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Fly Fishing the Paluxy River

By Allen "Ol Al" Crise, FFF MCI

This little gem of a river starts near the town of Bluff Dale, Texas on U.S. 377, southwest of Fort Worth. It flows through hills of cedar (or mountain juniper), red oaks, and rocky outcroppings before passing over limestone slabs that hold the history of eons of time—dinosaur tracks! The tracks were pressed into the soft rock that hardened through the ages, being covered over and then uncovered by the flowing waters of the Paluxy River. The river winds for about 36 miles, passing through the town of Paluxy on FM 51, through Dinosaur Valley State Park, and under U.S. 67 to the town of Glen Rose before emptying into the Brazos River, four miles below the U.S. 67 bridge. 

The water board completed construction of a dam on the Paluxy River in 2007 to hold back the (seasonal) flow at Big Rocks City Park in Glen Rose. This catches the water where it is then pumped north of Glen Rose to a man-made lake. The county of Somerville utilizes this water as their drinking supply. The pool above the dam is stocked with trout in the winter by TPWD. Summer stocking of catfish gives the youth of the area a “fishin’ hole.” 

The Paluxy is known for its colorful green sunfish or “perch,” as they are locally known. These are often crossed between “natives” and fish that came in from stocking trucks supplying fish from fish farms to local farm ponds and tanks after the spring floods and natural flows relocate or wash the fish, fish eggs, and fry into the river. There is a natural restocking of the river when the floods come bringing rising waters from the Brazos River and Lake Whitney. The Paluxy River is known as the fastest rising river in Texas. The floodwaters bring sand bass, catfish, gar, spotted bass, and others to gravitate up to nice holding pools that are formed in the bottom of this river. 

Wading is easy with a solid, rock bottom for most of the river. Gravel and sand gather in deeper potholes along the bends. Trees line the banks for much of the river, providing great holding spots for the native bass and sunnies, which are feisty fighters. River-born and raised, the fish keep in shape by swimming the currents and feeding much like a trout by holding in structures or deeper holes waiting for a bug, grasshopper or minnow to be carried by on the water, before darting out for the take. As with trout, a dead drift is needed to float an offering to them. Another way to entice them is to make your fly fall into or hop into the water, making it appear like a frog, grasshopper or cricket hitting the surface. Let the fly lay still for a count of three before swimming/stripping the fly away in short bursts. 

So, what flies to use? Beadhead wooly buggers in green, brown or black will mimic the small foodstuffs. Elk hair caddis (EHC), in size #12 to #18 also mimic many naturals that land in the water. One of my favorites for years has been the Miss Prissy Popper in size #10. This little green, black, white, red mouthed, big eyed, rubber-legged popper works wonders not only on the greenies, but also the spotted bass love this fly. Today, I make one I call a “Shoefly”, which is made from flip flops that I find along the shore. Green, black, and earth browns all seem to work. Other great flies for the Paluxy are small gurglers or if you have access to one, Dale “Brimbum” Wilkerson’s, foam spider flies. Being mostly shallow waters, the surface flies work well. Other dry flies, such as the “Crackle Back”, “Adams” and caddis family flies are successful on the Paluxy. The bottom of the river, near gravel bars, will naturally hold damsel nymphs, dragon fly nymphs, and hellgrammite nymphs. 

I use a 3 to 5 weight rod with weight forward floating line, and a 3x seven foot leader with 18 inches of 4x tippet for most of my fishing on the Paluxy. This weight rod will handle all the flies and will make the little sunnies feel like brutes. Casting to the brush, or where the grass grows over the banks, near stumps or logs, offer great holding places for fish. Finding a deeper hole near the banks will reward you with wild, splashing hits from bigger bass. These fish are easily scared, so your cast cannot splash on the water, nor can you stomp along the bottom. Slow, quiet wading is needed. You will not have to cast more than 40 feet. Making accurate casts are more important.

 You will need felt-soled wading boots for the shallow wading. Putting studs in them will help on the flat rocks. In April, the water will still be cool if you are planning deeper wading and boots or waders are needed. Brown or amber polarized sunglasses to “see” under the brush and into the shadows will help. There are a few “skeeters”, but not too bad. There’s not much else to worry about when wading the Paluxy. You might see a water snake, but just let it swim by. There are some large catfish and gars in the river, but nothing that will bite you.

The only problem that you might encounter on the Paluxy is fast-rising waters if it rains anywhere up stream. Today there are many farm ponds and improved catch basins along the river. With all the dry weather, these have to fill up first before the water can course to the river. 

I hope you will find the little fish hungry and full of fights. Keep what you want to eat and release the rest to fight another day. Shade from the great oaks will keep you from the hot sun. Safe wading on the hard bottom should offer a great day on the waters of this gem in the northern hills of Texas. Big Rocks Park or Dinosaur Valley State Park, County Road 1001 “first crossing”, and County Road 1008 at Lanham Mill County Park will offer other access points to the Paluxy.

About four miles east of Glen Rose, the Brazos River passes under U.S. 67. If the Paluxy is not flowing enough to fish, this will be the place to go. Accessing Country Road 316 on the west side of the bridge and driving under the bridge will let you enter the river for wading downstream. Up river, you will need a kayak, canoe, kick boat or you can rent a canoe from one the rentals shops just east of the U.S. 67 bridge. You can spend a couple of hours or a day floating the Brazos River.



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Photos for watercolor images provided by Al Crise. Copyright 2009 by Allen Crise. All rights reserved.