We’d like to spend some time on the water but without the hassle of crowds.
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For those of you who thought you had to travel to the mountain rivers of Colorado or Wyoming to enjoy the lovely, archaic sport of fly-fishing, we take you now to, of all places, the Llano River in the Hill Country, where a stunning blond angler named Raye Carrington awaits you. An ex-Austinite and a bridge-playing buddy of Ann Richards’, Carrington happens to be one of the country’s most well-regarded fly fisherwomen—in fact, a fishing-rod company has signed a deal to put her name on a new line of fly-fishing rods—and she is so devoted to Texas fly-fishing that last October she opened Raye Carrington on the Llano River, a fly-fishing retreat near the town of Mason, about a two-hour drive west of Austin and north of San Antonio.
Note that I said “fishing retreat.” This isn’t your basic fishing camp where men sit around in their undershirts drinking beer and cleaning fish and telling lies. For one thing, the twenty-acre property looks like something out of a Martha Stewart fantasy. About one hundred yards from the ever-gurgling river, Carrington has built or refurbished a couple of tin-roofed cabins (one is a converted barn) and an expansive main house with a glorious tree-shaded porch and feeders and water gardens nearby that nourish an assortment of native and migratory birds. The five guest rooms, which sleep two to four people each, feature Southwestern-style cedar furniture and down comforters on the queen-size beds. What’s more, all the rooms come with small refrigerators, coffeemakers, books on angling and Texas history—everything except telephones and televisions.
The fact is that many of Carrington's visitors come here just to relax, to read, to pet her dog and cat, and to stare out at the spring-fed Llano River, one of Texas' last wild rivers, the water rolling over granite and limestone, with sand and gravel bars that make for easy wading. These visitors take day trips to Fredericksburg for shopping or they tour the Eckert James River Bat Cave just outside Mason—and in the evenings they head off for a steak dinner at the old-timey HooDoo Cafe in nearby Art (population: 2), whose owner, Randy Gaulding (he's one of the two residents; the other is a budding novelist), features live music or western movies two nights a week at the Art Feed Store next door.
But you're nuts not to try the fly-fishing. For $75, the always-encouraging Carrington will give you a thorough two-hour lesson in fly casting. She provides all your equipment, and she's such a good teacher that by late morning you'll be able to hit the river alone, casting for perch and Guadalupe and largemouth bass, your silvery fishing line whipping back and forth above you in a beautiful arc. To be honest, you might not catch anything your first time out. It's one thing, Carrington says, to be a good fly caster and another thing entirely to know which flies to use and where to send them on the water to bring in the fish. And if you don't keep practicing, you'll quickly forget everything that Carrington taught you. But who cares? This could be the best chance you'll ever have to pretend, at least for a little while, that you're Brad Pitt in A River Runs Through It. S.H.
Cool concept for a long, hot summer: Round up several friends, pool your resources, load up the cooler with groceries and drinks—and get lost on the water for a few days and nights. You can do just that on a 56-foot Forever 10 houseboat on either Lake Meredith, north of Amarillo, or Lake Amistad (officially, the International Amistad Reservoir), west of Del Rio. These boats are practically floating condos, with air-conditioned, communal sleeping quarters for ten, a patio out back, and an upper deck and lounge for sunbathing (with an attached waterslide); a full galley with a stove, a microwave, and two refrigerators; two bathrooms, one with a shower; and a TV-VCR and stereo. Both Amistad, with six hundred miles of shoreline, some of it in Mexico, and the smaller and narrower Meredith, with about two hundred miles of shoreline, are designated National Recreation Areas. They offer exceptionally clear water for swimming, snorkeling, and scuba diving as well as fishing—your catch may include tilapia in Amistad and walleyes and bass in Meredith. A number of secluded coves on the northern shores of Amistad practically guarantee privacy. Although parts of Meredith can be crowded on weekends, especially around the marina, this dammed-up portion of the Canadian River cuts through some of the most dramatic cliffs and bluffs in the Panhandle and borders parts of the Alibates National Monument, site of one of the great Native American flint quarries. J.N.P.