Fishing and Camping in Texas

Camping’s not for everyone. It takes a certain type of individual to enjoy a visit to the great outdoors. One might argue that all the modern accessories like fancy tents, strong lighting and portable grills that let you throw a getaway BBQ diminish the ‘wild side’ of things. But still, there’s just something about the whole experience – being so far away from civilization, at the mercy of all those animals, bugs, beetles, snakes, the elements… Many would rather shack in a cozy cottage and enjoy the view from inside.

If you can’t give the wildling side of you a rest, here are the top 7 places to camp in Texas. Proceed with caution, and remember to bring your portable TV, smartphone and a beer container of at least medium size… Come on, those are just the bare necessities!

#1: Palo Duro State Park

If you’ve got a thing for the prairie, this is a great camping spot that’s been called the ‘Grand Canyon of Texas’. It’s a little far off, sure, but every time you exit your tent, you might get a feeling like you’re in one of the classic Western movies – can’t put a price tag on that!

#2: Padre Island National Seashore

This is one of the more ‘civilized’ camping spots you’ll encounter, and also one of the more unusual – it resembles a trip to the beach more than anything else. Still, if you like swimming and fishing and want to know the struggle of newborn turtles reaching the ocean first-hand, this is a great place to be.

#3: Dinosaur Valley State Park

If you’ve always had a thing for those lovable and misunderstood creatures named dinosaurs, this is where you’ll want to set up tent. You’ll be able to see actual dinosaur tracks frozen in time as well as kids-friendly sculptures of the great beasts – the nature around the place isn’t too shabby, either.

#4: Enchanted Rock State Natural Area

This ‘park’ gets its name from the strange pink rocks throughout the area. While there is certainly something enchanting about the rocky terrain and the nature below, you won’t have access to any camper’s relief – nothing but raw nature wherever you look.

#5: Fort Parker State Park

Some other spots on the list have a primal feel to them, but not this one – it’s a family-friendly park that lets your bring your RV and enjoy the wildlife on the premises. Be wary of the alligators, though…

#6: Lake Somerville State Park

This is another great spot for families – kids, in particular, will love this park. Instead of making you go native, this is one spot where you’ll feel free to whip out the portable grill we talked about before. Did we also mention horseback riding is a thing here?

#7: Big Thicket National Preserve

This park will make you work for it, but you’ll find it to be well-worth the effort. Most people make their way into the park using some form of water floatation device, so make sure you’ve got a little bit of that adventurous spirit in you before picking this as your vacation destination.

Where to Kayak and Fish Near Helena

While there aren’t nearly as many opportunities for kayaking near Helena as there are in other parts of the state, one outstanding exception is the Gates of the Mountains, a river surrounded by 28,000 acres of roadless, undeveloped wilderness. This natural preserve is located halfway between Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks, just twenty miles north of Helena.  It advertises its goals as “to educate, protect, and allow for its visitors to explore one a  great place.” The Gates of the Mountains has a marina with 150 private boat docks and a publicly accessible boat ramp, as well as a boat tour serving over 30,000 visitors a year. There you can follow in the pathway of Lewis and Clarke either by taking a boat tour or solo kayaking.

Tours

The tour-hour boat tour, which costs $16, takes you past towering cliffs, with ancient rock paintings, and a multitude of flora and fauna, including bald eagles and goats. The boat captain is praised by visitors for his expansive knowledge and for running a tight ship.

Among the many stories retold during the cruise is of the Mann Gulch Fire. On the afternoon of August 5, 1949, a wildfire was reported in the gulch. A team of fifteen smoke jumpers was parachuted in to fight it. However, the fire literally “blew up” and covered over 3,000 acres in very quickly (in about 10 minutes), killing 13 firefighters, including 12 of the smokejumpers. Three of the smokejumpers managed to survive. The fire continued to burn for 5 additional days before firefighters were able to control it. This devastating wildfire is responsible for the federal implementation of several modern firefighting techniques designed to avoid a recurrence of the incident.

For a riveting account of the Mann Gulch Fire, read Normal MacLean’s 1992 book Young Men and Fire. MacLean, one of Montana’s most prominent novelists, was an English professor at the University of Chicago for many years and is best known for his novella A River Runs Through It, which was made into a film by Robert Redford. Young Men and Fire was published posthumously  with help from Norman MacLean’s son John MacLean, who has himself published four books dealing with different devastating wildfires around the country.

