Contributor: Dr. Patrick Taylor
(Steve’s Note: Patrick is in the US on assignment from the UK. He was stunned at the variety and amount of water open to the public and has vowed to fish as much of it as he can before he returns,)
I had a great time fishing the South Fork Shenandoah. The day before it had rained a lot – so I was expecting the river to be in poor condition, however, the water was only slightly colored – and the river gauges indicating only a small rise in water level. The entry point to the river is clearly marked and there is plenty of parking space – very easy access. Looking at Google maps (and also using Google Street view from the Bridge on Route 340), upstream seemed like the best option – although downstream warrants an investigation (I’ll come to that).
I started on a green/yellow popper but didn’t really pick anything up for 20 -30 minutes. Luckily an obliging sunfish made sure that my trip was not a blank. The structure of the river changes as you move upstream, the initial features you see on Google maps are striated ridges of rock with pockets. Wading is easy – but watch out, the obvious ridges are slippy without a wading staff or felt soles (and you can slip into some deep water!). It looked prime for smallies – however I had nothing on a popper.
I worked up to some rapids and picked up some more sunfish. At this point, I abandoned surface presented flies and decided to go deeper using a Goldilox bead-head Woolly Bugger. The first cast I got a nice size sunfish – the second cast – well let’s just say it went BANG! In my life there are two things that have never happened to me with a single handed rod – one is to use the reel to fight the fish, the second is to go to the backing. After 20 minutes I could see the fish, a Channel Catfish! I had to beach it because it wasn’t going to fit in the net! I have never seen a Catfish – so I felt privileged. I unhooked it and nursed it successfully back to the water. Estimating length against my rod – It was around 27-28 inches long, probably 7-8 lb.
The water above the point I hooked the Catfish looked fast – so I decided I would work back down and fish with the Goldilox . I picked up a number of sunfish and small smallies – however, there was a prime spot I had seen on the way up which yielded nothing with a popper – so I fished that. And for the second time in my life, I had to drop onto using my reel. 10 minutes later I netted a lovely 17 inch smallie.
As I was deciding to head further downstream about 6 fishermen appeared, working their way down and upstream- so I decided that I had had a good enough time. I would definitely fish here again.
Getting There: Take 340 south out of Luray. Be alert for the turn to the public boat launch at the bridge – it is off River Road that is on the east side of the bridge. Pull in and park.
Google Local Coordinates: 38.588724,-78.566143
Secrets Revealed? No. This is a very public location that is documented in the following places:
Flyfisher’s Guide to Virginia
Date Fished: 08/23/2009
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I had to beach this Catfish – although muddied – I quickly restored it to the water and it swam away healthily
A nice 17 inch Smallie – tremendous fight, quickly restored to the water
Unless stated otherwise, this article was authored by Steve Moore