As I mentioned in the Grand Isle post, I spent some time recently working up in West Virginia. It was actually my fourth trip up to the state for work and I’ve still yet to squeeze any fishing in. This time, since I was working at a site that was along the New River, I packed a fly rod thinking I may have time to break it out once I wrapped up what I needed to do at the end of each day. That extra time never materialized, but on the day of our departure I had a few early morning hours to kill between sunrise and when we would need to drive to Charleston to fly out. The night before I hatched a plan and picked a nearby Bluestone River access trail and crossed my fingers that everything would work out.
The next morning I woke up super early and drove to the trailhead. I rigged up by iPhone light and waited until 6:00am to hike in – that’s when the trail opened according to the sign. It was still dark as I walked, but twilight had broken through the trees as I came to my first landmark, a waterfall on a tributary stream, which was the main purpose of the trail. I accessed the stream below the falls and decided to try my luck there, hoping the place was ate up with smallies. It was beautiful water.
After drifting flies through prime looking runs and only catching a chub of some kind I decided to head back up to the trail and head down to the main river, which was another mile or mile and a half in. I was short on time so I didn’t waste it deliberating on what I should or shouldn’t do. Worse comes to worse this would be a nice hiking trip as opposed to a nice fishing one.
Now that I was hiking in daylight I could see how beautiful the trail was too. The rock bluffs were reminiscent of those in the Bankhead, but the vegetation more resembled that of North Georgia. As I continued hiking along the trail I began to notice that the tributary was getting pretty far from the footpath, not necessarily as the crow flew, but in terms of elevation. I was hiking into a gorge and I didn’t even realize it. I figured there would be some elevation between myself and the trail, but this was getting to be a bit much. The slope down to the river wasn’t gradual, all I could do was keep hiking and hope that it would taper off somewhere. In time it did and I rambled my way down the hillside to the water.
I quickly went back to fishing and caught another fish on the dropper, this time a shiner or minnow of some kind. Chubs and shiners weren’t what I was after and as I looked up in the trees above me making sure not to foul my backcast I could see a giant bucktail jig hanging on some mono. It was time to re-rig I thought. I was throwing a popper/dropper thinking it would be a good way to cover water, but nothing was hitting the surface fly so I switched to a crawfish pattern that Blake tied up. I was starting to run out of time if I wanted to catch a smallie, I had maybe a good half hour left to fish. Up ahead I could see more pocket water, different than the runs that I had been fishing, a good place to swim a crawfish I thought, so I moved on up.
My instincts were right and thankfully I did catch my smallie. It wasn’t but maybe 8-10 inches, but I caught one. Then I missed another one that was even smaller. Then I hooked a chunky chub. I looked at my watch and decided that I should head out before I got too caught up in the fishing. I had to be back at the hotel for 9:30am and I definitely needed a shower before meeting up with my coworkers.
It was a very nice hike out and I’m happy to report that I made it back to the hotel in time to shower. In fact we were early enough to have lunch in Charleston and caught our flight out without issue. I’m very thankful that my coworkers allowed me the time to do this. I’d love to spend more time in West Virginia with a fly rod in hand, but it is hard for me to justify a personal trip up there when flights are as expensive as they are. Maybe one day though, I’ve got a bucket list that seems to grow every year, it won’t hurt to add another trip to it.