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Muddy Creek 101

By Bill Hillman (wgflyer)

Ok, just down below the bridge there's a pool that is fairly deep and populated with bunches of fish. Everyone stops there, as is evident by the trash adorning the bank and the fishing line that snags your boots as you walk. You gotta love 3rd world illegals without licenses, no? At this hole, a reasonable caster can fish with ease. Only the occasional pause to get the fly back from a mesquite tree is required.

Just around the bend from there things get a little more interesting. The back cast takes on a sideways motion upstream and you daren't let it get much above a yard over the water as dead branches from a scraggly tree reach earnestly for your line. The fore cast direction is variable, but requires a sudden change of direction in mid air, if not directed right downstream, and is often not extremely successful. I usually manage only a few casts here, unless I pause long in between them, before the fish start to cotton onto the nature of the situation and hunker down on the bottom with lock jaw.

Having now destroyed my chances in this hole, the next one past the log jam presents its own challenges. No back cast possible, and not a whole lot of open space left for the roll cast, but just enough for a technique I've coined here called the "half-assed" roll cast. This cast gets the fly out without catching it in the branches that overhang the creek all the way to the fly's destination. You don't get much distance with this cast, but the required distance here is only 15 feet or so.

Note that now you encounter a major problem that will plague you the rest of the adventure. Bluegill, bass, crappie and the occasional catfish will grab your fly, give a great tug, wait until you strike and then let go. I'm sure, after much study, that they do this on purpose. The bent rod, energized by your strike, sends the fly soaring into the trees above you. If you're really switched on you can react fast enough to slam the rod downwards at the water to try and mitigate the situation, but now your fly seeks abundant vegetation in that direction and a chain reaction of jerking takes place until the fly finally lodges in a bush over the water, or above your head, just out of reach.

The fish all come to the surface and stick their little heads out of the water to watch this show. They bet on how many times you can jerk the fly back and forth from one snag to the other until it finally lodges. Extra points if it is out of reach, and a bonus if you fall in the water trying to shake it free.

Two flies and a tippet later I'm ready for a change. The next couple of holes down stream are a bit easier on the casting, but the wood in the water is murder. Bass to 12 inches or so hang here, so the temptation is great to give it a go. I usually use the opportunity of the challenge to go through one or two of my hastily tied bead head marabou wonder flies. Sometimes there are fish involved.

About a two minute hike through 10 foot tall cane later (the hike's only 100 feet, really, but the entire two minutes is spent prying your line off the cane as you go) you come to the long pool with the dead tree stump at the end of it. This one goes hot and cold. Sometimes fish live there, other times, seemingly, not at all. But casting is a great exercise in finesse and salty language. Nothing directly above you, but that accursed cane lurks behind you. This gives you the opportunity to practice the vertical back cast. The corollary to this is that you also get to practice not dumping all 30 feet of fly line in a heap at your feet in the execution of the forecast.

Just around the bend from this pool is a little hole characterized by ample back cast space (so long as you don't let the back cast drop below 20 feet) and a target area of 3 feet between a log jam and some overhanging branches. Lots of fish live here. I got a 15 inch bigmouth there on a wooly bugger once, but I couldn't lift him the 4 feet up the cliffy mud bank to get him out and he eventually broke off. 3 pound tippet. But the crappie and bream hang in the jam and aggressively ambush my flies there. I can pull them out with no problem, usually.

Below this point any fisherman over 3 feet tall walks with a stoop, narrowly avoiding, or not, the mesquite thorns, and tripping over the "wait a minute" vines, alternately known as organic barbed wire. This is territory dominated by the bow and arrow cast.

Amazingly, the bow and arrow cast works pretty well out to about 10 feet or so, but until you master it your fly zips out, reaches line stretch, then zings back at your feet. Fish like to watch this, too. In fact, they enjoy it so much that when you finally get the fly out to them they grab it for a souvenir. Sometimes you get it back.

The vegetation variously opens up and closes back down the rest of the way to the mouth at the lake. Along the way you can occasionally cast normally, like you see on the Saturday morning shows, but often you're reduced to pulling in all but the last 3 feet of leader, sticking it through some vine draped branches and lowering it gently into the water. Lord help you if a fish grabs the fly, because now you have to pull him to the rod tip and then snake him back out through the doggone branches to complete the catch.

Finally, the trees give way to cattails, and bog. When the water is low, this is dead cattails and mud and the cattail fluff goes right up your nose. You can walk there. But so do snakes slither there. It is not for the meek. The draw, however, is that the water at that point has deeper channel, some weeds, and bass in residence that are scary. We've gotten them on plastic worms, so we know they're there, but taking one on a fly is yet only a lofty goal.

Dusk presents a problem because getting back to the car through the thorny obstacle course in dimming light perforates skin and air conditions trousers. I come back with so many scars that my wife thinks I'm really off brawling in a bar somewhere.

Muddy Creek is a heck of a challenge for the fly fisher, but the fish are many and you learn a lot about botany. I'm almost ready for an honorary degree, of one sort or another. ~ By Bill Hillman

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