Monday, July 18, 2011

Cabin Fever Day #2

PA Boys Visit the Shenandoah River

Day #2

Cabin Fever
Morning of 6-25-11

The ocean blue sky was picture perfect over the Shenandoah River when I walked outside Saturday Morning. The sun was still rising behind the distant mountainous tree line. Fog rose like a ghostly shadow downriver between the forest. The water had cleared up overnight and now flowed with reflections of the bank side trees upon its surface. The morning sky as well as the warmness in the air showed no signs of rain. It looked to be a good day to put on the straw hat and wet wade the river with a relaxing cigar!

 Giddeon and I drove into town to get him some wading shoes and polarized sunglasses. When we returned to the cabin there was a familiar white SUV parked in the drive. I knew who it was before I even seen the Kentucky plates. Jack, a former PA resident, had been staying in Harrisonburg and when he heard I was coming to fish the Shenandoah in Luray he decided to join us for the morning catch.

We entered the riverside cabin with the aroma of fried sausage and brewing coffee. After introductions and greetings, Giddeon and I took our warmed breakfast plates of sausage, eggs and toast, from the oven and ate breakfast as the others made the decision of where we were to fish for the day. The morning we would fish the river behind the cabin seeing the water had cleared up nicely. In the afternoon we would fish downriver below the Power Dam. Two years ago we fished this area and had our best day among the rocky and star grass islands and surrounding areas.

I’m not sure if I had a slight memory loss from a hang over but I truthfully only remember a few things about the morning fishing. Jack fished along the bank towards the riffling water downriver where the rest of us started our expedition. On his way down he hooked into something that took off and broke the 6lb leader he was using without even giving Jack a chance to battle him. Later, nearing noon, we had a flow of canoeists and kayakers that interfered with our fishing. I’m all for the freedom of recreation on the river to whomever wants to enjoy it. The river is wide and open to the public. What I don’t care for is when watercraft handlers have no idea how to navigate or steer such watercrafts to avoid others who are also enjoying the river. As a fisherman I should know how to handle my fly rod as to not accidentally hook a canoeist or kayaker and I feel the same goes for the boater.

I heard Mark got bumped by a canoe. I watched time and again Jeremy having to pull in his line and wait for boats to drift through his line of fishing. I had one group of 4 canoes, tied together no less, coming right towards me without any steering ability. I moved to the side as the group came nearer. The far canoe bottomed on a subsurface rocky ledge and stuck fast. The remaining, tied on, canoes pivoted and circled until they could go no further through the deeper narrow channel of water in front of me. I helped the two canoeists, on the downstream side, untie the ropes holding them to the group and they drifted on. The other three canoes finally got freed when a couple of the men ventured out into the water to un-jam the canoes from the ledge.

 As time went on other struggling kayakers and canoes molested our fishing to a point I was ready to head to the cabin for lunch and a cold beer. There were times I was tempted to test my casting skills and try hooking a hat right off the canoeists head but I refrained from such retaliation!

As I looked at the pictures, when I got home, I noticed I had a few pictures from that morning. Again, I don’t remember the details of the catches but the pictures are worth viewing the scenic river.

Jack working a grassy island

Jeff working the flat water

look what I found

Jeremy’s Break

After sandwiches and a couple of brewskies we headed to the Power Dam for our afternoon excursion. The trail down around the fenced in Power Plant was much for Jack so he headed back to Harrisonburg.

From the parking area we walked the trail around the Power Plant to the river below. The abundance of water falling over the high dam wall and exiting the Power Plant stirred up the river to a milky limestone color. It was moving more forcefully than what we would have liked and higher than a couple of years ago. I knew how uneven the riverbed was to wade in and now, with the milky conditions, I wasn’t going to venture far from the flooded shoreline.
 Giddeon and Jeff took the risk and waded their way to the island safely. Mark followed Jeremy downriver and Mark carefully waded his way to the tip of the island. Jeremy stayed focused on the outcropping of rocks and flooded star grass islands about. I started, where I was able to wade, below the power plants discharge and worked my way downriver.
 I got a couple of taps right off and caught one small smallmouth while stripping in a Clouser. After that I couldn’t get a hit in the cloudy water as I made my way downriver towards Jeremy. It was on my mind that I was going to see if he wanted to fish elsewhere. I was about 30 yards upriver when I seen Jeremy caught a snag and was trying to unhook it without daring to wade in and retrieve his fly.
 I had bought him a brand new 6wt 9 foot fly rod combo for this trip; it was an early birthday gift. He used it Friday and said he was getting used to the fast action rod and liked how easy it was to shoot the weight forward line out compared to his older medium action cheaper rod. Jeremy has been fly fishing for over 10 years so he knew how to treat a fly rod. I watched as he tried to pull the line in different directions and cast a loop beyond the snag and quickly lifting it back trying to get free. He pulled again from the side and that’s when the rod snapped and folded. It broke apart 2” above the butt section into the 2nd sectional blank. I didn’t see anything he did aggressively that any other fisherman wouldn’t have done in the same situation. He stood there and looked at me upset as he held the new rod in both of his hands. The rod was bought from The Fly Shop in Reading California. It would be interesting how they will warrant this 2 day used rod.
 I met Jeremy along the shoreline and we decided to go elsewhere to fish in clearer water. I called over to Mark and advised him of our situation. Upriver we let Giddeon know where we were going and headed to the vehicles.

