A Drift Boat Guide Goes Canoe Fishing in West Texas Waters

onWater Ambassador Alyssa Adcock spent five days on a canoe and fishing trip in the wilds of west Texas. From fishing remote waters to learning whitewater canoe skills to cocktails under the stars, Alyssa created memories of fishing and canoeing to last a lifetime. This the personal account of fishing on the Devil’s River in Texas by Alyssa Adcock.

By Alyssa Adcock, from the Devil’s River in West Texas

When I think of Texas, wide open ranches, cattle, and leather boots come to mind. Most of west Texas with its rocky plateaus and desert cacti, persimmon, live oak, and wildflowers fit old Western movie depictions. I think of cowboys atop rocky ledges staring down into the valley below.


Texas Fishing Scenery


But west Texas is more than movie-set type vistas. What really stands out are the lush valleys that follow each vein of the Devil’s River watershed. In these ribbons of green amongst the dry desert grays and browns, you find a different kind of cowboy–one that is tattooed, tan, and perpetually wet from running rapids or wrapping up a casual post-paddle beer float. These new breeds of west Texas wranglers run rivers. And these river wranglers run a different kind of cattle.

Texas Fishing River Wranglers

I was fortunate to spend six days exploring the waters of the Devil’s River watershed with some of these unique river wranglers. My journey began as a fishing trip–and the fishing was very solid–but I left the grandest of west Texas remembering to never apologize for chasing what sets your soul on fire.

Here is my personal journal from six special days that lit my soul afire while canoeing the Devil’s River.

Canoe Fishing in Texas

First Day Jitters Eased by Great Cocktails

October 27th. First night in camp. Big travel day yesterday–we loaded up the trucks at Marlene’s around 6:00 am and then a few hour’s drive to the river. We stayed the night before in a local hostel with a badass outdoor cowboy bar in the backyard. We figured out gear loads for each boat at the ramp…some notable mentions from my load: can crusher (a necessity, obviously), the snack bag (finessed that one), and the shit bucket (did not finesse that one).

Gorgeous campsite and five star food on a two-bit budget. I’ve been convinced to drink Mezcal margs and I’ll be damned if they weren’t absolutely fabulous.

Mezcal River Margarita

Campsite Mezcal Margaritas? See recipe below.

The Best Mezcal Marg of Your Life:
  • Rambler Sparkling Water
  • Republic Jalapeño Lime mixer
  • Mezcal
  • Tajin
  1. Drink ¼ of your Rambler
  2. Add Jalapeño Lime mixer
  3. Big splash of Mezcal
  4. Swish can a couple of times
  5. Top with a generous sprinkle of Tajin
Rain, Rapids, and Reflections on Day Two

October 28th. First morning waking up on the river. Hard rain and lightning last night so I can’t believe my tent stayed dry. We logged our miles, a portage, and a couple small rapids yesterday. I’m laughing at my confidence coming into a whitewater canoe scenario, because I have never done it before. This shit is hard!

Devils River Rapids Alyssa Adcock

Reminding myself that it is okay sometimes to be “the student” and not always “the pro,” but still excited to improve my skills. I downloaded the onWater Fish river map ahead of time. Using some of their navigation and safety tools, I  was able to do some research last night on our paddle today. For example, I knew when Class II-III rapids were coming up!  I didn’t land a fish yesterday because I am still figuring out how to paddle a canoe solo, stay on track with low current speed in windy conditions all while casting and netting fish!

The weather was very hot but a few light showers most of the day kept things cool. After our portage at a small waterfall, Logan and I took a swim to stay cool.
The solo canoe means it’s me, myself, and I.

I love being alone in the boat, being able to move where I want and silently soak up the beauty of west Texas is sublime.

Devils River Canoe Fishing

Benadryl Nights and Canoeing Delights Define Day Three

October 29th. Second morning waking up on the river. Slept like shit for some reason and woke up with ten new mosquito bites on my ankles. Why do they love me so much? I will take some Benadryl tonight and leave it up to the gods.

