Here in Central Texas is a little known river called San Gabriel.
There are two distinct branches of north and south that join in
Georgetown then continue to the east before finally feeding into
the Little River. The North has been fished extensively over
last few years by me, while the south has had little more than
casual glances as I drove over bridges. The South San Gabriel
does not run as much water as the north and from the bridges
the water appears very shallow with no pools visible. For this
reason I always passed it up and fished the North San Gabriel.
All that has changed and here is the story.
Justin, (FreebirdsWB on the FAOL Bulletin Board), and I went to
some private ponds one Sunday to see if they had any fish. The
landowner had given me permission to see if any of the ponds
contained fish. He had recently purchased the 500 acres with
15 ponds of which 5 were spring fed. The morning was a big
disappointment. There were a lot of fish but it was the same
species of perch and everything was 3 inches or less. The ponds
were heavily stained to the point of being murky brown.
After several hours of determining the ponds were stunted, Justin
mentioned going to the South San Gabriel as he knew I had fished
it very little.
We arrived and geared up, we headed up river into some beautiful
The water was crystal clear and sight casting was in the order
of the day. There were panfish everywhere! Once in a while you
would hear a lot of splashing and commotion, look up to see a
large bass chasing bluegills for dinner. Justin chose a spot
where a large limestone boulder had crashed into the riverbed
and created a pool of water in the shade of some large cottonwood
trees. He pulled one large sunfish after another and some decent
bass as well.
I chose the opposite bank and was casting into the grass overhanging
the bank. Once again I was using my fly of choice, the San Gabriel Fly.
It was hookup after hookup with small bluegills and sunfish.
We continued up river and waded some areas that were quite
shallow allowing a mere three inches of water flowing across
a broad slab of satin smooth limestone. Usually just before
these limestone slabs there would be a crack or ridge creating
a natural dike or dam forming a small shallow pool. In these
pools were several panfish and bass along with the scores of
minnows. It was these pools where we would catch several
panfish and bass.
We came to a deeper pool that was spring fed. This pool was
at least 5 feet deep or more. Here there were some nice bass.
Each of us caught some nice bass and several larger panfish.
It was also a great swimming hole to cool off in after the
fishing was done. The limestone walls were covered in a
carpet of green ferns with spring water flowing down through
the ferns and into the pool, an oasis that provided an escape
from the Texas heat.
We continued up river and came upon a large clear pool. By this
time we were about a half a mile up river. One side was limestone
cliffs and the other heavily forested with trees growing out over
the water. This looked very promising. We quickly learned this
hole was too deep to wade. So we set up shop in the lower outer
edge of the pool and began casting. Suddenly I heard Justin
exclaim "Man! That's the largest bluegill I have ever seen!"
He sight cast to it, but before the fly could get to it, a gang
of smaller ones rushed the fly and he had a fight going on.
Smaller ones? Even they were coming in around eight inches
or so. He sight cast again and this time the larger bluegill
took the fly. When he got it up for me to see, wow, it measured
at just under 10 inches!
I was having a great time also. It literally was a hookup on
every single cast! Large sunfish and bluegills and very active bass.
There were large bass present. We would see them once in a
while chasing minnows and such in the shallows making a lot
of noise. We were far enough up river that we determined these
fish simply had never been fished. It's like that here, people
simply don't fish the rivers. We made a pact that day to keep
mum about it until we could return with my kayaks to get into
the pool and explore above to see what else there was.
The next couple of days were spent in trying to find some excuse
to not have to go to work, as I was impatient to get back to the
river. An opportunity arose and an unscheduled day off presented
itself. I called Justin and we were off.
I set up the kayaks and we headed up river carrying the kayaks
and walking at a quick pace. We wanted to get to the pool
quickly to fish as well as explore a bit further up river.
When we got to the pool and set out in the kayaks, what we
saw was simply amazing. The waters were extremely clear and
the fish were completely unafraid to the point they would
approach the kayaks and check us out! We saw some bass that
easily gone 5 plus pounds! One in particular was huge! The
panfish were very aggressive and consistently large. I went
to the upper reaches of the pool and where I could wade again
and fished along the cliffs. Again the fishing was explosive
and non-stop hookups! However not a single bass was caught.
Justin could not tear himself away from those large bass.
So close yet so far away!
I left him to the bass and headed up to the next unexplored pool.
Wow, this just keeps getting better I tell myself! The next pool
was again too deep to wade through. I stopped in the lower edge
and eased myself out of the kayak and into water about 2 feet
deep. As I stood there I noticed catfish in the 2 - 3 foot size
just swimming around me not even caring that I was there. I
cast a San Gabriel Fly out over the water and before it had
time too settle in the water, there is an explosive shower
of water and the fish was on! Nice Panfish! As I am bringing
him in a large hump of water is forming behind it! All of a
sudden the fly rod takes a huge bend and then nothing. Fish, fly
gone, just leader waving in the breeze. Hmmmm. . . Tie on another
SGF, cast out and hookup another bluegill. No fooling around
this time, I bringing him in fast and sure enough another large
hump formed up behind him. This time I got the panfish and saw
the large black bass that was following him. He was big! He
also sat there only about 8 feet away and never moved except
to chase my poor panfish when I caught one. He simply was not
afraid! He would not touch anything I threw at him! My panfish
flies were too small I guess.
Well, it was approaching sunset and we had a way to go before
getting back to the car. So I headed back down river and there
was poor Justin still in the same spot, still trying to get those
big 'ole bass. I have to admit, the man loves his bass! I
think the women of the world would be extremely happy if we
wooed them half as much as we do the fish we seek!
I'm going back as soon as I can. There is much to explore
and inexperienced panfish for me to taunt. . . or maybe
it's the other way around. ~ Johnny (AKA Hillfisher)