Spencer Canoes on the San Marcos
Begin and end times: 8:30 am to 5:30 pm
Air Temperature, weather conditions: Hot, clear, sunny, probably 100
Water temperature, water condition: Water not crystal clear, but visibility was good. Flow of 100cfs, down from the 200cfs normal for this time of year
Flies that worked: Black wooly buggers and swamp monsters
Clint and I floated the San Marcos River from Martindale to Staples. We prearranged a shuttle with the folks at Spencer Canoes, which allowed us to drop our boats at the launch point at Shady Groves Campground in Martindale, follow the shuttle vehicle down to a Staples lakefront house owned by Spencer Canoes where we left our cars, and ride the shuttle vehicle back to the launch point. This shuttle service makes it very easy to fish this portion of the river.
In the upper half of this float there is detectable current even in the pools and fairly swift water in the shallow places. The swift spots are short, shallow, and not very dangerous, but you do have to be careful to not let the current trap you against the shore or against an overhanging tree. In the second half of the float there are more long deep pools where there is very little current. I think the San Marcos is a very pretty river, and we both enjoyed this float. I have floated this section of the river on weekends with the Austin Fly Fishers and we have always had to share the river with a lot of canoes and kayaks. On our Friday float Clint and I did not see even one other water craft; we had the river entirely to ourselves.
We were careful to drink a lot of water and neither of us had any problem with the heat. I think being close to the cool river water helped a lot.
The fishing was good but not spectacular. I caught one smallish Rio, one small bass, six or eight large (nine inches plus) sunfish, and a bunch of smaller sunfish. I believe Clintís results were similar.
Ken and I floated from the low water crossing at Martindale down to Shady Grove park. Actually got out at the FM crossing just before the park. This was about one river mile in length float. Ken walked back to his truck which was parked in town at Martindale while I waited with the boats at the river's edge. It was about 20 minutes maxium for doing a self shuttle, not bad at all. We caught around 20 fish total. Only 3 small Bass. I rated fishing as slow, we really had to work hard for the ones we caught. Actually it didn't feel that bad heat wise after we where in the water. The San Marcos river seems to have cooler water temps then most of the area rivers. It was a really enjoyable day in the water spite the 106 temps for that day.
I floated the San Marcos River with the Austin Fly Fishers. We floated from Spencer Canoes near Martindale down to a take out point, also owned by Spencer Canoes, near Staples. On the few occasions I have floated the San Marcos in the past the water had a greenish cast but underwater visibility was fairly good. On this trip there seemed to be some silt in the river, giving it a slightly milky look, and the visibility was poor. I had a decent day fishing, landing ten to twelve sunfish, two bass, and one Rio Grande perch. Our group was quite large, with about twenty fishermen, but I didnít see any boy scouts or youth groups, and, since Texas Water Safari has already happened this year, there were only a few serious canoeists practicing their skills.
I had been worried that the 100 degree heat, and higher heat index, would make the trip unpleasant. However the 70 degree water of the spring fed San Marcos River made all the difference. The air immediately above the river is cooled by the river, and, since I was fishing from a kick boat, my finned feet were immersed and cooled by the water. When we got off the river to eat lunch I was almost jolted by the heat, but I was quite comfortable when I was on the river.
This section of the river is pretty tame, but there are a few places with enough current to require your attention. As I was approaching one of these spots I continued fishing too long and entered the current before I got my rod stowed and my hands on the oars. As a result I allowed the current to pin my kick boat against the bank, and when I used one of the oars to lever the boat away from the bank I snapped the oarís blade. With only one oar I was dependent on fin power for the rest of the day. I made it through the remaining small rapids using my single oar for steering and my fins for power. Fortunately for most of the float there was enough current to help me along and I had to depend on fin power for only the last mile, or so, above the take out point.
Kevin Hutchison of Hill Country Flyfishers hosted the outing. In addition to planning the trip and arranging the shuttle, Kevin provided the same homemade lunch that he serves his guide service clients, including humus, liver pate, several chicken salads, fruit salad and brownies. Everything was delicious.
