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West Virginia's Whitewater Smallmouth

West Virginia's Whitewater Smallmouth West Virginia's Whitewater Smallmouth
By Bill Vanderford

When you’re sitting up high on a bass-type pedestal seat with a fishing rod in your hand, you question the sanity of yourself and your guide as you peer down through the impossible looking, exploding whitewater of a mean Class V rapid called "Double Z", especially when the guide advises you to keep fishing! After fishing down through more than a dozen Class II to IV rapids already, however, I believed that Brian "Squirrel" Hager could safely navigate Niagara Falls.

The day had begun on a calm section of the New River nearly ten miles above the famous Gorge, but this world-renowned, whitewater venue never travels far downstream without a good rapid. Nevertheless, "Squirrel" Hager, deftly maneuvered the immaculate, British-made Avon raft to every prime fishing spot on the river. Many of these places were eddies located right in the middle or at the head or tail of a huge rapid. Despite the ferocity of the churning whitewater, very few drops of water ever splashed inside the raft as we appeared to glide down the cascading river.

Though the beginning of the day seemed to have less fishing activity, several underwater and surface lures produced vicious strikes from the gleaming bronze-colored smallmouth bass. When we finally found that these feisty fish had a preference for my Swirleybird spinners, however, the real catching began. In fact, for the rest of the day, we had strikes from smallmouth and a few spotted bass on almost every cast.

It seemed that the faster, deeper waters of the New River Gorge, and possibly some help from the setting sun, really turned the fish on later in the day and brought our catch and release numbers up considerably. The final tally for the day included 122 smallmouth bass, 3 spotted bass, and 1 rock bass. Because of the aerobatic tactics of the hard-fighting smallmouth, however, we easily hooked and lost twice as many bass as we landed.

Despite the fantastic fishing found in the New River, we were also surrounded by majestic cathedrals of rock and trees that towered a thousand feet above our boat. Besides a few kayakers and a man and his son fishing along the shoreline, the only life we saw on the trip were ospreys, peregrine falcons, kingfishers, herons, beavers, minks, and plenty of fish.

With enough time for a long weekend, anyone in the Atlanta area can experience this great fishery for smallmouth bass and much more. Class VI River Runners are recognized as one of the best whitewater outfitters in the world, and they offer a multitude of options including fishing, whitewater rafting, rock climbing, horseback riding, kayak clinics, corporate team building, fly casting clinics, and other experiences. They provide everything needed to perform all of their offered activities plus a great restaurant and several lodging options. For more information, call toll-free 1-800-252-7784 or go to their web site:

Bill Vanderford has won numerous awards for his writing and photography, and has been inducted into the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame as a Legendary Guide. Find out more about Bill Vanderford on his website, or drop him an email at [email protected]

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