Wednesday, November 10, 2010


That's what I'm feeling I need. Way much working lately and not enough playing. I need a road trip with no schedule. Pick a direction, pack up some fishing gear and head somewheres into the vast expanse known as the Texas Hill Country. The whole family has been operating at peak capacity since the beginning of the school year, at work and school and extracurricular activities. Our last mini-vacation to Port A was too long ago to remember.

Cabins can be found to rent for reasonable amounts throughout the Hill Country, and some for quite high prices. I've found plenty of nice ones (read: something that the bride will be attracted to as a clean and relaxing place to read a book and sit on a patio looking at a big river or creek or lake, whilst the men in the family fish and explore.

Seems like folks have been more flexible on minimum stays and have had some lower rents this past year. Things have been tight all over, I know, and I've seen some deals and lots of empty calenders on various cabins I've been looking at for a weekend rental before it gets too chilly. Really, it could stand to cool down a bit right now, being mid-November almost, but the time is perfect to do some heavy fishing with very little sweating.

Pearl Beer, a nominally popular beer in my youth that was somewhat tolerable as far as cheaper beers go, claimed in their TV and Radio commercials, burned into my then elementary school mind, about how their beer was different because it was brewed from the cool, clear waters of the country of 1100 springs, The Texas Hill Country.

Actually, there's lots more than 1100 Springs in the Hill Country, and perhaps that slogan dealt with the property or watershed they obtained their water from. It's entirely possibly because there are, or at least were, springs everywhere back then.

My Hill Country fishing exploits have led me hither and yon to all kinds of rivers and lakes and creeks in the nebulously defined Hill Country area. The Llano River down in Junction. The Llano River up near Mason. The Llano River down near Casteel, just outside of Llano. Same river but entirely different fishing in all of those places.

Same with the Colorado. I don't fish any of the lower Colorado these days, although the pollution and water quality has markedly improved over the past 20 years. I do love me some upper Colorado fishing up near the community of Bend, Texas, which is literally located a bend in the road.

There's now a State owned park up there where private fishing camps used to be, as well as some private fishing camps. Billy Ray and I had an enjoyable day some 25 years ago, out on some guys fishing camp property there who had vast acreage fronting the Colorado. I remember we spent the afternoon fishing a huge deep pool under a large cliff face that was about 50 feet tall.

Springs were seeping water from the cliff face on the opposite side of the river. There were rapids above and below us, and we were able to pull right up to the river and set up our fishing camp with the vehicle and gear right there. Our side of the river was flat and sloping, contrasting greatly with the cliff across from us. As the afternoon wore on, various different colors began to reflect from the canyon face, something I've seen before in pictures and paintings of the canyons in Big Bend, where purples and blues come out of the previously dull rock face when struck the right way by the right kind of light. Moonlight often brings forth these colors as well.

So that's the kind of place I'm thinking I need to be right now. There's places to stay at the private fishing camp in Bend, Texas, but I'd be more interested in spending a night out at a fishing camp with a load of firewood, some easy chairs, a small tent in case the urge to nap hits and a canoe or small jonboat to run a trotline through that deep hole we fished that 25 years ago. The bride would have to be esconced away in a nearby town that had a good motel with cable, whilst El Fisho Jr and I do the all night fishing camp thing. Proabably with Billy Ray dropping by to help us out, which of course would be entirely welcome.

There's tons of other places to fish in the Hill Country. There are cabins all over the place for hundreds of miles that have ponds or lakes or live water frontage like rivers or creeks. The Guadalupe has some great fishing, if you can get access to private property via a cabin rental or the like and you're out of the tube zone. I like fishing both above and below Canyon Lake, but have had better luck fishing the upper portion of the Guadalupe near Hunt, where the headwaters of that powerful river lay. But there are some monster trout downstream from the dam (catch and release only, barbless hooks) that have lived in those cold Canyon Lake waters, which I understand come from the BOTTOM of Canyon lake where it is really cold.

Thus below Canyon Dam there are big browns and rainbows that live year round. My friend from Sugar Land, a famous fisherman named Geoffrey, once showed me photographic proof and had credible witnesses to his catching some HUGE browns and rainbows using 3" beetle spins in root beer and purple on a cloudy day. Go figure. They were in the five to six pound range and were huge and beautiful creatures. I think it was during this time of year when he caught them, when tubing had slowed down. He was fishing from shore and caught heap big fish.

Drive out any distance from towns like Bandera and you'll find low water crossings galore that offer quick fishing on any number of just idyllic creeks that flow into the Medina River. There are just all kinds of nice large creeks surrounding Bandera and I've parked near many a low water crossing in that apart of Texas and caught nice sunfish and small bass with fly rods and ultralight spinning gear with spinners in these creeks.

While fishing some of these crossings, I've had locals stop and tell me I could go onto their place and fish if I wanted to follow them down the road, and I always do. Guess they felt sorry for me, but often low water crossings are good structure for a food chain that ends with the fish (unless caught and not released) and fishing pressure on these creeks is often very light. In fact, I've had more than one person tell me that no one ever fished in the creeks they live on that they knew of in the area, although there are fish all in them. Nice clear creeks, and if you get lucky you can get access to some of the deep pools that are near some crossings by wading. Your fishing odds improve greatly when you can get to a deep pool.

One last place I'd like to fish some more is a series of 3 (I think, at least 2 but I think there are 3) low water crossings on a dead end road that ends near a community called Reagan Wells, sorta north of Uvalde and just a bit west of Concan. On the way to Reagan Wells, you'll cross the Dry Fork of the Frio River at these crossings, which at the time I visited, was completely full of water with a large deep rushing force of nearly a river. I guess it might run dry, but I saw lots of fish around the crossings and a healthy food chain of minnows and algae in the water, so it looked pretty healthy when I saw it.

There were plenty of nice places to safely park and plenty of rock areas going off the low water crossing for some nice fishing and it's some rough country. But there are some scrappy panfish in the the Dry Fork of the Frio River that gather near the low water crossings for food, despite the name of the river.

The Medina River itself is probably the nicest fishing and floating river in the State, when there is enough water for floating. In a "normal" state, it flows slower and with less vigor than some other rivers in the State

We got lucky one year, and floated from the town of Medina to Bandera. We had to do some canoe and kayak dragging intially, but after the first couple of miles, it was paddling the rest of the way. Much of this River flows through vast ranches during this trip, so there are lots of parts of it that are indeed wild.

The Medina features gin clear water that turns a gorgeous green in the deep pools that are found along it's course. We saw lots and lots of very respectably sized bass and catfish on that float, which began before daylight. I saw one hawg of a bass, it had to have been at least 10 pounds or more, just a monster, in about 2 feet of water. Like other Texas Rivers, landowners don't want river folks on their property, but there are plenty of gravel and sand bars on the river that provide rest stops.

The Medina is a great fun river, because the water flows slower and less harshly than a river like the Guadalupe. There are smaller rapids that in higher water like we ran can be very challenging, and the wild nature of much of the river means hairpin turns at the end of rapids that slam you into huge spider filled reed banks of bamboo that seem to end each larger rapid.

These bamboo forests sometimes grow across the entire river at the bottom of a rapid, which are all runnable by canoe, and you have to take paths and hit deadends trying to find the main channel through them. I think we hit two of those during our trip. Like a bamboo maze, filled with spider's webs and all sorts of brackish water and bugs and such, which are all magnetically attracted to you as you paddle through it.

So that's a few suggestions about Texas fishing places that make a great weekend trip for the family. Again, most of the areas in The Hill C0untry have rivers and streams and creeks. We've had some rain here in Texas this year, and so these waters should be running fairly well.

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