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Category Archive:   Texas Rivers


A main staple for summer fishing in and around Austin, the low water crossing below Mansfield dam has been a mainstay for years for cold water seekers as well as fisherman. Many months ago it was shut down for repairs that seemed to drag on forever but I’m here to tell you, it’s back and better than ever. The “parking lot” is now exactly that, the poison ivy has been replaced with turf grass, there is a bathroom. and there is actually a ranger that lives on site to keep the peace and remove unwanted debris and chaos.

Early morning and late days at sunset will put you on a myriad of fish including tailing grass carp that light up the still water like swaying neon lights. Highly recommended for fishing or a simple break from the heat. See you there!

Balance. It’s a wonderful thing in life to find and try and maintain, but (for most) it’s never permanent, life is far to complicated for that. Personally I’ve always tried to keep family, work, fishing and this blog in harmony (in that order), but when one of the four (work) requires more attention, somethings gotta give, and in this equation that can only mean the blog. Fortunately I’ve recently started to find my groove at my new dream job and now find myself spending more time being productive and less trying to figure out how to maneuver through my work day, so the scales are finally starting to balance back out.

Gone are the days of “Stress Fishing” where one feels that an hour on the water is so needed that the 60 minutes spent fishing actually starts to feel like an anxiety inducing job in and of itself. Instead, i’m back on the water, relaxed, relieved, and more than a little curious. Working in a store with a fly shop (Gruene Outfitters) i am constantly hearing (or over hearing) about spots from co-workers or customers, something that has re-kindled a desire in me that i originally started this blog with, the exploratory side of my nature that wants to expand and search out new waters to share with you, the reader. Once again I’m back into my old habit of late nights with a glass of wine, a little blue cheese, and time spent pouring over Google Maps, honing in on hunches and pricing together bits and pieces that i heard throughout the day. One such late night ritual brought to my attention some public access on the upper Guadalupe at a location called Nichols Landing near Spring Branch, just south of Blanco.

That very next morning as i pulled off of highway 281 i was expecting the typical Texas river access spot, something along the lines of a poke in the eye and a kick in the crotch. To my dismay i pulled in to a legitimate county park, complete with parking, Port-A-Potties, and families enjoying themselves in the cool river waters. The vibe was instantly relaxing, and glancing around at the stone and sand shores, huddled in the shadows of huge bald cypress, i knew i had found something special, regardless of the fishing.

Dragging the Versa Board a small way over the rocks, from the parking lot to the shore i took a second to appreciate the lack of a boat ramp, knowing it likely kept the less curious at bay. Paddling upstream i was dumbfounded by the scenery, the trees, the sky, the water all seemed to be present in perfect unison. Being as it was a short while after sunrise, i immediately started to notice 2-3′ long gar lined up in pods along the banks, apparently waking up groggy after a night of wine and research?! Every one of the first three casts resulted in quick chases and gar brought aboard as much to their dismay as mine. One even performed a spastic somersault dance with its bony snout alternatively smacking against the boats deck and my thigh multiple times before conducting a perfect backflip into the waters from whence it came.

The initial paddle is along a stretch of housing, all though the houses are set rather far back from the river and only observable in a couple of spots, unlike the lower Guadalupe where you are practically in people’s back yards. It doesn’t take long however to reach a stretch of water that last many miles heading up to Guadalupe State Park, a stretch that for the one low water crossing, feels as wild and free as i imagine it  has for millennia. It was along this stretch that i portaged up the longest stretch of rapids i’ve ever encountered in Texas, a good 50 yards of rocks and whitewater that at the 90CFS i encountered it at made it hard to get up and down, but would be navigable at the 150CFS which is the norm for this time of year.

After the portage, i came upon a junction where Curry Creek enters from the right side of the river, some slightly still backwater that i was hoping might house some largemouth. Paddling up the creek, it was quickly clear that the water here was so shallow that fish would spot me coming from a mile away. Never the less, I did spot one of the more amazing sights i’ve ever seen in Texas, a towering limestone cliff about 40-50 feet high with a giant wedge cut vertically out of it, reaching back 20 feet and topped with a 10 foot thick cap on top that gave it sort of a cave/condo look that any Austin developer would die for. The photo (above) simply doesn’t do it justice, it is massive.

Around that time the upstream winds started barking and howling turning my leisurely downstream float into a headlong paddling battle that unfortunately has become all to common. In between strenous sessions i took some time stop and work some of the holes i’d noticed on the way up. Of special note is the pool that housed a myriad of long nose gar, anywhere from 3-5 feet. It was mostly sight casting and landing 3 foot specimen, but as you might expect, every time i stopped to switch a fly or untangle a line, a 4-5 foot gar would surface, gulp air, and be gone before I even had the backcast unfurling. Still, so many of the three foot gar were landed that I eventually stopped casting to them. One in particular seemed to tire of me trying to cut the gentle rope strands from its mouth, scissoring back and forth with its jaw agape it landed its teeth squarely on my hand drawing blood, always a sign it’s time to move on.

On the way back, somewhere around 3-4PM, the top-water bite finally turned on and it was more or less non-stop panfish and bass all the way back to the car. As much fun as it was, it would have been infinitely more enjoyable if i had something something lighter than the 6 and 8 WT rods i had brought in hopes of big gar. Still, you take what you can get, right?

