Bull cichlid out of Shoal Creek

I think I’ve finally glutted my appetite for spring fishing. At least I’ve slightly dulled the hunger. This Friday marked the second week of continuous after-work fishing.

I tried covering new ground from last week, although I was limited by fishing holes that were more or less on my bike ride home.

Lying very much directly on my ride home is Blunn Creek, the drainage that runs through Big and Little Stacy Parks in the Travis Heights neighborhood. I’d never attempted to fish there before, and I can tell you that the best fishing always has an element of exploring.

Blunn creek pool

Blunn creek pool


But I was surprised to find that the creek appears to be entirely devoid of fauna for most of its length. I’d never seen that before. Even a shallow and seasonal pool would have a fair number of minnows, or at least whirligigs and tadpoles. But there was nothing, a certainly not fishable-sized targets. There was just a thick and sickly mat of algae.

I had to go almost all the way down to lake level before I found a pool filled with fish. But once I did, they displayed a challenging wariness that was extremely satisfying to overcome. I had to back up to the point were I was out of their line of sight, and then pitch the fly down a narrow lane of tangling bushes.

Warmouth at Blunn Creek

Warmouth at Blunn Creek


But once I found the pattern, the warmouth eagerly took the hand-tied prince nymph and hare’s ear flies that I stripped centimeter-by-centimeter through their little pool.

Have I mentioned yet that I’ve been tying my own flies? More on that later I suppose.

The best fishing of the week came at the same pool where last year I had caught a snake (or to be more precise, a snake attempted to catch the fish that I had already caught). The pool lies not far from the flagship Whole Foods, sandwiched between luxury condos. On my back cast the fly sometimes smacked against the windows of people no doubt far more important than me.

Even though there are warmouths as well as cichlids in these pools, they didn’t take the foam spiders I teased across the surface. I had to once again stand over the fish horizon and toss in the sinking nymphs. But that unlocked the best cichlid fishing I’ve ever encountered.

Bull cichlid out of Shoal Creek

Bull cichlid out of Shoal Creek


On every cast I dragged in a fish. I could see the Rio Grande cichlids dart out of hiding and chew on the flies with the edges of their toothy lips. From the perspective of the angler it’s a very distinctive hit. If you’re lucky, and the line is taut, you can see the leader floating on the surface make a quick vibration like a strummed guitar string.

The Rio Grande cichlids are probably the most beautiful fish you can catch in Texas. When you see them in the water, the smaller juveniles look like they have white heads and three vertical stripes between the dorsal fins and the tails. But when you get them up close you can hardly see those verticle bands. That macro-coloring melts away into beautiful peacock spotting.

Some other notable catches at that pool included the first Mexican tetra of the season, and a medium-sized warmouth that fought with such strength that I had to play out some line. Playing a fish is not something you expect to do when you’re in a creek narrow enough that you can touch the far bank with the tip of your rod.

Mexican Tetra from Shoal Creek

Mexican Tetra from Shoal Creek


I also returned to Waller Creek last week. In the North Campus area there’s a stretch of creek that has a stinky and gray sewage leak in one direction:
Sewage leak in Waller Creek

Sewage leak in Waller Creek


And a pristine pool that’s a play area for neighborhood children just a hundred feet upstream:
Waller Creek and child's bucket

Waller Creek and child's bucket

This was a very shallow pool, but it was deep enough to catch a hand-sized pumpkinseed in its full breeding coloration. Or at least what I’d been calling a pumpkinseed. The a visit to the freshwater fish identification page at Texas State completely failed to mention pumpkinseeds or clear up my confusion. But these sunfish are frequently hybrids, so I’m not being a stickler about taxonomy. The important thing is that the fish fought like a fist-sized hellion, and he’s probably still there for any brave souls who want to catch it on their line.

Pumpkinseed sunfish from Waller Creek

Pumpkinseed sunfish from Waller Creek

On Thursday, Third Degree and I met to re-enact one of our first and greatest urban assault fishing outings.

The Waller Creek riverwalk, Austin’s lame alternative to the San Antonio Riverwalk, is a great avenue for fishing. The best places to drop a fly were the heads of pools where schools of warmouth cluster around the inlets waiting for bits of Doritos to wash down to them. I was able to stand just a little over their horizon and toss a nymph down to them and enjoy the sight of dozens of fish rushing to take the bait. At least until they got spooked.

Let’s take just a moment here to enjoy the picture of a man with three hundred dollars worth of fly rod holding a three-inch sunfish:

Third Degree catches a warmouth in Waller

Third Degree catches a warmouth in Waller


And I’m sure it’s worth every penny.

Friday was the shortest fishing trip of the week, but it had it’s moments. While I was stringing up my line before jumping down into Shoal creek, a couple of college kids on bikes came up to me, and I was just about to break out the standard nondescript answers to civilian questions, “a few fish” and “no, I don’t eat them,” when I realized that they were there fishing too. I gave them some advice, but stopped short of telling them about my favorite fishing spot that I was headed to later, the spot that Third Degree and I have taken to calling “The Cichlid Hole.”

Sunset at The Cichlid Hole was a quiet and pleasant moment. The surface of the pool was littered with red blossoms. At first I thought they were lost fishing bobbers and I was a little angry at the thought that somebody else had the nerve to fish there, but they were simply nature’s way of decorating the end of an already beautiful week.
Bridge by secret cichlid hole