The site where I initially posted this has some folks that are crazy about giving locations. I understand not doing it for small creeks, but I’ve been lambasted for doing it on this particular river - the Potomac. Not really a secretive little river. There are some snide comments. And by the way, with the descriptions I gave, anyone familiar with the river will know exactly where I was fishing. I was just tweeking some noses with that.
Hotcast, his friend Rusty, Spiderman, and I decided to take a float trip yesterday starting you-know-where and down to the other you-know-where associated with the Gatherodeo floats. If you don’t know where, it’s a popular section of a major river that is written up in every mid-Atlantic book on river fishing, and frequently mentioned in newspaper articles, and in Virginia Game & Fish magazine. But, because some people seem to think that this section of river is private and that mentioning it in a report will spoil it, I will refrain from specifically identifying it.
It started out smoothly enough. I finally got my Scanoe registered, and finally got the trailer registered, so I trailered my Scanoe with a trolling motor (many thanks to Hotcast for giving me that cast-off upon replacing his own) to the put-in. Hotcast and Rusty were already there. They didn’t let me do any work, fearing for my shoulder. I for one was looking forward to getting some exercise. Once we got the boat in the water and ready to run shuttle and meet Spiderman at the take-out, I decided to weigh down the painter with a big rock. Instead of the painter, I dropped the big rock on my toe. So, we left Rusty to fish a little while and watch the boats while Hotcast and I met Spiderman. No hitches there and we got back to the put-in. I needed ballast in my boat, so Hotcast put some big rocks into the front of my Scanoe for me. As is my usual habit, I hung back at the launch and diddled around to let my mind spin down from all the preps, spend a little quiet time with my own thoughts, say a prayer for the safety and success of the trip, and get ready to get on the water given the precise conditions I’ve had a chance to witness first-hand. Spiderman hung back a respectful distance, giving me competent adult supervision for when I pulled out - being worried about my shoulder moreso than was I.
Eventually, we headed out into the current and began fishing. Yesterday for me was the day of the fairy wand. I want to improve my skill with fly fishing. When we got on the water, I ran upcurrent to a large publicly maintained structure with pillars and a roadway on the top (because, you know, I don’t want to give away the location or anything), waved over to Hotcast and Rusty, who waved back but as we learn later apparantly didn’t know to whom they were waving. I made a few casts at the pilings but I’ve never had much luck there and started the float down on the river left bank. Before we were out of site of the launch site, I had five hits on a hair popper. I didn’t set the hook on any of them (this was not a purposeful lack of setting the hook, merely incompetence), and they were all dinks, but I was thrilled with that level of success and attention from my finned friends. Spiderman got a nasty snag he couldn’t get loose and lost about half his reel of line. He came over to borrow some line, but I loaned him a spinning rod instead. Well, Spiderman is a convert to Fireline Crystal because he could feel the fish looking at his ubiquitous white grub. He wound up landing 50 or 60 dinks for the day (# includes 'gills).
Spiderman and I continued to float on down the river as planned. It was my understanding that we were going to put in, float down at river speed, and take breaks when or where we felt like, and generally have a lazy, relaxed trip. We lost site of Hotcast and Rusty, but didn’t think much of that because Hotcast knows this section of river well and they were well equipped. So, anyway, Spiderman keeps catching fish after fish, and I keep missing hook set after hook set. I switched to an olive wooly bugger and promptly landed my first smallie on the fly!!! I took a picture and showed it off later at the campground. Those who saw it said that with some reading glasses and a little imagination they could make out the fact there was in fact a smallmouth bass in my hand in the photo. I missed a number more hooksets, but began to catch on and began to catch pretty good. I was getting dink smallmouth and big bream. I had two large smallies on, but they both got off. I was happy to even get them on the line. For me, yesterday was the day of learning by making mistakes.
