It was a raining Friday morning in the Tidewater area when I finished loading up the truck for some long weekend James River smallmouth bass fishing. Today’s destination was the Hardware River Wildlife Management Area boat ramp.
Heading out on this last minute decision of a fishing trip was a much better way to spend a day off from work than listening to the Misses watch the latest reruns of Housewives and daily chores. The chores could wait for another day.
James River Fishing Report 13-14 October 2017
A quick last minute internet check, the river was running at 4 feet on the National Weather Service hydrograph a the Scottsville gauge, about 1 1/2 feet higher than the last James River fishing trip two weeks earlier.
There were two cars in the Hardware River WMA parking lot when I pulled up mid-morning. No rain, just a lot of low hanging dark clouds. The temperature was somewhere in the low to mid 60’s with no breeze. I spied two hammock campers were setting up at rivers edge.
I hurried to load up my kayak with camping and fishing gear. Hoping I didn’t forget anything, I shoved off and paddled upstream against the current for an hour or two before breaking out the fishing rods.
The water wasn’t looking too dirty, it was running fairly clear. I saw a few smaller clouds of bug hatches and lots of big red damselfly flittering about and landing on me and my kayak. Yes, it was good to be outside here experiencing much the same our ancestors might have seen here on The River Where America Began.
James River Fishing Report – First Day
So how was the fishing?
For mid-October, I was doing great, catching a good number of smallmouth on Zoom watermelon red tiny brush hogs and Berkley 4-inch camo worms. All of the fish caught were between 8 and 12 inches in length.
I beached on a small island sandy spot and pulled out my 5 weight Courtland 8 piece fly rod paired with the ever classic Pflueger Medalist 1494 1/2 AK reel. Over the next hour or two, I caught several smaller smallmouth and even a bluegill in the surrounding rocks on a small orange bead head woolly bugger. I have good luck with these orange woolly buggers on the James River smallmouth. They are easy to tie up, and you’ll need a bunch, you’ll probably lose some in the rocks, break offs, and errant back casts. I fish them on my own hand made furled leaders.
No monster fish today. The overall tally was ten smallmouth and one bluegill. Nothing larger than 12 inches.
It was getting late, so I decided this island would do for an overnighter camp out and set up the tent. With all the clouds there would be no star gazing tonight.
I was able to scrounge up a few sticks for a small campfire. The small blaze helped to take away some of that late evening chill as I boiled some water on my backpacking camp stove for dinner.
Tonight fare was Mountain House Chili Mac with Beef, one of my favorites. A bit of crush red pepper takes this outdoor feast up a notch. Amazon has good prices on these Mountain House Chili Mac with Beef just add water freeze dried meals.
It was a relaxing evening, watching and listening to the wildlife and the occasional freight train filled with car after car of coal. Except for the train, I could imagine that this was how our early ancestors might have experienced the James River.
James River Fishing Report – Second Day
I woke up early to witness cloudy sunrise, but the river was full of thick morning fog with lots of singing birds. The riverbanks on either side were nearly invisible.
It was time for some coffee and breakfast. I stoked up remains of the fire with the few remaining sticks and boiled some water on the backpacking camp stove.
Breakfast was Mountain House Biscuits and Gravy. While this is good all on its own, adding some hot sauce takes it over the top. Amazon has good prices on these Mountain House Biscuits and Gravy just add water freeze dried meals.
I made a final sweep round the camp area for any forgotten trash, mine and from other folks. Seems like I always bring back more than what I came with. Those found empty plastic water bottles and beer cans were crushed down into my tiny trash bag for easy transport on the back of my kayak and later recycling. I did find a few lost tent stakes to supplement my own growing supply.
After packing up the gear and dousing the remains of the fire with a good amount of water, it was time to get back on the water for several hours more quality fishing time before heading back to the ramp and the long drive back home.
Again, the fish did not disappoint. Using the Zoom watermelon red tiny brush hogs and the Berkley 4 inch camo worms, I was able to get another 12 smallmouths in the boat before calling it a trip. These morning fish all averaged eight inches.
Some days on the James River you get skunked, especially in these post-cold front conditions. Today however, I would call this trip a success. Caught a few fish, had a relaxing overnighter campout, but it was time to get back and clean up the gear and dry out the tent and camping gear.