Kayak DIY

If you prefer to go kayaking alone, you can rent kayaks and equipment at The Base Camp at 5 W. Broadway in Helena: http://thebasecamp.com/paddling/

The fee for using the public boat ramp is $5. Visitors recommend kayaking on a weekday, to avoid the weekend crowds, and recommend an early start to avoid the heat; and they recommend bringing sun screen, a good hat and plenty of water. They report having been passed by eight or nine motorboats, including the tour boats, on a weekday. They report that most motorboat drivers are courteous and safe, but that you should be aware that an occasional rude driver can throw up a big wake. It’s an easy paddle from the marina to where the tour boats have their base, taking about fifteen minutes. From that point on you can paddle as far in as you like, but o course should keep in mind your return travel time. Headwinds sometimes come up in the late afternoon.

The view from a kayak is spectacular, since you paddle past 1,000-foot limestone walls and can get closer to the wildlife than the tour boats allow. You can expect to see hawks, eagles, deer, and fish jumping.  You can stop wherever you like to picnic or explore. And aside from the occasional screech of a hawk, the silence is complete and nourishing to the soul.

Florida Sport Fishing – Delray Beach

Even though my passion is truly fly fishing, I don’t ever pass up an opportunity to fish, especially in Florida with my college buddies. We all met up in Delray Beach for an offshore sport fishing tournament and outing there a few weeks back. Let me tell you, it was probably the most fun all of us have had in years.

The Florida Sportsman really know how to put on a great event. They have been the platinum sponsor for the past 6 years. It was well organized and we had plenty of time to not just fish, but to relax and enjoy the company as well… Lots of “helpful” young ladies prancing around in some nice bikinis. My 3 closest friends, Jon, Doug and Rob and I got our team going early on in the tournament.

We decided to make a very long weekend of the Florida adventure so we all met up on Thursday and were able to grab a few microbrews and kick back and share some laughs over the college memories. On Saturday, the tournament started bright and early and we were all geared up and ready to hit the deep blue waters off the coast of Delray Beach. It was some of the nicest offshore fishing I have ever done. We not only enjoyed the challenge of the fishing, but man, the views were amazing.

delray beach florida anglers tournamentJon was the first to get a fish. He caught a Mahi and it was a nice big one at that. We all ended up catching some fish that day, but that Mahi took the win. It was really hard to match it. There were a few other teams that caught some nice fish, a few Marlins, but we were on the leaderboard early on. Second day we didn’t fare as well, we all caught fish, but nothing like the Mahi the day before.

Delray Beach, Florida Angler’s Tourney

We took third place overall in the Delray Beach tournament, but most of all we had another great memory as friends to add to the book. We will definitely try to make this an annual college buddy event. I wanted to send a shout out to the great sponsors for the tournament:

Florida Sportsman – http://www.floridasportsman.com

Delray Beach Oriental Rug – http://www.delraybeachorientalrugcleaning.com

Boating Performance Center – http://www.boatingperformance.com

Great time with great friends! Here’s to Jon, Doug and Rob… cheers boys!

3 Great Places to Fish on the Texas Gulf Coast

The Texas Gulf Coast is a fairly broad term referring to a broad area – since the shore stretches over 400 miles, finding the best place to fish can be difficult. Sure, many of them offer moderate fishing options, but what about those among us who’d like to brag to our friends about landing some epic catches? Here are 3 great fishing places on the Texas Gulf Coast – while you are probably familiar with the locations, you might not have been aware that each of them is an angler’s paradise.

Port Aransas
What better place to start off with than the so-called ‘fishing capital of Texas’? If you’re into some fine angling, Port Aransas will hook you up. Because driving a boat in the area generally involves obtaining a license, many instead opt to take part in one of the ‘fishing cruises’ available daily. For a reasonable fee, an experienced fisherman will take a group of people on a cruise around the port, helping them all catch their own trophy trout or drum. For those preferring to stay ashore, there’s a surprising amount of opportunities to round up some fish, although not nearly as many as you’d get fishing off a boat. If you’re not impressed with the chance to capture some grouper or red snapper, how about your shot at a bona fide shark? That’s bound to elevate your status as an angler.

San Antonio Bay
You didn’t think Texas’ second-biggest city would be deprived of fishing opportunities, did you? Despite the calm waters, it’s the fishing spot of choice for many sport and trophy fishers looking to catch multiple species in a single run. Because of the Bay’s size, you won’t have much trouble with competition, but you’ll also need to know the richest spots if you’re going out into the water. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of guides with a boat and knowledge of the area, ready to turn a newbie fly fisher into a master angler(with modest prerequisites of limitless patience, a lot of time and a little talent, of course). It might lack some of the more exotic fish, but the sheer amount and variety of trout makes San Antonio Bay a perennial contender for the top fishing spot in the country.

