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  • Matt Reilly


Since we last reported on the fishing front, the weather has changed dramatically. We've traded frosty mornings and full rivers for scorching days and low, clear water. April showers for the Dog Days. Pre-spawn smallmouth for bug-sipping summertime foragers. But we can't complain.

The spring season was highly successful from a fishing standpoint. Only a few fronts set us back and pushed us off the water, and lots of big fish hit the net. I often have anglers greet me with hesitation in the morning when it's 28 degrees and snowing in late-March or early-April, but they usually lose that skepticism after the first big, aggressive smallmouth hits the net. The reality is, during the early, pre-spawn season, that smallmouth have to eat to prepare for their energetic spawning expenses, and so instinct largely overpowers day-to-day fluctuations in weather, making for some consistently good fishing.

Spawning success was likely good to spotty, depending on the river system, this spring. We made it out of the month of April without any major flooding or high water events, but had a quick one blow through in May on some systems that certainly would have impacted recruitment. The good news is that, on the main body of the New River, particularly the lower river below Claytor Lake, the dam absorbed most of that water, and flows stayed relatively stable. Only time will tell how strong 2022's year class will be, but it's clear from fishing observations that the last few years saw decent recruitment levels, as trips to the New this year have given up inflated numbers of small, 6-12" fish over years past.

On the New River in general, water levels have been phenomenal, this season, so far. Summertime averages have been rolling most days, making for some excellent topwater sight fishing opportunities on certain days. The first few weeks of summer have come with the typical isolated thunderstorms of the Dog Days, and we've been running around, checking water levels and clarity, and utilizing different rivers, daily, trying to put clients on the best conditions available. While this is incredibly frustrating, at times, it can also pay huge dividends. Still, smallmouth bass are generally pretty sensitive to changing weather, and can shut down or become fairly moody when large fronts are bouncing around the landscape. We've seen a few such days, already, this summer, and as I write this, the last of a few week's worth of such weather is clearing out. I'm greatly looking forward to some stable weather.

As a general rule, the topwater fishing should continue to be great for the next few months--usually into the month of October, provided we don't have a hurricane-heavy spring that keeps the rivers running high and cooler than average. Topwater fishing represents the fly angler's most thrilling and consistent shot at a trophy, 20+ -inch fish during the summer months, and that's the way I like it!

On the trout front, we had a great spring putting experienced and first-time anglers on wild trout up in the mountains. We've almost completely halted such trips for the summer, as low water and hotter-than-average temperatures starting around the middle of June pushed water temperatures up into the upper 60s and above, making fishing during the bulk of the day not only unproductive, but generally irresponsible. On a typical year, summer fishing in the Mount Rogers Region can be phenomenal, but given higher water temps and the opportunity to smallmouth fish, I've pretty much quit for the summer. We'll start to book these trips again come late-summer, when things begin to cool, again.

We still have a handful of dates left for smallmouth floats, this summer, and cancellations do happen, so if you'd like to get on the water, this summer, don't hesitate to reach out!

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