Each year I get asked, “What kind of fly fishing can I expect for November and December in Virginia?’
November and December provide outstanding fly fishing for large trout and smallmouth bass. However, the cooling streams and the natural foods change the feeding habits of the fish and we get our best results by adjusting our fly selections and angling tactics accordingly.
In order for you to get good fishing I will break down my three favorite forms of angling at this time of the year. First we’ll look at my favorite Pennsylvania fishing, then we’ll discuss Virginia’s Delayed Harvest Streams and large stocked trout streams and finally I’ll cover the smallmouth fishing.
Don’t forget I will be holding fly fishing workshops on Saturdays in my fly shop from 10a.m. to noon. I cover many topics including fly tying, fly casting, trout fishing, bass fishing and selecting the proper fly rods. To see the schedule and to sign up…visit our website.
FlyFishing Report for Virginia including native brook trout and smallmouth bass fishing.
April is the favorite month for trout fishing by many serious mountain trout fishermen. With the ideal stream levels and water temperatures, the trout are feeding and the hatches continue. In this podcast I will be discussing these specific hatches, the order in which to expect them, and what flies to use to match these hatches. The number one selling fly to match these hatches–Mr. Rapidan Parachute Dry size 14. I fish these on our Murray’s Classic 7 1/2ft 5X Leaders. Also, check out our new Foam Leader Keepers. These are very handy for those that hate complicated knots and changing tippet material while on the stream.
The smallmouth bass fishing on the Shenandoah River will start to take off in April as the water warms and the bass start to feed. I like to use streamers which match the natural foods the bass are seeing in the river such as Murray’s Heavy Streamers in Chub, Sunfish or Shiner all in size 6. These are fast sinking streamers which will help get through the spring currents. I use a Sink Tip III Fly Line with a Sinking 6ft. 2X Leader in fast currents and water over 4 feet deep. In moderate currents I use a Scientific Anglers Frequency Boost Fly Line with a Murray’s Bright Butt 9ft 2X Leader. The second part of this podcast includes the areas I like to fish (bank bays) at this time of the year and the productive tactics and gear including rods.
Some of the most exciting smallmouth fly fishing takes place when they feed on natural Brown Drake mayflies. There are actually three different species that fall into the group which smallmouth anglers call Brown Drakes but since they act much alike in the stream and the fish feed the same way upon them we fish them all the same ways.
When the duns come off in the afternoon fish to the rising bass one on one with a Irresistible Dry Fly size 12 or fish beside the boulders in the riffles if there are no rising bass.
When the spinners fall at dusk use the same fly and fish these bass one on one by casting three feet ahead of a cruiser or by casting it quickly right at the riseform.
You are standing in mid-river using a 9 foot rod and you decide you would like to switch from a floating fly line to a sinking tip fly line. You can easily remove the reel spool with the floating line from the reel and insert the reel spool with the sinking tip line. Now pull fifteen feet of line with the leader attached from the reel. Take the fly rod apart at the ferrule in the middle of the rod and place the tip section of the rod under your arm. Thread the leader and line through both sections of the rod then put the tip section back on the butt section at the ferrule and you are ready to fish. This works fine with two piece and four piece rods.
Fly Fishing Stream Report Podcast for late Summer 2015
In this Fly Fishing Stream Report Podcast for late Summer 2015 Harry Murray discusses the best areas to find the trout in the stocked trout streams and the most productive flies and techniques including Ed Shenk’s Cress Bug. Also with the water levels dropping for the end of the summer he touches on the best flies (Murray’s Moth, Housefly, Oakworm, & Yellow Jacket) to use to catch those brook trout in the mountain trout streams in the Shenandoah National Park using the hands and knees approach.
The last section of this podcast covers the smallmouth bass fishing on the Shenandoah River. He discusses when, where and how to catch the bass feeding on the Hexagenia Mayflies along with a new technique and flies (Mr. Rapidan Skater, Shad Streamer) for catching bass with a riffle hitch.
See our video on the riffle hitch (click here).
When we are floating the smallmouth bass river or climbing the mountain trout stream we usually carry a lunch and drinking water in our vest. After fishing for several hours our hands may be grubby. I carry a small bottle of hand sanitizer in my vest and scrub my hands good before eating lunch.
In order to catch large bass consistently on hard surface bugs it is very important to be able to adjust the bug action to the type of water we are fishing. I have designed the Shenandoah Surface Bugs with this goal in mind. (1) For example, we often find bass feeding in water two feet deep along the shaded banks and a gentle teasing bug-action is very effective. The Shenandoah Slider with its long slim pointed nose is very productive here. (2) Four feet deep banks with fast currents produce large bass to a bug that can create a loud water-throwing action. The Shenandoah Chugger with its fat body and deeply cut face quickly brings these bass to the surface with a firm stripping action. (3) Grass beds and gentle current areas hold many bass that will take bug-action between these two extremes. The Shenandoah Popper with its long tapered body and up-sloping face will take many of these bass.
