It had been awhile since I last fished with Dad so when Tara asked me what I would like to do for my birthday I told her that I’d like to take Dad fishing on a float trip down the New River. Dad has floated the whitewater section of the New River before but he had never fished it. This river is world class when it comes to the smallmouth bass fishing.
One call to my buddy Sammy who owns New River Trophy Outfitters and the plan was set for a day on the river. I awoke well before dawn and picked Dad up at 5:30 a.m. We drove through the hills of Fayette County as the first rays of light were coming over the ridgetops and met Sammy at the takeout.
It had been several years since Dad had been on that road so he was enjoying the scenery along the way. We really live in a beautiful state, but I don’t have to tell y’all that. After meeting Sammy we drove to the put-in a few miles below Sandstone Falls. From there down to the takeout at Grandview Sandbar is all catch and release for bass and there’s some nice ones lurking in this stretch of river.
A light rain started to fall just as we pushed off but I didn’t mind one bit as it made for good fishing conditions. Overcast days are much better than bright blue bird skies with the sun blaring down when it comes to fishing. I guess I should have remembered a rain jacket as it picked up but didn’t last too long.
Dad was the first to strike with a small, but feisty, smallie. He was spin fishing in the back of the boat while I took the fly rod and fished from the front. I tied on a big yellow popper and started to work the banks. It didn’t take long for the first fish to smack the popper but I missed. I ended up missing several until I finally connected with a solid bronzeback.
Dad continued to put fish in the boat on different baits as Sammy had several in his arsenal. The rain had stopped by then and the light fog quickly burned off. The clouds hung around which helped. While drifting along I slapped my popper at the edge of a rocky bank. All of a sudden a dark shadow appeared on the bottom and slowly rose up and sucked my offering in.
I set the hook and the fight was on. My 5-weight fly rod was bent in half as the fish bulldogged me to the bottom. Then he shot to the top and jumped out of the water where we got a good look at the beast. It darted under the boat and tried to stay there before I was finally able to bring him to the top. Sammy slid his hand under its belly and lifted the big boy out of the water ending the battle.
We took a couple quick pictures and got a measurement before releasing the chunky bronzeback back to its home. It was just less than 18 inches and ended up being the big fish of the day. Actually it’s my best smallmouth to date. Not long after that excitement I landed another solid smallie in the 16-inch range. Those fish sure do fight hard and never give up until they’re in the boat.
It was noon by then so we decided to stop for a delicious shore lunch. Sammy’s mom provided a good home-cooked lunch along with a tasty peach cake to top it off. We didn’t go hungry that’s for sure. Actually I’ve heard that Sammy’s clients come back for the lunch just as much as the fishing.
The sun came out and the fishing slowed for a little while after that. Thick grass beds form this time of the year and I had an advantage with the fly rod as I could plop my popper right on top at the edge of them. There are even holes in the grass beds where I could cast. I ended up catching a couple but didn’t do as well as I, or Sammy, expected.
The damsel flies started picking up in numbers and a few fish were jumping out of the water after them. I sized down my popper to a small sneaky Pete which proved to be a good choice. It has long rubber legs which mimics a wad of mating damsel flies well. The catching picked up not long after I tied it on.
Dad was thoroughly enjoying himself catching enough fish to keep him happy, which doesn’t take very many. They were average fish with several on the smaller side that I kept pointing out. As we neared the takeout a dark cloud loomed downriver. I caught one last fish to end the day.
Overall, Sammy said it was a slow day but I managed quite a few including that bruiser on the trusty ole’ fly rod. It was great spending the day on the river with Dad and he was already talking about going back on the way home. Not five minutes after we got in the truck the heavens opened up and the rain began to pour down. We got off the river just in time.
If you would like to float/ fish the New River give Sammy a shout as he’ll put you on fish and show you a good time. I provided a link to his website below. Take care until next week.