When you think of classic U.S. flyfishing destinations, places like Montana, Colorado or the Pacific Northwest typically come to mind. Central Texas likely wouldn’t even make the list. But there are ample opportunities to fish with the long rod on flowing waters and in scenic surroundings less than a 90-minute drive from Killeen.
Brushy Creek, for example, flows through the town of Round Rock.
Because the floodplain of Brushy Creek extends well beyond its banks, there is little visible development from much of the streambed and, thanks to years of undisturbed growth, trees and other shade-casting vegetation line the banks. The thing that endears this creek to flyfishers is the fact that it has predictable hatches of aquatic insects. During spring, summer and fall, hatches of the caddis fly and mayfly happen with great regularity, and a winter hatch of the mayfly also takes place.
Hatches are episodes during which the larvae of various aquatic insects mature to the point where they emerge from the sediment and rocks of the stream bottom and “hatch” out of their casings, rise to the surface, unfurl their wings and begin to fly, typically in a mating effort that puts them in contact with the very surface of the water they just emerged from — right where eager fish can feed upon them, and where flyfishers with flies designed to “match the hatch” can attempt to offer a counterfeit.
Another such nearby fly-friendly stream is the San Gabriel River. From above the dam of Lake Georgetown in Georgetown, and eastward through the town of Georgetown to the headwaters of Granger Lake, this pretty, limestone-strewn stream looks like trout water, but instead offers warm-water species like sunfish and largemouth bass.
Fly anglers looking to stalk these waters this time of year should go early to beat the heat. Be equipped with light, relatively short flyrods. In the warm months, wet-wading without waders is the way to go, and waders (not hip boots) are the best choice in the cool months. Wearing polarized glasses and a brimmed hat is a must for seeing fish holding and hiding in and around submerged ambush points.
Carrying extra leader and tippet material is helpful, as the stream-side brush can have a magnetic attraction to the one you have tied on. And, of course, you’ll want a good selection of flies, as well as your fishing license. A weight-forward floating flyline will do well for most applications.
Fly selection should focus on small terrestrial patterns. Terrestrial patterns are artificial flies intended to imitate land-dwelling insects that can be expected to fall into the water, such as ants, wasps, bees, crickets, houseflies and grasshoppers. Patterns in muted, natural colors tied on hooks size 12 and smaller, down to size 16, tend to get more attention than larger, gaudier flies.
My suggestion for first-timers on these waters is to go with a guide. This will tremendously reduce your learning curve, give you instant access to a local expert and many of his or her tricks of the trade, and will help you avoid frustration on what should be an enjoyable, relaxing outing.
Simply learning about the best public access points to our local streams is worth the price of the trip alone. Additionally, a local guide can help you understand the timing of the seasonal insect hatches so you can know what to expect and have solid imitation fly patterns on hand.
When fish begin feeding on hatching insects, they will often ignore all else. So although terrestrial patterns are reliable, all bets are off during a hatch, unless you can match it.
One final word about flycasting: a fishing trip is really no place to learn or practice flycasting. Learning to cast a fly and practicing should be done in your backyard before you try to take those skills on the water.
There are a number of friendly flycasting instructors within an hour’s drive of Killeen who offer group or private lessons. I’ve seen some real disasters when well-intentioned anglers bring new gear with which they are not familiar (and which is often not appropriate for the circumstances) expecting to learn as they go. If you hire a guide, be honest and upfront about your casting ability so he or she can factor that in when your trip is being planned. If your guide suggests a casting lesson before the trip, heed that advice.
A host of species can be found in our Central Texas streams, the most common being sunfish and largemouth bass, but Guadalupe bass, channel catfish, carp, Rio Grande perch and warmouth can also be caught on the fly.
If you thought living in Central Texas requires that you hang up your flyrod, think again!
WHAT’S HAPPENING NOW? As I checked in with flyfishing guide Chris Johnson on Thursday, he reported low, ultra-clear water with some flow on both the San Gabriel and on Brushy Creek, which dictates sight-fishing with terrestrial grasshopper patterns.