Tag Archives: South Fork Shenandoah River

The Best Action with Surface Bugs

Surface Bug Bass Fly Fishing Murray's Fly Shop VA
The best smallmouth bass surface bug action comes from fishing the pattern that gives the action needed.

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.

Reading a Smallmouth River

Smallmouth Bass School Murray's Fly Shop Virginia
My goal in all of my schools is to teach all of the students to read the water.

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.

My Helpful Angler’s Calendar

Fly Fishing Murray's Fly Shop Virginia
I rely strongly on my calendar to find good fishing for both trout and smallmouths throughout the season.

My angler’s calendar is very large, having about two inch square spaces for each date. This allows plenty of space for me to write in where I fished that day, the water temperature, the hatches, water level, my catch and any other important information. Each January when I get a new calendar I write in the above information from previous years.  This brings back wonderful memories as I record these previous trips. It also helps me plan future fishing trips as I correlate the present stream conditions and hatches with what I did on past trips under similar conditions. Great fun!

Switch-Hand Casting

Fly Fishing Murray's Fly Shop Virginia
By knowing the basics of good fly casting one can easily cast with either hand.

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.

North and South Fork Shenandoah River Fly Fishing Report

North Fork Shenandoah River Muddy and High

The North Fork of the Shenandoah River is currently in great shape at Strasburg, VA but upstream from Edinburg, VA to Fulks Run, VA there is a lot of water. The USGS Streamflow Gauges show that the river has reached it’s crest on both the Mt. Jackson Streamflow Gauge and the Cootes Store Streamflow Gauge. This is what we call “quick water”. Quick water leaves the area quickly because it fell in a short time frame and was not able to soak in. This doesn’t help the water table, it is mostly just a speed bump in the Smallmouth Bass Fly Fishing. Fortunately you can usually get ahead of or behind the extra water as it moves through the Shenandoah Valley.

The South Fork of the Shenandoah River is currently in great shape from Luray, VA downstream to the Potomac River. The USGS Streamflow Gauges show the river has reached it’s crest on the Lynnwood, VA Streamflow Gauge. This water will move through quickly as well but there is a lot of it.

The North Fork of the Shenandoah River and the South Fork of the Shenandoah River will both have “fishable” areas through the weekend. Give us a call if you need help determining where the extra water is or track it on the USGS Streamflow Gauges.

River Conditions: High Muddy Water!!

The North and South Fork of the Shenandoah River are both high and discolored from heavy rain which fell in the early morning hours of 6/20/2011. Both of these rivers will be dropping back soon if they have not already reached their crest. The upstream stretches of the North Fork of the Shenandoah will be one of the first areas to become fishable. The North Fork should be fishable upstream from Edinburg, VA by Thursday (6/23) and throughout the drainage by Saturday. The South Fork should be fishable upstream from Luray, VA by Friday (6/24) and downstream to Front Royal, VA by Sunday (6/26). These rough predictions are based on the premise that we receive no more heavy rain this week.

Predictions for Smallmouth Bass Fishing in VA in 2011

Since both the number and size of the bass were better in 2010 than they have been in many years I fully expect the smallmouth fishing to be outstanding this year, especially on the North and South Forks of the Shenandoah River.

I plan to start fishing for smallmouth bass in March this year and I’ll tell you on my weekly Bass Stream Fly Fishing Report what is happening. At this time the cold water and full streams prompt the use of a SA Mastery Sink Tip III Fly Line in order to get the flies down to the bass. These are ideal conditions to use our new Murray’s Magnum Streamers. These conditions can continue through April but by the middle of May the bass are awake and are feeding well. Many bass start feeding heavily on Hellgrammites in the riffles now throughout the day and on adult Brown Drake Mayflies and Olive Caddisflies at dusk.

From July until mid October the bass feed heavily throughout the rivers and you may choose the tactics and flies you like. I find that I catch my largest bass along the shaded banks and grass beds throughout the day and in the tail of the pools at dusk. My most dependable surface flies are the Shenandoah Blue Popper 6, Shenandoah Sunfish Slider 6, Murray’s Bass Cricket 8 and Murray’s Floating Chub Minnow 6. When I go underwater these flies seldom let me down: Shenk’s White Streamer 6, Murray’s Heavy Black Hellgrammite 6 and the Murray’s Magnum Streamer 4.

If you like fast dry fly fishing for smallmouth bass try to be on the river the last 3 weeks of September during the last 2 hours of daylight. The hexagenia mayflies, both duns and spinners are on the water and the fishing is fast and furious. One evening last September I counted 17 smallmouth bass rising to these adults in one measured minute. I put on a Mr. Rapidan Skater 8 and by going one on one with rising bass I caught dozens of nice bass. If you don’t hit a heavy hatch in the area you are fishing be willing to try another stretch of the river. The nymphs like a silty stream bottom.

In late October and November I revert back to the deep water tactics I mentioned for using in March. How late in the year do I fish for bass? I keep going until I get skunked twice.


Since I’m fortunate enough to fish often I can provide you information in 3 different ways that will let you know what’s happening so you can take advantage of this in your own fishing.

1. Each Friday I provide a brief stream report on both trout and smallmouth fishing on my website (www.murraysflyshop.com).
2. The first part of each month I provide a free email newsletter stating what I expect will be happening that month.
3. The Murray’s Fly Shop Angler’s Club provides a weekly newsletter to you from March to November on current fishing conditions. (Cost $50 for first time sign up then $15 yearly).

If you would like to attend one of our Smallmouth Bass “On The Stream Fly Fishing Schools” this year we will be offering six 2 day schools. Most of the time in these schools is spent on the stream where you will be fishing and working with our instructors to enhance your learning and experience.   These fly fishing schools cover the fishing tactics for nymphs, streamers, top water, reading the water, equipment/ fly tackle selection and casting the fly rod.

Early Morning Fishing

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.

Gracie closely watching a popper around 5:30 am 7/20/09
Gracie closely watching a popper around 5:30 am 7/20/09

Rain and the Rivers

500 CFS on the North Fork
500 CFS on the North Fork

The South Fork of the Shenandoah drainage received more rain than the North Fork drainage. The North Fork of the Shenandoah is still in great shape for fishing and floating. The South Fork is coming up and looks as though it reached it’s crest but it is becoming discolored above Luray, VA. If you plan on fishing the South Fork today, somewhere North of Luray will be your best bet. Otherwise, head to the North Fork.

Floating the North or South Fork

Look to the shade with your poppers
Look to the shade with your poppers

The water levels are great right now for floating just about anywhere on the North or South Fork of the Shenandoah. Fly fishing with poppers was great yesterday and the fishing should only improve with the forecast. Remember early mornings and late evenings will be your best bet on days with bright sunlight. If you must fish in the middle of the day, look for shade or deep water.