White Wulff’s and Bunny Leeches
(Last page of 4 Men and 2 Forks)
After a good breakfast of bacon and eggs we filled the cooler with lunchmeat, grub and beer and drove to another section of the Shenandoah River south of Luray, VA. We found a big parking lot to assemble our gear and with only a few vehicles in the parking lot, had high hopes for an enjoyable morning. Jeremy lined his 5/6 weight rod that he was more comfortable with. I lined my 5wt. Scott rod for Giddeon to use and Jeff and I stuck with our 6 weights we’ve been using the past couple of days.
Out in the new section we found deeper water between the submerged table rocks and ledges. A few cows grazed the forested posted area of the far gradual slanting bank. We spread out along the wide river and had a lot of room without interfering with each other. During the morning we all caught a few smallies but it wasn’t like the day before where we were constantly hooking up. A wind kicked up as we were wading down stream for lunch. Giddeon’s straw hat blew off so we had a comical cast and retrieve contest for the current flowing straw hat. Giddeon got a good hookup and brought it in without much of a fight. Jeff hooked into a small largemouth against the cement bridge abutment and I got a few pics. We sat around for lunch before heading back to the power dam.
At the water edge, of the power dam, the sun was shining with big white clouds above our heads. Jeff and Giddeon headed upriver to fish below the dam on the far side of the river and Jeremy headed down river to the rock outcropping that he did so well on hellgrammites the day before. I waded out and stood between the island and near bank ready to fish my way down river.
I have to admit that catching smallies and fallfish are fun with the buggers and poppers but it was getting old and I wanted something more challenging. Seeing blue damsels and a few fish rising for some top water, no-see’m bugs, I decided to try dry fly fishing. A few different Humpy‘s, Trudes, and #10 dries didn’t enthuse any fish. Taking a look into my fly box of big flies I tied on a white wulff pattern for a try.
I saw a fish continue to rise in front of a small stargrass island some 30 feet away. False casting line out, I dropped the wulff in the general area and wham; the fish grabbed it in no time. The smallie fought tooth and nail through the heavy current and into the submerged stargrass and rocky bottom. I kept the Winston high as not to let the leader scrape against any rough rock ledges. The 12” smallie came to hand after a good hard fight. I noticed, across river, two fish were rising in the slower water out from the bank of the big wooded island that split the far side waters that flowed from the dam. The distance was too great from where I was standing and figured on trying for them later. I caught some glimpses of a few fish still rising around me so I played for them first. The white Wulff and rising smallies didn’t disappoint me. With each cast out, with the white Wulff, I was hooking up to smallies continuously. My dry fly fever was subsiding with each drop and hookup. I stood in one place, in the middle of the river and swear I hooked into every smallie I seen rising and then some. What an afternoon!
Wading across river, I was now concentrating on the two rises out from the island. Both fish were upriver from me about 5 feet apart. The wind kicked up some so now I would be casting somewhat into the wind. I carefully waded upon the slab rocks and stargrass feeling beneath my boots before committing to stepping down. I was down river and to their left rear. I pulled out line and started my overhead cast. Casting into the wind I kept my back cast higher and shot my forward cast down lower before stopping my rod tip. This would make my wulff more wind resistant moving downward in the wind than more horizontal into the wind. My first cast was this side of my target, but I had plenty of distance. As soon as the Wulff pattern drifted down river from the unsuspecting riser, I quickly lifted my rod pulling line down with my line hand to generate line speed behind and above me. After feeling the rod load I dropped my forearm and pointed the rod right to the spot I wanted the fly to land. The white wulff penetrated through the oncoming wind and dropped nicely before the last rise. I’m not sure where the bass thought the Wulff was going but it came up quick and devoured the fly. A quick back hook set and the smallie took off down stream. Without letting line out, I kept the rod tip bent and followed him with the tip. Downstream I started to reel in the 3x tapered leader with him in tow.
