All pictures from the TPWD website, who are excellent and should be applauded for going above and beyond the call of duty in running these great facilities on a shoestring budget. When you drive up into the hills in this State Park, there are amazing views.
Every year, we go fishing for the rainbow trout that are stocked in Texas State Parks and some other public locations for fishing. A special trout stamp is required, and be sure to check the special limits and regulations depending on where you fish. If you ever read this blog, you may know I've been doing that since I was a pre-teen with my family, taking near yearly winter trout fishing vacations to the Guadalupe and otehr trout stocked locales in my youth. In my twenties, I began to range all over the state, or at least, all over the eastern half of the state, enjoying different state and county parks and lakes and having a great time fishing in winter when there is not much other fishing going on.
Winter Texas rainbow trout fishing is the sure cure for cabin fever, or at least an effective treatment. Repeat as necessary.
One of the most memorable trips I ever had for stocked rainbow fishing was during a brief winter sojourn north of Austin back in January when I was in my mid-twenties. I was much younger then, of course, and was escaping and ending a dead end relationship in Houston. I'd managed to wangle spending some education time near Austin for some weeks, and had accommodations that I could use on the weekend. Already being in Central Texas on the cusp of the Hill Country, I was in striking distance already of lots of places that my home in Houston were lots further from.
Due to the aforementioned deteriorating relationship, and other holiday stuff, I had not yet had the opportunity to do any trout fishing yet that winter. Of course, I had the hatchback of my Toyota Supra well stocked with all the rods and tackle related gear I might want to use, as well as a variety of outdoor coats to facilitate rainbow trout fishing in inclimate weather.
So as I was driving around town that afternoon eating lunch, I heard on the radio that trout stocking would occur the next morning about 7:30 in the town of Meridian, northwest of Waco, at the State Park lake there. I went out that night and got some stuff for the trip, got packed and plotted the route on the map and took off about 4 a.m. the next morning.
I was able to plot a route that went up back roads from Jonestown up through Killeen, then west for a bit through Copperas Cove and then north for about 40 miles or so heading towards Gatesville, running alongside the Fort Hood Military Reservation for much of the way. After Gatesville, I veered back westward passing through some historic towns like Clifton and Norse, and since I was way ahead of schedule, was able to stop and read historical markers and learn of the large Scandinavian population of that area.
Several things I'll always remember from that trip up to Meridian that day. First, it was a very cold and overcast morning, probably about 30 degrees, so the sunrise and frost and fog and such was really a great background for the beautiful and rugged terrain I passed through on that trip. That was truly the time of day to be on that 40 mile or so stretch of road between Copperas Cove and Gatesville to just be awed by the normal beauty of Texas. Deer, of course, were everywhere feeding at that time of day and there were patches of ice here and there, so I drove slow and had a nice time enjoying some Texas country I had never seen.
Secondly, back then, gas stations and convenience stores weren't open much at the the time I took off at about 4 a.m. I was used to living in Houston which was just then sorta turning into a 24 hour town in the 80's, and at least convenience stores were open at that hour for a cup of coffee for the road. It took awhile that day, I recall, to encounter a business that was open at that hour, even though I was passing through some larger towns.
Finally, I nearly had the roads to myself that Saturday morning. Dang near, which was nice. Everything was shut down in towns like Copperas Cove and Gatesville as I passed through them, save for a lone gas station in each.
After lingering through communities like Clifton and Norse, I got to the State Park, still ahead of schedule, where I met the Ranger and headed down to the lake. When the fishery truck arrived, there were probably ten people assembled. We watched as the fish were poured into the lake, and after a few minutes, I began fly casting out in that area, quickly hooking fish. It began to rain lightly, and it seemed the fishing got better the colder it got and the more drizzley it became.
I was geared up, and several others had rain gear, but those who did not left despite the great fishing. I gave my fish to several families with lots of little kids who were obviously fishing for food, since the wives were fileting the fish as soon as they were out of the water, and pretty soon they were limited out and were ready to get back to their warm home and eat some fresh trout.
Pretty soon it was me and a couple of Park Rangers and Game Wardens out there fishing. Everyone else had gone home. Some of the best fishing I ever had for Texas Rainbows. Just nonstop catching. Not every cast but nearly so, and with the fairy wand ultra light tackle I was using, there were some fun fights with fish that day. So good that I stayed overnight in Meridian and came back the next morning. It was still good, and still cold, and still raining and still empty. And the fish were still biting until it was time for me to drive home.
The Game Wardens, guys about my age, became very nice once they learned I was an officer on mini-vacation, and I ended up teaching them how to fly fish. I left my fly rod with them when I went into town for lunch. My car started running rough, and I pulled into the local Exxon full service station (long gone, btw) and was getting gas and and the owner took a look at my badly running car and said "spark plug wire" and went and dug through some boxes and found one he liked that looked good and said that this was a used one but it worked and it would last me a while but I should replace it when I get home. He put it on and then gave me an extra and said put that back in your car in case that one or another goes out and refused to take even a dollar for fixing my problem or the wires, because they were leftover from some repair job long ago.
When I ate in town after that, I bought a pie at the restaurant and took it over to his place as thanks. It was the least I could do. I don't know if everyone in that town woke up on the right side of the bed that day, all I know is, they knew I was not from there and went out of their way to roll out red carpets just all over restaurants and the gas station and at the State Park. And I'm just an ordinary El Fisho.
Those days of things like full service gas stations where you often dealt with the owner are long gone. And I miss them. There's still great people all over this state, but as work ethics change and I grow older, I remember how it used to be.
Back then, I proclaimed Meridian as the friendliest town in Texas to all my compadres, and it's still holding the title. It was a day of days.