Drive past the Guadalupe River west of New Braunfels in the Hill Country of Texas on a sunny summer day and it looks like you could walk across the tubes and rafts paving the river. But after a few cold fronts push through in fall, the river is almost deserted. And it will stay that way until the warmth of spring returns.
|Even in the cold winter months, you can still land some good size panfish and even bass.
That "off" season is when the Guadalupe beckons to me. So on a cool winter day my wife, Becky, and I loaded up a small boat in the pickup and planned a short float. After dropping our vehicle at the take-out point we had a shuttle company ferry us upstream and shoved off into the clear, cold waters.
The river shined emerald green in the morning sunlight and huge gray cypress trees leaned protectively over the banks. We packed light for the short float-just a couple of sandwiches, drinks, life preservers and a pair of light spinning rods with some favorite lures in a small tacklebox.
A heron flushed a short ways downstream. Not another person was on the river-a river that would see hundreds of partiers floating down it during summer.
We cast spinners and small plastic-tailed grubs into pockets and near trees lining the banks. In short order we were rewarded with sharp takes telegraphing up the thin graphite rods. First a brightly-colored sunfish struck, and then a small largemouth came our way.
Becky tossed a Rebel crankbait towards a cypress trunk and a heavy bass engulfed the lure, stripping line from the spool and diving powerfully. But before we could scoop the net under it, the hooks pulled free. It was still a fight that brightened the winter day and will linger long in the memory.
More sunfish grabbed our lures, and then a smallmouth struck viciously and was landed and released. We portaged around several low dams and soon drifted into a deep green pool. It looked like trout water and we drew several tentative hits from these fish on spinners, but none struck solidly.
Changing to a 3 1/2 inch Rapala, I cast towards a deep eddy near a logjam. A 1 1/2 pound rainbow slammed the offering and took off on a fast run. The fish leapt towards the sky and sent a spray of water splashing into the air, simultaneously tossing the lure back towards me. It would have been nice to land the plump rainbow, but hooking it and watching that spectacular leap was a pleasure in itself.
We caught several more bass and a smattering of panfish before the take-out point came into view and we reluctantly pulled into shore and called a halt to the day's brief outing. We had seen not a single other person and caught enough fish that we knew we would be back soon.
The lesson of that splendid winter outing is clear: Fish during the "off" season when the crowds disappear and you might not catch as many as during peak season, but you'll probably still land some fish and also enjoy the rich rewards of silence and solitude astream. That's something we all need in these hectic times we live in.