A Day Off, On the Water
The pressure of producing fish in August heat for fathers, who forgot to take their kids fishing during cooler months, is over! Time to fish with regular clients and friends, relaxing, and enjoying life! Decades ago I fished small rivers, either wading or drifting in canoes. My buddy Bruce Ingram, author of The James River Guide (www.bruceingramoutdoors.com), told me, “The James below Lynchburg offers a number of outstanding trips…feature(s) lots of water willow beds, riffles, and current breaks. Really, there are no mediocre floats over the course of the next 30 miles of river.” So, when my buddy Alan Friedlander, who fishes deepest oceans to shallowest streams, invited me to fish for smallmouth bass on the Upper James, I was excited.
Speaking with guide Matt Miles (mattmilesflyfishing.com) in advance of our trip, he described the fishing terrain and vessel in which we would be spending our 8-hour trip, giving me confidence. He’s young in years but long in guide experience, 16 years including Colorado and his James River VA home waters where he grew up fishing. Matt has designed many baits, including Umpqua Feather Merchants signature series trout flies; Matt’s Midge, Winter Foam Stone, and Ride Sally Ride.
Awaking at 3am isn’t something I look forward to, but when fishing’s involved, I usually beat my clock to the alarm! Preparing for 3 weeks, downsizing my Potomac River largemouth bass fare and grabbing a couple of my Quantum rod and reel combos, Mizmo tubes and grubs, and a few jerkbaits, I was ready! Alan was too! I met him at 4am and headed to southwest Virginia.
My 20-foot Skeeter bass boat with advanced electronics, powerful electric trolling motor and 250-horsepower Yamaha outboard has spoiled me. Not to mention 40 rods, unlimited tackle storage and of course padded carpeting! Matt’s boat didn’t look like much to me, but experienced and diversified angler Alan saw a top of the line drift boat. No electronics or carpeting, but perfect for skimming across rocks and through small rapids. Seeing oars and no motors, I couldn’t visualize how we would traverse the 8-mile stretch of river. But our guide Matt was a couple of decades younger than me. His high-end 17-foot Boulder Boat Works drift boat with a 5-inch draw was stable and comfortable, providing a perfect fishing platform. Controlled by an occasional gentle burst from Matt’s oars, we were sliding down the river. A train rumbling along the riverbank or a small single engine plane gliding around for few minutes only occasionally disturbed nature’s white noise. After that, no one disturbed our day except a few bald eagles and ospreys. Fishing was spectacular, in spite of having less than favorable conditions. Sunny skies put fish where you can catch them. We had clouds! Calm water allows covering water with topwater lures. We had 10-15 MPH winds.
Orvis-endorsed fly-fishing guide Matt Miles accommodates spinning gear clients too! Guiding for a living most of his adult life, he perfected his teaching skills out West. Watching and listening to his lesson clarified the art of the cast, hookset, and landing of fish with his Orvis outfits! Windy conditions kept fly-fishing at bay, but we were not disappointed nor deterred from catching a lot of fish! Wacky rigging 3-inch stickworms, Alan went to town with dozens of smallmouth bass and quite a few spotted bass! I tossed a Lucky Craft Pointer and Mizmo tubes! With the clarity of the water, I was surprised when Matt recommended a darker junebug color. But they worked! I tried others, but the pro guide was dead on! Junebug was the ticket. He explained cloudy skies allowed darker colors to show up better. Matt also convinced us to cast into spots only inches deep! Matt knew every fishing spot leaving no stone unfished. His trained eye spotted bites before we detected any movement or even a tug! He would say, “Set the hook!” A fish was on!
Meeting so-called guides, I’m usually skeptical! Most are part time, inexperienced and not very good teachers. Matt is a pro guide; enjoying his job, teaching and watching his guests catch fish! He’s very good! Not to mention the shore lunch he serves and his ability to use oars to keep clients on fish for 8 hours! Bottom line, vacationers try to get away and leave their jobs behind. But for me, taking a day off on the water with a professional guide is the only way to unwind! Seeing a friend catch a memory enhances the trip!
Potomac River Bassing in October
Open the tacklebox, from the top down! Lucky Craft G-Splash poppers and Gunfish walkers on GAMMA torque braid covers water! Try Mann’s Waker too! Use weightless stickworms on 3/0 Mustad Ultra Point Mega bite hooks 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. Crank deeper with power cranks like Mann’s Baby-X.
Swim Mann’s HardNose 5.5-inch Swim Shads with ¼ ounce weighted 7/0 Mustad Swimbait hooks on 20-pound Edge Fluorocarbon. Pitch Mizmo tubes, Texas rigged with 12-14 pound Edge and 3/16-ounce weights to grass clumps, wood and docks. Soaking in garlic Jack’s Juice keeps fish holding on! Punch through grass mats with ½- 1.5-ounce Round Valley Tungsten weights on 60-pound Torque braid with small soft plastic craws.
Drop shot drops with GAMMA Torque 20-pound braid with a 12-pound test Edge leader on a Quantum EXO spinning outfit. Use 2/0 Mustad Mega Bite hooks and Mann’s HardNose 6-inch Jelly worms anchored with 1/8-ounce Water Gremlin Bullshot weights.
Writen 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.