Month: February 2017

We leave central Texas Tuesday, February 28th, heading out on our 2017 River Ramble adventure.  We’ve enjoyed our time along the Guadalupe River and in Austin over the past 7 weeks, but in the immortal words of Led Zeppelin, its time to “Ramble On”.

The picture above shows our route for 2017.  We’ll start by heading west first, fishing in AZ, CA, ID, CO, WY and MT in the spring and summer.  As we traverse from west to east in August, we’ll stop to fish the Driftless area in Wisconsin and a couple of other rivers in Minnesota.   We’ll also make a mandatory stop in Indiana to see our grandkids, of course!

Come fall, we’ll start out in NH, VT and ME before heading south along the Appalachian Trail to PA, WV, VA and TN.  We’re hoping to catch some fish, but as importantly, some of the beautiful fall foliage in the mountains and new friends.  We saw this beautiful country last spring and we cannot wait to see it in the fall.

While we’ll be fishing 48 new streams that are a part of the Trout Unlimited’s Top 100 Trout Streams, we’ll also be on the lookout for other new streams to fish as well as hitting some of those we fished in 2016.  We’ve purposefully planned our route so that we’re close to most of the 2016 rivers we fished.

We hope you’ll follow along with us again this year.  Also, if you have any angling friends who might enjoy our blog, we hope you’ll send them to www.riverramble.com and encourage them to “Subscribe”.  As you know, we simply send out an email once a week to update you about any new posts we’ve made to the blog.

The SaraLinda is ready and it’s time to….

Ramble On

Troutfest 2017

By TB

Up until a year or so ago, every “conference” I’d attended had something to do with educational technology, from NECC/ISTE to SXSWedu and dozens of statewide conferences in between.  I could tell you everything about using social media in the classroom, the ins and outs of challenge-based learning, how administrators should be encouraging and supporting educators using technology in the classroom and much, much more.  This past weekend, that all changed.

Every year, the Guadalupe River Trout Unlimited (GRTU) chapter puts on its major fundraiser, a conference called Troutfest.  This year, Barb and I were actually in central Texas and able to attend the event.  Instead of bits and bytes, we learned about strip sets, euronymphing techniques, tailwater trout tips, and reading streams for better fishing.  Here is a recap of our time at the GRTU Troutfest.

We showed up Saturday morning, bright and early, to catch a session on “Fishing the Driftless” with Jen Ripple.  This was a big session for us since in August of this year, as our “River Ramble” takes us from the western US to the east, we will be fishing in Wisconsin in an area known as the “Driftless” area.  It turns out, this area was formed by glacial “drift” some 500,000 years ago.  What this drift created was a series of deeply carved river valleys.  A TU Top 100 trout stream in this area is the West Branch of the Kickapoo River.  We’ll be putting the SaraLinda near Viroquoa, Wi, to fish this stream, along with several others Jen recommended, including the Timber Coulee, Blue and Big Green.  With over 3000 miles of improved trout streams, thanks to Trout Unlimited and others, we are excited to be heading to these waters.  Who knew; great trout fishing in Wisconsin.  However, we were warned that in summer, when we will be there, we should watch out for wild parsnip, which turns out to be toxic when the sap gets on your skin, producing sometimes serious chemical burns.  Needless to say, when we fish the Driftless, we’ll be wearing long fishing pants and long sleeve shirts.  Big thanks to Jen for all the intel and sharing.  Make sure to checkout her free online magazine, Dun Magazine, The Women’s Fly Fishing Magazine.

Next up, we sat in on a session with George Daniel, a fly fishing legend at only 38 years old, on nymph fishing without an indicator, or “tight line” nymphing.  While we learned to do this on our 2016 Ramble, especially from Rachel Finn on the West Branch of the Ausable in NY and Lance Wilt on the streams around State College, PA, we knew we needed more help, and George came through.  As we listened, it was like things started to “click” in our minds as to the when, where and why to employ this technique.

We also sat in on another of Georges’ sessions on the “Strip Set” when fishing streamers.  Barb and I both enjoy fishing streamers but have had the least experience fishing them so far.  Hearing George talk about the proper equipment, the right flies and most importantly, successful streamer fishing techniques, we now feel much better about it conceptually and will be heading to our “Local Water”, the Guadalupe River, this weekend to work on our techniques.  I especially want to work on fishing streamers upstream as this technique seems to be the most productive way to fish a streamer.  There is something inherently primal about fishing streamers, feeling the tug as the fish hits and eats the streamer.  The fly fishing saying, “The Tug is the Drug” is a mantra to anglers everywhere.  We grabbed a copy of George’s book, aptly titled “Strip Set” and got it autographed.  A great read for anglers who appreciate the tug drug addiction.