I tried for the next riser up river from the one I just caught but he didn’t want anything to do with the white Wulff. I was doing so well with it though that I wasn’t going to change flies just for one fish.
I looked around for anymore risers and seeing none, I was satisfied and headed downstream to try my fly around the exposed rocks Jeremy was fishing around. I slowly caught up with Jeremy and he said he caught a few but not as many as the day before. Seeing Jeff down below where the river came together again, below the tree wooded island, I slowly fished my way towards him. I caught a few risers before I was within talking distance.
“White Wulffs are the ticket today” I said.
Jeff said he caught a few on different streamers.
“Where’s Giddeon” I asked.
“He’s up between the island and far bank” Jeff replied. “I gave him an olive bunny leech and he’s been hooking up pretty regularly.”
Later on when Giddeon came down river, he exclaimed he got into some 14”-15” or so smallies. He’d drift the olive bunny leech and jig it a few times and hook into one of the big smallies.
Time passed and we were all getting a little tired and moving a little slower. The wind kicked up some and the skies darkened. About the time we figured out the falling sprinkles was going to turn into an all out downpour and not quit soon, we were as wet as our submerged wading socks and boots. We sloshed up to the van. The outside temperature was warm but being soaking wet wasn’t comfortable at all. We stood under the pines for a while and those of us that brought a change of clothes got into them. We stood around for a while talking among ourselves and having a beer or two, until the rain subsided. We headed back down to the river with raincoats.
The group headed downriver to the more rocky areas, whereas I stayed below the power house, casting my white Wulff randomly from out in the middle. I noticed the water was deepening gradually and with more tint from the earlier quick downpour. The jagged table rock and boulders would not be easy to negotiate without visual help. I stuck it out, out in the middle for another ½ hour. It was a ½ hour too late. The rain blew over the mountain, this time without warning. Bright heavy raindrops fell from the bright sky before the dark clouds could catch up from behind the tall obstructing mountains. I tried looking through the now opaque water, but the bottom was no longer visible. Slowly I took steps towards shore trying to feel the bottom and dangers through my heavy socks and felt wading boots. I started taking longer strides as the raindrops felt like pebbles falling from the sky. I was within 30 yards of shore, with the stronger current breaking against the back of my knees, when my left boot gave way off a slightly slanted table rock while my right foot was still not yet touchimg the river bed. My right boot didn’t grip in the wavy stargrass bottom and I was falling in an awkward unbalanced position. I knew the water wasn’t deep enough to cover my head but after I let go of the Winston rod, to feel for the bottom, I was submerged to my neck on all fours. My left hand kept me from sinking any further as my right knee scraped against some rough submerged rocks. My right hand quickly reached and grabbed the rod before I stood back up, bruised, soaked and bleeding.
“I had enough” I thought, “It would only be daylight for about another hour anyhow.”
I sloshed myself to shore without any more misfortunes. On land I found my Winston didn’t suffer any damage though my hand and knee took the brunt of the fall. Under the shoreline trees Jeff showed up along the lane. I told him what had happen and I was giving up and heading towards the van. After passing the power plant, and heading up the stony road to the van, the sun came out in full view and brightness. It didn’t matter; I was done for the day. Getting drenched twice in one day was a fair warning of what else could go wrong.
I changed my clothes again, grabbed a beer and waited for the others. Jeff showed up soon after and the boys showed up just before dark. We were hungry for the deer chip steaks we were going to cook up when we got back to the cabin. We all had another good, though wet, day of fishing. We put away our gear and on the way out we came across a nice size box turtle in the middle of the gravel road.
Sunday morning, after a few more hours of fishing near by, we cleaned up camp and Jeff and I headed towards home. Jeremy and Giddeon headed toward the airport. It sure was fun spending time with my sons again and being on the water for 4 straight days of great fishing.
Thanks again, Jeremy, Giddeon and Jeff for a great entertaining time. Thanks to Mr. Cappola for the great lodge and Harry Murray’s fly shop for guiding, fishing instructions and useful patterns to make our time spent enjoyable.