What to do when Bombogenisis crashes the party...
It hasn’t been this bad since 2013. I’ve never seen the river frozen as solid as it was before the thaw. I’ve never heard of spring creeks freezing over. I almost bought gloves last week. Even contemplated adding a scarf to the game. Decided against both. That’s basically been my winter.
Since sticking a 30” striped fish on fly to end my Chesapeake season in late November, it’s been slow picking…the most excitement I’ve been able to derive from the past month and change was watching as my sainted pup, Chili Chesapeake, passed an entire Fios controller through his digestive track across a span of 72 hours. Buttons and all. Outside of that, I hooked and lost a rare Potomac-River-Nile-River Tilapia, moved a 6lb largemouth on a big fly, and have struck out on all things Esox. Due to low water, I haven’t attempted trout fishing this season yet. It’s been one of those winters. The worst part being that the cold now can ultimately affect our most blessed and sacred annual event - Shadness Madness.
But fret not! Even though its cold outside doesn’t mean there aren’t fly times to be had! Here’s our top 8 countdown (10 is a basic number, 8 is enough) of fly things, stuff, and smatterings that matter in around the DMV and elsewhere to get you through the cold stuff.
#1 Go Fishing Locally
Warm Water Discharges
We’ve all been there. Admit it. You’ve literally fished Shit Creek. The worst part is, you caught fish…and outside of the general aesthetic…you enjoyed it too. You sick, sick bass-tard. When it comes to scratching the itch, warm water discharges are a blast when temps drop and the desire to drive hours for trout isn’t strong. Learning to fish these locations, mainly how tides influence fish location and feeding patterns, will seriously up your winter game. Sight fishing these areas for big carp, cats, largemouth, and the aforementioned Potomac-River-Nile-River Tilapia keeps things interesting until the big fish and the silver fish show up again in Spring.
Stocked Trout Water
Accotink and Holmes run provide the opportunity to catch trout within the beltway. That said, get there quickly after a stocking…because you know…poaching…
#2 Go Fishing Regionally
More Stocked Trout Water
Once you to get to the Front Royal VA area, stocked trout streams start to pop up in NOVA and continue all the way through and far past Harrisonburg. The same goes to Laurel/Columbia MD and the general headwaters of most Western Shore tributaries to the Bay (Little Pawtuxent, Patapsco, Severna Park, etc). Most of these drives are 40-1.5hrs from DC but will scratch the itch. Again, it’s recommended to fish most of these waters within two weeks of a stocking for best results…because…you know…poaching.
The fish of 1,000 casts…or some shit…we’ve come to know these creatures for their own generic brand of bullshit we have so cleverly deemed “Same Old Musky Bullshit”. But make no mistake, if you’ve got a raft or canoe and a buddy to run a shuttle with - you’ve got a shot at tangling with one of these fish within an hour and a half of DC. If you’re looking to cut down on the learning curve - give Matt Miles or the boys at Mossy Creek Fly Fishing a shout. They know the deal. But lower your expectations, just seeing one of these majestic mofos follow your foot-long fly all the way back to the boat is a small victory. Doing a figure-8, one of the coolest trials by fire ever, a reason for mad raft props…and getting the eat all about the good you’ve put into the universe over your entire lifetime…I guess what we’re saying is enjoy throwing 12wts and massive bugs on your favorite smallmouth water for the river’s top predator. Appreciate the moment, the environment, and that we have a legitimate fishery. These notorious homebodies usually chill to where they are initially stocked. The Upper Potomac, James, and Shenandoah systems are best bets close to home. Check out the New if you're feeling spicy.
Pickerel & Perch
This used to be a dynamic fishery. Not sure what has happened since 2014 but catching ‘Pickles’ in the tributaries of the Chesapeake used to be easy. Now, it’s on par with musky fishing. But I guess the moral of the story is, there is still life in the small feeder creeks of the main Bay rivers. Yellow and white perch, largemouth bass, crappie, and the mysteriously hard to find pickerel all exist throughout these parts…as well as stray, large stripers that sometimes show up early. Again, canoes, kayaks, and rafts will always be a better bet than wading or fishing from a dock, but anything can happen.
#3 Go Fishing Somewhere FAR From Here
Louisiana - Jim Dietz
Jim specializes in big fish. Like this one. Give Jim a call if you want to catch big fish. Like this one.
