As Cody was out-of-town visiting his family this Easter, Momma and I enjoyed a good, but quite Easter dinner and afternoon fun. After hearing from several DFF members who attended the March Nolan River Outing, I decided to fish the Nolan at a time many found most productive this odd-weather spring. Going prepared with White Bass flies, I was shocked at the low, but steadily flowing waters. Where I caught fish in previous years were high-and-dry this year, and I could not find the White Bass. Not to be dismayed for long, I kept seeing Gar, almost stepping on some of them. Keeping on my rather flashy fly, I set to work.
In my life, I've had six gar hook-ups with only one being luck. The other Five were purposeful targets in the last two years. I don't target gar the way I hear most presenters discuss, which is a "Crossing the T" method, with the gar being the stem and dragging the fly perpendicularly to the gar, the "T" crossbar. The reason I don't do this comes from a SCUBA show I saw friend William Seals give at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center (and many times since his 2013 presentation). When the diver would feed the fish, even though the bait was dead, every time the Gar fed, it sidled on its prey, and when it ate, it was a quick jerk of the head to no more than the 11:00 or 1:00 o'clock position. Once, I saw the gar backpedal to get in align in order to feed. Sometimes, they align close to their hinge--prey was small--and sometimes, they aligned closer to their nose tip--prey was larger, but regardless, they ate from the side and never head-on. It remains the same for whether they are in captivity or the wild.
I typically find gar in slack water, near the shore, surrounded with good cover. I spotted one 15 feet from me with his head facing downstream; I cast downstream about 20 feet and parallel to the gar, pulled the fly upstream past his left side at a bout a five inch, constant but not fast retrieve. He did not take the fly, but he reacted, as his fins started moving, but he held his position. I cast again, lined the fish, got the fly line off his body (he never moved or reacted to the fly line), pulled the fly parallel to the gar, and he ate hard, close to his hinge. I strip set; he thrashed, and the fly worked its way closer to the tip, but a harder strip set stuck. I got him in the net. Once in, he opened his mouth, the fly dropped out, and I tried to take him from the net for a photo, but it was just too awkward, so I snapped his photo in my net. Voila! not only was this my first gar to-hand, Mr. Spotted Gar made my 97th species on the fly!