Mossy Creek reports: We are certain to catch a few more smallmouth this year while in pursuit of musky and carp, but our main focus is back on trout fishing. There are a few warm days in the weeks ahead and the smallmouth are always willing to eat a well-presented crayfish or baitfish pattern fished slow and deep this time of year. Being successful on smallmouth through late fall and winter depends on your ability to find where the bulk of the fish live during the cold months. Many miles of river are now barren, as bass have moved on to their wintering holes. Even in long winter holes, you may at times find bass stacked up in a particular area. We have counted over 100 smallmouth on a single ledge in the winter months. These fish aren’t overly difficult to catch, but they are spooky when grouped up in large numbers. The amount of water necessary to cover and the technical aspects of fly fishing for winter smallmouth make it less appealing than chasing musky or trout. We will spend the cool months assessing this past season and reloading our boxes in preparation for the 2016 season. With that in mind, we are already booking dozens of trips for the early season. Mid April-May is a prime time for big smallmouth bass in Virginia and this coincides with our peak trout fishing season. March, April, and May have become extremely popular and our guides have been booked up solid 2-3 months in advance. If you have ever wanted to experience our peak season fishing or had a great time on the water with us recently, book your spring season fishing early! We are booking the entire 2016 season now! For those looking for action sooner rather than later, get geared up with your cold weather gear and get ready for musky fishing! Leaf litter on the water right now can be a pain. Fishing on calm days is crucial as rivers can get completely coated in leaves making fly presentation nearly impossible. We recommend 9′ 10 weight rods, intermediate or full sink lines, and heavy bite tippet or wire when pursuing musky. Let our expert guides help you get started if you are curious about musky fishing. It is a demanding sport but extremely exciting and rewarding! See you out there!
Mountain Trout Streams
The mountain brook trout fishing has been incredible over the past few weeks. The rain in early October turned around the fishing quickly. Enjoy your time in the mountains responsibly. Many brook trout are paired up or have already spawned. This is a controversial topic and we respect informed anglers decisions to fish or give the brook trout a break. Our shop does not guide on brook trout water during this season nor do we actively fish mountain wild waters now through winter. We understand many responsible anglers enjoy this time of year in the mountains. We ask that anyone fishing please do your best to stay out of the creeks as much as possible to avoid stepping on the redds or possibly coating fragile eggs with silt stirred up from wading. Return fish quickly to the stream and observe the pools for actively spawning fish and their redds. Remember that brook trout eggs will incubate on the streambed for 45-140 days depending on water temps! This means you will need to be careful in these creeks until early March most years! Enjoy the colors in the mountains and the great fishing but please be cautious. We want to ensure a great spawn this season.
The heavy rains earlier this month really helped clear out the spring creeks that began to get choked up with grass and algae. Smith, Mossy, Beaver, South, Buffalo, and Spring Run all look great and refreshed. Water flows are still good but if we don’t begin getting some rain, things will begin to look bleak again very soon. As leaves continue to drop and vegetation dries up, more moisture will return to the ground and our rivers and creeks. A few days of quality rain will ensure weeks of good fishing. It is looking like we may get a bit of precipitation in the next 10 days. Continue your rain dancing if you want to continue fishing this fall! Rainfall is crucial to the vitality of our fall fishing! We have experienced multiple hard frosts already on the spring creeks but we do still have some large grasshoppers and crickets around. Tricos are still hatching in the late morning and early afternoon hours and we have seen some BWO’s on overcast days and some random stoneflies and caddis popping off. Much of our big insect hatches are done for the year. We will be focusing on fishing small crayfish and sculpin patterns on the stream bottoms along with our favorite nymphs. CK nymphs, Jigged prince, Jigged hare’s ear, Bloody Mary’s, Psycho Prince, Killer Bugs, 20 inchers, and Copper Johns high-sticked or fished under a strike indicator in the deep pools and channels should work on all of our trout waters into springtime!
