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  • Matt Reilly


Two weekends ago, January 12-14, I was blessed to be able to make it up to Doswell for the Virginia Fly Fishing and Wine Festival, an annual event put on by outdoor writing friend, Beau Beasley. It's my favorite show by far, as it attracts vendors from all over--many of them friends that I only see once every year. This year, I spent my time catching up with those friends and bouncing between our Reilly Rod Crafters booth and my own booth. We did good business in the two days, and I'd like to extend my genuine appreciation to anyone who stopped by to talk fishing, buy a fly rod, or book a trip.

Weather has been highly variable. Two weeks ago, the New River was frozen over. The Friday before the show saw 70 degrees and buckets of rain, which brought water levels up across the state.

By the time I got back to southwest Virginia, the mountain streams had receded and were in excellent shape. I headed out alone one afternoon before a light snow and caught a number of nice trout, both rainbows and browns, all between 14 and 18 inches. Many people who fish these waters don't know that these fish--the 14+" fish--exist, and if they do, they are rarely caught with regularity, unless you know how to target such fish. Heading into the early part of February, given the proper water and weather conditions, I will start guiding clients who want to hunt these fish, specifically. This is a full-day pursuit that involves covering lots of water and foregoing interaction with all but the most dominant (read, large) fish in the river. Contact me if you'd like this to be you.

The late-winter window is perhaps the angler's best shot at catching a truly large specimen of about any species of freshwater fish that we have here in Virginia. The best advice I can give is to fish slow and think about the fish's metabolic requirements. When the water is slow, their metabolisms are slow and they become sluggish. They don't need to eat very often, and when they do, they want the most calories from the fewest expended.

Between cracking away at a pile of writing assignments, we've also been floating the tailwaters of northeast Tennessee with some great success. As aforementioned, truly large fish can be caught this time of year, and covering lots of water with streamers is king. Nothing beats the visual sport of watching a two-foot-long trout emerge from the depths to crush your fly.

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