Bixlers Ferry Bridge
Early evening

 I parked in the parking area beside the bridge among the other vehicles. Jeremy put together my 2 piece 5wt SAS Scott rod and attached his 6wt spooled reel. We walked upstream from the small dam and canoe launch area and checked out the water conditions. I always liked fishing in swift moving pocket waters so I slowly waded and fished my way into the quicker current of stony bottom, riffling and choppy water. Jeremy headed upriver and began his fishing in the deeper slower water that slowed before cresting over the abundance of rocks and shallows I was partaking in. 

 I’m sure his intensions, as mine, were to slowly fish our way towards the far bank where the star grass and shaded area were along the bank. Being in this area we were sure not to be interrupted by uncontrolled watercraft. With the sun out in full view and a cool breeze I lit up a Cohiba Pequenos and tied on a popper.

I caught a couple of sunfish but I was more interested in smallies that didn’t seem too interested in top water imitations. I slowly waded towards the middle of the river and cast into pocket waters and drifted a Clouser Minnow within the riffling water. I was about mid river and found a flat level rock I was able to stand comfortably on. The water upon the rock was only shin deep and being high off the water gave me plenty of height for long casts and control over the choppy current. Casting out into a good riffle of water, across stream, my bugger dropped into the current and swung deep as I mended line upstream. Underneath, in the tail out, my fly line dipped sharply and I immediately pulled the rod upriver to set the hook. The fish reacted with a downriver run avoiding any subsurface rock in its way. There was a good bow in my rod and with my line hand feeling the tension; I knew it wasn’t a small fish fighting against the quick current. When he got below me he struggled some and than shot out towards my left, downriver, from where I stood. I had to give him line as I palmed the spool while the reel sang that ‘good fish’ clicking tone. After swimming with the current I got him under control and struggled with him until I got him below me in a slower pocket pool. He wasn’t ready to give up the fight and I wasn’t going to horse him through the swift current. I brought the rod to my right to get side pressure on him and he swam to my right with resistance. To my surprised, beneath the surface, he headed upriver about 20 feet from where I stood on the flat rock. I saw the dark object of a fish darting through the choppy water like a torpedo b-lining to its target. I lifted the rod and stripped in line quickly to keep excessive slack between me and the oncoming fish. He stopped in a slow pool upriver until he felt the pressure of the rod and line tension. He tried swimming out away from me but my leverage on the rod and pressure was more than what he could handle by now. He darted downriver in retreat. I let line pass through my finger until he settled in the pocket of water straight below me. I got my line and rod under control and began to reel him in. He rose top water and I seen his big mouth gaped open with my bugger firmly planted in his lip. I knew it was dangerous trying to bring him in against the top water riffling current so I brought my rod level with the surface and stepped off the rock into the knee deep water. I had him coming in like a small bashful puppy attached to strong rope. He tried circling around my legs but I lifted the rod and got a good lip hold on him. I hollered out to Jeremy as I lifted the fish to show my catch. Oh ya, what a great fighting fish and successful landing!

Soon after that the other three showed up and we fished till around 5:00pm. We decided to finish up the evening just outside of Alma along a good stretch of water we were familiar with.

Saturday Evening

While the others headed upriver, from the parking lot, I concentrated my fishing around and below the bridge abutment. It didn’t take long when I got a good hook up with a dark lengthy smallie beneath a channel of choppy running surface current.

 Just before nightfall the others met me in the parking lot minus Giddeon. Jeff had said he caught a few smallies on top water poppers. The other two caught a few fish also. We stood around waiting for Giddeon to show while quenching our thirst. When he crossed the parking lot towards us he had a big smile on his face. Evidently, on his way downriver, he was casting the new Zonker pattern, I had tied, towards the shoreline. He picked off 5 or 6 nice size smallies and that’s why he got back so late.

 That night we feasted on Pizza and cold micro brews. We related our recent catches of the day to each other. A few of us relaxed in the hot tub while others relaxed with a big stogie between their teeth! Another satisfying smallmouth fishy day!


A Fallfish I had caught throughout the evening


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