Fly Fishing Around Cordillera Ranch and the Hill Country

By:
Shane Reynolds, Outdoor Recreation Director and Outfitter

Our Director of Membership, Brianna Botine, recently asked me to write about fly fishing. Although the upper Guadalupe River at Cordillera Ranch is still in drought conditions, the Ranch is home to a large group of fishing enthusiasts that enjoy the art of fly casting, and several residents have designed and built their own fly-tying rooms in their homes.

The Hill Country and greater Central Texas have some great fly-fishing options, from creeks and rivers to lakes and the Central Texas coast. Many fly enthusiasts know about the lower Guadalupe River and its legendary trout fishing in the winter, but our real treasure is our bass fishing in the many diverse river systems.

One good thing about Central Texas is the ability to catch Guadalupe bass. No other place in the world has this species of fish. This is, of course, why it is our state fish. With trout-like behavior, these bass can really put a bend in your rod. 

The fly and lure selection for these water bodies are all relatively similar — big flies and big poppers. The bass in Texas like a big meal. A lot of the water bodies in the Hill Country have little to no fishing pressure at all. River fishing still hasn’t picked up a lot of popularity in Texas so the bass are more willing to hit a fly. This is a huge factor in why people travel to fish these waters. Whether you are looking for a lake or a river to fly fish, Texas has it all. 

Texas also has some great saltwater fly-fishing destinations, which means there is lots of variety for anglers. In Texas, we have the ability to fish on rivers, bays, lakes and even the saltwater flats for a real unique experience. The state offers over 80,000 miles worth of water to explore. 

WHERE TO GO? 

When you’re dealing with a state as massive and diverse as Texas, it can be hard to decide where to start. Immediately around Cordillera Ranch, we have Swede Creek, Guadalupe River, Blanco River, Llano River and San Marcos River just to name a few. There are just so many great rivers, lakes, streams, creeks and bays to choose from. Of course, that’s not even including the saltwater shoreline of the state. Let’s take a look at just a few of the most popular rivers for anglers. Keep in mind, these are just rivers.

Guadalupe River

Here’s a river that really shouldn’t be missed. Conveniently located near the city of Sattler, this one is open for fishing from late November until May for trout. It has the opposite season as many rivers in the country. Consider this one a fabulous winter destination. The Guadalupe River also holds a pretty cool title, and that’s the fact that this trout fishery is the southernmost in the entire country. This explains why the season is during the winter and early spring.

While you fish for trout, you’ll be able to take in some rather beautiful scenery. The river itself is a lovely deep blue, there are cypress trees lining the banks, and the river shifts and changes in depth. Many people compare the setting to that of what you would find in a tropical rainforest. It makes for a rather unique experience. This river contains rainbow trout and is best fished from a raft. The Club has a Flycraft we guide on and we know a lot of the guides on the lower Guadalupe River to accommodate any date or group. If you like, you can also wade fish the lower Guadalupe. Trout Unlimited has a lease access program for anglers who prefer to wade with access down the entire 10 miles of tail race water. 

Devils River

If you know me, you know I love this river! In my opinion, this is the king of rivers in Texas! With spring-fed, turquoise-colored water, and both largemouth and smallmouth bass you can site cast at, nothing else in Texas compares to the experience of fly fishing the Devils River. We fly fish the Devils off a raft in the state natural area and also offer down-river kayak trips. The season on the Devils runs from early March through late May and late September through early November. 

San Marcos River

This is my second favorite river in Texas! The San Marcos River starts at the San Marcos Springs on the campus of Texas State University in Hays County. The springs are home to five endangered or threatened species including Texas Wild Rice and the Texas Blind Salamander. Normal daily flows on the San Marcos are around 100 million gallons a day. The San Marcos flows about 85.5 miles through Guadalupe and Caldwell Counties to the confluence of the Guadalupe River in Gonzales County. 

The San Marcos River is one of the best places to catch a really large bass on a fly. Smallmouth, largemouth, Guadalupe Bass and Guadalupe/Smallmouth hybrids are all found in the San Marcos. Good numbers of catfish, Rio Grande Perch, several species of sunfish, carp and gar can all be caught on a fly in the same day.

Most of our fishing trips are done on the stretch of river between the towns of San Marcos and Fentress. There are several options for full day and half day floats. The San Marcos River is almost impossible to wade fish, so floating is the best way to fish it. All float trips are done in stable, comfortable whitewater rafts or kayaks. 

Llano River

Located in the middle of Texas is the Llano River. Here’s another gem for anglers of all skill levels. Along the banks of this river are gorgeous cliffs, massive rocks, trees, brush and sand. The river is usually quite clear, which pleases anglers. The typical fish found here are bass and sunfish. Keep in mind, you won’t be able to access some areas of the river. It’s also divided into a north and south portion. Both are equally challenging, scenic and rich in fish.

WHEN TO GO?

Texas is one of those magical states where you can fish year-round, and have fabulous conditions each time. The one downfall is that summer in Texas, especially in the southern regions, gets extremely hot. It can be rather uncomfortable to be out there fishing in the heat of the day. Additionally, many of the rivers are crowded with canoes, kayaks, boats and more. If fly fishing is more of a quiet hobby for you, stick to winter where it’s nowhere nearly as crowded and busy. You may also want to wait until the mercury drops a bit. As the temperatures cool down, sometimes the fishing tends to get better, too.

WHAT WILL YOU NEED WHEN YOU GET THERE?

For Texas, you are dealing with some pretty diverse landscape and water conditions. When you are fishing in a river such as the San Marcos, you’ve got some areas that are quite narrow. There’s also the fact that there are low-hanging tree branches. Showing up with that 10-foot fly rod is just not going to be ideal. This is why some planning is necessary. It will allow you to pick the best fly rod and reel for the location and fish species.

Generally speaking, in Texas you can use anything from a seven foot to a 10-foot fly rod. The weight will need to balance with the rod you choose.

Flies are another tricky part. You aren’t just dealing with one type of fish in Texas; instead, there is a massive variety. Sure, you can try to match to the hatch, but it goes a lot deeper than that in Texas. It may be that imitation cicadas, crickets and grasshoppers end up being your best bet. A good idea, if you’re feeling unsure, is to visit a local fly-fishing shop and ask for advice. Not only will they be able to give you tips, but you’ll also be able to buy the flies you need right there.

There are a number of different ways to fish in Texas. In some areas, the shore is the only option, whereas others allow you to wade, float or even boat. There is a large variety for you to choose from, allowing you to pick your favorite style. A good rule of thumb is to always pack a pair of high-quality chest waders in your bag so you’re set to go if the opportunity presents itself.

In the state of Texas, anyone who is 17 years of age and older needs a valid fishing license. It doesn’t matter if you plan to do saltwater or freshwater fishing, a fishing license is required. There is one exception to this rule — if you are doing your fishing in a state park from the bank, no license is required. There are resident and non-resident licenses available. You can purchase a one-year or one-day license. You can also find information regarding limits and regulations through the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. 

In Texas, we have a massive selection of freshwater and saltwater fishing locations to choose from, there are challenges for all skill levels, and there’s the fact that you can fish year-round in this beautiful state. In fact, winter is sometimes the very best time to go fishing here. You won’t be fighting with the summer crowds, the water will be easier to navigate, and the fish will be that much easier to spot.

Tight lines!

Shane Reynolds is the Outdoor Recreation Director & Outfitter at The Clubs of Cordillera Ranch. He can be reached at outfitter@cordilleraranch.com and 210.616.6051, or at the Cordillera Ranch Outfitter Center at 830.336.4823.

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