Finally, on Saturday night, Trout Porn!  Yes, this is an actual term fly fishermen use to describe pictures and movies anglers post to internet websites showing huge trout.  Highlighting this, every year a group puts on the Fly Fishing Film Tour (F3T), a road show around the country showing a dozen or so short films about fly fishing, both fresh water and salt water.  While often these films show the huge trout, tarpon, permit, bonefish, steelhead and other species being caught, they most often focus on the adventure, people and scenic locations where these fish are being pursued.  This years films were no exception with adventures to places like Siberia and Kamchatka, to great human interest stories connecting friends and family to this endeavor.  It’s really fun sitting in an audience of several hundred anglers, when one of the giant fish gets hooked and starts its runs and jumps, to hear everyone cheer aloud.  For all of us, this moment in fly fishing is a big part of the reason we fish, so we collectively celebrate it.  I hope you’ll consider attending one of these F3T events held around the country.  Here is the LINK to the schedule.  Most times, in each location, it’s far more than just the film, with activities including food and great local beer, live music and vendors participating.  At Troutfest, we had vendors from local fly shops and travel companies, to major vendors like Orvis, Sage, TFO, Rio and Umpqua; great music provided by Little Outfit from Houston; and food/beer provided by Gruene Outfitters, Gruene River Grill, Upslope Brewing and Guadalupe River Brewing.

A BIG thank you to all the GRTU organizers for a great Troutfest.  We cannot wait for next year!   And to top it off, to close their set out, the band Little Outfit amazingly played our theme song by Led Zeppelin…..

Ramble On!

Local Waters

By TB

While we are “rambling” along, fishing the TU Top 100 Trout Streams (and more!) we also want to pay homage to our “local waters”.   Central Texas has been home to us for over 27 years now and while we learned to fly fish on Pacific Creek in Grand Teton National Park, our local water here is the Guadalupe River.

Yes, the Guadalupe River is one of TU’s Top 100.  Its the southernmost trout stream in the US.  It’s also one of the most popular tubing rivers in all of Texas.  The Guadalupe River flows from Kern County Texas all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.  The section that we focus on is the stretch just below Canyon Lake dam.

According to the local TU Chapter, Guadalupe River Trout Unlimited (GRTU), “Rainbow trout were originally stocked in the river by Lone Star Brewery”;  yet another reason to love this fishery!   After this, a small group of local fisherman banded together to form GRTU.  Working with the Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPW), they experimented with what types of trout might best adapt to the cold waters flowing from the bottom of the Canyon Lake dam.

As word spread about this fishery, GRTU gained more and more members where today, they are the largest chapter of TU.  GRTU took on many roles in protecting the fishery, encouraging young anglers to take up the sport and more.  But perhaps the thing that made this fishery grow to TU Top 100 status was the stocking program GRTU undertook.

While TPW stocks smaller trout (8”-12”) in the Guadalupe River and in other Texas streams, GRTU stocks rainbows (and now browns) of a much larger size, some over 20”, but most in the 14”-18” range.  GRTU stocks trout in the Guadalupe River 3-4 times between November and March.  These trout are feisty stockers from a hatchery in southern Missouri.

This trout section of the Guadalupe River supports a thriving fly fishing community along its length.  Between Sattler and Gruene, there are three fly shops, numerous guide services and on weekends, in every named pool along the Guad you’ll find fishermen wetting lines, hunting for 20+” trophy rainbows.  Our favorites are Action Anglers and Gruene Outfitters for fly shops.   While we’ve floated the Guadalupe with several different guides and guide services, I’d highly recommend All Water Guides and specifically Alvin Dedeaux and JT Van Zandt.  You can check out their “Guide Talk” on our blog.

If you come to spend a few days along the river, fishing or tubing, there are numerous places to stay right on the river.  We’ve parked the SaraLinda at Rio Guadalupe Resort the last two winters.  Before we got the RV, we stayed numerous times at Hideout on the Horseshoe and Maricopa Lodge, both located right on the river with great fishing and floating access.

Once you are here and you are looking for some food and fun, many options await.  Our favs for dining are Granny D’s in Canyon Lake for home cooking and The Grist Mill in Gruene for great riverside dining and atmosphere.  Nothing beats Sweeties in Sattler for coffee, donuts and kolaches.  If you’re looking for a great cup of joe, go to the Gruene Coffee Haus.

While there are numerous places to hear live music along the Guadalupe River, none beats a stop at Gruene Hall, “Texas’ Oldest Dance Hall”.  Built in 1878, Gruene Hall is Texas’ oldest continuously operating dance hall.  Gruene Hall hosts a variety of acts from established veterans like Lyle Lovett, George Strait, Kris Kristofferson, Robert Earl Keen and more.  Many “up and comers” cut their teeth singing and songwriting at Gruene Hall before they made it big like Garth Brooks, John Hiatt, Chris Isaak and The Dixie Chicks.  Even the original “outlaws”, Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson spent time on the small stage while the audience listened and two stepped on the wooden floor.  While major acts play regularly on the weekends, one of our favorite things to do is to grab lunch on Sunday at The Grist Mill and then head to Gruene Hall just across the yard for a variety of local artists who play free concerts on Sunday afternoons.  Its laid back, the beer is ice cold and the music is amazing.

