Llano River

Fly-fishing on this waterway is one of the best ways to surrender to the rugged and beautiful Hill Country.
Llano River
Llano River
Photograph by Kenny Braun

Section RR 2389 (James River Crossing, known locally as Dos Rios) to Simonsville Road (Martin’s Crossing), near Mason
Difficulty Moderate
Length and duration 6.5 miles, 2–4 hours
Best bet for parking Dos Rios
Resources Fishing guides Marcus Rodriguez and Johnny Quiroz, of Guides of Texas ,
Reward yourself Try the homemade Mexican food at Santos Taqueria, in Mason.

Canoeing/Kayaking, Rapids, Overnight Camping

Want confirmation that Texas is the best place on earth to live? Then drift down this section of the Llano on a warm day when the river is running and the fish are biting. After you pass the few houses on the south bank at the beginning of the trip, you glide through broad views of open ranchland covered with the classic Hill Country mix of yucca, cactus, oak, and cedar. The sun sparkles on water that splashes over the boulders lying in the shallow rapids and glints off high red bluffs.

Geologically, this area is on the edge of the Llano Uplift, and the Paleozoic bedrock found here doesn’t shine with the pink of the Precambrian granite east of U.S. 87. But what you will see are thin, tightly packed layers of dark-red sandstone stacked into towering bluffs, unique to this section of the river. The most famous are the two-hundred-foot-high cliffs at the halfway point of the trip, where the river makes a 90-degree turn to the northeast. As recently as the seventies, a young outlaw couple hid from a local Texas Ranger in these bluffs, presumably unconcerned about adding “trespassing” to their rap sheet. If you’re not running from the law, the large sandbar on the other side of the river is one of the best camping or picnicking spots in Texas. Just remember that if you leave the sandbar or try to clamber up the cliffs you’ll be on private property.

Though there is a dam in Llano, it’s a simple barricade with no power-generating capacity; this truly is one of Texas’s wild rivers. Deer and feral hogs are plentiful, and bass and sunfish teem in the Llano’s spring-fed waters, making the river a popular fly-fishing destination, with the bonus of great sight-casting opportunities in the clear stream. Many fishing guides use big rubber rafts, but for solo trips a kayak or canoe is more maneuverable, and the river bottom, which is limestone bedrock alternating with pebbly gravel stretches, is solid enough for wading into promising areas. Photographers dream about the quality of the light reflected off the rippling water and the bright limestone, which is perfectly complemented by the arc of a peerless cast. Fly-fishing on the Llano is one of the best ways to surrender to the rugged and beautiful Hill Country.

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