Red, chartreuse, and perched delicately atop the deep green water of the Guadalupe, the Royal Wulff fly meanders downstream. It glides toward the grassy bank and then back into the deepest part of the river, like an aimless afternoon stroller in the park. It rests momentarily at the edge of a foamy back current when—slam!—five-pound line spins off my reel in a showery spray as the rainbow trout that just ate my fly darts upriver. Keeping tension on the line with my forefinger, I let the fish run while I shift my stance in the running water, bracing myself for the oncoming fight. As the trout drags my line in a taut rotating arc over the water, I pause to admire the panorama of rolling hills and cypress trees that surround me, and I remind myself just how lucky I am to be fly-fishing in Texas on a warm winter afternoon.
Every mid-December through mid-February, the Guadalupe River is stocked with rainbow trout. Located in Central Texas, near New Braunfels between San Antonio and Austin, the Guadalupe is the southernmost freshwater trout fishery in the United States. Trout, as opposed to native warm-water fish like bass and catfish, can only live in cold-water rivers and streams where the annual temperature remains below 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Because the section of the Guadalupe near the dam at Canyon Lake is always cold, it is the only stretch of water in Texas where the trout can live year-round. While a few other spots in the state may get stocked with anywhere from 1,000 to 5,000 trout a year, the Guadalupe River receives