The trolling motor worked well, but after a while, I wanted the feel of the water. I was standing in the Scanoe to fish with the fly rod - that was a blast and the Scanoe is well suited to standing on that kind of water. I never had a concern of tipping or falling whatever - a very high initial stability. Just after I threw my back out by making some correction/steering strokes with a canoe paddle from a standing (bending over) position, I decided maybe sitting and using a spinning rod would be good. (For those keeping track, this is smashed toe and thrown out back so far.) I put on a white grub and a 1/8oz ball head jig and proceeded to catching on pretty much every third cast or so. They were EVERYWHERE. I couldn’t find a single predominant pattern aside from the fact they were in the water. I did find three or four consistent patterns - shade edges, under wood especially at the down current ends, my favorite pattern of hanging out under undercut ledges where you cast downstream and let it drop over the edge right in front of their nose*, and fast moving near the surface in mid-river. I found another pattern later but didn’t have enough time to put it to good use.
[*this was really fun while standing and able to see them attack the fly!]
Spiderman just kept throwing and dragging his ubiquitous white tube (he did admit to bringing chartreuse grubs this time) and catching more fish.
Hookup! That cove that we love so well on the river right side was VERY good to me yesterday. I must have caught ten on the fly rod without even running the length of it, just up at the head and then taking the cut over to the main current because I was getting more smallies near the main current and more ‘gills in the cove. I’m not good at keeping track of count, so that “ten” should be understood to mean “what seemed like a bunch of fish”.
Got off track. So, I took up the spinning rod and put on a white grub and 1/8 oz ball head jig and did very well until we got down to the tube dragging water below the class two-thirds rapid and above the second large structure with pilings and a road on the top of which I wouldn’t dare give away the location. Now, in that class two-thirds rapid, I was on the oars because it was too shallow for the trolling motor and besides it looked like fun. Well, my left oar caught a submerged rock while running a chute and caught me behind the ear ringing my bell. So, now I was literally hurting head to toe. Head ringing and ear bleeding from an oar knock, shoulder from just using it, lower back from stupidity taking a paddle stroke with bad form, and toe from dropping a big rock on it.
Well, we were hanging out in that tube dragging water. Spiderman had slowed down on his grub, and so had I. So, I took off the white grub and put on a 4" Magic Stick in that watermelon rind looking color that’s greenish with black gloobers in it. I let it fall and gently dragged it across the bottom with frequent rests. I was getting bumps and attention immediately. Pretty soon I had a good pickup and the fight was on. I landed a nice, fat 16" smallie with plenty of spunk. I tried a little while longer in that water, and got plenty of attention, but we kept floating on down and wound up getting out of the water with that characteristic before I caught a second large fish. Wish I had moved on to that pattern earlier because I expect there are some more pigs in that area that would take. As soon as we moved out, some other old boys moved their boat right on over. Good of them to wait until we moved on, and I appreciated their courtesy.
What happened to Hotcast and Roger. Well, just after I took an oar to the ear, Hotcast called me on my cell phone. Ends up he didn’t know it was us that had come out and he was still up by the first river-wide civil structure with pilings and a road on top - and still catching a ton of fish. I’ll call him later today and see how things went for him. It wasn’t real good that we got separated because Hotcast had lunch. It wasn’t so bad that we got separated because I had the beer.
When we got back to the ramp, someone had stolen an anchor clevis from my trailer and cut the light wires. Now, I can understand stealing a clevis. I don’t like it, but I can understand it. I don’t get cutting the wires. That netted the perpetrator exactly nothing. But it was obvious from the wires that it had been cut with a tool and not an accidental pinching or whatever. Spiderman did a good job of a field expedient to get the lights working again and us underway as safely as we could.
I dropped by the campground and met Doug. Doug had just arrived and then headed out onto the water. Mitch came by after a while and I had a nice time getting to know him. After a while, EddieF fell on by and we shared a few beers and B.S.ed for a time. I headed out, and it was then that everyone started streaming in. I saw a bunch of RS’ers on the road and waved. At one point I saw some guy driving a truck pulling a boat with some moron sitting on the front casting chair of the boat. Then I recognized the moron was Muskalungee. We stopped and had a chat. The guy driving was Captain Walleye. He was clean-shaven and therefore entirely unrecognizable to me. We talked, razzed Ben in his absence, and yelled at the people who drove by. We even knew some of them.
Day was around 80 degrees, started cloudy and proceeded to partly cloudy, water was clear but not gin clear, level was 2.3’ and bottoming out from a steady fall, wind was not a major factor but there was a steady gentle breeze, water temp was guessed by Spiderman and I at low to mid 70s.
- Big D