Guilty Pleasures

Guilty Pleasures

Andy Dear | Thursday, 29 November 2018

I have had a long-standing love affair with the clear limestone creeks and rivers of the Texas Hill Country for most of my life. Some of my earliest angling memories are of chasing white bass out of a beat up twelve foot Sears Gamefisher Jon boat on the Medina River with my dad. During my teenage years, I can't even begin to estimate how many hooks I put into the jaws of the local Largemouth Bass population on a private stretch of Red Bluff Creek. In hindsight, I can now readily admit that it is, in fact, the carte blanche access the owner gave me to that stretch of the Red Bluff that is probably more responsible for steering me clear of a "sinful" lifestyle than anything else.

As luck would have it, in 2004 my wife and I were fortunate enough to find a small house that was located in a rural community that gave homeowners access to not one, but two private parks on the Medina River.  For 8 years, the river I grew up fishing as a kid became my permanent home water.  It was a fantastic place to live, and I took full advantage of the close proximity of the house to the Medina's cypress-lined banks and crystal clear pools.

Several years ago, my wife and I made the decision to relocate from our home near the Medina River to a new place in an adjacent county. Our current residence sits on a cliff that overlooks another one of the state's shining gems, the Guadalupe River. Because of the steep cliffs that line the bank, we don't have direct access to the river directly below the house. There are however numerous close access points both public and private that allow me to be knee deep in "the Guad" in less than 5 minutes. Among flyfishermen, the Guadalupe's claim to fame is that of being the southernmost Trout stream in the US. However, the section of the Guadalupe that I live on is a good 4o mile drive away from the area made famous by the Texas Parks & Wildlife's long-term Trout stocking program. Although, to me, that hasn't made it any less interesting or desirable. In fact in many ways, just the opposite. The Guadalupe is loaded with small to medium sized Largemouth Bass as well as its unique and somewhat rare local variant, the Guadalupe Bass. We also have mammoth sized Common Carp that provide the same level of technical challenge and skill as even the wariest Florida Keys Bonefish.  On rare occasions, I've even taken channel catfish on a properly weighted Wooly Bugger fished in some of the deeper, slower moving eddies. Recently, however, my son and I have begun to pursue a new quarry that has provided us with endless hours of enjoyment on days when nothing else seems to be on the feed...the Sunfish.  I decided last year to build out a couple of 6'6" 2wt fly rods specifically intended to chase these little guys, and what a blast it has turned out to be. I consider myself to be predominantly a saltwater fly fisherman. The salt has and always will be my first love, and I have been fortunate enough to fish several of the preeminent saltwater destinations in the southern USA. There isn't, however, a weekend that goes by during the spring, summer, and fall, when if we're not on the flats of the Laguna Madre, we can be found tormenting the local sunfish population to great effect. 

Sunfish are very much like a loyal canine companion, they're easy to please, readily cooperative, and rarely pass judgment on a poorly presented meal.  The beauty of the Sunfish is not just the fact that there are so many species crammed into one body of water, but that their ferocity, tenacity and vibrant beauty gets overlooked by most anglers in lieu of larger, more glamorous species. Green Sunfish, Longear Sunfish, Red Breasted Sunfish, Warmouth, Bluegill, and the unique Rio Grande Cichlid are the species that make up the pool of local talent. Although most sunfish wouldn't be considered in any capacity a difficult fish to catch, they do require a certain level of casting skill to be able to present a fly in some of the more precarious spots they choose to reside. From a purely technical standpoint, the pursuit of Sunfish has provided my 10 year old understudy with more than enough on the water mileage, to be infinitely more lethal in much more demanding forms of fly fishing.  

I've always felt that part of the reason I fish, is that it takes me back to a place in time when my life was much less cluttered with heavy day to day obligations and expectations. And if I was to be at all honest,  I would have to admit that chasing these little beauties has become one of my guilty pleasures.  Not so much because of what it provides as an angling challenge, but because of how and where it transports me mentally and emotionally. As I get older, the memories of the times I spent as a kid engaged in the simple, unadulterated act of fishing for anything that would bite become more and more important to me.  The beauty of fishing for sunfish is that it takes me back to those places without fail, every time I fish for them. 

Hope you all have a great week,