Dr. Marius Albota


My Yearly Pilgrimage to Austin, Texas:  On Fishing, Socializing, and Accomplishing Mission Buffalo.


Austin is indeed a very special place.  Some call this magnificent city in the middle of Texas an oasis.  The Colorado River, tamed by dams at both ends, travels slowly through this beautiful metropolis that hums to the night rhythms of 6th street under the watchful eye of Stevie Ray Vaughan. You’ve got the culture, history, and of course the wildlife, with the odd-sounding and rather distracting “bite-alarm” birds, the red-beaked swans with black feathers, and the world-famous bats.  Completing the décor are the rowers,  the  joggers, the colorful hobos and, yes, the dogs  hundreds of them.  The emerald-green waters seen from JetBlue’s final approach to Bergstrom Airport only look brighter as one gets closer.  Monster carp and buffalo roam at will below the surface of Lady Bird (aka Town) Lake waiting to put a serious bend in the rod of adventurous anglers


It was 32°F and freezing rain when the Embraer effortlessly lifted into the air from Logan International.  A crazy winter with record precipitation had plagued the New England area and to say that I was ready for a change would be an understatement.  Four hours later, I landed in Texas where I was to fish the annual tournament Austin Team Championship (ATC) organized by Carp Anglers Group (CAG). It was 73°F and sunny and seemed like I was on a different planet. There was excitement in the air, the sky was blue, and a general feeling of optimism abounded.  The green grass, tall palm and blossoming trees, and ubiquitous sounds of chirping birds completed the magical scenery.  Better yet, the forecasters said the weather was supposed to stay just about the same for the next 4 days!  Perfect! Windows down, we hopped in the rented SUV got our supplies and fishing licenses and we were ready to wet the lines.


I always find myself really excited checking in at for this carp-fishing tournament. I look around the hotel lobby for familiar faces. I shake hands with old and instant new friends.  Online forum names become people; virtual characters now real. The stories start flowing, then the pizza arrives, followed by the traditional corn boil, the scale certification and the beer. And how can anyone ever sleep with all the effervescence surrounding us and with the early  morning peg draw so near?

   Florin with his nice Buff

Day 1 of the ATC found myself and fishing accomplice Florin at the tip of a nice peninsula, with a great view of downtown Austin’s skyline.  We slowly unloaded, setup, and began to bait.  Having fished this spot for a day during the $250,000 Texas Carp Challenge in 2006, I started by catapulting about a dozen method balls of chum in the right locations.  Florin banked the first carp.  After a long winter, I had almost forgotten just how beautiful and strong those carp really are. The colors were striking, with reddish large tails and lean bodies. The sun was now clearing the tall buildings to our left, just in time to shine its mellow rays on our first 30-lb carp, a true bar of gold gleaming in the morning sunshine.  And, at 32 lb 12 oz, and being my first fish of the tournament, how could I possibly complain?  We heard reports of others catching.  We were having a great time as well with another low 30, this time for Florin, along with a few other fish.  Not bad at all for the first day. 


 Can you believe this fish?


On Day 2, the Saturday morning draw, dealt us a peg way upstream at a place the locals call Eilers Park.  A pretty good peg, in general, except that most fish appeared to have been caught at the other end of the lake during the previous day. The challenge was fishing this tight spot with two people side by side, especially given the massive fallen tree to our left. We had some good action throughout the day, including another 32 lb+ common, and finished with almost exactly the same weight as the day before and a respectable 7th place overall. After the awards ceremony, the rowdy crew of carp anglers congregated in front of our suite for drinks and storries. The party continued until the early hours of the morning. Some couldn't take it and fell asleep on the cooler, others carried on celebrating this great event and the winners, which was all of us.  It was a fantastic end to what has been called the best ATC ever.

Buffalo Bill Cody never saw Buffalos like these!


Florin and I had planed to stay a few days after the end of the ATC in order to do a short session at Emma Long.  I had been chasing my first buffalo for a while and decided that now was the time for my dream to finally come true.  We baited heavily.  Designated target was buffalo.  But what did we catch first?  Not buffalos but carpios!  It was ok by me, as the list of captured carp included a new Emma Long PB common at 25 lb 15 oz.  I was extremely tired after partying the night before and, to make matters worse, as the night fell a cold front moved in.  I kept checking my baits and soon started to get these little beeps -- a good sign, of course.  I changed my hooks to smaller, size 9s, and waited up hoping for a good continuous bleep, a real take.  That magical moment finally came around 5:30 in the AM, which was exactly 30 mins after I had finally hit the sack (of course)!  I promptly jumped from my sleeping bag and hooked solidly into what felt like a really massive log.  After what seemed like an eternity, my colleague managed to scoop up in his net something that certainly didn’t look like a carp. It was a good buffalo. The one elusive buffalo I had been looking for.  It looked surreal, with silver scales and dark black eyes.  My very first buffalo and an automatic new PB!  We took some great pictures in the morning. As it turns out, my first ever buffalo was a 40-lber and a nicely-colored two-toner to boot.  It couldn’t possibly get any better than this.  As the sun was rising we started catching them.  Too many to count. Buffalo and carp.  Shortly after, Florin landed his first buffalo, followed by another, and then another. Sizes, numbers, does it really matter? "Mission Buffalo" was finally accomplished!  I, for one, can’t wait til next year’s carp and buffalo fishing adventure at the 2009 Austin Team Championship. 

Printed with permission of the author.