The most valuable skill a smallmouth angler can develop is learning to read the water accurately. The few minutes spent analyzing a section of a river in this way will give you more bass on the spot and a better understanding of all sections of the rivers in the future.
I see this as a three step process. First I strive to determine where the bass will be holding. The best of these areas are a combination of a feeding station and a holding area. The second step is determining where to present my fly so I can fish it effectively through the basses feeding station. The third step is positioning myself at the precise spot which will enable me to make my presentation accurately and swim my fly convincingly through the basses feeding station.
“I am new to fly fishing and need advice on rods for freshwater fishing”. This question came in as email and I believe many anglers are at this point. In order to answer this in a meaningful way I will discuss the outfits I use in various types of fly fishing and why. I will break this down into four separate blogs and post one each week:
(A) Small Mountain Streams
(B) Large Eastern Trout Streams and Western Spring Creeks
(C) Large Western Trout Streams
(D) Bass Streams and Lakes
(D) Bass Streams and Lakes
In order to answer my customers email question of, “what fly rod should a beginning angler purchase for freshwater fishing”, this is the fourth segment on what size rods I use.
For my smallmouth bass fishing I use a 9 foot rod because it gives me good drag control. I want this rod to have a strong tip and a medium action butt section that balances with a weight forward 7 weight floating bass line. This rod gives good accuracy in bug placement, excellent distance and is very pleasant to use.
The rods I use for my smallmouth bass fishing are the Scott Flex 9 foot 7 weight 4 piece and Scott Radian 9 foot 7 weight 5 piece.
I have a good friend who injured his right shoulder badly. Since he cast with his right hand he was very disappointed that he would loose a season’s fishing while he recovered from surgery. I encouraged him to just switch over and cast with his left hand which he did and he was able to fish the whole season.
In my fly fishing schools I have always had to cast with both hands to help all of my students. If you have not tried this give it a go. You will be pleased how well you do. After all you already know the proper casting technique.
When I wrote my first book Fly Fishing Techniques for Smallmouth Bass an editor with Field and Stream Magazine was very impressed with it. In his review of it he wrote… “Harry is trout fishing for smallmouth bass.”
Actually this is a good approach to improving your smallmouth fishing. If you have fished the large trout streams in the Rockies many of these techniques are very effective for smallmouth bass. For example, the same nymphing technique Charlie Brooks taught me on the Madison is the same method I teach anglers in my smallmouth bass schools. The same streamer tactics I learned on the Yellowstone River works very well on all smallmouth rivers. The same hopper methods I use on the upper Madison River are great on the North Fork of the Shenandoah River for smallmouths.
Casting directly into a strong wind or with a strong wind coming in on your casting arm can present problems. One way I try to combat a wind blowing straight at me is to cast a tight loop on my forward cast and keep it down close to the water. Another method is to use a side arm cast to keep the line flowing down close to the stream so the wind does not catch it. In a severe wind, especially when I am wading at the Outer Banks I turn around and shoot my back cast. You can always switch hands and cast with your other hand if the wind is on your normal casting arm. Since you already know what is needed to cast properly this last ploy is much easier than you might expect.
Frequently the wind or an underpowered casts causes the line to form a knot around the upper part of the fly rod. When you are wading in deep water or in a canoe this can present a problem that could easily break a rod by causing excessive bending in an attempt to reach the tip of the rod to untie the knot.
Here is a method I use that is easy and safe to use. Simply take the rod apart at the middle ferrule. Pull 6 feet of fly line off the reel and place the butt section of the rod under your arm. Bring in the tip section of the rod and correct the knot and then reassemble the rod and you are ready to go.
I also use this method when I am wading a deep river and want to change reel spools in order to go from a floating line to a sinking head line.
Bass Fly Fishing in the latter part of the season Podcast with Harry Murray discusses which flies to use and the techniques to use on the smallmouth bass rivers in the latter part of the fishing season. The popular fly for this time of the year is a Madtom Sculpin fly fished deeply with a sink tip fly line.
We now have great drift boats that permit us to stand in the front of the boats to cast while drifting the rivers. Recent studies reveal that by showing the large bass this high angle of a fisherman we are scaring many fish. The solution: Stay seated and do not wear white or brightly colored hats and shirts.
My son, Jeff, and I fished the North Fork of the Shenandoah River close to Edinburg, Va before the rain on Wednesday. The river was high but we caught some nice size bass, however, the largest bass were in the protected back eddies below the heavy riffles. On one back eddy, about half the size of a tennis court, we commented that we had found a real hot spot because we caught one fish after another.
As we tried to analyze this set up in order to figure why so many good fish were holding here, we carefully examined the river upstream and downstream and out in the main flow. Our final conclusion was that this was the safest area close by for them to feed without fear of getting washed away by the high water. The water temperature was 59 degrees which was warm enough to prompt them to feed but they needed to feed in protected areas well away from the full force of the river. The next time you are bass fishing and the river is higher than normal you may get excellent fishing in these protected back eddies.
