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  • Matt Reilly

IT'S BEEN A MINUTE--FALL, WINTER, SPRING FISHING RECAP

Well, it's been a while since we last updated, here. Rest assured, we've been incredibly busy on the guiding and fishing front for the past eight months.


The fall and winter 2022/23 musky and brown trout season was unprecedented. We put close to 100 musky in the boat on flies between the months of October and early-March, including a large number of young fish in the 25 - 32" range. At first, the abundance of such fish was puzzling, because their density is higher now than I've ever seen it, but after a full season, it's clear that they are the product of two very strong spawning seasons in recent years, which will only keep our fishery strong in years to come. If we have such strong spawns consistently in the next five years, the numbers and size of fish in the New River will be amazing.

Several first musky on the fly came into the boat, this season, as well--one of my favorite things as a guide. One of the highlights of the season for me was watching my client and friend Ian boat his first fish on a blind figure eight, and then having another giant fish swipe and jockey around his fly just a few minutes later. I also got the chance to take another friend and client, Zach on a short, after work musky adventure, with the aim of getting him his first fish in just a few hours. In an hour and a half, Zach had his first follow, caught two fish, and hooked and lost another.


We had some high number days as well, thanks, again, to the strong reproduction and young age classes in the river. Several days saw 5 - 7 fish caught on flies.

We had several memorable brown trout floats, this year, with varying results. The streamer fishing game isn't for everyone. Similar in flavor to musky fishing, these trips are trophy hunts. Frequently zero, or just a handful, of fish are caught on these floats, but the ones that are tend to be large, and even when fish don't hit the bag (and even when they do) we tend to see some aggressive following behavior from large, predatory brown trout that is unforgettable. The shift that occurs in an angler's brain when a two-foot brown trout t-bones their fly on the surface, or cartwheels out of the water after a fly on the two-hand retrieve, is significant and life-changing.


We also spent some time on local reservoirs this fall/winter in search of striped bass on the fly--a saltwater-esque experience right in our backyard targeting some of the hardest fighting freshwater fish out there. Our fisheries grow these fish to trophy proportions with regularity. We will continue to dial in this fishery for guided trip options in the future.

The spring smallmouth season got an early kick-off in 2023, thanks to an abnormally warm winter and warm weather in mid- to late-February. We had a number of big days on all of our smallmouth fisheries during the early season on both fly and conventional tackle. This season--from late-February to mid-April--is best suited for anglers willing to sacrifice numbers of fish for large fish that often come in small bite windows, as that is often the result. One day I spent with good clients Will and John saw just a handful of fish in the boat, including one giant over 4-lbs. The next day saw a few more fish in the boat, but with five fish over five pounds. Such is the nature of spring smallmouth fishing.


Minimal rainfall and warm weather made the pre-spawn season progress a little oddly and quickly, this year, and we saw a challenging period in the few weeks preceding the spawn. Those conditions persisted throughout the spawn and into the postspawn, calling on summertime tactics to keep the big fish coming. This dynamic nature of our rivers and the smallmouth that live there is part of what keeps me in love with them. Among the highlights of our smallmouth season, so far, include watching good friend and client Kevin Z. sight-fish his first 20" smallmouth with a streamer, introducing Keith V. to smallmouth fishing in general and watching him fall in love with the sport, and putting good friend Patrick on his two biggest smallmouth just minutes apart--a 20.5" giant, and a 21.5" behemoth well over five pounds.

I'm currently shacked up on paternity leave, and will be until early July. Some much needed maintenance will keep me busy, but we're looking forward to getting back on the water and making more memories very soon. We are receiving regular rains in the first few weeks of June, which is a blessing after a very dry spring. Hopefully this precipitation will keep all of our fisheries flowing well into the summer season, which is already underway!


We look forward to fishing with you!


- Matt

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