Book Review: Fly Fishing Austin & Central Texas

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.

To read more about the Texas outdoors, subscribe to Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine.  For a limited time enjoy three months of digital access to 600+ articles and our expanded 2020 Summer issue - all for only $1.99!


Mammal Monday - Armored Friends

If you see one baby there's bound to be more. In this week's Mammal Monday our Editorial Intern, Landry Allred, gives us some insight into an often misunderstood Texas habitue.

It's not to late to get in your photos! Enter In the Wild Hood and your photo may appear in a future Mammal Monday post!

© Gator2020 | #InTheWildHood  

When you think of Texas, do you see a scaly critter with a shell for an outfit?

The armadillo is an official state animal of Texas, designated in 1927. There are 20 armadillo species in the world (mostly in Latin America) but only one species in the United States. The nine-banded armadillo can be found throughout Texas, except in the western Trans-Pecos area.

Its name is Spanish for “little armored one,” which serves true, as it is the only living mammal that sports such a shell. Armadillos are closely related to anteaters and sloths, and they love to dig in the dirt for insects to munch on.

While they have poor eyesight, they have a keen sense of smell and also use hairs on their belly to sense the surrounding area. Armadillos are great swimmers, and they can hold their breath for up to six minutes or inflate their stomachs to buoyantly swim across a body of water. They can walk underwater to cross streams as well.

When giving birth, nine-banded armadillos produce identical quadruplets.

Armadillos have a sour reputation because they are known to carry leprosy. They have a slow metabolism leading to a lower body temperature, making them susceptible to the bacteria causing leprosy. However, cases of humans contracting leprosy by handling armadillos are extremely rare.

© Cooper Daniels | #InTheWildHood  

One common misconception about armadillos is that they can roll up in their shell, similar to pillbugs, when frightened. However, only two species can roll up completely, and both are types of three-banded armadillos.

Instead, when frightened, armadillos leap 3 to 4 feet vertically into the air, which is why they are often hit by cars. Though they are small enough for cars to pass over them, they get scared and jump into the car’s undercarriage. This unfortunate yet frequent cause of death is the origin behind their nickname as the “hillbilly speed bump.”

Some people also think of armadillos as “grave diggers,” but that is only because they prefer looser soil, such as that around a gravesite, to hunt for insects. Others think their shell is bulletproof, and while armadillos have been known to survive low-caliber weapons, their shells don’t stand a chance against weapons with high penetration power.

Despite the negative associations people may have with armadillos, they are quite friendly yet cautious animals. Upon being startled, they simply run away and mind their business elsewhere.

To learn more about native Texas wildlife, subscribe to Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine.  For a limited time enjoy three months of digital access to 600+ articles and our expanded 2020 Summer issue - all for only $1.99!