It's been a cold winter but the fishing is on fire!
It has been an awesome winter for fly-fishing in the Texas Hill Country to say the least! Trout Season is in full swing on the Guadalupe below Canyon Lake with annual winter stockings by Guadalupe River Trout Unlimited and Texas Parks and Wildlife. For those who may not know much about the Trout fishing in The Guadalupe, TPWD stocks small 6-10in Rainbows (Striper and Bass food) and GRTU stocks the larger fish in the 15-20in+ range. I cannot emphasize the importance of Guadalupe River Trout Unlimited and all the hard work they put in to make the fishery what it is. I am proud to be a part of such an awesome organization. GRTU stocks some very large 20in+ fish every year but this year we saw a higher amount of these big fish with average size in 17-18in range and quite a few fish in the 20in+ range. Its made for an awesome season so far and I want to give a huge thanks to GRTU!
As far as tactics, The Guadalupe is fishing pretty much how it always does although we have had flows in the 50-100cfs range, below the historical median of about 150cfs. The fishing has been great but lower flows, especially the 50cfs we had in November though early December, made navigation slightly tougher in the raft but didn't really slow us down at all. Recently, I've had good success on various attractor patterns and midges when not seeing a lot of bug activity. Be on the lookout for Trico Mayfly, Blue Wing Olive Mayfly and Caddis Hatches. Occasionally a few Slate Drake and Hexagenia Mayflies as well. Certain weather conditions, sunlight, water temp and time of day/year influences when a hatch will occur but if I notice a particular bug coming off I generally try to match it. On The Guadalupe, your best bet is going to be matching the aquatic life cycle stages of these bugs aka nymphs, larvae, pupae and emergers. Under the right conditions, occasionally dry fly opportunities present themselves. Mayfly nymphs and emergers, Caddis larvae, pupae and emerging pupae have all been effective. In entomology terms, Mayflies go through a nymph stage and emerge as adults. Caddis go from larvae to pupae and emerge as adults. As far as fly categories (nymph, streamer, dry fly etc) are concerned, a subsurface Caddis imitation is referred to as a nymph or soft hackle. Small and medium streamers have also been effective some days.
While Trout fishing is the main draw to The Guadalupe, one of my specialities is targeting the big, Trout eating Striped Bass that inhabit the river as well. Trout survive in the river year round but the influx of fresh food, mainly provided by TPWD, has had these predators on the chew. Some of the larger Stripers are fully capable of eating a 20in trophy Trout and I've seen it happen but I believe they prefer the bite sized 6-10in stockers. Just like fishing for Trout, I match the hatch. That means throwing big meaty streamers on 7-9wts. I've put quite a few clients on some very nice Stripers recently and also caught a pending Catch and Release State Record Striped Bass at 41.5in and 31 pounds. I'm not one to personally care much for records but good for business I guess. Caught on a fly rod obviously but also bigger than any Striper C&R on conventional tackle in Texas. Which brings me to another point, a lot of fly-fisherman would want some (or all) of the Stripers I catch killed as they eat Trout. I am by no means totally against keeping them and have kept many big Stripers out of the river over the years but I don't think its fair to vilify them. A big Striper is definitely going to eat some Trout, mainly smaller TPWD stockers but so do Ospreys, Cormorants, Egrets, Herons, Largemouth Bass, poachers, people keeping fish legally, people mishandling fish and the summer heat, to name a few. Stripers are only one part of the Trout mortality equation on The Guad and it doesn't make sense to single them out in my opinion. I am very protective of our Trout, do everything I can to promote ethical fishing, catch and release, proper handling of fish etc but I also love catching Stripers and I have immense respect for these magnificent fish.
Its been an exceptional winter of fishing so far and I'm expecting more of the same for the next few months. Looking forward to getting some warm-water species back in the mix in the Spring. Until then, stay warm y'all!