I have paddled and fished many rivers in Texas and each river has its own unique aspect to it. The Guadalupe River has beautiful Cypress trees with a nice ‘creek-like’ atmosphere in many areas. The Llano River has large granite formations with clean flowing water carving the way. The Devils River is in a category all by itself, encompassing the clearest water you can find in Texas with a combination of large cliffs, a remote desert, and the southernmost point in Texas to catch a Smallmouth Bass. Each river has something different to offer. Sometimes there is compromise, such as having great scenery but not the best fishing, or perhaps spectacular fishing but not the best atmosphere of scenery and location. There are a few rivers that seem to have all the right qualities though; just the perfect amount of scenery in conjunction with great fishing that forms an ideal location to spend the day on your kayak. Such a river is the Brazos River that flows through the Palo Pinto Mountains in Texas.
The Brazos River was named by Spanish explorers as “Rio de los Brazos de Dios”, which translates to “The River of the Arms of God”. With its headwaters being sourced in New Mexico and the mouth of the river exiting into the Gulf of Mexico, the Brazos River is the eleventh longest river in the United States at 840 miles and has quite a large river basin. Along its path you will find streams, creeks, and other Texas rivers that make the Brazos River large and wide when you get closer to the coast. Most people probably would not recognize the Brazos River as a place that I would venture out to fish, as I specialize in clear rivers with rock bottoms. However, there are a few spots on the Brazos River that will definitely fit into my forte of rivers. The primary location that I try to fish is below Possum Kingdom Lake in Palo Pinto County in the Palo Pinto Mountain Range. Although named a ‘mountain range’, the Palo Pinto Mountains are more like a section of very large cliffs and hills. No doubt they are pretty big though, as the highest point of elevation is just over 1,400 feet. No matter if they truly are mountains or more so cliffs and hills, they are beautiful and make a great landscape. The Cedar trees and large boulders that run along this section of the Brazos make for a western scenery, and this is more fact than fiction, as this area is where a large amount of Comanche Indians used to live. For the most part, the Brazos River is somewhat muddy, especially further south in Texas, but in the Palo Pinto Mountains the water runs quite clear and cool. The water is indescribable at times, as the water color is very unique and different from just being clear or stained. Where the Devils River is really best described as just clear with a blue-green tint, the Brazos River has almost a copper color to the water. You will find a lot of gravel islands and very large boulders in the water that make the topography of the river pretty rugged. All of these reasons combine to form one aspect of why I enjoy going to the Brazos River so much, but this is only part of what the Brazos River encompasses.
The primary fish to target on the Brazos River for me are the Largemouth, Spotted, and Striped Bass. There is actually a holdover population of trout that run these water as well from a state stocking program, and every once and a while I try to hook one. As for how the fishing is, I would have to say it could be the best in all of the rivers that I have fished. This is a bold statement to make, but it seems like every time I go I am hooking four pound bass or bigger. The other factor that contributes to the great fishing is how hard the fish fight. Fish fight a little different depending on location, and the Brazos River must be in a good location for strong bass as they fight very hard – especially the Spotted Bass which naturally put up a slightly better fight than Largemouth Bass. In fact, the Brazos River has been so successful for me, that out of all the trips I have made to the Brazos River I have caught at least one descent bass. Some occasions prove to be a little more successful than others though. Not too long ago I was fishing the Brazos River and landed the biggest bass I ever have. I was using a Strike King square bill crank bait matched up with thirty pound braided line on my Abu Garcia reel and a Lightning Rod. The water temperature this day was quite frigid and not much was happening, but on one cast by a drop-off with several large boulders I hooked a monster. At first I thought I had got snagged on one of the boulders, but a good square bill crank bait hardly lets that happen; this was no exception. I ended up having a twelve pound Largemouth Bass on the end of my line with my fifteen pound drag set to full max being overpowered massively. Thankfully I had a beefy setup with my medium heavy rod and thirty pound braid. It took a long while before I actually caught a glimpse of the giant, but when I did I knew that I hooked into the fish of a lifetime. I was thinking in my mind about the possibility of the line breaking for some reason even though I was running heavy duty braid, or some other sort of equipment failure. Eventually, I was able to reel him in to my Jackson Kayak Big Tuna and had my dad land him for me. I couldn’t believe just how big the bass was, especially when I looked on a database that night to find that I had broken the record of the largest Largemouth Bass caught on the Brazos River by over two pounds. Unfortunately, I only hold the unofficial record for this fish, but I am just glad I had the opportunity to catch it.
This isn’t the only extraordinary fish that I got to witness first hand though. After a long week of college with multiple tests and a lot of homework I decided to go fishing with my dad. He was fishing a small outfit that was a 5’ 6” light action spinning rod with a small reel and four pound test for trout and spotted bass in the flowing parts of the river. Matched with a small 1/16 oz. Rooster Tail, my dad hooked a big four pound Largemouth Bass. Of course, this is not quite as big as a twelve pound fish, but when you consider hooking it on the setup that he did, it was quite an accomplishment that he even landed it. It took all of the little rod’s power, as it was bent like a rainbow for most of the multi-minute fight. I can’t believe that he landed it on such a small rod and I can only imagine what a fight it was to reel in a fish like that.
The big fish certainly make the journey worth telling a story, but the beauty of some of the smaller fish really help to keep me coming back time after time. One of my favorite aspects about the style of fishing that I do is that it involves both kayak fishing and wade fishing. I really use my kayak as a means to fish water that is too deep to walk, but when I am shallow water you will definitely find me wade fishing. Using smaller outfits such as the 5’ 6” rod that my dad caught that big four pound Largemouth Bass make for the ideal setup for fishing the shallow flowing water on the Brazos River. There is a lot of sections like this on this area of the Brazos River, and I enjoy trying to throw some small Rooster Tails for Spotted Bass and occasionally trout. The colors on the fish are extremely vibrant as well, as the fish seem to be some of the healthiest in Texas. I think this is primarily due to the Brazos River always having good flow in this area. Spotted Bass make for exceptionally good patterns as they have dark spots on their sides that give them their name. The fish in the flowing parts are never too big, but the amount of enjoyment I get from catching them is unquestionably big. In all reality, some of the greatest moments I have fished on the Brazos River are when I land some of these smaller Spotted Bass in shallow water. It really expresses the art of fishing and finding enjoyment in all that fishing incorporates – the scenery, the water, the fish, the beauty, and the time spent with friends and family.
When you combine all that the Brazos River has to offer, it is something special. Picturesque scenery in conjunction with some of the strongest, healthiest, and biggest fish in Texas make it one of my top fishing locations; right alongside the Devils River. God certainly has given the State of Texas a lot to be proud of, and for me the Brazos River in the Palo Pinto Mountain Range makes me appreciate all that I can do in the Lone Star State and be thankful for the opportunity that I have to fish such a body of water. In the end, it really isn’t the amount of fish, the size of fish that you catch, or the scenery that make a great fishing spot; it is the memories that are made on the water from the great fishing and scenery, and the time you get to spend in nature with friends and family. In its simplest form, the Brazos River through the Palo Pinto Mountains is the definition of all of this – the Rio de los Brazos de Dios.