, barbless hooks, etc. Missouri law forbids felt wade boots. Arkansas - N1.03/ Missouri - lake-taneycomo Branson, Missouri is located in the Ozark Mountains and has long been a popular destination for vacationers from Missouri and around the country.

Elevate Your Fly Casting by Austin Orr The online fly fishing community is like many other online communities. We have our fair share of newbies and experts, fish-huggers and meme accounts. For those who choose to interact with that bubbling maelstrom, a few interesting observations may find their way up to the top of the froth. No, I’m not talking about the ‘no salt, no steel’ trigger phrase, or tailing gloves, or whether we should be dry-or-die or even if it #onlycountsonfly. I’m talking about casting practice. Not what you thought I was going to say there, right? I have spent far more than my fair share of time parsing fly casting posts on Instagram, and I’ve been known to make a few of my own. I’ve noticed a stark divide in tone when the post in question is discussing pure fly casting for casting’s sake versus casting while actually fishing. I’m obviously a biased observer, being firmly of the philosophy that in order to get the most out of your fly fishing skills, you should practice them. I’m a casting instructor. That’s kind of my whole thing. But I know that there is a substantial group of fly anglers out there that looks down on fly casting practice with disdain, a down-their-nose sort of judgment. I’ve met some of them, and they regularly comment on my videos. It still surprises me, and each time I have to wonder: why? Like most Big Questions out there, I don’t think there’s just one answer to this one. But I’m going to take my best shot, and I’ve narrowed the objections down into a couple main

philosophical arguments. See if you resonate with either of these.

Reason #1

People, myself included, tend to glorify fishing time. The easy argument here is, “If I have time to practice my cast, I could be fishing.” Why not prioritize fishing time? You’ve probably already spotted the main problem with Reason #1: availability. For me, there are far more opportunities to step out into the yard or even drive to the local park for some quick casting practice than there are for me to go fishing. I live five minutes from a creek with sunfish in it, but if my goal is to perform well when I go to the coast for redfish, I need to practice very different skills than the ones required for sunfish. And that’s the second problem with Reason #1: if you don’t practice casting when you aren’t fishing, your casting on a fishing trip won’t be as glorious as it could be.

Reason #2

If the dopamine kick of seeing, feeling, or otherwise interacting with a fish is not a possibility, many anglers - myself included - tend to lack motivation. If there isn’t a stream or lake at the end of that hike or climb or ride or 4WD road, I probably don’t want to go. No fishy, no worky. At its core, fly casting practice is a form of exercise. We all know how people LOVE to make themselves exercise. Reason 2 is one that I definitely empathize with, but the way I think about it, casting practice done well is an opportunity to think about fishing that doesn’t require fish, or even water. In that way, it falls squarely into a cate-

gory of almost-fishing activities like fly tying, listening to fly fishing podcasts, reading Gierach or Haig-Brown, or watching an old Todd Moen film. No fly anglers find those not-actual-angling activities to be deviant or even eccentric. So again, why the stigma associated with practicing fly casting while not fishing? With that in mind, let’s push back. At every level of athletics, practice is considered essential. Tiny humans playing bunchball soccer have dedicated practice sessions, and so do the legends of the sporting universe. Every elite player has a coach, maybe several, and they dedicate an incredible amount of time to getting sharp and staying that way to perform at the highest levels. Nobody finds it odd that basketball players shoot hundreds of free throws or that golfers spend hours at the driving range. In fact, we expect them to practice; we’d question their sanity and dedication if they didn’t. We see this pattern repeated among the elites in our own sport. Andy Mills popularized a pulley system for testing his own abilities to angle the rod and pull with *just* the right amount of pressure on a big tarpon to wear them down at the optimal pace. Can you tell the difference between 10 pounds of applied pressure and 14? You could if you practiced it. Do you think Flip Pallot just woke up one day and knew how to double haul? He had to learn, he had to practice. I have spent many hours interviewing guides and captains for my Guide Talk Podcast, and Every. Single. One of them has mentioned the importance of making sure your skills are on par with the needs of the fishery before you show up for a trip. Furthermore, they say that many clients that show up require a casting lesson on the water while they should be fishing.

Most of us have limited time to spend on things that aren’t work and family, so it’s understandable if practicing your cast ends up somewhere near the bottom of your to-do list. But you need to decide - do you want to be the person that shows up and struggles, or do you want to invest in time off the water to improve your time on the water?

other anglers, many hours of combined practice time, and lots of learning from mistakes and lost fish.

If you answered yes to the second question, that’s a start. Now we need a plan, something to help keep us on the right track.

