Back in the 1960′s executives at the Lone Star Brewery were no longer satisfied with simply stocking Hill Country bars with beer, so they began stocking The Guadalupe River with trout. I’ve heard it was a publicity campaign. I’ve also read that these were executives who liked to flyfish and simply wanted to be able to fish for trout in Texas. Of course I love this nationalistic mentality. In a war of passions, I’m not sure who’d win, Texans or flyfishermen. Texans love the great state of Texas as much as flyfisherman love a dead drift. In this case, the combination was a recipe for success because they created the southernmost trout fishery in the United States.
I’m no stranger to the Guadalupe. When I was a kiddo, my grandparents had a house right on the river. I spent summers swimming and tubing in the rapids among giant cypress trees dripping in Spanish moss. In college we’d race along the river road, hitting any and every honkytonk that would serve us beer. More recently than I care to admit, I went on a Guadalupe tubing adventure with a group of friends. Picture some 30 & 40-somethings, who are otherwise upstanding members of their communities and corporations, floating down the river with coolers of beer, sucking on jello shots and getting into aggressive singing competitions with fellow floaters. Of course we capsized dramatically, there was a bit of a theft from a campsite along the bank. I really shouldn’t go into details.
But what I can share is that I am having a mad love affair with the Guadalupe River. At each stage of my life, it just seems to offer me something new. These days it’s trout. I’ve had some fun wade-fishing outings, with moderate success. But I’ve long sensed that if I could just cover some water with a person who really knows it well, I could leap ahead to a whole new level with this river. Now normally I’m not a big fan of level-jumping in a relationship, but where the Guadalupe is concerned it was time to get a little more serious, make a commitment.
So I booked a guide.
Banning Collins guides in Texas in the winter and Montana in the summer. I really can’t say enough about Banning. Top notch guide with a wealth of experience and personality to spare. We met at the put-in, he already had his cataraft in the water so we popped on the river. I like to travel lean but he wisely suggested I bring my 5-wt and my 6-wt plus layers upon layers of clothes because it was ice-cold. I realize cold is a relative term, and that Texas winters are mild. But it was 30-some-odd degrees when we put on. The sun, however, was bright and the day sublime. Pristine water with deep pools that glowed a mesmerizing blue-green color. Those familiar trees leaned over from the edge, offering moss and mood. And the best part of all, I caught trout on the Guadalupe like never before. These hearty holdovers had been holding out on me.
Banning deserves all the credit of course, not just for putting me on the perfect spots, but really taking the time to explain how this river fishes differently than what I’m used to. I will be the first to admit, I have been spoiled rotten by the dry flies and big skies of Montana. But those boys from Lone Star were truly onto something. I mean, I was an hour away from my house on a gorgeous day in January, catching trout with some legitimate chunk and spunk to them. And they fought with a unique style. On my first take I was actually worried I’d foul-hooked the fish because it seemed to be coming at me sideways. But that 22 midge was on his lip right where it was supposed to be. Each fish did the same thing, sort of pitching to one side as it fought then making a good run right at the end.
And right to the end, it was a great day. It’s hard to distill all the intangible highlights into words, but let’s just say once again the Guadalupe was there for me. All those freshwater takes gave me a fresh take on a river I’ve known my entire life. And I’m rejuvenated to see how much more there is to discover.
Once back in Austin, I decided to top off my flyfishing adventure with live music at Atone’s. Truthfully I was already pretty hopped-up on the highs of catching Texas trout, but of course I had to celebrate with some Lone Star too. And I can say, now more than ever, I am proud to call it ‘The National Beer of Texas’.