Thursday, August 26, 2010
Virginia Breakaway - Day One
Dammit Heffe!! Slow Down!!! I'm dyin' back here!
I couldn’t blame him, though. After weeks of planning and four hours in the truck, we were all itching to get on the water. We tried to act cool as we rigged up at the trailhead, but, to a man, we were ready to jump out of our skin, like children waiting at the top of the stairs on Christmas morning. We were ready to get to some serious fishin’.
Heffe hit the New River Trail like it was the Tour de France. T-Bone was hot on his tail and I pulled up the rear, trying desperately to get reacquainted with my bike after it had spent too many months hanging in the rafters. We raced along the trail, paralleling the river, giddy as school kids escaping the classroom towards summer vacation.
Two miles downstream, near Double Shoals, we ditched the bikes and stepped into the surprisingly warm smallmouth bass water and our long wait was over.
From our entry point, T-Bone moved downstream, I moved up, and Heffe began to cross directly to the far shore. The New, at this point, was a couple-hundred yards wide and criss-crossed with rock structure, creating streams-within-the-stream, each to be fished and managed individually - riffles and holes galore.
We hoped to find our fish on topwater flies, always a treat, but there was little rising and, over time, each of us explored other ideas. Over the next few hours we wandered across and down stream, covering a couple of miles of water. Almost everything we encountered was wade-able, but there were the occasional holes and runs in which you could float your hat. T-Bone found fish in the shallow trickles on the far shore while Heffe and I picked up stragglers in the deeper, faster water.
The smallmouth were sporadic, but we found enough to make the day entertaining. Both T-Bone and I had our best success on his orange woolly bomber while Heffe stayed with various poppers through much of the day.
My moment came when, seeing a single smallmouth jumping for damsels, some fifty yards away, I quickly switched to a small blue popper, waded to within forty feet, and drifted the offering by. The hit was immediate and the fish was quickly to hand, prompting me to consider that I might just be figuring this fly fishing thing out. I'd pay for that moment of hubris the next day.
To no one’s surprise, T-Bone outfished us, though he swore that he’d have caught more, including a bruiser, if the fish hadn’t kept missing his fly. It was a novel excuse, and one quickly adopted by the rest of us to explain our piscatorial shortcomings throughout the rest of the trip. The fish missed my fly - indeed.
We ended our angling day a mile or so below the bikes, re-crossed the river, though not without some hairy moments in swift current – swift anough to make my 3/4 inch wading staff sing - and hiked back upstream. The ride out was less frenetic, though in the last half-mile Heffe swore that he could hear the beer in the truck calling his name and pressed on once again.
Once the gear was stowed and the bikes secured, it was on to Wythville and a comfortable small cabin on the KOA grounds – base camp for our next couple of days. A little dinner, a few more beers, and a cigar or two carried us to midnight and lights out in the small cabin.
We were off to a flying start. Heffe had seen to that.
Day Two - a cruise on the Virginia Creeper Trail and the pursuit of Whitetop Laurel trout - soon...