Thursday, January 1, 2009

Trout Fishing on the Guadalupe River

I spent this Christmas in Austin, Texas with my wife's family. I was excited to be there in the winter time because there is a tail water trout fishery about an hour and a half south of where I was that supposedly fishes very well in the winter months.

There is a dam on the Guadalupe river that forms Canyon lake. The water that comes out below the dam is cold enough for trout despite being at 30 degrees latitude. Texas parks and wildlife keeps the area for fly fishing only, and in the best area the rules are for catch and release with one exception over eighteen inches. Perfect conditions for a peaceful day on the river. I borrowed a vehicle and drove down on the Sunday after Christmas to entertain the southern trout.

My first stop was at Action Angler. A wonderful little fly shop owned and operated by Chris Jackson. Chris would please Izaak Walton himself. He welcomed me as a visitor and told me that the inspiration for his shop came from a little shop at Lee's Ferry. He sold me a few local flies and I paid $5.00 for access to the river from his private land. We chatted a little more and then it was time for me to get on the water.

I set up my 7'9" 3wt rod (which was probably too small for the river, but it travels well). And walked up from the bridge where Chris's trail hit the river. Texas is full of limestone and the river bed was no exception. At first glance the Guadalupe seemed to shallow and tame for trout, but there are several grooves and channels cut into the soft rock that make excellent places for fish to hide. I cast into and around these groves with a copper beadhead trailing under an elk hair caddis with a gray hackle.

I like to move quite a bit as I fish but I quickly found that the only way to move up and down the river was by walking in it. This was difficult as I had no waders or wading boots. Off came my shoes and I rolled up my jeans. The water was painfully cold, but not unbearable. The outside temperature was around 55 and I think the water was at about 45. The limestone river bed was covered with ridges, and these hurt my feet as I walked over them. I was able to move up the river for a painfully slow quarter mile or so, fishing the channels as I moved.

In the channels and grooves I got a number of non-committal strikes on the beadhead. Most of these strikes came in unlikely places where the water was still and where no one would suspect a fish to be. I came to a place where the water got more swift and trickled over some rocks. This a more likely trout habitat I fished here for about an hour, but only got a few soft strikes. I talked to another fisherman who had a very pretty cast while at the rapids. He had had a similar time, but had seen a good sized fish up the river a ways. I fished a little more, then walked back to where I had left my shoes and broke down my rod.

There is nothing like time on a river to quiet one's heart and so I spent another half hour there praying. The canyon where I fished was most beautiful and it was very nice to get a mid-winter fishing trip in. I think better of Texas after my trip and look forward to another winter trip to Austin for some time on the peaceful Guadalupe river.

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