Port Mansfield
Like the nearby Laguna Madre, Port Mansfield is a real man’s fishing spot: plenty of challenging fish to catch and a competitive annual fishing tournament make this a place you’ll want to go to if you’re tired of dozing off while waiting for your bait to do its magic. If you have any doubts about Mansfield’s ability to provide large specimens, you need only check the local news and see the 10 foot, 150 lb swordfish caught a couple of years ago. For those looking for something a little less extreme, you’ll have plenty of other options to choose from: what the San Antonio Bay fishing zones might lack in terms of diversity, Port Mansfield more than makes up for, with numerous sailfish, kingfish, pompano, mackerel and snappers to catch, as well as the ubiquitous trout and flounder.

Great Microbrews To Try From San Antonio, Texas

All that fishing will make you thirsty… If you know what I mean. So what’s a microbrew, and why should you care? After all, it doesn’t sound like it can pack enough punch to get you to passionately discuss sports, politics and the latest Gossip Girl episode… ‘Microbrew’ means any beer that isn’t brewed by a large company, hence the ‘micro’ in the name which refers to small breweries.

Many beer enthusiasts choose to venture off the beaten path and make it their mission to try out as many great microbrews as possible; connoisseurs of the drink believe that this kind of beer is stronger, better-tasting and all-around more fun to indulge in. Texas is one of the best places in the U.S. if you’re looking for quality microbreweries, so here are some great microbrews to try while in the great city of San Antonio. I’d recommend getting a limo in San Antonio and taking a microbrew tour. That way, you can enjoy all the beer you like and not have to worry about driving and getting home safely.

Ranger Creek Brewing & Distilling
When talking microbrews, it doesn’t get much better than the Ranger Creek brewery in San Antonio. If you’re making a stop there, you won’t want to miss the all-encompassing tour that details each and every step of the brewing process – even if you’re not a fan of the drink, you’ll gain a newfound respect and admiration for the brewers and their products; you’ll also get to enjoy the company of other, ever-so-slightly inebriated visitors. The fee is as cheap as it could get, too – a full tour with several free microbrew samples costs only $10. Aside from being able to try out and purchase bottles and kegs of some top-notch microbrews, you’ll also be treated to the company’s ‘microwhiskey’ – a delicacy of its own.

Branchline Brewing Company
This is one place you’ll want to mark on your calendar: every month, they host something called the ‘Open House’. For just $10, you’ll get a cup and three pours – plus, you’ll be able to take the cup home with you as a souvenir! They categorize their brews into regular and specialty brews, and each category has some impressive microbrews to try out. The place also has some great barbecue-based food, but come on – with microbrew names like 5 AM to Midnight, Shady Oak Blonde Ale and Evil Owl American Amber, wasn’t this place already on your must-visit list?

Busted Sandal Brewing Company
If you visit this place in sandals, they might indeed become busted from walking attempts after you’ve sampled this microbrewery’s many delicious ales. Instead of focusing more on tours(that are sometimes nonetheless featured), Busted Sandal’s thing comes down to letting visitors sample fine beer as if it was wine. Even first-timers take note of how friendly the atmosphere is, with other patrons greeting you as soon as you’re in, and owners who really seem to enjoy their job description. A cynic might say that’s the doing its magic, but most microbreweries come nowhere near to offering such a friendly vibe. As for the actual beer, you’ll probably find that this place has some of the best microbrews in San Antonio, if not all of Texas. Be careful, though – even some of the brew names, like Slippery Rock, seem to indicate you could end up having a hard time getting home.

 

3 Great Places to Fly Fish in Colorado

Colorado might not be what first comes to mind when you hear the words ‘fly fishing’ (that would probably be Texas), but that doesn’t mean it’s not a great angling location. There are stories of old sea wolves who started off on one of Colorado’s rivers with nothing but an oversized chopstick and a few meters of cheap line…

If you’re in Colorado and wanting to land your big catch, there are plenty of spots to fly fish in Colorado and some great ones to choose from: lakes, parks, rivers and reservoirs… It wasn’t easy picking any of them over the others, but here are 3 great places you can go to for a neat Colorado fly fishing experience.

