When I first came up with the idea of fishing Shoal Creek it was a bit of a joke. After all, most of the year there is either no flowing water, or little more than a trickle. It is a series of puddles, studded by drainage culverts and shadowed by luxury condominium high-rises.
But as it turns out, it has some of the best catch and release fly fishing that Fishing Team has encountered.
We started out at the lower end of the creek. There’s a an old concrete stairway leading down from the hike and bike trail. The bank is steep and unkempt. Hobo camps hide along the brush.
The creek is deep here, practically a spur of the lake. But the water is fairly stagnant. We have to drop our flies into a few clear patches in the film of algae.
The old standby of prince nymphs produces a healthy crop of sunfish and several largemouth bass, baby bass but bass just the same.
Third Degree and I move further up Shoal Creek, beating through the brush. There’s a miniature waterfall dropping through flood-carved limestone. We pass beneath an old train trestle and a pedestrian bridge leading to the Austin Music Hall.
At street level is some of the hippest and highest-rent property in town. Lance Armstrong’s bike shop and La Zona Rosa. But down in the creek there’s snapping turtles the size of car tires and healthy tomato plants growing from bum feces.
There’s some deep pools here. Well, probably no more than three feet deep and maybe seven feet wide, but the pools are long and they have schools of fish that dart for cover at our approach, but still come out for a taste of prince nymph and hare’s ear.
We were fishing on the giant limestone blocks that lined Shoal Creek to keep the flash floods from washing the condos away when we had the most exciting event of the day.
I had seen a snake swimming around the pool. It was a regular old brown water snake, a member of any one of a half-dozen Texas snake species. I hadn’t thought much of it, after all, I stood safely on that block of limestone, and unless the snake could jump there was nothing I had to worry about.
I caught a little sunfish, and that’s when I was shocked by just how fast that snake could move through the water. Before I could blink, I had two animals on the end of my line. The snake bit onto the fish and did it’s level best to swim off with it. The entire incident lasted so long that we had enough time for Third Degree to come and take my rod while I took some video.
The snake incident was so exciting that we took a short break from fishing, and got ourselves food and drinks at the Whole Foods flagship store. That’s one of the advantages of urban assault fishing: the close proximity of snacks.
We found several more productive pools. Third Degree had some good luck with the cichlids. In the deeper pools it seems vital to present them with the bead-head flies. I think it’s because the cichlid sticks close to the bottom, sometimes only picking up food that hits the ground. They also don’t run with the hook, so you have to be extra wary of the subtle tugs at the end of the line, and Third Degree happens to be pretty good at setting the hook when a cichlid has the end of the line.
The other big excitement is the first Mexican tetra I ever caught. I’ve read about these, but I had never seen them in the wild. They’re an exotic import that you may know from aquarium shops. I used to own a subspecies of the Mexican tetra, the blind cave tetra. These however were sighted tetras, and the one I caught struck a bead-head copper john beneath the Sixth Street bridge.
This little guy happens to be a miniature relative of the piranha. You can even see it’s cute little teeth.