Go Fish a Ditch; Lake Creek pools 1, 2 and 3 - North Austin, by Scott Kerrigan
Open your phone. Find yourself, (using Google Maps, not spiritually). Look for patches and lines of blue. Then switch over to satellite view, or go to Google Earth. Prospect your access and the water quality like a heron looking for its next meal.
This is how I found my first of many “local waters” as a noob fly fisher in Austin. OK, local waters is a tad highfalutin term for what I found. “Spot” may be above the brow, even. Ditches is most accurate. But they hold fish. Hooboy, do they ever.
The specific ditch I’m referring to is called Lake Creek in Williamson County, North Austin. It’s now between several housing developments but was once a working ranch. Below Morris Road Fields, you’ll find three large pools separated by small spillways. These were probably used for watering troughs, irrigation ditches and flood mitigation in its cowboy days. Now sunnies, big bass (the pickles of the ditch) and – depending on the time of year – about a dozen or so carp reign this concrete domain.
This stretch of Lake Creek fishes best a few days after heavy rain, when the algal blooms are washed away and haven’t had a chance to get a new footing. These pools (and the pond in Parmer Village, just a short walk down Lake Creek Trail toward Parmer Ln.) get heavy neighborhood fishing pressure, but they’re used to conventional tackle and bait.
Because of the prevalence of huge plastic lizards and the like, I recommend smaller flies. But just about anything will work. Woolly Buggers in white or black with a little flash, sizes 8-10. Clouser minnows sizes 2-6 for bigger bass. Carp-it Bombs and Carpnastys for the carp. Brim Reapers, Booby flies, Damsel patterns and Elk Hair Caddis for the numerous sunfish.
Also, the popper bite can be electric in early mornings and at dusk. You’ll know when they’re feeding on top – just listen, focus, then don’t rush it and blow your chance. Or do whatever – you’ll probably still slay. If the weeds and algae are thick, try flies with weed guards. Or just go home and wait for rain.
About the carp: this is where I cut my teeth on carp on the fly. It was Easter Sunday. I spotted a small carp tailing and cast a Carpnasty 20 feet out, where it landed right in front of its lane. It took the fly delicately. I strip set hard and the fish exploded to the other side of the ditch in less than 3 seconds.
As I turned the carp and it threw slack in my line, I noticed that my fly line was tangled and wrapped around my reel. That’s all it took for this fish to wrap the leader in some debris and break off. These spooky fish have yet to play with me again despite repeated visits to the pool. They also seem to migrate every fall with heavy October and November rains, presumably to the private Ganzert Lake downstream. They are what keep me coming back. And if they’re not feeling cooperative, there’s always hungry bass and brim to make you feel like Jeremiah Johnson.
While ditches like these might not attain the reverence found in guidebooks or high-gloss “fly or die” mags, they are perfect in distinct ways. They are closer to home than even your “home waters” – the latter being what anglers say in conversation to give themselves a ground of dignified regionalism. This extra closeness is ideal for when you want to unwind for at least 20 minutes and up to two hours. When you want to practice some casts and catch a few fish. When you want to mix it up with your neighbors and trade stories. When you want to catch a sunset in your own backyard and realize you’ve been taking it for granted. When you want to sleep like a baby because you finally got to wet a line after a long day at work. Ditches are there to humbly provide.