One of the most important aspects of guiding, whether it be hunting or fishing, in my opinion, is education. What better way to educate that through school? This weekend marked the very first Fresh Water Fly Fishing School at Madroño Ranch, put on in coordination with chef and owner of Dai Due, Jesse Griffiths and myself. Madroño Ranch offers one of the most pristine backdrops for fresh water fly fishing in Texas that I’ve ever had the privilege of visiting. Located in Medina, Texas, it offers spring fed creeks and streams that empty into a beautiful lake loaded with red breasted sunfish, crappie, red ear sunfish, bluegill, and large mouth bass.
This school was from Friday to Sunday, with guests lodging in the main house at Madroño Ranch. I arrived Thursday afternoon with camp chef, Morgan Angelone. We began to scout out the lake, and started catching fish for the weekend feast. Morgan hooked, but didn’t land, the largest fish of the weekend! I knew it would be an exciting weekend because it was all about “stripping steamers,” which is what the bass wanted. The guests arrived on Friday, and began the weekend with a charcuturie plate for lunch, then on to the lake for the opening demonstration. We went over aquatic and terrestrial entomology, and I introduced the “black wooly bugger” and the “Madroño Ranch Caddis,” which was made from materials sourced from the ranch. Jesse and I gave a fly-tying demo, and introduced appropriate set up of lake rigs on a fly rod. Once everyone was “bugged out” on flies, it was on to the lake house for fly casting instructions. Most of the clients were novice fisherman, or had never fished with a fly rod before, so this was the most critical instruction of the weekend. Once I felt they were confident in their cast, the guests were free to practice what they’d learned on the lake. The lake proved to be the best training ground for fly fishing, and the clients caught a few nice brim and a couple of nice bass. It was such a good day, we fished until dark and stalled the chef for dinner…oops!
Saturday morning began at sun up with more casting instruction, then off to the water until mid afternoon. I introduced them to moving water, as well as still water instruction for a well-rounded fly fishing experience. Later in the afternoon, Jesse and Morgan taught the butchering and cooking part of the school, and provided one of the best filleting and cooking demos of fish I’ve witnessed! They introduced a variety of recipes and techniques, from frying to smoking to baking, and everything in between. After this demo, it was more fishing until dinner. We hammered the bass on black wool headed sculpins. That night’s dinner was provided by Jesse, and succeeded to “punish our bodies,” which was his intention. We ate fish in a bag, bass on the ½ shell, smoked fish, fish soup, bass cakes, coleslaw, and hushpuppies, all the fish of which the clients had caught. Dessert was Morgan’s basque cake, not to be confused with the bass cakes we’d eaten earlier, though there was great fun had with the bass vs. basque cake dilemma.
Sunday was more fishing from sun up to noon, with the clients having free range on the ranch. This was their time to practice their knots and hone their casting skills, putting to good use all that they’d learned throughout the weekend. For me, this is the part of guiding that really highlights what you’ve done!
There were so many highlights for the weekend, but just to name a few: Watching a client catching their first fish on a fly rod is one of my favorites of any fishing trip. The weather we had was perfect for being outdoors: warm days and cool nights. The food provided by Jesse and Morgan was, as always, some of the most top flight I’ve ever eaten. Our hosts at Madrono Ranch, Heather and Martin Kohut are truly awesome people. All around, it was a great success, and we look forward to putting together more schools in the future.
For today, I’ll leave you with a Tink Tip for freshwater fly fishing. My go-to streamers on a river or a lake are the wooly bugger or wool headed sculpin. That tidbit is thanks to my friend Josh Duchateau, fly fishing guide extraordinaire.