By Steve Chaconas
Who keeps New Year’s resolutions? We make them and for a few months, or weeks or days, they stay front of mind. Then they vaporize and we go back to the bad habits we ended with the previous year.
Not many hobbies or professions lend themselves for sharing with those close to us. In the DC area, resolving to share our passions with others won’t work if you’re a government worker, lawyer, or lobbyist. But fishing can be enjoyed once, twice or for a lifetime.
Professional anglers develop skills to enable a higher rate of success and take much of the luck out of the sport. Guides, especially, are skilled in transferring the years and often decades of experience to their clients, making them well suited to resolve to take friends and family out on the water. Resolving again to take more friends out on the water, 2022 will be memorable.
For nearly 20 years, I’ve fished with my client, turned buddy, Alan Friedlander. Almost every week we took to the water, and in recent years we took guided smallmouth bass trips with Capt. Matt Miles on the Upper James where Alan introduced me to his love of fly fishing. But 2021 greeted Alan with medical issues and he was unable to get out on my Skeeter. We noticed his stability on the boat was getting shaky towards the end of 2020, but managed a full season and our annual fly trip with Capt. Matt. When it became apparent Alan wouldn’t, or couldn’t, get on my boat, we considered scheduling our Upper James trip later in the year. Alan worked all year to prepare himself physically for our scheduled October trip.
Normally we make the 4-5 hour drive to our fishing spot to meet Capt. Matt, spend the night in Lynchburg, fish the next day, then rest the night in Lynchburg to return home. Our daily conversations revolved around his physical therapy to be able to travel and fish. Covid hit home and might have put a kink in our plans, however that resolved. Our usually two-day small mouth fishing trip was extended with an additional day of trout fishing.
Certainly not as exciting, or as reliable, trout fishing for natives in Virginia is a much bigger challenge. Less about casting and more about a controlled drift, Capt. Matt instructed us to mend the line upstream as we drifted to maintain drifting baits at the proper speed. We caught a few as we listened to Alan recount childhood fishing trips with his dad and how he really enjoyed the lure of trout fishing.
Coming prepared with seldom used high end fly gear, Alan opted for special line and a 5 weight rod. There was a lot of discussion about our 3-fly set ups Capt. Matt prepared for us. The lowest bait bounced along the bottom and a foot up, another fly was eye to eye with wary trout. The highest offering served as a long shot topwater slurp but a true indicator of the slight and subtle trout bite. Probably should be called a nibble or a tentative peck. Keeping an eagle eye on the indicator was the only advantage we would have.
Adding to the challenge was the width of the stream we floated. The rubber raft slid over the moss covered rocks, however it was only about 15 feet from either shore. Do the math. A 9 foot rod and 15 feet of line often put our back casts in overhanging trees. A roll cast would normally be prescribed in this situation; however, 3 baits prevented this option. Capt. Matt re-tied a lot this day.
Cast, snag, retie and repeat. Early on, it became a long day. The size of our native rainbow trout wasn’t much to brag about, until Alan loaded up with a giant. After making a perfect cast and a skillful up-current mend, the indicator fly stopped. In my case this would have been a snag along the bottom. But Alan stripped his fly line, and the fight was on! “Oh boy!” He repeated several times. And more times after that. Our guide calmly offered instructive advice to insure a good landing. Alan likely heard his father’s voice giving instruction to the adolescent. Capt. Matt readied his net. My line was out of the water to avoid any possible escape for this beautiful fish. A slight scoop and the net held this prized fighter to its recovery, but not before measuring, weighing, and photographing this amazing fish. Alan was very pleased. I was pleased. Capt. Matt was relieved. In a sport where so many things can and do go wrong, this time it was all right. Alan might not have been as mobile, however after this trip, he was walking on air.
Potomac River Bassing in January
Target hard cover near drops as fish head into winter holes. Downsize to GAMMA 6-pound test Edge fluorocarbon either as a main line or leader with 10-pound test GAMMA Torque braid on reels with smooth drags.
Drop shot, shaky head, and split shot are best bets. Use Mustad 1/0 Mega Bite hooks along with 3/16-ounce Water Gremlin BullShot weights for drop shots and split shots. Time for 3” avocado stingray grubs on ¼ ounce ball head jigs made with Mustad Ultra Point hooks. Also break out hair jigs with matching chunks. Use slow horizontal presentations. Soak soft plastics and jigs in bait spray.
Time for ½ ounce Silver Buddy lures: silver when sunny, gold when cloudy, on 10-pound test GAMMA EDGE on casting reels on spinnerbait rods with tip flex for casting and hook-setting backbone. On all of these, keep an eye on the sharpness.
Flat-sided cranks on 10-pound test EDGE work along warmed surfaces. Shad patterns in clearer water or sunny days, craw otherwise. When water reaches 50, try suspending jerkbaits
About the Author: Capt. Steve Chaconas is Potomac River bass fishing guide. Potomac fishing reports: nationalbass.com. Book trips/purchase gift certificates: info@NationalBass.com