On The Fly Freshwater
Article & Photos By Jimmy Jacobs
If you want to stir up a bit of controversy, ask a fisheries biologist how many species of black bass exist. For decades the number was agreed upon by the International Game Fish Association and most fisheries biologists at six. Those were largemouth, smallmouth, spotted, Suwannee, redeye and Guadalupe.
Then in 1999 the shoal bass of the Chattahoochee/Flint/Apalachicola River system was recognized as a distinct species. Next came the Alabama bass, which had been consider a sub-species of spotted bass. Those events seem to have breached the flood gates. Georgia now recognizes Altamaha, Bartram’s, Chattahoochee and Tallapoosa bass as species unto themselves. Florida has added the Choctaw bass, while Alabama claims the Cahaba and Warrior bass as species.
All of this recent activity in delineating new bass lineages has been confined to just those three states, with some of the fish overlapping the state borders. Indeed, regardless of which number you accept, Alabama, Florida and Georgia hold all but one species. That is the Guadalupe bass. Thus, most anglers wanting to fill their bucket list of bass species will find this fish a bit of more trouble to track down.
The Guadalupe bass is native only in a few rivers on the Edwards Plateau of south-central Texas. Of those, the most likely place to find them is in their namesake Guadalupe River. The Guadalupe bass is a natural river fish, preferring to inhabit water that is moving. They most often are found around rocks, as well as being the bass species most prone to eating insects. That latter characteristic makes them ideal targets for fly casting.
A Guadalupe bass.
The world record for a Guadalupe bass stands at just 3.71 pounds. In fact, most of these bass are more likely to measure only 9 to 12 inches, with anything pushing 15 inches considered a trophy.
Armed with this information, I headed to the Lone Star State to add a Guadalupe bass to my life list of fish taken on a fly.
As with many fish that are found basically in streams and rivers, the first obstacle in catching one is getting access to the water. Thus, my search took me to Guadalupe River State Park, which is a 1,939-acre tract located 30 miles north of San Antonio. More importantly, it contains 4 miles of the river, including the tumbling waters of Guadalupe Rapids.
Upon arrival at the park, I was apprehensive about my prospects for hooking one of these bass. The forecast for the summer day called for a sweltering 101 degrees and at 8 a.m. when the park gates opened it was already pushing 90.
Surprisingly, when I waded into the river the water was quite cool and a quick check with a thermometer showed it in the mid-70 range. Though situated in a dry, hot climate, the Guadalupe River is spring fed, which accounted for the cooler flow.
I had walked downstream from the parking lot to the rocky stretch known as the Rapids. Tying on a popping bug, I probed the water around rocks sticking above the surface and breaking the current. Casts were also directed to any submerged, but visible rocks.
Those casts attracted a few redbreast sunfish, but no bass. Next, I switched off to throwing streamers to imitate small bait fish. Again, some sunfish responded, but the bass were not interested. Having been told that Guadalupes were rather easy to catch, I was a bit confounded by this lack of success.
After a lunch break and a short siesta in the shade, I again got back into the river. But now I had a lot more company from waders, swimmers and tubers seeking relief from the heat.
On hot summer days you will have competition for the water.
Having found the shade comfortable during my nap, it made sense that the fish might appreciate the lack of sun as well. For that reason, I began wading the middle of the river and tossing casts up against any shaded sections of the shore, whether or not there were any rocks present. I also had switched off to a brown-colored Wooly Bugger, hoping to fool the bass into thinking it was a crawfish.
I have no ideas if my new tactics and flies were the magic pill, or if the conditions in the river had changed, but suddenly the fish did appear. In short order I hooked three bass along the shore, but only managed to get a quite small 6-inch one to my net. He was tiny, but he also was my first Guadalupe bass.
Having run into water too deep to wade, I turned back down stream and cast out among the rocks that had skunked me earlier. This time, however, I was rewarded with a pair of Guadalupes that were pushing the i2-inch mark.
Those fish satisfied my “bucket-list lust” and served as a good introduction to a rather exotic member of the black bass family.
While You Are There
Guadalupe River State Park has a total of 98 campsites ranging from full RV hook ups to walk-in tent sites. The facility has a camp store, hiking trails, a Discovery Center and offers guided tours of the historic Rust House and the Honey Creek State Natural Area.
The Alamo in San Antonio.
If your tastes in accommodations are not quite that rustic, the historic city of San Antonio is 30 miles south. There you can walk the fabled grounds of The Alamo, or enjoy the eateries, entertainment and a boat ride along the San Antonio Riverwalk.
Cruising the San Antonio Riverwalk entertainment complex.