Shenandoah Smallmouth

I had a chance to get away for a long weekend with my fishing buddy, Sam. We needed a smallmouth bass trip, weighed our options and the weather, and headed to the South Fork of the Shenandoah. We’d decided to camp, and headed for the Shenandoah River Outfitters near Luray, VA. When we got there, they asked, “do you have reservations?” That’s always a bad sign. I’d checked their website and it was showing clear availability all month, even on the weekends. Seems that was not really the case. They said they could give us Thursday and Friday night, but not Saturday. Fortunately, they had a cancellation, and we ended up with a site for the entire weekend (plan B was a motel in Luray). It’s a decent place to camp, but it sure is kinda crazy on the weekend as they manage the tubers, canoeists, and rafters. I’d never seen a 36-canoe trailer before, but they have a couple of them! We got there in time to cook dinner and then go out to wade fish a bit before dark. We tried an access point a couple miles downriver from the camp. Sam caught a couple of bass, and I got a nice fallfish, on a popper, no less! As it got too dark to wade in fast water, we headed back to strategize about our float plan for Friday.

We decided to float from Foster’s Landing to Seekford Landing, which is 5 miles. We used the trusty “bicycle shuttle” (me dropping off Sam at the upstream point with the boats, and leaving the truck at the takeout, and biking back. Saved a shuttle fee of about $50 😉 . Here’s a shot of me as we were ready to start out.

Joel at Foster's Landing

Joel at Foster’s Landing

We floated from about 11AM until 5PM, and both had good fishing all day. We each caught 25 or so smallmouth plus additional sunfish and fallfish. No big bass, but they were all hard-hitting and acrobatic. Here’s a typical fish…

Shenandoah smallmouth

Shenandoah smallmouth

I caught almost all of mine on a brown crayfish pattern. It was working for me, so why change a good thing? I was intrigued by the sunfish on the Shenandoah. They would hit in some very fast water, much more so than where I’m used to catching sunfish on a smallmouth river. When a fat sunnie gets sideways in current, you’ll think it’s a nice bass…except no jumps.

For Saturday, we decided after considerable thought, to wade fish. Sam wanted to show me the area below the Luray powerplant, where he’d had good success in the past. We headed up first thing in the morning. The problem was that the water was quite cloudy. I think that it was from the water coming over the dam, stirring up sediment that had settled out by the time it got a mile or so downriver. Anyway, we couldn’t see our feet, which is not good, and decided to go downstream. We fished Bixler’s Ferry access, Bealer’s Ferry access, Foster’s Landing and Seekford Landing. I did reasonably well, especially at Bealer’s. Sam didn’t connect on as many bass, but it was still a great day.

One thing that was an issue for us both floating and wading was the amount of aquatic grass. Many areas were almost matted down with it, making the fishing tough. Sam had fished the Shenandoah before but didn’t remember the grass being as dense. Maybe he was fishing earlier in the season. We weren’t sure. Anyway, it was a great weekend and good company. Sunday, we both needed to get back home so we packed up and drove the 4.5 hours back to central NC. Already looking forward to the next time I get a smallmouth on my line!

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