Welcome to Panfish!

Part Two hundred-eight

Blanco River, Another Hillfisher Adventure

Hillfisher

By Johnny (aka Hillfisher), Texas


It started out as a touch and go morning with the weather. As I packed for the day it was raining hard with thunder and lightening, but the radar showed none of the cell moving south to where we were going. As the time approached for Justin, freebirdsWB, to arrive, the rain stopped and the day was quickly turning into a sauna bath. We loaded up and headed south to just above the city of San Marcos. There is a place called the 5-Mile Dam on the Blanco River and the Central Texas Fly Fishers Club was meeting there for an afternoon of fishing. This area requires a float of some sort, as the river is deep and fairly wide in places. The other nice thing is no motorized craft with the exception of electric trolling motors are allowed. Everyone in this group was under paddle power. If you ever want to see a wide variety of watercraft for paddling, get with a fly fishing club doing a river float trip. I saw some pretty neat stuff that day.

After introductions and getting everyone's various floats in the water, we all headed off to spots we hoped to catch fish.

The Blanco is well known for its population and size of Smallmouth bass or smallies, as they are often called. There have been smallies over 4 lbs. taken consistently on the Blanco and this was in everyone's thoughts as we started to fish. After several false starts on my new pontoon riverboat, I headed up river to see what I could find. A little way up river I found a deep inlet, which ran back several yards into the bank. One side was a gravel bank while the other was weedy with dead tree stumps in the water. Now this was looking very promising. I rowed up to the gravel bank, banked the pontoon and quietly waded up into the inlet. There were fish signs everywhere. The telltale 'Vee' wakes and an occasional rise marked active, feeding fish. With the giddiness of a schoolboy, I tied on a yellow and orange San Gabriel fly. Carefully minimizing the false casting, I laid the fly out just to the side of one of the stumps. Before the fly had time to settle, the water exploded and a fair size longear bream took the fly. The next few casts produced several bream. I went further back into the inlet and switched over to a weighted San Gabriel, this one was yellow and purple. I cast it up next to some deadfall in the inlet and slowly twitched it back to me. No takers...hmmmm. I cast out again and still no takers. I knew there had to be some bream in the deadfall but they were not budging from their cover.

This is a nice shot of a small Redbreast Sunfish. Note the extended gill flap cover.

I have learned that when the bream are hitting really well and then suddenly stop, there maybe something big in the area and it has them spooked. So thinking there was a big old bass who was looking into the ruckus caused by hooked bream, I tied on a simple baitfish imitator and flipped it out to where the bream were biting before. As I twitched and stripped it back to me the line went tight and immediately began to surge out fast enough to give me a slight burn. The line continued to surge out and was heading for deep water. The rest of the loose line was out and I set the hook and put the fish on the reel at the same time. The drag was screaming and the fish had still not come up. I palmed the spool and slowly got it turned around. It was a tug of war for a little while as I was afraid of breaking my line or giving too much slack and the barbless hook slipping out. After about ten minutes of tussling back and forth I was slowly gaining the advantage. In all this time it still never surfaced, I had no idea what it was. Finally I got it in shallower water and the first thing I saw was a big flat head with whiskers! It was a catfish coming in at about 19 to 20 inches long. Well, that started out the day on the right note. After a few more casts and a few more fish I decided to explore further up river. Clouds were moving in from the south and dropped the temp to a more comfortable level. Rolling thunder could be heard in the distance and it immediately reminded me of the story of old Rip Van Winkle of the Catskill Mountains. The storm never made it over our area but skirted around to the east. Just as well, all of us were carrying nice lightening rods.

At one place in the river a submerged limestone ridge was clearly seen and every once in awhile a fish could be seen darting out and up to take bugs off the surface. Here I anchored the pontoon in place and cast out just to the ridgeline and twitched the fly to where it would cross from the shallow water out over the submerged ridge. A few more twitches and WHAM, another hit from an eager bream.

This area being a little further south places tall stately cypress trees alongside the cottonwoods and oaks. Wherever there are cypress tree roots and knees in the water, there are fish. As I went on up river to where the first set of riffles came in, about an eighth of a mile or so, the river narrowed severely and the cypress trees were predominating. It was beautiful back here. The sounds of running water and fairly constant shade made it very pleasant to fish. I banked the pontoon and went on foot from there.

I carefully and quietly waded up river casting ahead into undisturbed water. It was bream non-stop action in and around the cypress tree roots! It was also non-stop lost flies in the low tree limbs! I think I need to seriously consider that 4-foot fly rod combo from one of the FAOL Sponsors. Although I did not make it past this hole, Justin went further up and found another large clear pool, which had large catfish circling about. It was also up there that he landed a very nice Guadalupe bass.

As the day was ending and we were drifting back down river, the fish were beginning to rise in the coolness of the early evening. A few more were landed but everyone was in a hurry to get back as the park closes at nine pm and the sheriff tickets anyone coming out afterwards.

No one caught any smallies that day. Most likely because it was not fished early morning and having to be off the water well before dark eliminated the dusk fishing. However there will be other days, other fish, other flies and unfortunately other trees.

Until next time good fishing to all. ~ Hillfisher

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