GUSTS OF WIND scalloped Lady Bird Lake in sheets and the temperature held steady at 45. Over on the south bank, silhouetted bald cypress presented gulps of cormorants in sentinel perch.
A kid and his dad walked up with a three-foot fishing pole. The kid stared so hard at his orange and white cork that he staggered. The line was already tangled, but I could see his future: sticky worm-fingers, fish-slime smeared jeans, giggles and hoots, and fishy high fives. This was his first trip. And he would probably never be the same afterward. Bream fishing is the gateway drug to a lifelong angling addiction.
Still moored, I sat in my kayak considering the treetop where last summer a brawl-ready redbreast sunfish ambushed my H&H spinner bait, a lure meant for bass. Even in the chill, I was hopeful the bream would be biting and I could only imagine how much fun that bruiser would be on the little 4-weight fly rod I had on loan for the day.
The zipper sang when I opened the weatherproof case that held the Redington Voyant 490-4 outfit: a four-piece, four-weight, burgundy graphite rod and a Surge fly reel complete with backing, fly line, and leader. It took longer to choose a fly than it did to assemble the rod.
“Save a couple for me,” I told the kid as I pulled in my bowline.
“He couldn’t wait for summer,” said his dad, smiling. I waved and paddled off.
At Lou Neff Point, the urban outdoors exploded. Cyclists and runners blurred multicolored swaths on the trail. American coots clucked, cackled, grunted, and squeaked pooooot like little black balloons losing air. Mallard, gadwall, ring-necked duck, and cinnamon teal, they were all there in flotilla, too. Anglers lined the shore like fence posts. Others bobbed along in canoes and johnboats.
From 40 feet, I worked fallen trees at the mouth of Barton Creek. The fast action Voyant casted intuitively and performed well in the wind; but my paddle got needy, so I headed to narrower stretches. When the sun broke through, I slid on a pair of polarized sunglasses and looked over to a carpet of bass, from a pound or so to a few that look like shiny, green, dachshunds. I set the disc drag on the Surge fly reel and tied on a bigger fly. Nostalgia my foot. My bream fishing was over.
For two hours, the Voyant outfit worked like a Waffle House cook, serving up everything on the menu. Clouser minnows, hair poppers, foam poppers, sliders and streamers — the Voyant performed well. But, nothing. It was like the Calmer Junior High semi-formal all over again: I had all the right flash, but nobody wanted to dance.
So a cricket imitation replaced the big popper and I cast at Frisbee-sized targets on my way out of the creek. Soon after the game turned from fishing to casting, of course, the fly disappeared in a boil. The little spotted bass was a fighter, but he wasn’t the bream on the wanted poster. Maybe some uber-urban fishing under Austin’s famed 6th Street would get me the bream I wanted.
We moved to Shoal Creek for a little inner-city ditch work. The tight banks, tree overhangs, and steady flow of peddlers and pedestrians presented a unique casting situation. Without the trail, I wouldn’t even try fly-fishing it. But, the creek holds a sturdy bream population and I wanted to see how the Voyant — and I — performed in tight spaces.
The Voyant outfit was together and rigged with a cricket imitation in just a second. Each cast presented a 3D math problem. Roll casts worked best in the narrow spots. In the bend, I was able to squeak overhead casts through the gaps, sending the back cast down the trail, so I could cover the far side of the pool. The outfit was responsive, light, and fun to cast — and even with a 9ft rod it performed well in this little tube of urban outdoors. I was having a blast without catching a thing. Kids gathered on the hill behind me to watch. A few couples whispered good luck as they snuck past.
“You should go to Colorado with that rig. Good trout fishing there,” said a homeless guy who stopped for a while.
By the time the sun dropped enough to take my shadow off the water, casting happened nearly on its own. My cricket alit within an inch of the far bank. And I watched it as closely as that kid watched his orange and white cork. The fly drifted over a rock. Pop, the fly gone. The little fish tugged and pulled a grin across my face. I dropped the little green sunfish back into the water without washing my hands, happy as could be. The smell of even the littlest fish is a trophy. I cast again. The cricket disappeared when it hit the water.
The Redington Voyant 490-4 is open-and-fish. With a four-piece rod and carrying case, it travels well and is protected from car doors, which — little known fact — since the time of Henry Ford have been engineered for optimal fishing-pole-breaking performance. The outfit is available with a 4-, 5-, 6-, or 8-weight rod. All come with a quality anodized aluminum and wood reel seat and a lifetime warranty — just in case the door wins that fight.
At $299, the Voyant outfit is competitively priced. You could spend much more on a combo with comparable qualities.
A note for new fly anglers: the Voyant’s stiff, fast action rod performs really well even in the wind. You may prefer a more forgiving medium action rod, which is offered in the Crosswater combo. If you’re looking to get involved in fly fishing, check out the Gear Selector tool.
And please be a steward of our natural resources.