Rapids yesterday were incredible. I managed not to flip my canoe all while running some pretty clean lines. We’re calling that a win for today. Each rapid was separated by long flats with some wicked wind. It was a solid paddle by any standard with lots of character building opportunities–yesterday was a good day. Inclement weather is supposed to be coming in today around 4 PM. Because of that, we are trying to get some higher miles done early so we can have camp prepped for the storm.

My soul is so happy out here.

Devils River Canoe fishing

Flash Flood Fantasies: Mapping Tributaries in the Rain on Day Four

October 30th. Going to bed listening to the river and storm outside my tent. Got a hot rock in my sleeping bag for my tootsies. Feeling very lux because under the glow of my headlamp, I was able to do my entire skin care routine during a pause in the rain.

Using onWater I’ve been looking up the tributary names and their routes. I want to explore places named Lechuguilla Creek, Indian Creek, and Dead Man’s Creek. When rain pours during a flash flood, I wonder what the CFS becomes on these little tributaries.

I’m a high water camp kinda girl.

Alyssa using the onwater app to find tributary names

Sleep, Coffee, and Rainy Endings on Last Day

October 31st. This was the last morning waking up on the river. Slept like the dead–most likely it was the margaritas. But I managed to snag my coffee early and crawl back into my sleeping bag while the guides made breakfast. Some cold/rainy weather this morning for our final paddle. Apparently Texas doesn’t get much rain during their river season so for us to have such a drastic temp drop + sustained rain is pretty rare.

Big miles and fun rapids yesterday–thus the plethora of tequilla last night. One rapid was almost 100 yards long and I crushed it. One of my favorite parts is hopping out to scout the bigger rapids. It’s like a preview of a waterpark ride, but with more adrenaline and a higher price to pay for failure. I’ve really enjoyed this whitewater canoeing and it’s brought back some muscle memory from running whitewater as a kid.

Today is a shorter day as it is only a few miles to take out. Hopefully the rain will pause while we load the gear from the boats to the truck, because I’ve done enough take-outs in the rain to get me through this lifetime.

Alyssa Devils River

River Reflections – Take a Deep Breath

November 1st. It’s back to the real world. At the hotel now and flying back to North Carolina tomorrow, but I really wish I was loading it all again up for another round. This trip was so nice for me because for the first time, I wasn’t working on the trip. As a professional guide, there are so many incredible things I get to enjoy as part of the river crew…but one thing I don’t get to do is rest. Or ease of mind. Or relax and have minimal responsibilities.

On this trip I got to breathe. It will be a core memory for me and a vital part in the way I show up for my Alaska guests–it is the environment I create so that others may enjoy the river in the same, magical way. Lots of good river lessons this trip.

This drift boat guide turned canoeist is already looking forward to the next one.

Devils River Takeout

Some takeouts are easier to find than others.

About Alyssa Adcock

About Alyssa Adcock

Alyssa works as a full time guide for Boone’s Fly Shop + High Country Guide Service, spending part of the season providing float trips on the Watauga and South Holston tailwaters in Eastern Tennessee as well as hosting overnight floats in southwest Alaska on the Kanektok River. Fly fishing has given her the opportunity to travel and pursue a variety of fish- smallmouth, trout, musky, tarpon, redfish, snook, bonefish, and permit; and she enjoys the challenge of tying new flies for each species. Alyssa has developed a deep appreciation for river ecology and takes special interest in migratory birds; you can often find her boat stocked with a pair of binoculars or an aquatic insect collection kit. We hope you enjoyed this story about fishing on the Devil’s River in Texas by Alyssa Adcock.

About onWater blog
If you’re interested in booking this Texas River Fishing trip, I highly recommend talking with Far West Texas Outfitters and downloading onWater Fish.
Photos by Dylan Schmitz and Alyssa Adcock. 
Great nights high quality cocktails provided by All Hands Cocktails.