South Fork Shenandoah
Ed T out of Front Royal Canoe filed this report on 10-27 on a trip from Karo Landing to Front Royal. This is the last trip of the year for me. FRO is closing shop next Sunday. Decided my last trip would be a short one. Weather forecast called for a good chance of rain after noon. The water level was still nice; I had no trouble getting through this section of the South Fork. Only problem was all the debris in the water, lots of dead leaves (it is fall after all) and lots of dead grass. The cold water had killed a lot of the aquatic grass, so it ended up floating in the water. All that trash made it almost impossible to reel in a lure more than a foot or two before it was choked up. Between cold water and choked up lures, I had a pretty hard time yesterday. Compounding the problem was the fact that soft plastics rarely work when the water gets that cold. End result? I just kept tossing a #3 Mepps spinner over and over and cleaning it off almost every cast. I caught two smallmouth yesterday, both twelve inches, both caught in shallow pools of slack water near the banks and between rock ledges. I think that about the only thing that might have improved my chances was live bait – like big shiners or better yet, mad toms. Live bait works even in the dead of winter. The leaves were pretty and the air was reasonably warm. I did not get rained on. So even though the fishing was decidedly lackluster, I enjoyed my last trip on the river. It’s always nice to be on the Shenandoah, it’s a beautiful and peaceful place. I drove home with a nice used kayak I purchased from FRO, I plan on getting in some paddling this winter. FRO still has some nice used or new watercraft for sale if you are in the market. Anyway, that’s it for my reports this year. I hope you have enjoyed them. I’ll be back next April. Until then, good luck with your fishing.
Grass fishing is still tricky. Hydrilla is dead, but fish still use as cover. Milfoil and coontail are still green and the best fish cover.
Water has cooled to around 60, warming to the mid 60s on sunny days. Low 60s to start the week and into the weekend.
In the morning, cover water with moving lures like Mann’s Baby 1-Minus, chatterbaits, spinnerbaits and buzzbaits. As the tide falls, probe grass with Lucky Craft 1.5 cranks. Baitfish patterns on sunny days or craw when cloudy. Spinnerbaits with a gold and nickel Colorado blade can be worked through grass. Buzzbaits with toads instead of skirts can cover water. Find green grass and target points and edges. Move toward the bank and over pads.
Stickworms, weightless and Texas rigged, can produce in milfoil beds. Cast and drop, snapping from grass and dropping again. Also pitching Texas rigged Mizmo tubes on 3/0 Mustad Mega Bite hooks with 3/16-ounce weights to holes is a good idea. Using GAMMA Edge 12-14 pound fluorocarbon line is key to feel bites better and for hook sets.
Low tides in the warmest part of the day provide opportunities to target hard cover as the sun warms it a bit. Docks where grass has died are best spots as fish move to this cover. Lots of casts to shady areas and to pilings, logs and rock will produce bites. Also use crankbaits.
Until hydrilla is gone, most beds will continue to be tough to fish. Move around looking for bare spots.
Capt. Steve Chaconas is a guide on the Potomac River. firstname.lastname@example.org
Capt. Art Conway of Conway’s River Rat Guide Service (804-746-2475) out of Ed Allen’s Boats and Bait reported that Chickahominy Lake mid-day water temperatures were in the high 50’s in the main lake on Wednesday (10/28/2015). The lake level was slightly above the top of the dam. The water was light brown and very slightly cloudy in the central lower lake.
Blue cats and a few bullheads were scattered throughout the lake, but were starting to move toward the channels and were hitting live minnows and cut bait. Moderate numbers of crappie were in loose schools in the main lake on deeper flats and channel edges, usually at depths of 9 to 14 feet, sometimes suspended, and frequently in the neighborhood of wood cover. Active crappie were hitting live minnows, Wright Bait Co. curlytail jigs, small tubes, Kalin crappie scrubs, small swim baits, jigging spoons, and blade baits. Some small to medium yellow perch were scattered on main lake flats and on flats in creek mouths and were hitting live minnows, small jerk baits, and small jigs. Most bluegills and shellcrackers had moved to the deep edges of hydrilla flats, to mid-depth wood cover, or into channel edges and were hitting live crickets and worms, small blade baits, tubes, and jigs. Some bass and pickerel were on lily pad flats and along shorelines in lower reaches of major creeks and in shallow bays and some shorelines in the main lake, while other bass and a few pickerel were on deeper flats and channel edges in the main lake. Bass and pickerel were hitting live minnows, spinnerbaits, swim baits, stick worms, crank baits, jerk baits, and jigs, with some topwater action early and late on many days.
Fishing with Capt. Conway, Tom Porter had 16 crappie, 2 yellow perch, 1 white perch, 2 blue cats, 1 pickerel, and 1 bass.