May 19, 2006
By Sarah Valentine
Check out more photos from this outing in our Photo Gallery!
For weeks I’d been watching the western skies, praying for a good hard rain on the watershed above the Nueces River. The Bud Priddy One Fly was only a few weeks away and I knew after my scouting trip Easter weekend that the river was in dire need of some quenching rains. The new bridges had been built, roads repaired, and debris removed since the floods a few years back; if only it would rain. I knew that the faithful would return to the Canyon, despite the lack of rain. There’s something magical about these clear, pristine waters full of feisty Hill Country fish. I looked forward to trading laughs with the Alamo Fly Fisher guys and supposedly the Texas Fly Fishers were making the trek from the Houston area. Yes, the women were ready to hear tall tales at the end of the day about fish counts nearing 250. We were ready, but we didn’t care; one of our members usually caught the biggest fish and hopefully this year would be no different.
Audrey, Sherri, and I piled our gear into the truck and kayak trailer-way too much gear for three women to use in three days but, as Sheila Hood always says, “if you’ve got the room, put it in.” We’d decided to leave on Thursday around noon so that we could actually get some fishing in on Friday. We rolled into the Big Oak Tree Campground in the early evening with plans to spend the night out in the stars in our new tent. Coco helped set up and soon a fellow fly fisher wandered up and introduced himself, Rob Pyrtula from Chattanooga, Tennessee. We invited him for supper at Coco’s RV and everyone jumped on the tailgate and we headed out. We stopped and picked up one of our newest members, Deb Dunsford, and we all enjoyed Coco’s cooking. We soon learned that Rob was an avid fly fisher and tier and that he was on a quest for a Texas Grand slam, his own invention: a largemouth bass, a Guadalupe bass, a Rio Grande Perch (cichlid), a catfish, and as many different kinds of sunfish as he could manage. We assured him that with the exception of the elusive Rio Grande, he would meet his goal.
The next day Deb loaned Sherri her float tube and helped us launch our kayaks for the float trip from below the dam down to the campground. Linda Love and Betty Burleson were about an hour ahead of us and we couldn’t wait to see what the water had to offer. We found ourselves out of the kayaks most of the time, not because of the low water but because of the fierce winds blowing in our faces. We caught some really nice fish and loved our afternoon on the water—I think Sherri’s bass was 14 inches—but we knew that for the contest, we’d leave the kayaks on the trailer. We neared the last riffle, and Sherri was in the lead. I didn’t think she’d have any trouble in the float tube but when I saw her standing up and way too still I knew something was wrong. I dragged my kayak along side her and saw her holding what remained of her Sage rod. Broken at the base of the shaft after a nasty trip on the rocks. Audrey and I tried to make her laugh and soon we were swimming toward Coco who was fishing one of the far banks at the campground. Thank goodness for those rod replacement warranties.
We walked up to the campground and found Linda, Betty, Lavene, Frances, Cindi and Will, the kids from Camp Wood and their families watching Rob demonstrate proper casting technique. All of the instructors were wonderful as they helped the kids make their first casts with the long rods. Our thanks to Linda Love for coordinating the event and again to Rob for donating his casting expertise to the kids. We held the mullet mixer at our cabin and we had lots of good laughs and good food. I enjoyed meeting Sheila and Greg Setter and especially enjoyed the salads prepared by Lavene and Frances! Lavene conducted a short business meeting and gave us some updates, sold some T-shirts and caps, and then most everyone headed back to their cabins to watch the Spurs game.
Coco pulled up to our cabin at 4:45 the next morning and the CFR Taco Kitchen sputtered into action while the coffee brewed. Deb came over to help and we piled the tacos into Coco’s truck and headed into town for registration. We all had a great time on the river that day, quickly learning how to fish small pockets of water and making the most of the water that was there. Rob accomplished his Texas Grand slam and despite my doubts, I also caught one of the elusive cichlids. It was such a lovely fish. The awards dinner was held at Casa Falcon and the 250+ fish story was honored. The biggest fish was caught by a TWFF member of course! Cindi Sudds won with a 16″ largemouth bass. We each went home with smiles on our faces and a cool prize from the Alamo boys. They really outdid themselves this year! Some of us headed over to Deb’s cabin to see her fly tying setup and then Rob showed us how to tie some of his flies. It was the perfect ending to a great day on the water.
We rose early Sunday morning and had coffee with Coco and then she packed up her trailer and headed out. Betty and Buster were just ahead of her pulling their trailer. It was a lovely morning for a drive in the hill country. Most everyone stopped by our cabin and lots of fishing stories were traded before the group slowly trickled out of the park. Rob tied new leaders and tippet on for those of us who asked-very nice, and Audrey and I also received a nice casting lesson from him. The checkout time was approaching, but we knew Terri wouldn’t mind if we were a bit late. Though we missed our TWFF buddies who were usually there, we knew the trip had been one of our best. Thanks to all of those who attended. It was great fun and our new and honorary members became part of our TWFF family.