From the Archive - A Summer Trip to the South Llano River
With temperatures reaching into the 20's for Texas (this is cold for the Lone Star State), I thought another article from the Summer would help to warm things up.
The South Llano River has always been a place I enjoy visiting, particularly upstream from the South Llano River State Park. The cliffs, clear water, springs, fish, and wildlife all add to a great location to visit on a Saturday after a long week of work. Although I have been to the South Llano River many times, for this visit I would be bringing someone who has never been to the South Llano River and also has never been kayak fishing with me – Kaitlyn. Although Kaitlyn has had some experience paddleboarding, she is relatively new to paddle sports. Fortunately, we both had a Saturday available to get out on the water under the hot Texas sun.
We started out the day quite a bit later than usual, with our kayak and paddleboard reaching the clean cool waters of the South Llano River just before noon. Typically, it can be pretty difficult to catch some bass at this time of day…especially with the sun beating down. In consideration of this, I didn't plan on fishing too much.
We started off the day with Kaitlyn on the Pau Hana Endurance with an MTI Adventurewear Helios 2.0 for her PDF and an Aquabound Malta Carbon for her paddle. I would be using my Jackson Kayak Liska with an MTI Adventurewear Solaris F-Spec and Bending Branches Angler Pro for my PDF and paddle respectively.
As we made our way upstream I began to fish a little from my Liska. I didn’t intend to fish too much but I couldn’t help but wanting to cast a few times into the South Llano River. I was using a Rage Tail Space Monkey in Green Pumpkin that was Texas Rigged without a weight. I like to use a weightless setup in water that is somewhat clear or better, as it gives a more realistic look. I wasn’t having much luck fishing with the exception of some smaller fish showing some interest and curiosity to the Space Monkey. A little later though I got a violent strike from a big bass. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to set my hook hard enough to land this bass. I am not sure if it was because I didn’t have a sharp enough hook, I didn’t set my hook in time, or if I didn’t set the hook with enough force. This was pretty exhilarating and frustrating at the same time since I didn’t land the bass; however, I quickly got another bite shortly after. Suprisingly, the same thing happened! I couldn’t believe it as I typically do not lose many bass from hook sets. I decided to tie on a new hook just to play it safe and set the hook extra hard next time…if there was a next time. I was really surprised that I was getting some bites due to the conditions, but this really just speaks as to how successful a Space Monkey can be when fished properly. I didn’t know if I would get another bite, but I kept on fishing here and there in hopes that I would get another opportunity to catch a nice bass.
We took a quick break on some boulders in the water to get a snack and some cool water from our Klean Kanteen water bottles. After this break me and Kaitlyn headed further upstream to reach the first obstacle in the river – a small section of rapids that requires portaging. I’ve always liked the time at which I reached this section of small rapids as the water drastically starts to become clearer and clearer further upstream. I couldn’t wait to start seeing the clearer water from the nearby springs and for Kaitlyn to experience this, but we first had to make it up the obstacle. I gave Kaitlyn a shot at pulling my Jackson Kayak Liska upstream, so she could see what it was like. She started off a little off balance from the flowing water and more so the uneven river rock terrain, but Kaitlyn soon found a method of moving up the rapids and was able to successfully portage the Liska. I’ve always thought it has been interesting for people who aren’t too experienced with flowing water to get a chance to move around in it. It is amazing how even a small amount of flowing water can produce a powerful force. Kaitlyn quickly figured out how to move around in the moving water which is extremely important for anyone new to flowing water.
Once we got to the top of the rapids we were able to get back on our kayak and paddleboard. I couldn’t help but notice a really good habitat for some bass to the left of me as we headed upstream from the rapids. There was an abundance of fish all around and a lot of good vegetation too. Not to mention the clean flowing water providing excellent water quality for such a good habitat. Behind a thick section of vegetation, I noticed a small pool of water. This looked like it could have some bass in it so I decided to cast into it before Kaitlyn got too far upstream on the Pau Hana Endurance. I soon saw a nice bass showing some interest in my Rage Tail Space Monkey. The bass wasn’t super interested but was definitely showing some attention to my lure. I casted a few more times into the pool for this rascal only to follow the Space Monkey closely behind and then lose interest. I had to reposition my Jackson Kayak Liska in the flowing water to make another cast into the pool, and this time I was going to try something slightly different. I casted far away from the bass and worked my lure into the pool for a more natural approach. I also used a very subtle retrieval with some quick twitches thrown in to give the Space Monkey a nice presentation. After about one or two quick twitches of my Space Monkey in this pool I saw the bass engulf it and take off like crazy. I set the hook as hard as I could because I didn’t want to lose this guy like I had the other two. I had him hooked good, but then another concern developed. The bass headed into the thick vegetation to try and seek some cover. This was not good as I was in flowing water trying to reel in a good size bass on a medium-light spinning setup with 10 lb. braided line. I really had to be careful when the bass was in the vegetation so my line didn’t break, but eventually I was able to bring this rascal close to my kayak so that I could grab him. It was a nice bass around 2.5 pounds. I was really excited to catch this guy because I couldn’t believe I missed two bass earlier. Kaitlyn had never seen a bass like this before so she was able to hold the bass for me while I took a picture as well.
