High-country smallmouth beckoning anglers to beat the heat

New River bronzeback fishing is approaching its summer peak

Craig Holt

June 27 at 8:40 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

Float trips on the New River have been producing plenty of nice smallmouth bass.
Float trips on the New River have been producing plenty of nice smallmouth bass.

With summer causing fishermen and others to look for an escape from the heat, North Carolina’s foothills and mountains offer plenty in the form of smallmouth bass and mountain trout. And according to one guide, the smallmouth fishing in the New River is starting to peak.

“The good thing is when the trout fishing starts to really slow down, the smallmouth fishing starts to peak,” said Marty Shaffner of Tri-State Anglers Service (336-902-0044). “July through September are the best smallmouth months of the year.”

Shaffner carries fishermen on float trips, most often from the confluence of the South Fork and North Fork of the river in Alleghany County to Alta Vista, Va. The basic summer format is to float along, stopping at good areas and getting out wade fish. Anglers use spinning gear or fly-fishing tackle with equal success.

Shaffner said top soft-plastic baits have been 4-inch worms, grubs, 2-inch white swimbaits, spinners or hellgrammites. “Fly-rod anglers fish with terrestrials, streamers and small poppers,” he said.

Under good conditions, have been landing bronzebacks that range from 10 to 13 inches on average.

“But you usually do pick up the occasional 14- to 20-inch fish,” Shaffner said. “They’re river fish so they’re strong. I’ve had guys who fish mostly for largemouths hook up and say, ‘I got a big one!’ and when they get the fish to them, they go, ‘What happened?’ ”

Shaffner said the river and its small feeder streams still offer decent trout fishing, even in summer.

“You can use an Elk Hair Caddis with a bead-head nymph dropper and catch a mix of rainbows and browns,” he said. “The higher you go on some of the wild trout streams in Ashe, Watauga and Wilkes counties, you can get into brook trout. But it requires a bit of a hike.”

The main deterrent to summer fishing at the New is thunderstorms.

“We’re getting the usual thunderstorms now every evening,” Shaffner said. “It’s not so much the lowering of water temperature, but storms create a muddy factor. It takes about three days to clear. Smallmouth and trout fishing is much better in clear water, probably because the fish are sight-feeders that can’t see that good in dirty water.”




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