I floated the San Marcos River with a group from the Austin Fly Fishers. We floated from Spencer Canoes near Martindale down to a take out point, also owned by Spencer Canoes, near Staples. For the upper half of the float the river consists of relatively short pools separated by mild riffles. In this part of the of the float I caught a lot of sunfish, several in the eight to nine inch range, and one nice Rio Grande Perch. I was moving along faster than the other members of the group, and I had little contact with them during the rest of the float. This part of the float was a very pleasant experience on the beautiful San Marcos River. Then things turned downhill.
At about 11:00 a.m. I was overtaken by a troupe of canoeing Boy Scouts. There were a lot of them, and they were spread out on the river, so it took a long time for them to pass by me as I was fishing. They seemed like nice enough kids, but they were noisy, made a lot of commotion on the water, and clogged up the riffles with overturned canoes. The riffles were all shallow, and when a canoe tipped the two occupants just stood up and tried, sometime with difficulty, to wrestle the canoe upright and empty it of water. As the boys were passing I stopped for lunch.
I had been hearing occasional rumbles of distant thunder, and, while I was eating I noticed that the rumbles had become closer and more frequent. I didnít want to get caught on the water in a thunderstorm, so I decided to quit fishing and move as quickly as possible to the take out point. I got back on the river and began rowing my little kick boat at the fastest pace that I thought I could sustain for a long time. I rowed along at this comfortable pace for about twenty minutes before it began to rain, slowly at first, then quite heavily. There was very little wind, and the rain was not cold, so, even though I was soaked through and through, I wasnít uncomfortable. As I was rowing along I had began counting the seconds between a visible lightning flash and the resulting thunder. When time between the flash and thunder got down to four seconds I decided the lightning was getting too close for me to be safe out on the water. I pulled my kick boat into a little gully that formed a break in the otherwise steep river bank and stepped out onto the shore. After searching my memory for what I had ever heard about the safest way to behave when trapped in the open during the thunderstorm, I decided to stay in the shallow gully, move a little way from the water, check to make sure I wasnít too close to any tall trees, and squat down on my heels, with my head low and the soles of my feet being the only body part in contact with the ground. I found this position to be surprisingly comfortable, or at least surprisingly not uncomfortable, and I stayed there for about twenty minutes while the thunder storm passed over. At one point there was a lightning strike and resulting thunderclap separated by a little less than a second.
After the thunder storm abated, though before the rain quit, I pushed back out into the river and resumed rowing. The rain eventually quit, and I even saw some patches of blue skies above the clouds. I could have resumed fishing, but I decided I had had enough adventure for one day, and continued to row along, reaching the take out point at about 2:30 p.m. After stowing my gear, putting my kick boat onto the top of my car, changing into dry clothes (glad I remembered to pack a change of clothes), and calling to tell my wife that I hadnít drowned or been electrocuted, I headed for home.
Despite the difficulties of the day, I would like to try this float again, preferably on a week day (with, I hope, fewer boy scouts) with a fair weather forecast. The river is really pretty, the water is clear, and there is good fishing, for numbers if not for size. The riffles are all easy to negotiate. Because of the dam near Stables there is no current for the lower two miles, or so, of the float, which can make things a little troublesome for a kick boat fisherman, but it shouldnít be a problem if you allow enough time. Spencer Canoesí reasonably priced use of their put in and take out points makes this float quite easy to orchestrate.
My son and I took a canoe trip on the San Marcos on Tuesday afternoon. We arrived at Spencer's Canoe Company in Martindale about 2:30. Jack Spencer shuttled me to Staples and I dropped off my truck. Then he brought me back to the campground where Shane and I got in their canoe and headed downstream. There was a breeze along some of the stretches but the sun beat down on pretty hard. We stopped at an unattended rope swing for a little cooling-off. The water was great!! We did a little fishing too. There are a significant number of holes, riffles and deep slow pools on that stretch of water. We fished pretty intently for the first three and a half miles, catching a few bass and some sunfish. For the last mile and a half, we pretty-much paddled. It's a long trip for an afternoon. I'm looking forward to a return when I can spend the kind of time the river requires.
Prospective visitors should take plenty of water, maybe even lunch, and plan to spend the entire day. There are plenty of places to pull up the canoe and fish on your feet for a while. I would not do the trip in a pontoon boat, only a canoe or kayak. There are a couple of portages that would be problematic with a pontoon, one over a fallen tree.