Where can I go fishing?
It’s a question that gets asked a lot. Fortunately, we have a lot of great water in Central Texas. On all but a few of the best-known streams (and the Canyon Lake tailwaters during trout season), you are unlikely to run into more than a couple of anglers on any given day, and more often you’ll have the water all to yourself. My forthcoming book, Fly Fishing Austin & Central Texas, pinpoints more than 100 legal access points on 18 area streams and I provide bend-by-bend descriptions of 49 wading or paddling routes on 13 of those waters.
Here are a baker’s dozen to get you started—quick and easy options for the Austin area. All of these, and many more, are covered in much greater detail in the book. (Note: click-thru on the maps for the most accurate pin drop.)
North Fork San Gabriel River at US 183, Liberty Hill
From the highway crossing, it’s about 1.75 miles upstream to the San Gabriel River Brewery. The fishing gets better the farther upstream you go, and this reach of the river is both remote and beautiful. Parking is beneath the bridge, upstream side. To get there, you’ll pull off northbound US 183 well before the bridge and follow the dirt track down into the small canyon.
South Fork San Gabriel River at Wolf Ranch Town Center, Georgetown
Right next to I-35, Wolf Ranch is a great place to start a 1.3-mile wade upstream to the undeveloped city park at River Down Road. Or, you could go the other way. Enter the shopping center from the southbound frontage road on I-35 (the TX 29/University Blvd. exit will get you there), near Taco Cabana, take an immediate left past Gold’s Gym and park by the box hedge.
San Gabriel River at San Gabriel Park, Georgetown
Paddle the impoundment, fish from the bank, or wade the three-quarter mile reach below the College Street bridge. Rios, carp, sunfish, largemouth bass, and Guadalupe-spotted bass hybrids. Bonus: river otters. Downstream from the dam, the river splits into two channels. Go right for Rios in pocket water and below spreading carrizo cane, left for bass in a series of slower, deeper pools.
South Brushy Creek at Champion Park, Cedar Park
Just one of many options on Brushy, which from Cedar Park down through Round Rock is bordered by the Brushy Creek Regional Trail system. Fish the impoundment, or head upstream or downstream from here. Living Waters Fly Fishing created and sells an excellent pocket map to the upper reaches of the creek.
Brushy Creek at Memorial Park, Round Rock
It doesn’t get any easier than this. Just a block off the Interstate and three blocks from the fly shop (and five blocks from Round Rock Donuts) Memorial Park is good for lots of sunfish, Rios early in the season, and the occasional Guad or LMB. Chisholm Trail Park and Creekside Park just upstream also offer good access.
Brushy Creek at CR 137, Hutto
Start here for a different Brushy Creek experience. You can go one-way, about 2.25 miles, to Chris Kelley Blvd., upstream, and shuttle back, or just head up and back. Guadalupe bass and carp are the stars of this beautiful, wild-feeling reach of water. Parking is on the southeast side of the bridge, behind the guard rail.
Bull Creek at St. Edward’s Park, Austin
One of several fishable, minor tributaries that enter the Colorado River from the north, Bull Creek offers plenty of greenbelt access on its broad and shallow lower sections, and more than half a mile of bank and wading access at St. Edward’s Park. Early mornings and weekdays are the best bet for avoiding crowds at this popular nature park.
Walnut Creek at US 290, Austin
Pull off busy US 290 immediately after crossing the creek in the eastbound, right-hand lane. Big Walnut Creek Preserve stretches along the northeast side of the creek below the bridge, and the easiest wading is upstream. Look for Cretaceous and Pleistocene fossils in the stream bed.
Onion Creek at Onion Creek Greenbelt Park, Austin
Onion Creek is a fabulous stream when it is flowing well, but can get a bit scummy during droughts, especially near the dog park. Try hiking upstream on the greenbelt trail and taking the first left down to the water and fishing upstream from there. Buyouts of homes in the Onion Creek flood plain accelerated after the last devastating event, in 2015, when the creek rose 11 feet in 15 minutes, cresting at a flood stage of 41 feet. The City of Austin, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and FEMA have purchased nearly 1,000 properties, removing most improvements and returning the land to green space in perpetuity. The mitigation efforts now protect more than 6 miles (and counting) of riparian habitat.
Onion Creek at Barkley Meadows Park, Del Valle
Currently the lowest, easily-accessible section of Onion, near Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, Barkley Meadows Park offers some excellent (if in some places a bit deep) wading and paddling access. You’ll find all the fish here.
Pedernales River at Pedernales Falls State Park, Johnson City
The Perd offers shots at Rios and Guads in the pools and potholes above the falls, and everything (including carp) in the long, intermittently shaded reach below Trammell’s Crossing. Note that above the falls, the far bank is private property and the park itself has a “feet dry” rule—no swimming, wading, or paddling in that section of the river. It’s easy enough to rock hop between pools at normal flows.
Guadalupe River at Lazy L&L Campground, New Braunfels
Day users pay $10 to park and access the river here. Restrooms, and a raft/kayak launch, along with an astounding amount of river frontage in the heart of trout territory combine to make this a best value on the Guad. You can follow a trail along the north (here it is east) bank of the river all the way to the Little Ponderosa crossing. Get in the water before you get there, though, as that property is typically leased exclusively to GRTU members.
San Marcos River at FM 1979, Martindale
The SMR is primarily a paddling stream, but this crossing near Martindale (and the city park just upstream) offers access to an easily wadeable reach. You can find Rios here year-round, and all four species of black bass (including lots of hybrids). Spencer’s Canoes, just across the bridge, is the put-in for a terrific 5-mile paddle down to Staples Dam.