To set the record straight, there is no Off Season in New Braunfels. The holiday lights and Christmas festivities are a testament to that. Autumn ushered in a quieter season, a time rich in tradition and beauty and peace from the summer extremes. Locals know what to do: dine out again without the wait, head to the park to watch waddling ducks instead of stumbling toobers, take a leisurely drive on River Road with the top down. (The car top, silly. It's chilly outside.)
And while on River Road you may happen upon an angler (the PC term for 'fisherman') in waders waist deep in the Guadalupe serenely casting by ancient sycamores and mossy cypress framed by limestone cliffs aglow in sunlight dancing off the water. Turn off your satellite radio and listen. Do you hear it? That is called "quiet." And it is right here in our own backyard.
Trout Fishing? In New Braunfels? Here is something locals may not know but people from California to New York do: the Guadalupe River is the southernmost trout fishery in the United States. It is well stocked by the Guadalupe River chapter of Trout Unlimited and Texas Parks and Wildlife. Rainbow trout are here year round. So is Chris Jackson with Action Angler and Outdoor Center.
"It is pretty neat when you get someone from trout country like Montana and they are just blown away here," says the soft-spoken Jackson with a twinkle in his eyes. This Houston born transplant has early memories of our area camping with his Dad. It was his grandparents who got him fishing at the age of four in East Texas stock ponds. He is a self-taught fly angler since age ten who watched a lot of fishing on TV. (Remember Saturday television? Cartoons. Soul Train. Fishing.)
Action Angler is a fly shop and guide service located at the third crossing on River Road with the only river access on the Guadalupe reserved for fly-fishing. An address is good for your GPS but no one here will know what you are talking about. Once you wind your way down River Road and count the bridge crossings you will find an unassuming storefront perched on a hill complete with creaky wooden steps and fish décor. From the porch you can hear the stream calling and inside the door is a feast for the seasoned angler or the wannabe weekend novice.
Jackson offers clinics throughout the year to introduce fly fishing to new people. "We usually have a mixture of beginners and experienced anglers. Some come to support the cause or to improve their skills."
Education is a big part of the experience. "As a guide, I am here to teach clients how to cast properly, read the water properly, how to set a hook. It is not always easy to know when you have a fish. It's about making the connection between angler and fish with good presentation and positive attitude."
"The beauty of fly fishing vs. conventional fishing," Jackson notes, "is that we encourage catch and release." He quotes, "If you like to fish, leave the fish in the river."
Indeed, the shop is full of items that follow this philosophy. Non-abrasive nets and hooks so small and sharp you can barely see them. What you can see, however, are the fabulously beautiful crafted lures. Dry flies, wet flies, nymphs and streamers are displayed in all their glory like precious gems in the jeweler's case. Jackson has designed some of these himself and has professionals make the feather and beaded creatures. He is proud of his hand picked selection of quality products.
Jackson says that fishing from sunrise to sunset would be his dream, but an hour or two is more realistic. What does he think about? "I get into the scenery. Mostly it is the challenge of tricking the fish." You should join him sometime. You don't have to go far. It is just a leisurely ride down River Road. Don't forget to turn your radio down and listen to all the quiet that is so welcome this time of year.
9751 River Rd.