Saturday, June 6, 2009

3 Cool Texas fishing spots

View from the tub of the Bend Bend Hot Springs

Big Bend National Park Hot Springs on the Rio Grande


Now that we've had a little more rain than we had last year, I'm hoping that some of my favorite fishing spots will have a little better water flow. I'm going to list some of the rivers and lakes I'm concerned about, and a few of the Texas places that I plan to hit before the end of the year.

The Devil's River is located in extreme south Texas, north of Del Rio, where the Hill Country has faded and the desert appears. The Devil's River basically runs through the remote desert, creating a small oasis like environment around it. Yet, it is rough and hostile country. I've heard more than one kayaker who has run the river before it flows into Lake Amistad on the Mexico border as saying that everything around the river either chafes, cuts or has thorns. It's rough but beautiful country.

The Devil's River is THE CLEANEST river in Texas, rising from springs about 94 miles north of it's juncture with Lake Amistad. Wiki actually has what I consider to be a very accurate description of the river and access and such here at this site

The Devil's River is also very noteworthy because it has a tremendously succesful transplanted smallmouth bass population. The smallmouth are mostly pursued by hardy kayakers or via the Devil's River State Natural Area.

The Nueces River located north of Uvalde also offers fine fishing for largemount, perch and crappie and the unique guadalupe bass. Camp Wood is the best place to HQ for a fishing trip to this area and here's a link to start planning your trip there In spite of the heat lately, I've been wanting to head that way around noon one friday and do a few days of river fly fishing. It's a gorgeous area but watch out for the snakes and the hogs if you're gonna be fishing at night.

Here's a link to an excellent article about fishing and staying in Camp Wood: It tells you just about everything you need to know.
The Hot Springs in the Big Bend National Park on the Rio Grande is an excellent place to fish for large river catfish. It's about the only place to fish, other than very scarce private tanks and ponds, in more than a 100 miles. You're a serious fisherman if you make this trek, but if you do, the reward of being able to sit in a natural hot spring while catfishing at night is one you can't easily duplicate.

I've made this trip once, about 12 years ago. Take Amtrak to Alpine if you've got some time, otherwise it's a lengthy car trip. The Hot Springs are in the southern portion of the park, the entrance to which is 60 or so miles south of Alpine. Once in the park, a short drive will get you to within 1/2 a mile or so of the springs, where after enduring a fairly crappy vehicle trail, a short hike along a well established trail gets you to the springs. There's also a longer trail of several miles that will get you there via a scenic river hike.

The locals use frozen shrimp and heavy duty freshwater spinning and spincasting rigs to catch large and medium sized catfish in the area surrounding the hot springs structure, shown in the photo above. They prefer to fish the area at night and I am told that fishing is generally better when there is a little chill in the air. Not cold, just a chill. Fish on the bottom with a double hook leader with a heavy weight on the bottom to resist the river flow.

Although I knew there was decent fishing in the Rio Grande in the park, I found out a lot more about this spot from some locals who were readying for their trip there that night at the bar of the Starlight Cafe in Terlingua. I didn't take them up on their offer to go with them, but did get as much info as I could from them about the fishing at the hot springs.
As you note in the picture above, there is a structure, the foundation of an old bathhouse constructed at the behest of former owner J.O. Langford around 1917 or so.

Langford wrote a book (which I have) and it's a fascinating story of he and his family settling this area and building and running a post office and hot springs operation. In the book, Langford discusses the construction of the bathouse. Langford brought in a newly emigrated german stonemason to construct the bathouse. The stonemason studied the river and it's flow for weeks and weeks, not building a thing.
Langford began to worry that he had hired the wrong fellow, because the everytime Langford inquired about why construction had not begun, the stonemason simply told him that he was studying the river flow and that he had to understand the river current to build the bathouse at the exactly correct angle to ensure that the stucture would withstand the powerful river's frequent and often turbulent flooding.
But the stonemason finally built the foundation and bathhouse, facing the river at an odd angle. I've seen pictures of the stucture as it existed, and it was basically a one story bathhouse with some windows and a door and wooden roof placed upon the foundation that still exists today.
The reason the foundation still exists today is because obviously the stonemason was a kickass stone craftsman. I say this because that after the National Park Service acquired the land in the late 40's for Big Bend National Park, the government tried to destory the bathouse. As I recall, they deemed it a hazard of some kind. So they brought in demolition experts who dynamited away the upper part of the structure.
But try as they might, the foundation and lower walls remains, firmly anchored and constructed in some kick ass old world way that defied even dynamite, much less the river, and it endures today. The walls and foundation could not be destroyed by even dynamite, and finally the government gave up and decided it couldn't destroy it and left it as a stone hot tub of sorts for the springs.
As you can see from the photos, it's just a kick ass place to fish or to just hang in the hot springs, which legend has it have magical healing powers. That's the whole reason Langford moved his family from civilization to here, and he claimed they cured whatever ailment he had. The hot springs never caught on, and after teaching school there, while operating the hot springs resort and post office and trading post, Langford ultimately gave up and moved away. But the post office and some other structures remain in the village, just a short distance from the springs.
Here's a short description of the springs from the National Park Service website, which also provided the Tom VandenBerg picture above with the sandle wearing feet showing:
The Langford Hot SpringsThe most famous of the thermal features along the Big Bend of the Rio Grande is the Langford Hot Springs. Located where Tornillo Creek enters the Rio Grande, some four miles upriver from Boquillas Canyon and the Mexican village of Boquillas. The natural springs at the site are known as Boquillas Hot Springs. Boquillas is Spanish for "little mouths" and refers to the many small streams or arroyos that drain this part of the Sierra del Carmen range and flow into the Rio Grande. Later, when the springs were promoted for their health benefits, the settlement and spa resort there was called Hot Springs, and a post office by that name was established at the site in July 1914. Although there are several other small hot springs in the area, these larger and more accessible springs are the best known.

The temperature of the springwater, which is heated geothermally, is 105°F year-round; the water contains calcium carbonate, calcium sulfate, sodium sulfate, sodium chloride, and lithium. The springs' flow rate in 1936 was 250,000 gallons a day, but more recent measurements show a decrease.
I've soaked in that tub and taken in that view. I did have a travel rod with me and did a little fishing in that area but didn't catch any fish that afternoon, but did have a real good time.

No comments:

Post a Comment