Fishy Greetings

By Steve Chaconas

Fishy Greetings

Go Fish - 101-18 Smallmouth Bass.jpg

Hallmark cards commemorate birthdays, wedding anniversaries, and even new puppies. Every event is honored except…fishing trips. Fishing with Capt. Matt Miles in Lynchburg, Virginia is an Annual August Anniversary.

Gliding a stable and comfortable boat in shallow water or sliding over rocks, Capt. Matt guides 10 Mile floats in southwest Virginia’s pristine, clear rivers. Senses are stimulated while running occasional rapids with small falls. Sights, sounds and smells add to the urban escape. Old sycamore trees with visible signs of spring floods, debris in branches 10 feet above the water, line shorelines. Transient ospreys, taking a road trip break, grab fish before continuing their South American journey. Resident bald eagles and blue herons are also in the neighborhood. Fresh air and sounds of rushing water complete nature’s exterior decorations.

A vacation from fishing to go fishing won’t make sense to those escaping their professions, but this opportunity avails new angling adventures. Four years ago, fishing buddy Alan Friedlander convinced me to take this trip with a fly rod. Nothing could be further from my comfort zone, honed over 50 years, than fishing with a fly rod. It’s an acquired skill, entirely different than using conventional gear. At Capt. Matt’s suggestion, an Orvis 6 weight 9-foot fly rod was purchased. Gamma Frog Hair leaders and tippets arrived in time. But the biggest improvement was Scientific Angler weight-forward line buddy Jeffrey Pierce sent. This line creates projectiles out of light lures. Lure choices were simple…number 2 TeQuelley flies and Capt. Matt’s hand tied poppers. This is the only time of the year a fly rod is in my hands.

The biggest challenge wasn’t what was remembered, but what was forgotten. Casting is key to fishing, distance and accuracy. As luck would have it, day one’s drift positioned me to cast with my right, my off hand. Now I had to remember what I really hadn’t learned in the first place. So much to remember. Where do my hands go? Don’t forget to use a finger to hold the line while stripping. Don’t step on the line. Figure it out as you go. A few fish cooperated and that annoying right hand was actually working. A big key was new Maui Jim Blue Hawaii sunglasses with a blue mirror coating, providing amazing color enhancement and clarity. They cut glare, but also enabled distinguishing brown fish from brown river bottoms and locating rock and ledge targets. Seeing fish approaching baits allowed me to let the lures stop to get fish to bite. It was working.

After a good nights sleep and a handful of Advil, day two was even better! Capt. Matt chose a section of the river where leftys can be right. Hand-tied poppers started the day’s action. In 16 hours of fishing, a big lesson was learned. Small fish repeatedly slurped baits, pulling them under. These bites were ignored. Never again! A giant smallmouth did the same thing and seeing the fish under water made it too late to set the hook. While similar, that bite was subtly different as the line popped when larger fish took the surface lure just as quietly.

Alan encouraged me to engage in fly-fishing; however, he opted for spinning tackle, pulling in 3 citations. Wacky rigged 3-inch weightless stickworms proved, as in the past, to put a lot of fish in the boat. But it was a lure Alan had never seen that produced excitement. The Whopper Plopper name might be amusing, but smallmouth weren’t laughing.  On day two they smashed it with ferocity! The mesmerizing gurgling action had me and the guide pausing to watch the bait chug toward the strike zone. A huge smallmouth erupted on the crazy-looking lure as if shot out of a cannon. That evening, Alan Googled Whopper Plopper to fill his tacklebox. Capt. Matt’s oars pushed past dead water or upstream to get better casting angles…or to retrieve a lure. He knew where fish were, as if they were on a mail route. This trip is one anniversary we won’t miss.

Now it’s up to Hallmark to acknowledge fishing sentiments. Here are a few starters: You lured me, now reel me in. I want you on my line…no strings attached. You are only hooked…if you are trying to quit. Something fishy going on, or is it just the way you smell? Please stay; I’ll get the net. When we met you were just a minnow…now you’re a whale. There are more fish in the sea, and I ended up with a barracuda.

Arriving home, Alan’s wife inquired about our trip and after hearing we had a blast, she asked if we had made our reservations for next year. We will.

Potomac River Bassing in OCTOBER

Less grass has fish grouped up on sparse grass and on hard cover, like docks.

Early in the month, use topwaters in the morning and then work down. Mann’s Baby 1-Minus on 12-pound GAMMA Edge fluorocarbon bounces off hard cover and snaps free from grass. Over deeper hard cover, try Mann’s Baby-X crankbaits. Firetiger and shad patterns work. Vary retrieves to get bites. Under cloudy skies and stained water, try Mann’s Classic spinnerbait, also on 12-pound Edge.

Pitch Mizmo Tubes to grass clumps and docks. Polarized Maui Jim sunglasses help locate grass and pieces of wood. Use 3/0 Mustad Ultra Point tube hooks and 3/16-ounce bullet weights. 14-pound Edge would be a good idea. Use faster Quantum Smoke casting reels with a 7’ MH G-Force rod. Soaking in garlic Jack’s Juice Bait Spray helps!

Fish heavy drop shot in grass, around docks and along drops. Use 20-pound Torque braid with 12-pound Edge leader. A 2/0 Mustad Mega Bite hook with a 3/16 ounce Water Gremlin Bullshot weight and a 14-inch leader.

Swim Mann’s Stone Jigs through grass slowly on 16-pound Edge fluorocarbon line.

Author Capt. Steve Chaconas is Potomac bass fishing guide & contributing writer for BoatU.S. (BoatUS.com) Potomac River reports: nationalbass.com. Book trips/purchase gift certificates: info@NationalBass.com.

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