I had only been on the water a total of twenty minutes when Egan came back from his short hike to his car.
“Holy cow, you will not believe this, five casts and five fish!” i said with a quivering voice, trying (unsuccessfully) to keep my gidiness at a level slightly below that of a female tween at a Justin Bieber concert.
A fish a cast doesn’t happen, it just doesn’t. But then again, in the last thirty minutes leading up to that first fish i’d followed a house on the highway for miles, visited a small Texas town of 23, and watched a man be attacked by a squirrel in his very own general store. Obviously this day was going to be anything other than normal.
In case you haven’t heard, Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPWD) stocks trout in some strange locations in Texas, and the strangest of all has got to be Castell, Texas. On December 18th they stocked three low water crossings near the town of 23, with around 2,400 trout (over 100 trout per person), in an effort to increase tourist dollars coming into the area. With the small town lying two hours away from both Austin and San Antonio, it’s not a spot you can exactly hop on over to in a day, but i’d felt an unrelenting urge to branch out and explore the unexplored (for me) and had somehow managed to convince Egan just the night before that this excursion needed to happen precisely because it was beyond the average fisherman’s daily jaunt.
Cold and sleepy at the beginning of the day, i was starting to feel guilty for making him drive two hours on his own to meet me in the middle of nowhere, but it was a guilt that wouldn’t last long.
After driving across the low water crossing and spotting Egan (always early and on the water before me) i headed straight to the General Store in Castell to check in with Randy Lefeiste the owner and proprietor. I had thought it would be a simple matter of walking in, mentioning i was fishing, getting a thumbs up and heading on my way, but that was far from the case. It might have been partially the two hour drive and the almost sleepless night, but from the minute i entered the store i felt as though i had slipped though the looking glass. The building itself felt like it could cave in at any minute, the random and abstract product and decoration buried under a mountain of dusty beams that had splintered from the accumulated weight of history. The three men present (Randy and two others) quickly launched into an early morning round of inside jokes and entendres that had my head swimming within moments. Anxiously i paid for a bag of jerky (the best i’ve ever had), got the thumbs up for parking from Randy and watched as a squirrel bolted across the bar and climbed up his back before nesting on his head as i headed out the door wondering what the hell had just transpired.
After hooking up with Egan, trying to explain the strangeness and catching the trout mentioned above, we hopped the bridge and worked our way downstream. The next hour or so made the daydream of the general store pail in comparison. I fished one fly, a green Wooly Bugger with rubber legs for most of the day, and it was here below the crossing that it strutted its stuff and attracted fish after fish. EVERY cast produced a bump and at least every other cast produced a gullible fish that somehow managed to not see one of it’s buddies fall for the same smoke and mirrors show . Within minutes the novelty of a “Double Hook Up”, the créme de la créme among angling buddies, lost it’s unique magic as we both hooked up over and over for the next couple of hours.
I actually kept count until number 22 came to hand and then had that realization that i’d slipped over into a place that i was unfamiliar with, a place where numbers have no meaning. A place where the blue surrounding the fish becomes equally as important, if not more so, than the fish being held gingerly in the palm of your hand. The Wooly Bugger started to loose a little saddle hackle here, a little rubber leg there, but none the less continued to land fish after fish. After fish #40 the fly was so haggard that it had to be retired and replaced with a Wooly Bomber, my own fly, that continued to entice decent fish to bite.
None of the fish were huge, most were like the guy above, around 12-13 inches but it hardly mattered. Sizing down to a 2WT for me and a 0WT for Egan meant that they felt like monsters on every take. Plus, doing recon on are way out we saw a few that were a few 24 inchers here and there, possibly TPWD treats, possibly private stockings.
Other than the sheer quantity of fish (we both guesstimated that we’d each caught around 60) and the amazing blueness that i see even now looking at these photos, the real magic of the day was that we saw one other person the entire day, and even that was at the very end.
So, it’s here and ready for you if you have an adventurous soul and a day to sneak away. The scenery is relatively undeveloped for a Texas river, the trout are many and willing, and a pair of waders will take you far out of reach of what little angling pressure exist here, although this surely won’t be a concern on a cold weekday like we’d experienced.
If you do visit, be sure to swing in the general store not only to check in, but also take in all the crazy that Castell seems to bask in. Oh yeah, before you do, a shot of your favorite vice might help prepare you, just don’t forget that you came for the fish…the many, many fish…
P.S. Thank you Ben for the heads up. It was excellent.
For more information:
TPWD press release: http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/newsmedia/releases/?req=20131213a
Texas River Bum story: http://texasriverbum.com/castell-general-store-an-origional-hill-country-hangout