As you can likely tell from this post, our “local water”, the Guadalupe River and its surroundings are very special to us.  We hope ya’ll will come and visit sometime when we’re here, like Chuck and Marty Raplinger did.  We’d even get a picture in front of Gruene Hall 📸

Ramble On!!!

Lessons Learning

By TB

We had a great first year on our River Ramble, fly fishing the Trout Unlimited’s Guide to America’s 100 Best Trout Streams.  We fished 47 of the Top 100 and over 70 streams in all.  We planned meticulously so that we’d not just maximize our time in each location, but more importantly, maximize our quality fishing time in each location.  To do this, we set out a few “rules” for our trip that I’d encourage anyone going on a fishing adventure to adopt as well.

The first of these “rules” was that once we arrived in a new spot in the SaraLinda, right after we’d “hooked up” at the campground, our next stop was to visit the local fly shop.  We’ve found these fly shops via our guidebook, Trout Unlimited’s Guide to America’s 100 Best Trout Streams.  At the back of each river description, the author lists local fly shops that service fishermen on that river.  We also do internet searches in each locale for other possible fly shops in the area.  Finally, we’ve been asking other fly shop owners if they have recommendations.  These three methods have proven very successful for us.  We’ve been blessed on our trip thus far with some of the most helpful fly shop owners/staff imaginable.

The shop staff have been invaluable in helping us get the right flies for the local river(s).  They’ve also been great at pointing us to the right spots on the rivers to fish most successfully.  They cannot guarantee you’ll catch fish, but, they can tell you the most likely spots where fishing has been good.  They can also suggest other streams in the area you might fish.  We’ve totally taken advantage of this and have been pointed to some great “other” known streams and “nunya” streams in the area.

Safety is another reason to drop into the local fly shop before heading out to the stream to fish.  There may be high flows that make wading dangerous, or dam generation that changes flows dramatically in an instant.  If you’re kayaking, there may be crossings, weirs and other obstructions in the river that require special navigation.   Safety first when you’re on the river.

The second thing we do is to check in with the guide we’ve hired who will be taking us fishing the next day.  Our itinerary for each river has us taking a guided fishing trip the first full day we are in an area.  This way, we get to see the river and fish the river through the eyes and instruction of a qualified, knowledgable person.  Usually, the guides we hire have many years, if not decades, of experience fishing and guiding on the river.  As with the fly shops, these guides know what flies to use during the day, what parts of the stream are most productive, often pausing at these spots to fish them thoroughly and above all, assuring our safety either in the drift boat (raft) or wading.

We’ve had some outstanding guides this past year and are looking forward to this year.  We have found them via local fly shops as well as through recommendations from other guides we’ve had.  What we’ve found is that the more information you, the client, can give them prior to your guide trip, the better your time on the water with them will be.  I’ve often made the mistake of just saying “whatever you think” or “we’re with you” when a guide asks what we’d like to do during our trip.  While the guide does know files, water, safety and such, they don’t know what you might consider a great day on the water.  Do you like to throw streamers?  Nymphing?  Are you a dry fly “aficionado”?  Do you want a more “technical” guide (focused on fishing techniques) or a more “place” guide (focused on the “experience” and the surroundings)?   A big shout out to Rachel Finn, my guide on the West Branch of the Au Sable in NY, who brought this concept of sharing all this with your guide before your trip.

The days following our guide trip, we typically wade fish the river (and others in the area), taking full advantage of what our guide has taught us as well as what the fly shop has provided us.  We’re often back in the fly shop multiple times to get more flies (yes we loose a lot in trees, submerged limbs and rocks) and get even more information that makes our fishing more productive.  We’ve made really good friends with fly shop owners, staff and guides along the way.

Staying true to our mantra, “Its Not About the Fish”, we really try to immerse ourselves in each local community.  We also try to take the occasional “Road Trip” when we find ourselves near national parks, monuments (Devil’s Tower) or just cool places we’d like to visit.  We’re going to try and do even more this year as we traverse the country.  We’ll be fishing in several national parks (Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Great Smoky Mountains) and will be taking time to explore them as well.  We’ve got a Grand Canyon “Road Trip” on the books already that we’re most excited to experience.  We’ll be doing our own version of “Diners, Drive Ins and Dives” as we sample the local fare from these great fishing towns we visit.

We’re learning every day as we ramble around but wanted to share a few of these “Lessons Learning” in the hope they might help others who go on fishing adventures.  Stay tuned as we continue our journey.

Ramble On!