After catching this bass I was pretty satisfied so I didn’t really fish much after this and me and Kaitlyn just paddled further and further upstream. It is pretty amazing to see how the South Llano River changes in water clarity as you head upstream. This is mainly because there are numerous springs located in this region which help to provide clean water and consistent flow to this section of the South Llano River. You can see (and hear) many of the springs that feed into the main river, including some that are quite large. I really enjoy seeing water coming out of the ground. To me it is just such a pure sight to see and untouched by human hands.
Although I said I wasn't going to fish anymore, I really couldn't help the urge to cast a few more times into the pristine waters of the South Llano River. One thing every fisherman should keep in mind is that just as pristine waters can produce big bass, they can also produce not so big bass...like the one I caught. It can be pretty amazing for such a small fish to bite a lure that is nearly its own size. Even though this little guy wasn't a big fish, I will say he was incredibly healthy and I would like to catch this same fish a few years from now.
Me and Kaitlyn continued heading upstream to our end goal of a small waterfall. There were many more obstacles in the way though. One such obstacle was a low water crossing for a ranch road. I've always thought this low water crossing would be a neat way to come home every day - crossing over the waters of the South Llano River. What else is great is that there are also an abundance of fish in this area. In fact, just a few minutes after we crossed the low water crossing I saw a decent sized bass in some vegetation. Once again I couldn't help but trying to catch it even though me and Kaitlyn really needed to get to the waterfall because it was later in the day. I decided to just cast a few times quickly.
The first cast sparked a tiny bit of interest in this bass, but I would have to work much harder to catch him. If it weren't for my Smith Optics Redmond, I probably wouldn't have been able to catch this fish because it was crucial having good eyewear to see into the water clearly. I casted a second time and worked my lure a little more erratically. He almost bit but not quite! I decided I would cast one last time and really work my lure as best as I could. The bass started to show interest in my lure and follow it. I did a few quick twitches and pops and then wham! I was on to another good sized bass. This guy fought incredible hard and I originally thought I might have mistaken it for a Guadalupe Bass. It was a Largemouth Bass though, and a nice sized two pounder. I let this fish go and then it was back to the journey of paddling to the waterfall. I really wanted to continue fishing the vegetation as there was a ton of bass in the vegetation, but we really needed to keep moving so daylight wouldn't run out.
We proceeded through several small sections of rapids in order to make our way upstream and although it wasn’t easy and took a lot of energy, it was well worth what was in store afterwards. We made it through the last section of rapids and eventually I could faintly hear the sound of a waterfall in the distance. Me and Kaitlyn were getting more and more excited to see the small waterfall. We kept paddling and sure enough we reached our end goal.
I don’t know why I find this waterfall so amazing. It isn’t particularly big, but more so just a neat sight to witness in an area that is very dry. I think part of it is also the amount of work it takes to reach this small waterfall. It is not like you can simply paddle upstream and you will reach it, no, you have to paddle upstream and portage multiple times which in hand takes a lot of work and energy. It truly is a rewarding experience and it is even better when you get to bring someone new to experience it like Kaitlyn.
There is only one problem with going all the way to this small waterfall on the South Llano River…you have to go back downstream. Fortunately, you do have the current from the river helping you when you are going back so that is something to be thankful for, but you still have to portage quite a few times. On the way back we did witness some wild turkey which Kaitlyn had never seen before. I always enjoy seeing these wild turkey and it is pretty neat to see this kind of wildlife on the South Llano River. We continued on downstream and after a long day we made it to our take out.
As a whole, this was a great trip to the South Llano River. There was some decent bass, a nice scenery to view, and simply some time away from many of the distractions of life. Maybe more importantly was that I was able to introduce Kaitlyn to something new and give her the opportunity to get out on the water and witness the South Llano River that God has provided us with. In fact, that seems to be how trips like this always go. It is always a blast catching some big bass. Paddling in clear water and being able to see aquatic life below you is pretty neat as well. Not to mention having beautiful scenery around you and a nice waterfall to visit. These things all make the South Llano River great, but it seems like what makes it better is enjoying it with someone else.