May 17, 2002
By Sarah Valentine
Check out more photos from this outing in our Photo Gallery!
The return to Nueces Canyon and its member towns of Camp Wood and Barksdale for the annual Bud Priddy One Fly Contest was a wonderful homecoming for me. I began my trek from San Antonio late Thursday evening and stopped in my hometown of Uvalde for a visit with my mom. I had arranged for her to help TWFF with some homemade candy for our welcome bags at Lost Canyon. Mom is legendary in Uvalde for her cooking, but as usual she apologized for the “quality” of the candy. “This batch is a bit too brown” and “these pralines aren’t as pretty as usual” were her disclaimers of the day. No disclaimers were needed for me; I promptly helped myself to one of each!
We had quite a storm in Uvalde Thursday night and I prayed that no flash flooding would occur up the Canyon. Luckily, by all reports all crossings were just fine. After gathering together the goodies, I made a quick trip to pick up the local newspaper. My friend Craig Garnett is the owner/editor of Leader News and he had promised to write an article about the Bud Priddy. Bud was my doctor and a native of the Canyon with great friends in Uvalde. Craig did a great job and I’ve heard that some of the locals were pleased to see the article. My next stop was at Evett’s Barbeque in Uvalde to pick up some of the best pork ribs in Texas and then I was on my way up Highway 55 toward the Canyon. I was thrilled with the idea that I was skipping school to go fishing at one of my favorite places in Texas. Surely my students and colleagues would understand! I stopped at every crossing of the Nueces beginning at the 19-mile crossing and drove down all of the dirt roads leading to the crossings. I wanted to check it all out before I arrived at Lost Canyon. The river was definitely lower than last year and most of the holes we fished last year had meandered a bit, but the water clarity was simply spectacular, even after the hard rain of the night before. Such is the nature of Texas Hill Country streams.
In Barksdale I met up with Audrey Ambrose and she helped me post signs on telephone poles pointing the way to Lost Canyon. Our drive up the asphalt/dirt/ road was just as beautiful as it was last year. We stopped to say hello to the Taylors and they gave us the info on all of the TWFF members who would be arriving. We delivered the goodie bags which contained the candy and several flies known to work on the Nueces (tied by one of Audrey’s former students at Madison) and then settled in on the front porch of Chama to await the arrival of all of our TWFF friends. The members and their families and friends began arriving that afternoon. It was great to see everyone.
Later in the evening we all “tied up” and headed down to the pond on the Taylor’s property. It is actually a dammed up part of a Nueces feeder creek. Annette Blythe, Linda Love and Betty Butler beat us all down to the pond and promptly began catching fish. Annette caught quite a large bass even before I had my first fly tied to my tippet! After fishing a bit longer, we all headed down to the river a few miles away. We kept watching the thunderheads build in the late evening sky and eventually a loud thunder boom sent us scurrying out of the water. We all made it safely back to our cabins but we did spend a bit of time without power. It was great fun talking in the dark, listening to the evening birds, hearing the turkeys gobble down by the creek and watching the night begin to settle down around us. I thought of the many Hill Country nights my family and I had spent together and gave a quick wink up to heaven, knowing my dad was wishing he were with me. He taught me how to tie knots, bait hooks, fish the cover and tell a few tales in between.
We all left Lost Canyon the next morning and met up with the other contestants in Camp Wood. We were pleased to see quite a few other TWFF members, including Frances Carr and Ann Hamm who had stayed at the motel in Camp Wood. At last count I believe 24 TWFF members fished the One Fly. It was fun bantering with the men while we entered the contest. I do think they were glad we were there. After entering the contest and checking out our options we decided to head south toward Montell and Witt Crossing. Some of us had done quite well there last year and so we wanted to check it out. Several men beat us to the spot but we waded in anyway! Sheila Hood, Coco Davenport, Becky Hand, Annette Blythe and Audrey Ambrose and I took off in quite a few different directions but eventually met up on the a sandbar for a riverside lunch. Life is so good! Most of us were out of the contest by that time and were having great fun trying out our flies and enjoying the scenery.
After lunch we decided to head north toward Barksdale and try out Pulliam Creek. Constance fished it last year and we knew it was supposed to be beautiful. We eventually translated the map the guys had given us and found our way to a spectacular fishing hole full of deep pools, slow stretches and few rapids. There were no other fly fishers on the water. We launched three kayaks; Audrey and Becky jumped on one and quickly began their own contest. I think Audrey ended up “winning” with 20 fish, but Becky was close behind with 19. I have my own fishin’ story, but I’ll save that for another day. Sheila and I were content to quietly paddle and quietly fish. Coco and Annette had great fun wade fishing the area.
Saturday evening dinner was held at Casa Falcon in Camp Wood and we gathered with all of the other fly fishers from around the state. The Alamo Fly Fishers hosted the contest and gave away several nice prizes. Steve Prather, Debi’s husband, won a $100 gift certificate to Gruene Outfitters. I sat at a table with a gentleman from Houston who ended winning the contest with 138 fish! Ladies, I still haven’t figured out how those guys catch that many fish in a day. Constance’s winning number of 84 a few years back is definitely much more believable! We were so proud of our own Debi Prather who caught the biggest bass of the day, measuring 18 inches (on a #10 beadhead wooly bugger). I think TWFF and their families were well represented at the contest. I know we all had an exciting day fishing. We all learned a great deal that day and had great fun. Most of the ladies in my group fished black flies with most success and we’re all going to try to find that fly Audrey lost on Pulliam Creek!
The next morning several TWFF members went fishing again while we held the business meeting. After the meeting most people had to leave and head home. Becky Hand and I launched kayaks at the Nueces Crossing on the road to Lost Canyon. We lazed our way upstream telling stories, occasionally casting a line, but mostly skipping rocks, telling stories about our dads and laughing quite a bit. My homecoming was complete and I felt ready to head back to the city to “teach those kids.” I feel so lucky to be part of a group of ladies (and wonderful husbands, mothers, aunts, sons and daughters!) who love to fish and who simply love our great state. Thank you TWFF!