Eventually, the angler’s cast resembles one of those LEGO masterpieces, built from many smaller pieces but when observed from a distance appears to be a single, solid object. A little work ahead of your next big trip will knock the rust off. Take joy in adding a few additional bricks here and there as you pick up more knowledge.

Many fly anglers start with only the most basic of casting strokes, just a yank up off the water and a slam back down. Plenty of folks out there still rely on that training-wheels cast to catch fish, and given the right scenario, it’ll work.

At the end of the day, it comes down to finding out what you’re practicing for. Do you have a goal on the horizon? Do you have a stepwise plan to get there? Are you seeing results? If you do, if you are, then out fishing your friends is going to be so, so satisfying.

To move on from that beginning stage we need to sprinkle in additional understanding, to put some goals out there on the horizon. Let’s throw something fun out there - maybe you want to catch a local creek bass on a popper, or sightcast to a carp, or do battle with a GT from a Pacific atoll. Heck, maybe you just want to be better than your buddies or your brother-in-law. Or your dad.

Example practice regimen for 20 minute backyard session

Excellent, we are gaining some momentum here. Now we need to figure out the list of skills that we will want to really nail down before we go. When I’m working with folks, I call these skills and subskills “LEGO Bricks”. It’s a useful metaphor because each small piece fits together to form the larger whole. A beginner’s cast is made out of a few big pieces, like those LEGO bricks for little kids, big and chunky and brightly colored. As that person progresses, a few of those big blocks are broken down and re-made from many smaller pieces, looking more natural, more refined, higher resolution. Over time more small blocks are added with coaching from

Set up 4 targets (cones, hats, cans, shoes doesn’t matter) in a rough diamond shape with the top and bottom targets approximately 10ft apart and the left and right targets approximately 15ft apart. Back off about 25ft in a straight line away from the bottom target. If you have the luxury of setting this up and leaving it, that’ll save even more time for casting later. If you’re pressed for time, I suggest using a timer to let you know when to move between drills. It’ll keep you more focused. 5 minutes of warm-up: Strip off 35ft or so of line (enough to get to the farthest target) and just make a few pick-up laydown casts to the nearest target, focusing on what your rod hand is doing and making sure that it’s stopping correctly without tipping too far back behind you on the backcast. 5 minutes of targets: Starting with the nearest, give yourself two attempts to hit the target, going around clockwise to the left target, the farthest target, the right target, and then

the nearest target again. Give yourself two or three false casts between each to work on your control of line in the air.

the hook. Pick a direction for the fish to be facing (left, right, away, toward you, etc) and put the fly in the appropriate spot.

5 minutes of air time: This one is surprisingly hard but an excellent skill to practice off the water. The same sequence of targets as above (clockwise), but the goal is no longer to hit the target. False cast 2-3 times over each target, with the fly hovering just off the ground (a foot or less) instead of hitting.

Boom, 20 minutes and you’re done. And you’re just a little more ready for that next trip.

5 minutes of fish: Now your targets are fish, which means we need to cast ahead of where they are and be ready to move the fly or set

Austin Orr’s incredible passion for fly fishing and teaching led him to start Elevate Fly Casting in 2019, teaching fly casting and helping people get the most out of their fishing trips both nearby and abroad. Find him online at or on his Instagram @elevateflycasting

SKIFF Soldier’s Kids Involved in Fishing Fun by Bob Maindelle As we closed out calendar year 2023, SKIFF was able to conduct 12 fishing trips placing 27 Fort Hood/Fort Cavazos children on the water. Those children landed 828 fish, thus putting an average of just over 30 fish per child in the boat. The single most productive trip for 2023 occurred on November 10th under unpleasantly cool and slightly damp conditions. Duke Myers, the son of Chief Warrant Officer 2 Maddison Myers, a U.S. Army Air Defense Artilleryman, landed 171 fish using a “smoking” tactic to quickly move a white, 5/8 oz. Bladed Hazy Eye Slab upwards off the lake’s bottom. As the new year began, the operational tempo at Fort Cavazos began to pick up with significant deployments of troops to Poland, South Korea, and beyond. This, in combination with an atypical holiday schedule for the local Killeen Independent School District, offered an extended time away from the classroom. This translated into more time for more kids separated from their parents to fish with me well into January. Thus far in the new year, I have already conducted 6 SKIFF trips with two more reservations on the calendar. Mrs. Denise Igo (herself a SKIFF trip recipient from back in 2014) continues to greatly aid the SKIFF program by posting availability of trips on her very popular Fort Cavazos Area Events Facebook page. As I shared in person with the club back in late October, Austin Subaru provided SKIFF with a grant for $5,000 for calendar year 2024. Jim Robinson confirmed AFF’s receipt of those funds on January 9th. This comes in addition to the $1,150 grant from the McBride Foundation awarded in the fall of 2024. Thank you all for your ongoing support as we introduce young people to the outdoors during what is often a very stressful time for them, their deployed parents, and their homefront parents. Bob Maindelle HOLDING THE LINE GUIDE SERVICE Belton Lake, Stillhouse Hollow Lake 254.368.7411

Duk The m

ke Myers worked a 5/8 oz. Bladed Hazy Eye Slab for right at four hours straight for a catch of 171 fish most productive trip of SKIFF’s 2023 season.

