There is nothing like the satisfaction of spending countless hours perusing maps, trying to figure it all out, eventually locating a possible spot on the satellite photo, and pulling in days later to the sight of a fly fishing guides vehicle parked with an empty trailer in tow. It feels like a graduation, a “Where’s Waldo?” book and a secret handshakes all wrapped up in one. And sure, maybe you weren’t the first to discover it, but hell, you DID figure it out and ended up in the right place, just a little later than everyone else. Such was the case for me this last week, when i pulled into one of the handful of public access spots on the lower Colorado just east of Austin, TX.
Over the last couple of years, as the drought has carried on and the waters have continued to drop in local rivers and lakes alike, i’ve found myself more and more making the odd trip to the lower Colorado’s (relatively stable) waters, but always with little success. While the desire to land some monsters in this prime real-estate has always been in the back of my mind, lately it has been magnified ten fold by the endless barrage of photos of AMAZING fish caught by clients of some of the various local outfitters such as All Water Guides, Upstream on the Fly and Action Angler.
While the photos are enticing, there is still a sort of “No Man’s Land” feeling that permeates many stretches of the Lower Colorado. To many (including myself) the fairly recent loss of public access and shuttle services once provided by MOC Kayak here in the heart of Austin, have added another level of unfamiliarity and uncertainty to this fairly untapped stretch of water. Unless you spend a lot of time on this river, the access points alone (on top of the uncertainty of water flows and release, private lands, and trespassing laws) can easily keep a curious angler at bay.
For many of these reasons and more, my first day on the river recently was full of trepidation, with vivid thoughts of property owners packed to the gills with salt rock, finding relief for their boredom by using me as a moving target. Fortunately this years maiden voyage proved to be rather uneventful, other than witnessing a local bait fisherman land three solid 10+ pound gaspergou on live crawfish (causing me to contemplate bait fishing much more seriously than i have ever before…but don’t worry, i came to the conclusion that it’s not my thing.)
The second trip a week later was significantly more eventful, likely because this was the day i pulled up and saw the guides truck and trailer in the parking lot. Instantly i felt a comforting sense of reassurance, knowing that at least i was in the right area, and that in the event of the worst case scenario (me loosing my mind from the sun, setting up a primitive camp on a sand bar, making my fly rod a confidant and surviving by consuming my own streamers and dry flies) a fly fisherman would eventually drift by and likely be able to talk me down and get me back to a civilized life.
Fortunately this never happened, though at one point i did feel like i was losing it. Floating a strong current and working a bend in the water, framed by a steep mud cliff, i cast and caught the glimpse of what i thought for sure was a large human male, improbably running along the incredibly steep dirt bank. After mending my line, i turned to my left and almost instantly wetted myself and dropped my rod. A very large cat (at least compared to anything i’ve ever seen outside a zoo) was quickly sprinting across the bank, throwing annoyed looks my way. By the time i assessed that i was safe in the middle of the river, and got my camera out to snap a photo it was far out of range, leaving me with this with this low quality, bad angle shot that makes me understand why Nessie and Bigfoot photos always look so bad, a shaking hand and fast moving objects are not the best match.
Outside of that amazing sight, quite a few bass (Guadalupes and largemouth in the photos above and below) and a good size sunfish were brought to hand that day, but i never landed one of the monsters featured in photos on the blogs mentioned above. Then again, i haven’t spent hundreds of hours (thousands for some of these guides) on the Colorado, so i will continue to put in my time in hopes of a big payoff. If you can, I highly recommend you check it out either alone or with one of the amazing guide services mentioned below, because the possible rewards are unreal.
At best, you’re fortunate enough that you’ll paddle away with memories and photos of some of the biggest bass you’ve ever laid eyes on, caught on some incredible stretches of water.
Worst case? You’re so nervous from the adventure that you almost miss the 4 foot plus feline giving you the stink eye from the river bank that’s wondering why you can’t catch a fish.
The Colorado can be intimidating for sure, check out these sights to help you get on the right path:
- Interactive map and general information – LCRA Colorado Trail Information
- Access map - Colorado River Access map (Austin area)
- River flows – USGS flows Colorado River at Bastrop (nearest gauge)
- What to Expect – A brief overview of the fishing (courtesy of All Water Guides)
- Guides – All Water Guides, Upstream on the Fly, Action Angler.