On a final note, approaching Nichol’s Landing i was suddenly surrounded by a crowd of tubers and folks relaxing and enjoying the day. Eventually one spectator yelled out that they saw a lot of bait fish jumping a mere 20 feet in front of them and their awning, camp chairs and flailing children. I felt on the spot, and they vocally mentioned they’d never seen a person fly fish before so what could i do but entertain? I cast, thinking how hopeless and stupid, but expected it was that I at least try. The fly hit. The water caved in on itself, and my fly disappeared only to be replaced by a three-pound largemouth that faded left, faded right, jumped two feet in the air and bucked the fly free.

My audience tried to take responsibility by claiming that it wouldn’t have happened if they hadn’t been watching, but i knew the truth. If there is one thing fly fishing has taught me over and over again, it is to always expect the unexpected, and never stop wondering what’s around the bend.

Want to go?

Nichols Landing – Paddling information for this location.

Guadalupe Canoe Livery – I have not used them, but if you want to float Nichol’s Landing to Hwy. 281 they will shuttle you for a fee.

Blanco River State Park – Located about 15 minutes north of the Guadalupe, along the Blanco River this is one of two state parks that you can choose to camp at.

Guadalupe River State Park – Also located about 15 minutes from Nichols Landing this is an incredibly beautiful campground and also a possible starting point for those than want to shuttle between here and Nichols Landing.

In relation to the population of Texas, there are very few folks out there that are committed to not only fishing, but fishing in a manner that allows future generations (many times their own) to enjoy these waters decades down the road. Because of the blog I’ve been fortunate enough to have met many people over the years that align with my personal belief that limited resources mean that selfishness should take a back seat to personal satisfaction and greed, at least a majority of the time. In a nutshell, catch and release will enable you to bring others back to experience the same awesomeness you have.

One of the first people I ever met via the blog that cared as much about not just the fishing, but also the fisheries is Winston Cundiff. Back in the day he was the only person that showed up at Barton Creek, in the midst of the now legendary Texas drought, bucket in hand to help me transfer sunfish, bass, and catfish from ankle deep pools into the deeper pools below the falls after an alarmed call to arms on the blog.

In the interim years he’s gone on to become not only a passionate angler, but also an official member of All Water Guides which is one of the premium guide services in the Austin area.

Thanks to my new job (buying at Gruene Ouftfitters) and one of our key dealers, Patagonia I was fortunate enough to hook up with him on a recent float trip for Texas fly-fishing Patagonia dealers that once again found me hooking with him on his jet boat, zipping up and down the lower Colorado River in search of bass, and much to his chagrin, gar to satiate my desire for catching a prehistoric dinosaur on the fly.

The water was stained for sure, but the flows were just enough to enable us to barely make it up some incredibly shallow (mere inches deep) riffles. In all actuality the conditions made for what should have been a skunk of a day, but through perseverance and luck we managed to land a handful of bass that were of average size (2.5 lbs?) but still a pleasure to fight on the 6WT’s we were armed with.

Regardless of what we caught, it was a blast just to hang out with folks from Patagonia, Sportsmans Finest and Bayou City Angler that are all people just as passionate about fly fishing as we are at Gruene Outfitters. The Texas fly fishing community is gaining strength and will only continue to do so…be a part of and contact any of these fine local folks for information on how to grab a rod and get out there! We’re all in this together!

www.allwaterguides.com

www.grueneoutfitters.com

www.bayoucityangler.com

www.sportsmansfinest.com

A huge thank you to Patagonia for walking the walk and talking the talk and making this whole thing happen!

The anticipation had been building for days. The shop had been receiving shipment after shipment of the flies that my co-workers and i had ordered, large poppers and meaty streamers that practically begged to be sacrificed on the Lower Colorado River’s banks. On top of that, the demo 6 WT rod from Douglas Outdoors arrived just before leaving work the day before. Fishing needed to happen.

It was like every star was aligning to make my day off spent on the Colorado River below Austin some sort of transcendent life experience. Then i saw the water, six inches of visibility, stained like a politicians past and rising quickly, bringing in fresh layers of trash and detritus that caused me to hang my head in disappointed sorrow.

Still, it was my day off, already noonish and an annoyingly long drive to any water that might provide the same possibility that the Lower Colorado had to offer. One way or another this was going to work.

Putting in at Big Webberville park i immediately headed downstream where i quickly found a few pools that were literally bubbling with gar action, imagine a pod of trout during the height if a hatch and you’ll totally have it. Despite the endless “CLACKS” (the sound that i imagine the long nose gar make when breathing at the surface) they were skittish as could be, disappearing into the murkiness immediately after drawing a fresh breath. After an inordinate amount of mis-hooks i finally brought one to the board, the first this year, and felt the same rush i felt years ago when i landed my first one.

Paddling back to the ramp at sunset i observed hundreds of Hexagenia limbata suddenly emanating from the water, with a few being choked down by bass that eluded anything i had to offer.

Pulling into the ramp i floated under a low hanging limb that at one moment seemed barren and the next was flush with hundreds of huge Mayfly’s that brushed against me like small bats high on Red Bull or cocaine (i assume there’s a difference?). I’ve always heard the expression “Inhaling mayflies due to the hatch.” but had never had experienced it until now as they flew up my nose and pants and down my shirt.

Classic Lower Colorado. Despite the horrible fishing conditions it was still a phenomenal day.