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  • Matt Reilly


During the peak of summer here in southwest Virginia, rain has been incredibly scarce, this year. This has spelled normal-to-low water levels on the New River for most of the month of July and early August, and very low flows on most other area streams. Low water on our smallmouth rivers in the summertime can make for some fantastic topwater and sight fishing opportunities, which are the ingredients for some of my favorite fishing memories. We've been milking every bit of it that we can, and the results have been fantastic.

The general lack of rain for most of the mid-summer has our water table very low. As a result, as we experienced our region's peak heat in late July and early August, our trout streams reached temperatures that bordered on dangerous. It was necessary to carry a thermometer, daily, and check water temperatures throughout the day to avoid stressing fish. I only guided a handful of trout trips in the last few months, and all of them were skewed early, and we spent all of our time on spring-fed streams, where the action and water temperatures were favorable. Water temperatures have dropped into the safe range, solidly, again, and the dry fly and dry-dropper fishing that makes the summer in the Mount Rogers region shine is still great.

We received a strong shot of rain in mid-August from remnants of a tropical storm, but the ground soaked up the water pretty quickly, and we weren't put out for too long. As the rivers dropped, an event that I look forward to every year began, kicking the topwater fishing into high gear--the annual cicada drop. I saw the first cicada fall from a riparian tree on August 23rd, and in the two weeks since, most of the smallmouth we've boated have had cicadas in their stomachs, or have regurgitated them on the way to the net. It's this same week, the last one in August, that we've seen the most stable and summerlike weather for the past several years, and this year was no exception. For about a week, we had a high of 90 degrees and an average daily peak water temperature of 83 degrees. This consistency makes smallmouth very happy, and we had some unforgettable days on the river. We landed 8 smallmouth over 20" that week, and on a few of those days, lost track of the number of 16-18" fish we boated, all on topwater, and several sight-fished to. These are my favorite fishing days, ever.

Hurricane Ida put a stop to that action, though, around the end of August. Our region got significantly less water than central and northern Virginia, and latitudes further north. The rivers did come up, however, and the water temperature dropped from the average of 83 degrees to about 72.5 in three days. The days following these big cold fronts can be challenging, but they can also be some of the most beautiful days of the summer, so much so that it can be hard to complain about the quality of the fishing. Thankfully, though, the action is getting better every day on the backside of the storm, and we should be back to fantastic topwater fishing, shortly. This action can persist well into the fall, even as the cicadas disappear and get eaten up, as the fish remember what they look like.

I do have a few days left in September and October that should offer great smallmouth fishing. As the days begin to shorten and cool, and the leaves begin to change, we will start to hunt the tailwater rivers in our backyard for meat-eating brown trout, as well. If you'd like to get in on the action, don't hesitate to reach out. Days are booking fast!

Thanks for reading, and we look forward to fishing with you.

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