Just as a picture is worth a thousand words, a river is worth a thousand fish.
Aaron Reed dives into the depths of fly fishing in his new book The Local Angler: Fly Fishing Austin & Central Texas, exploring the best spots in Central Texas to cast your line. Whether you’re a first-time fly fisher or veteran angler, you’re certain to leave this book with new knowledge and hopeful surprises.
Fly fishing poses its own set of challenges to an angler. In fly fishing, the angler has a close relationship with the body of water, as he or she must read the water carefully to visually see the fish and pay attention to water conditions. You have to be one with the water. To stand in a clear, flowing Hill Country stream, understand the water and the fish that swim within is to be a true Texas fly fisherman.
The book opens with Reed listing reasons for fishing, including family tradition, the adrenaline rush, the love for nature and the drive to master a discipline. Reed boils his own reason down to being a combination of all of those, along with a profound need for thoughtful redemption. He mentions traumatic or painful memories from his past, ranging from seeing a mass grave site in Srebrenica to his own divorce and regrettable mistakes.
“It could be that any one of those experiences, or the weight of all of them, has left me with an unquiet mind and a darkness that dogs me like a shadow,” Reed writes. “Or maybe I was born glum and anxious. Whatever the cause of my ailment, I have found fly fishing to be the perfect tonic.”
Reed moved to the Austin area in 1995, and though he often left to fish other places like the coast, he always found his way back. Fly fishing has a long history in Austin, and Reed mentions the closeness of the fishing community and how they’re so kind to the point that if a newbie angler posts in the Texas Freshwater Fly Fishing Facebook group, it’s a guarantee someone will offer to take the person fishing.
From there, he jumps into the basics of fly fishing, including ethics, safety precautions and fly fishing and river lingo. He also includes what gear to bring, exploring the different rods, reels and lines, along with types of flies to attract certain fish.
Reed then begins the real work: listing the fly fishing sites according to their region. He covers three main Central Texas regions in particular — northern, central and southern waters — mentioning around 11 bodies of water for fly fishing and specific spots in each chapter, such as the Colorado River, Salado Creek and the Blanco River.
Along with each region, he includes a map with each fishing spot labeled. He also lists coordinates, address, distance, driving duration and difficulty level for each spot. At the end of every chapter is a song to listen to, pulled from his “Fly Fishing Austin” playlist, and a hangout spot for celebrating your catch (or maybe not celebrating).
Fly fishing is often associated with trout, and Central Texas has a renowned trout fishery in the Guadalupe River below Canyon Dam. But there’s more here than trout. Reed offers sections featuring fish to look out for, including the Guadalupe bass, carp and Rio Grande cichlids.
The book isn’t all fishing. Reed peppers in some fun facts by recounting old river legends like the Hairy Man of Brushy Creek or by explaining the ghost neighborhoods of Onion Creek that used to be filled with houses. Scenes like this can pique the reader’s interest beyond just the thrill of catching a fish.
The book is full of beautiful photographs — whether it be the luscious images of rivers and creeks, the smooth skin of the Guadalupe bass or the shining scales of the golden river carpsucker.
After two years of writing this book, 2,500 miles of driving and 150 miles of paddling, Reed has experienced the challenge of water in Texas and the threats to its future. It’s not a one-day or even one-year fix. It will continue to appear generation after generation after generation. Thus, it’s up to us to always critically think about where we acquire our water and the means by which we use it so our fish and fly fishing can thrive.
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