Southern West Virginia is a region where there is no lack of moving-water fishing opportunities.
Think of such well-known waterways as the New and Greenbrier rivers for bass and catfish and then add several local streams popular for trout.
It all adds up to some prime fishing adventure.
And there’s no better time than late summer to get on the streams and catch fish of all kinds.
So where exactly do local anglers go when the fishing heats up in late summer and early fall?
Some are heading out to their secret, out-of-the-way stretches of rivers and streams.
Roger Armentrout has just returned from a boating excursion along the swirling currents and eddies around Sandstone, where he and his fellow anglers usually average about 30 smallmouth per day.
You can catch smallmouth and lots of them, he says.
Armentrout believes that in the clear, shallow currents, the bass are at their best, hammering lures with explosive power.
“I prefer the rock bars where the water drops off in the channels,” the bass fisherman explains.
Angling Armentrout begins with reading the water.
Largemouth usually are found in deep, still pools of the Bluestone Dam with structure, while smallmouths prefer swift water littered with rocks, riffles, and gravel bottoms.
“But nothing is gospel on the New River,” Armentrout says emphatically. “That’s why fishing the New is so unpredictable. For instance, I hooked a 19-inch walleye while trolling at Sandstone Falls.”
Armentrout cashes in on smallmouth traffic on hot summer days with topwater lures in the evening and early morning, or while probing foaming, rocky eddies with 4-inch plastic worms, grubs,or tubes, he’ll occasionally yank an 18- to 24-inch smallmouth, weighing three to five pounds.
“You catch bass where you find them,” he says stoically. “Some people like one side of the river, so I generally fish the other side.”
Tucked into the mountainous southeast corner of West Virginia, not far from Lewisburg, are rivers and creeks that present some outstanding fishing opportunities for smallmouth and trout.
Three area rivers also offer some excellent whitewater float-fishing from rafts: the Gauley, the New and the Greenbrier.
Smallmouth action on the New and Greenbrier rivers is riveting, to say the least.
Some lucky anglers have reported catching as high as 70 smallmouths in one day on these rivers. Naturally, were talking about catch-and-release, a style of fishing that has become most popular on local streams and rivers during the past two decades.
And granted, the fish are not always huge (the maximum size are about three pounds), but what is attractive is the almost non-stop action, the unforgettable mountain scenery, and the excitement of the float trips themselves.
Some anglers do their fishing on these rivers in a commercial-size raft.
“It’s the best way to get to every single fishing hole on the river,” says Amos Hatfield of Hinton. “There’s absolutely no place that you can’t reach from a raft.”
About smallmouth fishing, he adds, “On days when it’s good, you take fish all day long from the river.
“If the river is slowly rising, and the barometric pressure is rising, it’s the best time to fish.”
“Tiny torpedoes and plastic three-inch grubs,” says Hatfield. “Small jig heads are just as good.”
One angler’s antics has catapulted him into the billboard and magazine cover arena when it comes to fishing in the Mountain State.
Sonny Baker of Beckley has been fishing the New River since the 1940s. His photographs currently are being used by the state to promote tourism on rivers and streams.
Still, Baker says that fishing in the New is not what you would call easy by any means.
The angler who catches 30 to 40 smallmouths a day will have to be an accurate caster, particularly on the New River.
“Know the water and the right kind of bait,’’ says Baker, who has caught and released as many as 100 smallmouths in a single day on the river.
“I like the river to have a gate open and be a little murky, not clear,” he adds.
“If the water is too high, it causes anglers to pass up too many good places along the banks.’’
Fly fishing is gaining in popularity with many Mountain State anglers, and the diversity of insects in most streams make this technique challenging and rewarding.
“There are more than 30 area streams in Southwestern West Virginia that are stocked under the put-and-take trout program,’’ explains Mark Scott, assistant-chief fisheries biologist with the DNR in Charleston.
“The majority of these waters are well suited for fly fishing.”
Scott notes that area trout streams are listed in the West Virginia Trout Fishing Guide.
The streams can be found under the headings of a half dozen river systems including Gauley River, Greenbrier River, New River, James River, Coal River, Guyandotte River, and Big Sandy River.
Fly fishermen enjoy increasing success from April through June and often continue to have good fishing through the summer and fall.
This kind of fishing generally is the most effective technique when streams are low and clear and trout are feeding on terrestrial insects and very small aquatic forms.
Scott concludes, “Fly fishing is effective for native and wild trout as well as stocked trout. Stocked trout rapidly adjust to natural foods and provide excellent sport fishing well beyond the stocking season.”
Top o’ the morning!