Tuesday, July 14, 2015

San Gabriel River Expedition

Where: San Gabriel River east of Georgetown
Access point:  Highway 29 at the low water crossing downstream from the 29 bridge.
ETA: 7:30AM
Water Temperature at 7:45am: 78F
Max Water Temperature:  83F
Water Temperature at 7:30pm: 81F
Water clarity:  Slightly stained to nearly clear (above the falls)

                                                                                                          We were ready to hit the water by 7:45am.  We were simply going to go up river for about a mile or so to the falls and stop there like we had usually done for the past 2 years.  But shortly  after we got in the water, three other kayak fishermen passed us and disappeared up and over the falls. So we decided we had to go see what it was that was causing fishermen to skip a mile of decent fishing area and hike up the river.

Yes, I said HIKE.  The deal is that the "falls" are at the top end of a long fairly calm pool of water from where highway 29 crosses the San Gabriel.  These falls comprise of a somewhat narrow column of water about 20ft across and nearly 2ft deep. They drop about 15ft over a length of maybe 60ft.  Then above the falls there is a short pool before you start climbing slowly again for another 1/4 of a mile.  All total about 1/3rd of a mile uphill in current.  Seems like a lot more!
When we got to the falls, the portage around the falls was over what I call "large rock gravel" - think gravel made of 10in rocks - not something I particularly wanted to drag the kayaks over. So we pull them over the lower portion where the smaller gravel was and then put them back in the river to pull them up the side of upper portion of the falls where we could actually walk. I wish I had gotten a picture of this climb!  I'm still learning to take more pictures.

Upon coming into the middle pool, we saw one of the guys that had gone past us before.  He was fly fishing the current and didn't look like he was having much success even though he had good style.  There was a stretch of current about 100yds long and he was fishing the upper section.  So Sarah started fishing the lower section while I fished the back water area.  She caught a medium sized bass fairly quickly.  It was at this point the other guy waded back to his kayak and took off back down over the falls!  We hoped we had not scared him off...  though maybe he got ticked off being one-up'ed by a woman catching a fish right where he had been shortly before.  Little does he know she was the most successful bass fisher of the day... out fished me by far!

One of the reasons she skunked me is because I had a rash of strikes from large fish who promptly spit out the lure.  One was in the middle pool where I had a hit from a fish that unspooled my reel (I have it set pretty tight too!).  He ran under my boat where he banged around until the lure popped out of his mouth.  I figured he might've been a 3-4 pounder which is pretty big for this section of river!

After the fishing slowed down, we realized that the other two fishermen must have continued on up stream since we hadn't seen them again.  I knew that there was a nice pool farther up so we decided to keep going and headed up-stream.  The first part was pretty easy and then deepened enough to paddle.  But then the current was so strong we couldn't keep up with rate of paddle.  So we had to jump out and walk upstream in about 8in of water. I compared this feeling very much to walking up stairs because you had to pick your feet out of the water to take a step or else have to push water with each step.
After what seemed like a mile - it was only about 1/4 of a mile - we made it back to deep water and started fishing the bank again. After a bit we started catching fish again - first me with a nice bass off a rock wall, and then a bit later a nice bass for Sarah.  We even found a bed of fish on - get this - spawning beds.  I was somewhat shocked because I didn't think bass spawned this late in the year.  The only thing I can think of is that with all the rain and flooding that the spawn was interrupted and so they are still finishing up.

We spent some time drifting around the upper pool relaxing in the shade during the heat of the day waiting for the afternoon shade to cover the river. Normally when we fish the area below the falls we could hear the highway for a long ways, but being nearly 2 miles away from the highway was quite refreshing in that it was very quiet. Only the wind and the birds were making noise....  well, I say that...  there was this one guy...

While on the upper stretch, we met up with a fellow named Jason.  He was an interesting character who knew the river like the back of his hand - he knew where all the fish were - almost had names for them!  Learned much about the river and some of the local gossip relating to the river.  He'd been fishing that stretch of river for many years... if I remember correctly he said something like 30 years.  He told stories of flooding he'd seen many years before.  Said he owned property on the south of the Highway 29 bridge and so knew much about what happened there.

After we separated ways, he went off up river to meet up with his brother who he was fishing with.  It was these two that were about 200 yards up river that we heard in the distance as we were trying to doze on our kayaks.  Couldn't really hear anything except that it sounded like more stories!  

Lazy Day Selfie on the San Gabriel RiverWell, the idea of sleeping on a kayak kept me from completely relaxing enough to really doze.  I had visions of me dreaming I was going to jump "out of bed", end up in the river, and dump my gear.  So I wisely stayed awake.

Once the shadows covered the river we started heading back.

Back at the middle pool, the two fishermen we had seen in the morning finally caught up with us going back downstream. We compared notes and learned they had gone all the way up to where Berry creek joins the SGR.  Like us, they had a pretty good day of fishing as well.  While they were talking to Sarah, I was wade fishing near the main current with a white spinnerbait.  I managed to catch a very nice 18in bass right in the middle of the current.  The current made it feel like I had a huge fish on the line.

After this we found out both of the guys were rod builders.  So we compared notes on fishing rods and we looked at each other's work.  They gave me some idea's of what kind of rod I want to build next.

Right now I'm sitting here writing this blog entry while my dearest wife is building her first new rod.  She has re-built two rods so far and has worked on several others but has never built a new rod from start to finish.  She started the handle on this rod earlier this year and finally had enough time to finish it up. She's had to re-do windings several times but this is the first new rod where she is going to complete the entire rod herself.  I'm quite proud of her.

Next weekend we hope to have our car back from the shop so we can do longer trips again and so we are dreaming of doing another run out to the Llano river.  Who knows though?  Maybe we'll head up north to the San Saba river.  I hear the San Saba isn't fished much!

Tight Lines Y'all!


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