Jan & Feb Presentation

Chris Johnson, owner of Living Waters Fly Fishing, certified casting instructor, and world-c fisherman, was our speaker for the January 18th meeting. His topic was “Fishing the Lower M tain Fork River. The Lower Mountain River, in Southeastern Oklahoma, is only a six hou drive from the greater Austin area. From fast whitewater chutes to placid dry fly water, the Mountain Fork River has it all! This beautiful river is one of the South’s premiere tail-wate boasts a year round population of both brown and rainbow trout.” Please support Chris and his team at Living Waters Fly Shop. LIVING WATERS FLY FISHING Fly Shop & Guide Service (512) 828-3474 LOCATION 103 N. Brown Street Round Rock, Texas 78664 HOURS 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM, Monday – Friday 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM, Saturday


class fly Mounur hour Lower ers and

Grahame Jones, was our speaker for the February 15th meeting. Grahame spoke about “Spring Bass Fishing Techniques and access points on the Austin area lakes”. (Travis, Buchanan, Decker, LBJ and Lake Austin) Grahame is a guide for all All Waters Guides. Grahame doesn’t focus or depend on fish finding electronics. Instead he focuses on wind, time of day, water and air temperature, water depth, observations of birds and bait, habitat, structure and over 50 years of fishing experience to locate fish. Grahame is a strong proponent of wildlife and fisheries conservation, habitat improvement and access to public land and waters. Grahame proudly served as a Texas Game Warden for 27 years and he retired as TPWD Director of Law Enforcement in 2020. Please support Grahame at All Waters Guides. All Water Guides Orvis Endorsed Fly Fishing Guide Service in Central Texas 512-571-3073 INFO@ALLWATERGUIDES.COM

AFF Financials by Jim Robinson

AFF Financials Beginning Balance

Income: FFI New Member Dues AFF Dues Sam Perry Fishmas

Fishmas (Square) Donation SKIFF Total Income Disbursements:

Wild Apricot (auto debit) Wild Apricot (2-Years) International Transaction AFFIpay BJ's Brew House Sommers Mkt (ADP)* FFI (membership) Dan Cove Program Bob Maindelle Kathi Harris Chris Johnson Earthlink

Total Disbursements Net Income Ending Bal-Check book Bank Balance Difference (outstanding cks) Unencumbered Balance : Encumbered Funds: Casting for Recovery SKIFF *Ck Outstanding

November $22,439.06

December $22,664.91

January $26,133.84

$50.00 $120.00

$25.00 $235.00 $2,569.75 $415.00 $1,146.68

$235.00 $435.00

$415.00 $1,146.68 $40.00 $535.00




$2.25 $11.90

$2.25 $23.44 $420.00 $351.81 $50.00

$70.00 $150.00

$309.15 $225.85 $22,664.91 $22,664.91 $16,074.06 $0.00 $6,590.85

$5,000.00 $5,670.00 $75.00 $1,530.00 $4,590.00 16.81 $703.68

$922.50 $3,468.93 $26,133.84 $26,535.65 -$401.81 $19,542.99

$2,897.00 $28.98 $150.00 $127.29 $4,820.98 $849.02 $26,982.86 $27,513.65 $530.79 $18,289.01

$0.00 $6,590.85 243.56

$0.00 $8,693.85 $351.81

Club Resources Cassio Silva – Central Texas Fly Fishing Guide Aaron Reed – Author Fishing Guide Austin Orr – Certified Casting Instructor Ted Mendrek – Sportsman’s Finest Fly Shop Chris Johnson – Living Waters Fly Shop and Central Texas Guide Capt. Eric Glass – Fly Fishing South Padre Island Nick Streit – New Mexico and Southern Colorado Justin Spence – Fly Shop and Guide Service West Yellowstone, Montana

12434 Bee Cave Road Austin, Texas 78738 512.263.1888 Monday: 9AM-7PM Tuesday: 9AM-7PM Wednesday: 9AM-7PM Thursday: 9AM-7PM Friday: 9AM-7PM Saturday: 9AM-7PM Sunday: Closed

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