1. I head upstream to get above as many feeder streams as possible. For example, from where my fly shop is in Edinburg by driving upstream 10 miles I can fish the North Fork of the Shenandoah River in a manageable water level because I have gotten upstream above 3 of the main feeder streams.
2. The second tactic I use is to go to sections of the river where I know there are islands which split the flow of the stream. Frequently I’ll get great fishing on the small side of the island when the large side still has too much water.
NEW for 2011
Murray’s Floating Dace Minnow (sizes 4 & 6) $3.95
For 8 years my son Jeff and I have been testing various methods of tying and fishing our new Floating Dace Minnow. This is a real bass-catcher and it is very durable. Fish these in the back eddies, below the riffles and along the shaded banks. A slow strip-slide-strip action where you move the Floating Dace 6 inches every 10 seconds is very effective.
When your smallmouth bass fishing is not going well and your catching only a few fish make every tenth cast in the wrong direction. Sometimes this works!! I can only assume they are holding in areas other than where we normally find them.
As attention around the fly shop shifts to our 2011 Catalog and new products, we cannot give up on the fishing. The local stocked trout streams have been or will be stocked shortly. The Smallmouth Bass have the idea that things will be slowing down very soon and their subtle strikes are proof that the energy levels of mid-Summer are only a memory. The Brook Trout are spawning and we encourage everyone to leave them alone from now until late winter when the eggs hatch and the fry leave the redds.
Smallmouth Bass are well versed on the availability of terrestrial insects such as crickets and hoppers. Fly Fishing these dead drifted along grassy banks with 18″ – 36″ of depth has produced many nice smallmouth bass for us. Traditional patterns such as Shenk’s Cricket or the Letort Hopper will work quite well but I prefer one of our Bass Hoppers or Bass Crickets because they are a little more durable and tend to hold up a little better after two dozen fish or so. With the low August flows typical in the mid-Atlantic, 3x tippet will prove to be beneficial.
The North and South Fork of the Shenandoah are both in great shape for floating. The temperatures are in the upper 50’s to lower 60’s. We have done well with streamers fished slow and deep with sink tip fly lines. Olive Marauders and Black Madtom/ Sculpin in Size 4 or 6 have been working well.
Use caution if you are wading since there is still a lot of water in the river.
I have watched several anglers wading without a wader belt…. please do not do this! A wader belt is designed to keep your waders from filling up with water should you accidentally take a swim. Waders which are full of water make it very difficult to move/ swim which can lead to dire consequences in fast or deep water.
The Smallmouth Bass and Trout fishing continues to hold up for now. Â The latter is much more productive. Â Give the brookies a break if you are looking for trout and hit one of the Delayed Harvest Streams. Â Rainfall from this week brought the stream levels up a bit and the South Fork of the Shenandoah is in great shape for floating.
Felt soled separation! A tube of Goop and I will be back in business… How about the fishing? The water temperatures in the local rivers have dropped up to 10 degrees in the last 48 hours. This seems to have the Smallmouth Bass feeding a little more aggressively. Take along a long sleeved shirt and stay until dark. Shenandoah Poppers and Mr. Rapidan Skaters have both worked at different times with the hatching hexagenias…
Early mornings and late evenings have been quite productive in the Smallmouth Bass fly fishing department… Poppers on 3x tippet have worked great!!! There are a lot of Damselflies in the river right now and with the normal summertime flows, the bass are quite spooky.
Dogs don’t seem to mind the early morning wake up call when there is something fun involved. I try to take a note from their book… This mornings trip down the South Fork was great. Long casts are becoming more of a necessity than during the first part of the summer. Make sure you keep your hook SHARP! Large Smallmouth Bass have a very hard lip and a dull hook will only result in “the one that got away” stories.
Wow, What a difference in the fishing from yesterday to today during our Smallmouth Bass Fly Fishing School.Â Yesterday we had bright blue bird weather with few clouds and almost no humidity AND fishing was tough until late in the evening.Â Today we started with bright blue bird weather and very low humidity then… the clouds rolled in and blocked out the sun AND fishing was much better with smallmouth hitting poppers and streamers.
For those of you interested in Smallmouth Bass Fly Fishing in Virginia, check out the Smallmouth Bass River Report from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. There are quite a few interesting numbers like a 14 inch Smallmouth Bass in the South Fork of the Shenandoah is typically over 10 years old.
By August the natural grasshoppers are large enough to attract smallmouth bass. Fish a hopper pattern tight to the banks where you see hay fields and pasture fields because this is where the natural hoppers are. Upon delivery allow your Hopper to lie still for 10 seconds then fish it slowly out in a kicking action by stripping it two inches every five seconds until it is 10 feet from the bank. Repeat this sequence on successive casts every 5 feet down the bank and you’ll have exciting action. Yes, large smallmouths will take Hoppers. Last year my son took one well over 3 pounds on the Murray’s Bass Hopper. Smallmouth Bass Fishing Report