Gunnison River
Some consider this to be one of the best angling locations in all of the U.S. It’s a haven for just about every fly fisher out there, from those looking to fill their freezers with trout to those more interested in taking pictures of them holding an oversized member of the species. This ‘Gold Medal’ river is known for its large fish – although this has made net fishing popular, there is no shortage of fly fishermen as well. The locals with a knack for business took note of the river’s popularity, as there are many organized boat trips(some quite pricey) that take you on a proper angling expedition.

Blue Mesa Reservoir
Colorado’s largest body of water also doubles-up as a top fly fishing destination. Since it’s adjacent to Gunnison River, one could argue that choosing between the two mostly comes down to preference. Blue Mesa is known for hosting a species of salmon called the Kokanee, among many other fish; any salmon is a hot commodity come cooking time, and many skilled anglers use the lake to stock up on this delicious fish regularly(keep in mind, though, that there is a daily limit of 10 fish you are allowed to ‘bag’). Due to the size of the specimens, the surface is also brimming with trophy fly fishers, although many of these fish – especially salmon – are known to give anglers a run for their money.

Steamboat Lake
Like Gunnison River and the Blue Mesa Reservoir, Steamboat Lake State Park is another Gold Medal-rated body of water. Now would probably be a good time to mention what this designation means: simply put, Gold Medal waters are those that provide the most trout-catching opportunities. Steamboat Lake Park has an edge over its competition, however – the lake’s 1,000-plus acres, with places like Hahn’s Peak, are home to some amazing natural sights, making it a great place for camping. In terms of fish availability, Steamboat Lake is certainly no slouch – like Blue Mesa’s salmon, Steamboat trout are known for their fighting spirit. Because of the lake’s size as well as the nature that surrounds it, it’s popular both for fly fishing on the banks and from a boat or other floatation devices. While there, you can also visit the nearby Pearl Lake for a dip or a stroll around it – it sure is beautiful, but it doesn’t quite have its neighbor’s angling opportunities.

5 Great Places to Fly Fish In Texas

Fly fishing is the go-to angling method for a recreationalist. It’s not just about how easy it is to set up – you only need a fishing rod, some line, an appropriate ‘fly’ bait and a good deal of patience. No, it’s the experience as a whole that gets people spending hours on a river’s bank instead of walking into their local grocery store and buying some fillets.

It’s also one of Texans’ favorite activities, in good part because of all the great bodies of water throughout the state. People from Texas love the good things in life – good food, good beverages, good company and a chance to sit back and relax while waiting for the catch to tug. So here are 5 great places to fly fish in Texas, although there are many more to choose from.

Guadalupe River
Size isn’t the only reason why the Guadalupe is such a popular spot for fly fishing (among other activities). Here, the government actually helps anglers get their dinner by stocking the water with tasty trout – all you need to do is catch it, of course. While the river has dealt with a lengthy bout of drought followed by recent severe floods, it’s sure to recapture its title as one of Texas’ top fly fishing spots eventually.

Blanco River
Don’t be too surprised that yet another one of Texas’ beautiful rivers made it into the top 5. While Blanco River isn’t exactly the most popular destination, many consider it somewhat of a hidden gem for fishing and similar water-related activities. The river has a large population of sunfish, panfish and all kinds of bass – even rookie anglers should have no trouble catching their meal. While many love to fly fish on the Blanco from boats or floatation devices, you should keep an eye out for the multiple dams in the area if you’re looking to do the same.

South Padre Island
This is a fairly large body of water that is home to a variety of fish species: sea trout, flounder, redfish and even some of the less common types all frequent the area. The place is rightly called a fly fisher’s paradise, but novice fishermen might have difficulty finding a spot that works for them considering the size of the area.

Lake Buchanan
Like the Guadalupe River, Lake Buchanan is also stocked by the authorities regularly in order to increase angling opportunities. Bass is the name of the game here, and there’s no shortage of bass types to choose from while also enjoying the opportunity to catch the odd crappie or sunfish. Lake Buchanan flows directly into our next great fly fishing spot…

Colorado River
The last but not the least fishing spot to mention, Colorado River is a favorite spot for anglers looking to fish off of a boat – the width and steady flow make it perfect for those lazy summer days when you’d like to take a nap and let your lure do the work. In terms of fish diversity, you won’t get find many better spots in the Texas area: aside from several types of bass, you can also run into carp, perch, crappie and many others.

If you are looking for some more Texas Fly Fishing, check out Texas Outside’s Fly Fishing page.