On Saturday, August 5th, Alriah and I embarked on a day trip to the hill country west of Austin. Riah was in Austin for work on Thursday and Friday so I drove down from Dallas on Friday so that we could wake up Saturday morning for some hill country adventures. On Friday night, we went over to her boarding school friend’s house and we had some delicious tacos with her husband and young boy and we had some great conversations. The next morning, I picked up Alriah from their house and we were on our way to Enchanted Rock. Enchanted Rock is about 2 hours west of Austin and north of Fredricksburg. It was a hot day so we had plenty of water, coconut water, aloe juice, and Gatorade. We paid our entrance fee, parked the Jeep at the state park parking lot, and loaded up the back-pack for the hike up the summit. Enchanted Rock is a very unique place in Texas and it feel like you are in Africa, so many huge boulders amidst the huge pink granite mountain. This is the largest solid piece of pink granite in the world. There were live oaks, mesquite, juniper, cactus, yucca, and other scrubby plants scattered in the landscape. As we started on the trail we noticed a lizard scurrying along the ground and it even allowed me to sneak up close with the camera to snap this photo.
The sun was scorching with little wind while we trekked up the huge rock. The heat was radiating off the rock as we walked, but we took breaks and hydrated on our way up. It didn’t take long to make it to the top and we took some time to enjoy the distant views of the hill country and take some pictures.
We then checked out the vernal pools, inhabited by little fairy shrimp.
Apparently, these shrimp can lay eggs that can survive in dry conditions, and when it rains and the vernal pools fill back up, the eggs will hatch. Truly amazing way for the species to survive in harsh conditions. Now, at the the top of Enchanted Rock, there is a large outcropping of huge boulders with a labyrinth cave system. Riah and I decided to hang out in the cave and enjoy the cool shade. It was here where I realized I had a cooling mister fan in my backpack and we could have been utilizing it this whole time. We busted it out and cooled off and ate a couple apples. After cooling down, we got up and then descended down the mountain. There are some cracks in the rock that must be some kind of geologic layer created in the formation of this huge landform.
The clouds were then covering the sun and there was a nice breeze that was quite pleasant. Enchanted Rock is a pretty place and a huge rock, but it doesn’t take long to experience the unique landscape, enjoy the scenery and vista views, and then be on your way to your next destination. For us, our next destination was the Llano River where we were going to do some fishing for the Texas native, Guadalupe bass.
We got in the Jeep and cranked up the A/C. First stop was to stop by a little creek we passed by close to the state park. We parked on the side of the road, next to the tall grass, on the right side. When I got out, I heard lots of rattling. I told Riah about the noise and not to get out on her side and to get out of the Jeep on the drivers side where there was pavement, just in case those were rattlesnakes. I casted the spinning rod with a Roadrunner a few times and hooked a pretty good sunfish. It pulled into the weeds and then I lost it when I tried to pull the fish out of the vegetation. There were not any other sizeable fish in this little creek so we got back in the Jeep. It was about a 30 minute drive and we were in Llano. We picked up some tacos at the Laredo Taco Company gas station shop and then ate PB&J sandwiches at the park right next to our fishing spot for the next couple hours. The fishing spot we chose was the Llano River just downstream of the dam at the Hwy 16 bridge in Llano, TX. This portion had some shallow wade-able water, and lots of rocks and current, the type of habitat perfect for Guadalupe bass. We started upstream of this large deeper pool.
We started off fishing but it was pretty slow. We made our way upstream to fish the pools that formed occasionally in the midst of the current. I was fishing upstream with my fly rod with a klauser minnow. Not much luck but managed to foul hook a pretty good Guad. I think I may have hooked it in the mouth and then the hook came loose when the fish was underneath a rock and I got lucky to hook the bass on the side right after the hook came loose and the fish was squirming. Here’s a picture. You can see that the jaw does not protrude past the eye and the back is olive green to bronze in color, with vertical bars along the side. It has a similar appearance to smallmouth bass, which it is related to.
Riah was casting upstream with the spinning rod and a Roadrunner. I forgot that this doesn’t work well when casting upstream with a lure that has some weight to it. The current just pushes the lure down in the rocks and we were unhooking the lure quite often. We made our way upstream to a spot and a large pool and decided to head back downstream. This is where the fishing got better. Since we were heading downstream, Riah was casting downstream and the lure would stay suspended in the water column reeling against the current. She then caught a little sunfish, her first fish ever! Here’s a picture.
Riah was excited and reeled the line almost to the tip of the rod. The fish stayed on but I did point out it is possible to lose fish that way if they are pulled out of the water. We went upstream to a large pool and had no luck. When I saw a snake swimming in the water and over toward us where we were perched on a large rock, we decided to get out of there and head back downstream. We made our way through the brush and when we made it to the stream edge, Riah got really excited and pointed out there was a big spotted fish. I was thinking it was a bass that she saw and she fasted downstream with the Toadrunner and hooked a gar! That’s what that big fish was. The hook came loose though since gars have such a bony mouth structure with all of those teeth. We tried a few more cast but could get the lure to stay hooked. It would have been really cool to catch that gar which was around 24″ long with its long mouth, but they are difficult to handle and have sharp scales and a whole mouth full of razor sharp teeth to deal with. Pliars are a must!
We decided to keep heading downstream and quickly after, she was casting downstream and then hooked into a small Guadalupe bass. This time she handled the fish perfectly! She reeled in and kept the line length where she could tilt the rod and bring the bass to her hand. Here’s the video: Riah’s First Guadalupe Bass
I decided to switch my fly to a black frog popper. The fish were all over this and hitting it left and right, but only a couple stayed hooked. I caught a small sunfish and a Guad. A little ways downstream behind a boulder, I was casting the black frog popper and got a massive hit from a bass. This must’ve been a Guad weighing a couple pounds (this is big for a Guad) but it only struck once and didn’t stay on. I got so excited I pulled pack too soon and tangled up all my line. Here’s the spot where the big bass struck.
Riah casted a few times into the pool but the fish must’ve been spooked by all the commotion. It was now time to head back to the Jeep and drive home to Dallas since we had a 3.5 hour journey ahead of us. We had a good road trip and I listened to some General Rudie and The Slackers while Riah took a nap for a little bit, and then we sang songs together for the rest of the ride home. It was a long day but a fun one enjoying nature and embarking on another adventure together!