My dad and I hit the Llano River outside of Mason this weekend. We arrived too late on Friday to do any real fishing, but I did manage to pull in a few rock bass and bluegill on the tenkara rod before darkness sent us back to the cabin for dinner and rest.
We hit the water bright and early the next morning, first with poppers and clouser minnows on lightweight fly tackle for maybe an hour. We started fishing at the wrong end of the river and weren't able to entice anything to take the bait. We returned, as our host had prepared breakfast, and found the weather far too windy to continue lightweight fly casting. We opted instead to switch to lightweight spincasting rigs and small panfish beetle jibs and Rooster Tails.
I drew first blood with a medium-sized bass (maybe a pound) on a grub jig with a spinner attachment.
I waded out on some rocks in the middle of the river, and cast out over some other rocks. He hit just on the far side of a tangle of coontails, and then promptly dove into the weeds. It took quite some time to yank him through them, but I did, snapped a picture, and sent him on his bass-y way.
At this point, my dad had waded down 200 yards in the opposite direction and reported a good strike. Unfortunately, I had the only camera and we didn't get a picture. But, no sooner had I gotten there and cast out than I immediately had a larger fish on -- likely around two pounds this time.
From that point on, the fishing was on
. We pulled them in so fast and relentlessly that we didn't even pause to take pictures. Most of them were species of bass (smallies, largemouths, Guadalupe), but my dad did manage to hook up on a number of redbreast sunfish. I remained sunfishless, however, though I kept hoping to scare up a Rio Grande cichlid or two. I had to content myself with bass.
In the early afternoon, the fishing slowed as it usually does, and we hopped in the car to drive down to Castell. Thanks to a goat cookoff, there were quite a few people in the river, and despite wading down some distance past the little waterfall, we weren't able to find any luck. After an hour of trying, we hopped back into the car, went back to Mason, stocked up on Cooper's, and hit the river again for the afternoon and evening run.
Working our way back to our previous good holes, we caught many more bass of significant, and insignificant, size. Rooster Tails still ruled the day, but thanks to the weedy bottom and hangups, we were down to only one. I was using a white spinnerbait when I spied one of our lost lures caught around a tree branch. Wading out, I was able to retrieve it, and thus began some of the best fishing of the day, including this hog my dad was able to pull in from beneath some overhanging tree branches.
This was easily the biggest fish we landed.
I say landed, because I managed to lose a contender just as I was going to net him. It was still an excellent fight, but he flopped on top of the water and threw the hook within arm's reach of where I was wading. Nevertheless, we kept pulling good bass out of this particular pool until, with the sun fading and wingshooters encroaching on our territory (seriously; if you hear anglers shout "we're down here," quit shooting in their direction!).
On our way back in, we fished one particular pool that looked like it ought to hold fish, and had even had some bass rising on a hatch earlier in the day (but who had resisted my tenkara flies, possibly due to the difficulty of making a proper presentation in the wind). We had no luck again, except for that long-nosed gar that took my Rooster Tail. Immediately, I knew I was hooked up on a monster fish. The rod doubled, and I feared it would break. The gar breached the water maybe six or seven feet in front of my dad, treating us to a majestic spray and his dinosaur-like visage, before plunging back into the water and diving straight for some weeds. My drag screamed, and my line snapped with an audible twang, and the gar was gone.
I considered this the word of the river gods that our day of playing with their children was done, and we packed up our rods, packed up the truck, and began the drive home. Estimated fish count was 60+, but the awards for biggest fish of the day and widest variety of fish went straight to my dad.
Considering a trip to the Llano River, but feeling like maybe low flows and dry conditions will hamper your fishing? Nah. But the name of the game is access. Be prepared to wade in sometimes difficult conditions (chest high water, muddy bottoms, lots of hydrilla and coontail) and carry your wading staff. Floating the river on a kayak seems better suited, but I'm still trying to justify the purchase of a Hobie to my wife.