A finicky fly-fisherman given to Leonard rods and Hardy reels, not to mention the ultimate refinement of lines, leaders and lures attendant upon that sport, can easily run up a four-figure bill in an afternoon at Abercrombie & Fitch's. The trout purist, after all, is the most discriminating of anglers. He is concerned less with catching fish than with how they are caught, and he will spare no expense to properly perform his art. The fulcrum of any fishing department, he is as recognizable by his conservative dress and distinguished manner as is the Texas cat fisherman by his five-gallon hat and cowboy boots.
At least that is the way it used to be. But lately Texans have become the big spenders at fly-fishing counters, a fact that prompted one salesman to ask if the buyer were planning a trip to Ireland. "Hell, no!" the Texan bellowed. "This is for home, boy, back home in Texas."
Trout? In Texas? Well, as a matter of fact, yes. Not only are they genuine rainbow trout, but they are found in some of the prettiest trout water anywhere. More improbable still, the trout and the water are producing a breed of fly-fisherman who may well prove to be the purest of them all.
Texas streams traditionally have been too warm for such cold-climate fish as trout, which prefer water temperature between 45� and 70�. The state's 4,000 rivers, streams, creeks and bayous are filled with bass, carp, suckers, eels, sunfish, crappies, bluegills, catfish—all simple, hardy, familiar fishes that require no special gear to catch. With such a surfeit of meat fish around, who missed trout?
The answer is almost nobody except a fisheries biologist named Richard L. White and a San Antonio brewer named Harry Jersig. White, Jersig and trout were brought together four years ago by Canyon Dam on the Guadalupe River between San Antonio and Austin. Before the dam was completed in 1964, annual rises of 40 and 50 feet were common in this area. Because of such flooding, no industry, farming or wildlife could survive.
White, stationed then at the Texas Parks & Wildlife State Hatchery in San Marcos, headed a project studying the fishery potential of the area. By the time ground was broken for the dam, his group of bright young biologists and wildlife specialists had produced a roomful of reports. One of these studies suggested that trout might be able to live in the waters below the dam.
"Nobody took the idea seriously at first," White recalls. "It was more a case of covering every possibility. But as the dam and the research grew, the idea of trout became more and more intriguing."
The two prime requisites of rainbow trout are cold water and sufficient oxygen. The extreme depth of the lake formed by the dam indicated that bottom temperatures would run about 58�. This meant that water released into the Guadalupe River would be, for about a nine-mile stretch, of temperatures compatible with trout survival and growth. White was convinced that the nine miles of Guadalupe River below the dam could be transformed into the country's most southerly trout stream.
"In my enthusiasm I overlooked one thing," White says. "The trout. I had the water but no fish, and that was no small problem. This is bass country down here, and you don't spend a bass fisherman's taxes on trout. Not if you want to stay in Texas, anyway."
Thanks to Harry Jersig, Dick White is still in Texas and there are plenty of trout in the Guadalupe River. Jersig, as a member of the Texas Parks & Wildlife Commission, had been following Dick White's project from its beginnings. He was also an old hand at transforming the most unlikely bodies of water into trout pools. For several years, as a promotion for his Lone Star Brewery, he had been dispatching tanks (the largest 12 by 60 feet with a capacity of 5,760 gallons) full of trout to charity bazaars and local fairs around the state.