The following was posted on another site where I participate. Hotcast is a member there. RSCR is a summer camping event similar to P-net’s Raystown gathering.
Hotcast and I got out on a river in West (by God!) Virginia. The only bummer of the trip is that I couldn’t find my out-of-state certificate from RSCR and had to buy the base ticket again, so it cost me an extra $12. Totally worth it.
This is mostly a whitewater area, but with the low, low water we figured we’d just portage the tough stuff and be OK in the not tough stuff. We were dressed for the water temps, and we had spare clothes and other emergency gear along. There was never any danger of a capsize so long as we remembered the key phrase of the day “HUG THE ROCK!” The water was clearer than murky, but still with suspended solids when we started to close to gin clear as we got near the end. We only went five miles and spent good long times in the pools. Hotcost had a new Pungo (he had worn out his old one) and he was testing all the rigging: bow and stern anchors among them. Yeah, I know. I’m not a fan of anchors on kayaks either. I used my Dagger Approach and drift fished the pools. If Hotcast was still anchored, I’d paddle back up the head and drift again.
The day was raining at dawn, so we planned a late put-in. Put-in was about 9:40AM and the rain had stopped. The weather changed about six times, apparantly on a cycle. At one end it was complete overcast and gray, and the other end it was about 40% puffy white cloud cover and bright blue skies behind it. For once, the wind was at our backs, which is a nice change of pace. The air temps at the beginning of the day were low 60’s (a guess) and by the end of the day upper 50’s (also a guess) and dropping fast. That’s because we got off river just as the sun was setting, which in the valley was about 5:00P. By then the wind was bone chilling. We were dressed for wind and wet, or otherwise we’d have been miserable. Instead, we were grinning.
Another happy circumstance was that this time, the fish read the same books I have. They were right where they were supposed to be in these conditions and time of year. The crazy thing is that both large smallies and even larger catfish were surface feeding. It took me over half the day to figure out on what. There was a mayfly hatch - on November 8. Go figure. Anyway, I think there must have been a lot more emergers under the surface than the smallies and cats allowed to make to the surface because there were danged few spinners visible.
Well, with these well-read fish, I caught on to the pattern early. In addition to the hatch, I saw some mud-puppies scoot as my kayak approached (let’s hear it for polarized sunglasses - yea). I decided to try and imitate them. I had some Jack’s worms in just that shade and presented them with a 1/8 bullet weight and orange bead. Cast, let it settle, retrieve just a little bit faster than I was moving downstream such that I was recovering all the line from my drift plus moving the bait just a little. As with most whitewatery water in the mid-Atlantic, there were a lot of channels and ledges parallel(ish) to the current. The fish were there. They were at the edges of relative shallow to relative deep.
I had a good catching day for me. Real good. 1 - 16", 1 - 15", 4 - 14", 2 -13" plus more 12 and under dinks than I can count. Hotcast showed me one of his numbers honey holes, and it is a honey. At Hotcast’s suggestion, I switched to a Yamamoto chartreuse grub there and caught fish after fish. The very cool thing is that there are two honey holes right near to one another. We were out of the boats at this point and “bank” fishing from a mid-river exposed ledge plenty large enough for two to walk on and fish. So, we’d fish one honey hole until it was wore out and go to the other one while the first rested. We switched back and forth like that for a long while and caught dozens from just those two holes. Then we were able to find a number of other spots with those characteristics (deep pool with oxygenated current coming into the middle of it) and caught real well at those holes as we drifted down. He said it’s normally bigger fish there, but we were catching dinks out of them yesterday. Fine with me.
Except at rapids, we drifted downstream at river speed with the aforementioned exceptions of re-drifting an area or anchoring up. We portaged one large ledge that I’ve run many times before at higher water. At 4’ it’s easy. At 2.5’, it’s a little technical but still the sort you could shephard a notice through if you’re ready to pick up the pieces below. At 1’, I portaged.
In all, by the end of the float I was damp (but not dangerously wet), cold (but not dangerously cold), the light was dim enough that getting through the final rapid was an adventure in BANG - ****. What is normally a long, rated rapid at the end was an exercise in finding enough water to move through. I slid down over damp moss as often as floated. There was a lot of the neanderthal crawl. River levels were well below the American Whitewater minimum for the float. But we weren’t there for water thrills, we were there for fish.
Only one non-smallie was caught, and it was a very pale looking sunfish. All fish caught were healthy looking and acting. We saw lots of cats and some carp.
Hotcast says he didn’t catch as many as I did, which is very unusual. He normally outfishes me by a significant margin. He fished a variety of soft and hard plastics but seemed to have the most luck with a crawfish colored tube and with a chartreuse Fat Ika grub.
It was a GREAT way to wind up the season (unless Shenandoah River Rat pulls me out for another New Years Eve float).
- Big D