It’s a warm afternoon, with the sun beginning to dip behind the lakeshore timber.
The lake is flat and calm. A dragon fly darts over the water. A feeding bass splashes in the distance.
Then a family of wood ducks passes overhead, following the shoreline. The woods echo a cacophony of soft melodies: whispering sycamores and sumacs, murmuring Canada geese and mallards.
Picture this: you’re floating leisurely downstream while fishing the pockets and pools for bass, both smallmouth and largemouth; walleyed pike, bluegills and crappies; pulling ashore at dusk and setting a trotline to catch channel catfish for breakfast.
The New River defies nature by flowing from south to north, then east to west.
Add the rippling rhythm of whitewater and primitive wilderness along its banks and you get an outdoorsman’s dream.
That pretty much describes New River above Hinton, where old-timers remember the good ol’ days.
There is one tale of a fisherman in the 1920s that hooked a monstrous mud cat while fishing in a boat on the waters at Hinton.
The mud-cat weighed 105 pounds when he finally got him out of the water. It tugged the boat clear out of the city limits, down to the old railroad pump house.
The young angler who caught it called for help, and when the railroaders heard his cries, they ran out and helped him drag the critter up on the bank.
One version of the story has it that they cooked it and ate it right there on the spot.
A short distance from the highway, winding ribbons of asphalt parallel the river, providing fishermen access to one of the best spots for bass fishing in the East, and offering campers access to cool, clean mountain water.
Picnicking, swimming, fishing, boating and hiking are the five forms of fun most favored by patrons of the Bluestone Dam area.
The lake will draw more than 1 million visitors in a single summer season.
Ironically, the dam gets its name from another smaller tributary, the Bluestone, a river that forms in Tazewell County, Va., and flows northward to a point near Spanishburg, where it passes under U.S. Route 19-21, the old Princeton-Beckley highway.
From there, it cuts sharply cross-country to the east through rolling farmlands and long-ridged foothills.
About 10 miles northeast of Princeton, Bluestone River enters the deep cliff-lined canyon, picks up momentum and rushes beneath a big bridge on Interstate 77.
“Wild as a bruised bull, rugged as a Bowery bartender, and pretty as a day old colt in a patch of clover,” a writer once wrote in describing Bluestone Canyon, a 14-mile stretch of some of the most beautiful country on the North American continent.
With an almost unbelievable change of pace, the slow-moving stream suddenly turns into a roaring, twisting torrent as it slashes through the Appalachian Mountains.
Churning up whitewater, the raging river passes through some of the most awesome scenery in the Mountain State: dense forests rising majestically on the towering ridges rimming the river; impenetrable growths of laurel and rhododendron covering the steep slopes along the canyon walls.
The Bluestone Canyon is a natural game preserve, a wilderness in which wild game and bird life abound.
The Bluestone River, at this point an endless series of foaming rapids and falls, offers an excellent refuge for lively smallmouth and rock bass, or what is known locally as the most productive stream in the state.
For countless ages, the waters of the New, the Bluestone and the Greenbrier rivers flowed tranquilly to the sea, unimpeded by the rise of mountains through which they sawed their channels.
But the coming of towns, railroads and industry marked a distinct change in the course of the rivers that form a confluence at Hinton in Summers County.
In 1949, the New River, fed by Bluestone, met an obstacle―a barrier of concrete and steel thrown across its channel by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Now, almost 60 years later, the Bluestone Dam on New River encompasses the largest drainage area of any dam in the state, and the lake it forms is the third largest in West Virginia.
“There are few other places in the area where anglers can enjoy fishing for so many different kinds of fish,” explains Mark Scott, assistant chief fisheries biologist with the DNR in Charleston. “Whether you are a veteran or just a beginner, Bluestone Dam and New River are a fisherman’s paradise.”
Bluestone Dam, located on the New River at Hinton, is noted for being the best warm water fishery in the Mountain State. More citation game fish are caught in the New River than any other body of water in the state.
Top o’ the morning!