Even though I fished the South Branch last August in search of smallmouth bass, it is a prime target during trout season when the West Virginia DNR dumps thousands of fish into this extremely popular river. In my last post, I commented on the good, rocky stretch just upriver of this spot that was ideal trout water. After fishing that location, my son and I hopped back in the truck and continued our cruise north; paralleling the river looking for additional good water.
It wasn’t long until we saw it. This section continued the rocky character we encountered upstream with the additional benefit of increased depth. After pulling over in one of the many turnouts along this heavily fished stretch, we walked along the shore to peer into the river to see if it would be worth skidding down the steep hillside to fish. The answer? A no-brainer! We could see many large smallies finning calmly in the river abreast of the massive boulder structure along the shoreline. We saw at least three or four that were pushing 18 inches or larger! With no additional encouragement needed, we grabbed our rods and slid gently into the water.
Chris worked upstream with spin gear using small rapalas in an effort to coax a bite out of the smallies tucked underneath trees next to the bank. I dropped back and tried using size 4 and 6 poppers as well as terrestrial patterns on my fly rig. We fished up and down the short stretch for about an hour and a half and, sad to say, no luck. Maybe it was because of no skill or maybe it was because it was the height of the afternoon or maybe it was because… pick a reason… bottom line – we were skunked. The fish are here, we just couldn’t pull them out!
Bottom Line: The South Branch is a year-round river as a result of the stocking program that pushes trout into the water in the spring followed by the normal smallmouth action when the water warms up above 60°. You will not have a solitary day on the river since it is very popular and heavily pressured. However, there are miles of river and you can find a small section that you can call your own without being bothered. As a heads up, downstream from this location the river starts to become sandy… but that’s the subject of another post.
Getting There: Mapquest yourself to Franklin, WV and follow US 220 north or to Petersburg and head south. Turn onto Smoke Hole where 220 breaks away from the river. Smoke Hole road follows the South Branch.
Google Local Coordinates: 38.873962,-79.267173
Date Fished 8/1/2009
Secrets Revealed? No. This is a very public location that is documented in the following place in addition to the WV DNR website:
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View upstream – the bass hand on the bank close to the road
I fished the tail of the pool
Unless stated otherwise, this article was authored by Steve Moore