Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Deep in the Heart of Texas

I apologize for my blogging lull.  I blame it on Texas.  Ya know, everything is bigger in Texas - hats, boots, trucks, and blogging lulls.  Actually, this past week I took a few days to travel down to central Texas and chase the Guadalupe bass.  It was a combo slam trip and mini-vacaction for Mary May and I.  We had a fantastic time, filled with gorgeous scenery, delicious food, awesome wildlife, and one crafty little bass.

The gorgeous Texas Hill Country

Last Thursday morning we boarded a plane and headed for Austin.  You might have seen the bumper sticker that reads, "Keep Austin Weird."  Well it was about to get a little weirder.  We began thinking, what angler in their right mind travels half way across the country to a state known for giant bass in an effort to catch a species very few folks even know about that rarely gets bigger than 12 to 13 inches.  I reminded myself that it is about the challenge.  And it is about getting lost in the Texas Hill Country on another remote river adventure.  That is what I live for.

                                                                    Bill and I on the Guadalupe River

We landed in Austin around 2 PM and quickly found a highly recommended BBQ joint close to the airport.  Vic's was pretty darn good.  The brisket had a fantastic smokey flavor.  It would be the first of many delicious meals we had on this trip.  Then we made a stop at Academcy Sports to pick up a few baits.  You still can't fly with hooks in your carry-on, so it was a must.  Then we headed for Fredericksburg - an old German settlement in the heart of Texas wine country.  We stopped at Grape Creek Vineyards on the way into town and enjoyed a wine sampling.  I must say, their sweeter wines were very tasty.  After checking into our hotel we walked down main street and eventually ended up at the Fredericksburg Brewery.  Long story short, the food was solid if unspectacular, the beer was average at best, and the service was brutally poor.  It is probably the one place we went on this trip that I would not recommend.  We still managed to stuff ourselves with German food before we headed back to the hotel to touch base with Pat Kellner and then crash.  And crash we did!

Welcome to Austin - Texas BBQ!

The next day we were up fairly early and headed for Junction.  Along the way we saw all sorts of wild game including a bunch of African plains animals brought in for hunting purposes.  Junction wasn't much to look at, but it had two things that have a special place in my heart - Dairy Queen (the new Pumpkin Pie blizzard is amazing) and a river.  The Llano River make its way through Junction and is known for having one of the few remaining populations of pure strain Guadalupe bass in Texas.  I was incredibly excited to meet Pat and finally get on the water.  I will leave the details for the BASS Slam, but I will say it was a fantastic day on the water and I was blown away with the beauty of the river and surrounding landscape.

The Craftsman himself

That night we were sporting sunburns and were zapped.  We headed down to Boerne for the evening, which put us a lot closer to our fishing destination the next day.  We were so tired in Boerne that we didn't even bother to go downtown, we just grabbed something close to the hotel and called it an early night.  Bill had made it to Texas Friday as well.  He was staying in a town down the road and would meet us the next day for our trip down the Guadalupe River.

These guys were on the Guads menu over the weekend!

The next morning we were headed north to fish the Guadalupe above Canyon Lake.  After fearing I would run the rental car out of gas, we made it to the launch.  It was much different than the Llano - loaded with cypress trees that dotted the green and blue water.  This stretch had Guads, smallies, and largemouth and we caught all 3 throughout the day.  However, it also meant that fish identification was a little more effort than usual.  Again, I will withold the details, but these fish are smart, crafty, and hard to pattern.  They also like to hang out in packs.  You might catch 2 or 3 in one spot, then float 100 yards through good looking water and not get a single bite.  After Pat's wife scooped us up at the take-out we headed into Gruene for the night, just outside of New Braunfels.

                                              Mary May with a solid Guadalupe bass...and a sweet life jacket!

Mary May and I stayed at the Gruene River Inn.  The view from our room was amazing, the service was amazing, really everything there was amazing.  I highly recommend checking it out.  Later we met up with Bill, Pat, and Dana at the Gruene River Grill and had a delicious dinner and drinks.  After that Bill headed home and we decided to join Pat and Dana at the Gruene Dance Hall.  We didn't really know what to expect, but as we entered it was like something out of a movie.  The place was busy with folks lining wooden benches and tables.  Others encircled the dance floor, waiting for the music to get started.  We went outside and shot the breeze until the band started.  When they did, the dance floor lit up with folks of all ages two stepping, swing dancing, and just about anything else to the rockabilly sounds.  Mary May and I even mustered the courage to hit the dance floor for a song.  Eventually, we got to the point where we were all feeling the effects of a long day and decided to hang up our dancing shoes.  We said our goodbyes to Pat and Dana and headed back to the hotel.  Our Texas trip was almost over...but not quite.

The Gruene Dance Hall - a very genuine TX experience

The next morning we stopped at the Gruene General Store and picked up a few keepsakes before heading toward Austin.  On the way, we made a little detour out to Lockhart to grab some more Texas BBQ.  We ended up at Blacks (although Smittys Market was our original destination) and ordered some brisket and sides.  DELICIOUS!  I feel like I could eat there every day!  Then we pointed the car north to Austin and were aboard old silver wings headed home shortly after.

The stunning view from the Gruene River Inn

We had an amazing trip to Texas.  A million thanks to Pat and Dana who provided gear, shuttled us, showed us around, and did way more than I could have ever expected.  I hope we all get to spend time together again soon.  You are always welcome here in NC.  Anyone looking for info about fishing or kayaking the Texas Hill Country, just shoot Pat a message.  Also a big thanks to Mary May.  This was a mini-vacation for us, but a lot of it was spent on the water.  I know those were two long days and you did a great job out there on the water.  I am very proud of you and love you so much!

The BASS Slam has been one heckuva ride this year.  I am so incredibly glad I attempted it, as it has been filled with adventures, challenges, and amazing memories.  Keep an eye out for the third episode very soon.  Until next time, tight lines!


  1. Great account of your trip...thanks!

  2. Glad you nailed down the last leg of the journey and can't wait to see the video. Hope that you doing a two-step makes the final cut. Also, I would like to see a Quest for the BBQ Slam.

    1. Thankfully, I don't think the two-step video exists. And what do you think about a Quest for the BBQ Slam 2013 with MPF and KASE? Texas, Memphis, Kansas City, North Carolina...I'm sure there are others. We would need to bring the yaks, simply to burn a few calories on the way. You in? :)

    2. Quest for the BBQ Slam...we need to set this up.

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