Winter Waters to Fly Fish in TX... A 5-part Series
Updated: Feb 10, 2019
When some outdoorsy types are siting in their .243’s and dressed up like trees, many of us are still stalking Texas’ waterways in search of mythical creatures of a more aqueous nature. Our 5-Part series will highlight 5 great fishing options where Texans can flick their flies without taking the snow chains off the old man’s station wagon. If you’re like us and you enjoy waving your wizard stick around in the wintertime, READ ON!
Part 1 - SOUTH LLANO RIVER STATE PARK, JUNCTION, TX
In colder months, the South Llano River State Park near Junction, Texas benefits from two distinct trout dumps, one in early December and another in mid-January. No license is required to fish in Texas’ state parks, though anglers should familiarize themselves with bag limits and other fishing and park regulations. Also, it may be tempting to start fishing right away as you enter the park. However, even if you possess an annual state park pass, visitors still need to visit the check-in station about a mile in and obtain a permit.
On the Llano (Spanish for “Plains”), a 3-5wt rod is a prudent weapon, and depending on tactic, we recommend a medium Thingamabobber-style indicator about a foot or two up from the leader connection when casting or dapping into deep, fast-moving pools from the bank, watching for brief taps or any slight sudden change in direction. If you prefer to float the river in a kayak or similar, indicators aren’t as necessary, and casting without them will be a bit easier.
Unfortunately, South Llano River State Park was hammered by two epic back-to-back floods during the late summer and fall of 2018, but the park and the fishing within is rapidly recuperating. After the floodwaters had receded and cleared by early December and the park was still closed, we garnered permission from the rangers to fish near the park's bridge crossing to analyze the damage done to the fishery. Surprisingly we landed 6 healthy fish in about thirty minutes, four gorgeous Guadalupe bass and three feisty bluegills. We returned in late January, about a week after a recent trout deposit, and caught 8 total fish, including two Rainbows and more Guads and another bluegill.
[PRO TIP] If there’s no one already fishing around the bridge area, we recommend hitting those frothy holes and pools first. After robbing those haunts, look for trout in the deepest part of the darkest water downstream with heavy weighted flies and patient hook-sets, they’ll bump your offering several times before striking clean. Upstream and down, shoot flies at the tops of runs and drift an array of lighter bead-headed nymphs the length of the riffles and pools, and the seams and tailouts. One fly rod-wielding park ranger notes that their trout at South Llano seem fond of the color yellow, so stock up on subsurface sinkers like TeQueelys and yellow egg patterns, and also natural and darker patterns like black or olive Woolly Buggers, gold-ribbed Hares Ear nymphs and Rio Getters. Focus on the backs of pools and behind structure, and give the still, backwater sloughs some lovin’ too – those are favorite hang-outs for bass. Other top water flies that work well during warmer days are Stimulators, Llanolopes and Betts Trim Gims - strangely the yellows on these do seem to produce more strikes.
The park re-opened in December and those yellow-loving South Llano fish are still hungry as ever. Grab your favorite fleece and fly rod and see what kinda damage you can do this winter!