Virginia (and West Virginia) are for Anglers!
If you only drive around the Northern Virginia area, you would think the Potomac River from DC to the Chesapeake Bay is the only body of water in the Old Dominion. Wrong! The state is loaded to the gills with lakes, rivers and streams. But it’s the rivers that excite and invite world-class fishing for many species including trout and smallmouth bass.
One of the things that make river fishing so compelling is the constant change of scenery. Unlike lakes, which are mostly still water fisheries, rivers are deep and shallow, slow and fast, and there’s always a bend around the corner. Rivers can carry you away from civilization, while providing a historic highway through the wilderness that has provided an outdoor connection for inhabitants over centuries. These bodies of water are waiting for anglers to ply their depths either from afoot or afloat. But where do you start?
Amazingly, author and outdoorsman Bruce Ingram has visited most of the fishable waters in the Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland area where the rivers run through it. Writing about fishing via many outdoors publications and in thousands of features and photos since 1983, award winning author Ingram spends most of his time fishing, hunting, birding and in just plain old outdoors enjoyment. In his recent books The South Branch and Upper Potomac Rivers Guide, covering from the Smoke Hole section of the South Branch downstream to the Upper Potomac just above Big Falls, and the new edition of The Shenandoah and Rappahannock Rivers Guide, Ingram includes his passion for every aspect of the outdoors. Not wanting to miss the forest for the trees, his books make note of birds and wildlife along with the terrain to compliment the fishing appetite.
Open-air minded folks already know Bruce Ingram as one of the few people who has floated the entire lengths of the freshwater James, the New River, South Fork of the Shenandoah and Shenandoah and upper Rappahannock, the South Branch of the Potomac, and the Main Stem of the Potomac above Great Falls! He’s covered more than 500 waterway miles. One roadblock to fishing wonderful waters is often lack of access. Ingram details where to launch, where to stay, how to get there and even on-the-water landmarks to identify fishing areas or photo opportunities! Ingram starts the tour at the headwaters where river life flows. A brief history lesson, and then it’s on to fishing!
Fishing solo is always an option but most angler outings are shared outdoors experiences. Ingram’s are as well! In just about every river section segment, Ingram credits close fishing friends or longtime outfitters in memorializing his adventures. Nothing is left out, including specific tackle and tactics not only for species but also for specific areas along the way. Ingram vets guides and outfitters and provides their contact information as well as places to stay and tourism resources.
As Virginia is flooded with fishing opportunities, nearby West Virginia provides a get away. Petersburg, WV is about 2 hours from Northern Virginia, an easy drive out Route 66 and across to Route 55 to Petersburg, for the South Branch of the Potomac River. Welton Park is an easy put-in with several miles of “park and walk” access. Along the river Eagle’s Nest Outfitters (eaglesnestoutfitters.com) comes highly recommended by Ingram. The fishing along this stretch is awesome! The state record smallmouth, rainbow trout, and 4 other state records were caught in the South Branch. Hundreds of citation trout and other species have been caught in this area too! A quick inquiry call to the Grant County CVB and to Eagle’s Nest Outfitters reveals a very nearby bed and breakfast. The Judy House (judyhousebnb.com) is about a mile up the road.
Whether by foot or by float, all of Ingram’s waters are easily accessed and accommodate every skill and age level. Float fishermen, paddlers, birders, and wildlife watchers will find their escape into the outdoors away from planes trains and automobiles and closer to nature’s sites and sounds with scents of fresh air. Jump in the car, take a short scenic drive, grab your rod and plan your angling destination with Ingram’s latest River Guides. Ingram will lead you to the waters; it’s up to you to drink up the outdoors.
Potomac River Bassing in SEPTEMBER
Cool mornings are hot for topwater lures. Lucky Craft G-Splash poppers and walkers like the Gunfish on GAMMA torque braid can cover water at higher tides! Try Mann’s Waker too! Have a weightless stickworm on a 3/0 Mustad Ultra Point Mega bite hook ready for missed bites on 20-pound test Torque braid with a 12-pound test GAMMA Edge fluorocarbon leader.
On sunny days use Mann’s Baby 1-Minus in chartreuse or shad patterns on cloudy days. Classic spinnerbaits with white skirts work on cloudy days. Craw patterned chatterbaits work anytime. Swim Mann’s Stone Jigs around cover. Use a HardNose Frankentoad trailer on 14-16 pound test GAMMA Edge.
Mann’s HardNose 5.5-inch Swim Shads with a ¼ ounce weighted 7/0 Mustad Swimbait hook on 20-pound Edge Fluorocarbon line. Pitch Mizmo tubes, Texas rigged with 14-16 pound Edge and 3/16-ounce weights to grass clumps, wood and docks. A good soaking in garlic Jack’s Juice will keep fish holding on longer! Use a ½- 1.5-ounce Round Valley Tungsten weight on 60-pound braid with a small soft plastic craw to punch through grass mats.
Drop shot steep drops with GAMMA Torque 20-pound braid with a 12-pound test Edge leader on a Quantum EXO spinning outfit. Use a 2/0 Mustad Mega Bite hook and Mann’s HardNose 6-inch Jelly worm. Anchor this rig with a 1/8 ounce Water Gremlin Bullshot weight.
Written by: Steve Chaconas
Capt. Steve Chaconas, Potomac bass fishing guide, BoatUS “Ask the Expert” (http://my.boatus.com/askexperts/bassfishing/)
Potomac River reports: nationalbass.com. Book trips/purchase gift certificates: info@NationalBass.com.