Before I ever got a kayak, paddleboard, or even a baitcasting reel I fished the San Saba River. I had fished other rivers, creeks, and ponds before the San Saba, but the San Saba River was one of the first “wild” rivers that started my path to where I am today.
Located just south of Brady, Texas, the San Saba River runs through rocky terrain with relatively clear water until eventually flowing into the Colorado River.
Small sections of rapids, 100-foot tall cliffs, vegetation, and long sections of pools holding bass are all encompassing of the San Saba River; however, I had never been to the San Saba River with my Jackson Kayak Liska, Pau Hana Endurance, a baitcasting reel……..or when the river was flowing three times what it usually flows.
On my past journeys to the San Saba River, flows were anywhere from 75-125 CFS. While 125 CFS was great, I typically fished the San Saba River when it was at 75 CFS. In the day when I fished the San Saba River, Texas was experiencing severe drought. Lately, Texas has been experiencing severe flooding. Due to the large amounts of rain received, the San Saba River was flowing at 300 CFS for this particular trip.
Upon arriving to the San Saba River, I immediately noticed the difference in flow. There were fewer shallow areas and much more rapids. The water quality was also quite good so I couldn’t wait to start fishing.
The Start of Fishing
I started off fishing a Heddon Zara Spook with my dad using a topwater frog. The skies were overcast and it was early morning so topwater seemed to be a prime lure choice. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a bite and neither could my dad.
What I did get might have been better though…in a way. I paddled into a small pool that looked promising for some bass. I decided to paddle my Pau Hana Endurance from my knees so that I wouldn’t spook any of the fish that might see me. As I worked my way further and further into the pool I spotted something in a tree branch overhanging the water - it was a snake.
I’ve seen lots of snakes lately, but never have I seen this one. From research, it appears to be called a Green Snake - probably because it is a green snake.
This guy slithered through the branches of the tree effortlessly. Even when I knew where the snake was, I struggled to spot him because he was so well camouflaged. It makes me question how many snakes I have paddled by and not noticed - probably quite a few. After taking a few photos it was time to move on to catching some bass.
Time to Change Tactics
Me and my dad fished for about 30 minutes but received no bites with our topwater lures. It was time to change tactics. I went to a Texas Rigged Rage Craw while my dad was using a Strike King Square Bill Crankbait. Upon switching lures I received a small bass on the end of my line. It was a small Guadalupe Bass, but he put up a nice fight for his size. My dad soon had a bite on his crankbait, but the fish got away as quickly as he bit. Although the fishing seemed a little slow, I was still optimistic that more fish would be ahead of us. We would first have to go through some rapids.
Through the Rapids to the Next Pool
Although I truly enjoy my Pau Hana Endurance and every opportunity I get to paddle it, rapids are a limiting factor as the rear fin “hooks” rocks that are below. This means a slow, tiring portaging effort through the long section of rapids.
My dad was in his Jackson Kayak Liska though…and it is great at going through some whitewater. The Liska made the rapids an effortless obstacle for my dad and he flew through the rapids with ease. I eventually portaged my Endurance all the way to the start of the next long pool that I hoped would have some bass.
The Fishing Begins to Start
Without much luck to start the day, me and my dad ventured into the next pool of the San Saba with some confidence. This confidence would soon result in a strike…a strike from a huge bass.
I casted my Rage Craw towards some structure in the water and soon saw a flash from a bass striking my lure. I set the hook hard and had the fish on my line. This was a big bass and I was extremely excited to have him on the line. I was fighting him for about 10 seconds until the unthinkable happened - the fish went under a log and came off the line. I was in disbelief and was thinking to myself “how did I just lose that big bass?”.
Sometimes, this is just how the world of fishing goes. You can have a huge fish on your line, and then it comes off. There are two things you can do from here. Sit around thinking about the big bass you lost, or get right back to fishing so you can catch the next fish.
I decided to move right back into fishing. I tried to cast where this fish was at before I lost him, and sure enough I got another bite! It wasn’t from the same fish, but a much smaller bass. I was still happy and excited to catch my first fish of the day.
Not too long after catching my bass, my dad caught a good sized Largemouth Bass. He was using a Rage Tail Structure Bug that was Texas Rigged. Shortly after casting into some submerged timber, my dad felt a fish and set the hook only to find a nice bass on the end of his line. This was a solid bass and a great fish to catch on any river.
The fishing was heating up and it was quickly turning into a successful day in terms of fishing.
Small Tackle, Big Bass
Typically, if I am going after large bass I will use my medium heavy action baitcasting rod and reel setup. However, sometimes I throw a light action spinning rod with a Rooster Tail on it. I do this to target Guadalupe Bass (which are abundant on the San Saba River). I was beginning to approach a small section of rapids and decided to switch from my big bass setup to my light spinning rod and reel in order to catch some Guadalupe Bass. I casted into the flowing water and about 5 seconds after retrieving the Rooster Tail I got a hit from a good fish.
I thought this was a big Guadalupe Bass, but it was actually a good sized Largemouth Bass!
I was extremely cautious reeling in this fish, as he was in current and I only had a light action rod with 4 lb monofilament tied to my lure. It took me a while, but I soon reeled in this nice bass and was relieved that my setup didn’t break. I never intend on catching bass this size with such a small setup, but it does happen every so often.
What I can say is that it is a blast to catch fish this size on light setups. Your rod is bent like a rainbow, your line is stretching, and at any moment you know your line could simply snap.
It is quite the challenge and was a great fish to catch.
As the day progressed, I went on to catch a few more good bass, all on the same light tackle setup. The only change I made was going to a 1/16 oz. jig head with a tube on the end of it. Although I rarely fish with such a small setup and specifically target bass, I thought it would be fun and exciting to see what else I could catch with such light tackle.
In total, I think I caught around 9 bass and my dad caught around 2. Not a bad day fishing at all.
Wrapping Things Up
After catching quite a few good size bass, we began to head back upstream to our put in / take out location. Although the increased flow was awesome coming downstream, it provided quite a bit of resistance headed upstream. Me and my dad had to walk about a quarter mile through fast flowing rapids in order to get to calmer water where we could start to paddle again.
After reaching the end of the rapids we were able to paddle the rest of the way back to finish up a great day.
Out of all my trips to the San Saba River, I’d have to say this was one of the best in terms of fishing…probably overall experience as well. The water was flowing nice and clean, there were good fish, and it was simply a great time out on the water with my dad.
I will definitely be back, but from now on I probably will only come to the San Saba River if it is flowing at 200 CFS - 400 CFS. In the past, the 100 CFS flow I was accustomed to was okay, but 200-400 CFS seems to be the ideal flow for this section of the San Saba River. The flow for this day was about perfect and made a huge difference.
All said and done, this was a great day out on the water, and a great day fishing….then again, is there such a thing as a bad day out on the water or a bad day of fishing?