DALLAS -- There's good news for Texas rainbow trout fishing fans. An October fish sampling survey by fisheries biologists indicated good numbers of rainbows in the Guadalupe River survived the hot Texas summer.
Many fly fishers don't realize the quality of fishing in the Guadalupe below Canyon Dam. Trout Unlimited rates the Guadalupe among the top 100 trout streams in North America. In an angler attitude and opinion survey, 90 percent of the respondents said they were moderately to extremely satisfied with their Guadalupe fishing experience.
You wouldn't think a trout could live through the summer in these parts, but a 2001 flow agreement between the Guadalupe River Chapter of TU and the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority assures that summer flows from Canyon Lake Dam are adequate to sustain the fish. They need a water temperature below 71 degrees.
That's why the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department doesn't begin its winter trout stocking program until the water temperatures are cool enough for the fish in small community lakes where most trout are stocked. The Guadalupe also gets its share of annual stocker trout, but they're small hatchery fish, averaging about nine inches.
Rainbows that survive for two or three years in the river are much larger. The October electrofishing sample resulted in a catch rate of 10 trout per hour, among the five highest catch rates recorded since 1993. The fish ranged from 1.4 pounds to 3.6 pounds. Rainbows that size are considered good fish just about everywhere this side of Alaska.
The river banks are private property along the Guadalupe, but the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has leased one site for public access, and the local TU chapter, Guadalupe River Trout Unlimited, leases numerous sites. That's one reason GRTU is the nation's largest TU chapter, with about 2,800 members.
GRTU has an active website filled with good information. At www.grtu.org, you can learn how to join the lease program. Fishing at GRTU sites is catch-and-release only, but that's not an issue for most trout anglers, particularly those who prefer fly fishing.
If you wade in the river, as many trout anglers do, Bill Higdon urges caution. Higdon is a veteran river guide and a past president of GRTU. He said the uniform flow of water encourages the growth of algae and other aquatic vegetation on rocks, making the footing tricky.
Also, because the Guadalupe's water is drawn from the bottom layers of the reservoir, it tends to be rich in nutrients from organic debris on the bottom of Canyon Lake. Higdon fishes from a drift boat, mostly to avoid wading on the slippery bottom but also to better position his anglers.
Since trout spend most of their time feeding beneath the surface on immature insect forms, that's how he catches most of his fish. He mostly uses the tactic called "nymphing."
Below a strike indicator, he rigs two flies, a larger fly that rides nearer the surface and a very small fly (size 18 to 22) that drifts just above the bottom.
Because Higdon knows where to find fish, he changes flies often until he finds something they like.