Tampa Bay - Ryan Farner
Ryan specializes in just about everything Tampa Bay. Inshore for snook, reds, jacks, poon, etc and nearshore/offshore for the super fun stuff. If you can book him, bring a 10wt down and try to hit some nearshore wrecks for Kingfish and reef fishes on the the fly. THEY PULL SO HARD.
Florida Keys - Tyler Nonn
Tyler is the best light tackle guide on the Chesapeake Bay. He does that by being smart. So smart, that he leaves the Bay in the winter, heads to paradise, and crushes pelagic fishes until the cows come home. Literally, he’s back in late February when the cows come home. You know, cow bass? Bad joke. Any who….Tyler is the man and will put you on fish that you can’t catch here.
#4 Tie Flies
In that order.
#5 Drink Beer, Tie More Flies
Every second Monday of the month at Whitlow’s on Wilson from 6-10pm. Come meet local anglers and TPFR members as we spin up bugs, enjoy $3 draft beers and 1/2 priced burgers, and lie about the fish we’ve caught in, around, and afar from the DMV.
Pretty much the same deal as Beer Tie, just without tying flies and a little more structure…and listening to badass speakers on local fishing opportunities…with beer in hand. Andrew Reichardt and Trent Jones have done a phenomenal job revitalizing this chapter and these events are a great way to give back to one of the good guy organizations.
#6 Visit These Local Shops
They new, old dudes are back in town! Richie’s dream shop is open and rock and rolling in the Cherrydale Neighborhood in Arlington. Alongside Richie, Ivan is back to help folks get what they need with quality workmanship in everything from their spooling to in-store fly-tying demonstrations, loaded fly bins, and knowledge of local fisheries. A must-see if you haven't been there already.
Mossy Creek Fly Fishing
New digs, good vibes, same old badassery. Best fly shop in Virginia in terms of what they provide to local tiers and fly bin raiders - in addition to what they do for local fisheries and promoting an overall groovy fly fishing culture. If that's not enough for you, they got a beer named after them.
Beaver Creek Fly Shop
James is the man, they have a great selection of fly tying materials and local bugs, and their staff knows the local trout and smallmouth game like the pros they are. Plus you can fish behind the shop. SCORE!
Any Orvis Store
Great selection of bugs and the fishing managers are all good people who know our local fisheries well. The H3, Recons, Hydros, and new Mirage reels ain’t joking around. Free fly tying classes on Saturdays through the end of February.
Whitlow’s on Wilson
Good Beer. Good Food. Good People. Can’t complain.
#7 Do These Things
Learn the River
Study the topographic maps. Know as much as you can about the depth you’re fishing and why fish may be there. There is a ton of public access on this river from Chain Bridge all the way to Alexandria and beyond. Always look for deepwater close to shallow water, especially near creek mouths where you can expect to find fish feeding on moving tides.
Learn Your Quarry
For us, thats stripers, musky, smallmouth, snakeheads, largemouth, walleye, and trout. A long list for sure, but each year we look back and reflect and what we caught, where we caught it, and why. Was it time of year? Was it the fly? Was it water clarity and temp influenced? What about moon and tides? Luck? All of these factor into being a successful angler in this area and elsewhere but we’ve found one simple pattern to follow on the Potomac - think big in the spring, small in the summer and fall…and learn to fish at night.
Learn to Tie Flies
If you already do know how to tie flies, tie different ones. Pick up new materials and tricks via the interwebs or your local fly shop and fancify your offerings. Last winter we focused on reverse or "hollow" tying buck tail - a technique brought to us by the legendary Bob Popovics - that allows for massive profiles and water pushing without the bulk. We’ve applied this tying technique for most of our streamers on the Bay and Potomac and it's been working well for us. Especially in shallow water in early spring and fall. If you don't know how to tie flies - any Orvis location can teach you for FREE pretty much every Saturday from now until the end of February. Beer Ties at Whitlow's are another great way to get into it as local guide and instructor Rob Snowhite throws down at the beginner's table, teaching folks to tie a variety of patterns.
Get them fixed if they're broken. Clean them if they're dirty. Put them back in their tubes if they are strewn across the back of your 2005 Ford Explorer. Pray you still have the tubes…repeat.
Get them fixed if they're broken. Clean them if they're dirty. Put them back in their cases if they are strewn across the back of your 2005 Ford Explorer. Pray you still have the cases…repeat.
Take note of what you need to tie or bugs that can be easily fixed. Tie them. Repeat until tying room is a mess and girlfriend threatens to turn said room into a yoga room. Clean room.
If you have a motor, make sure it works prior to opening day at Fletcher’s. If you have a trolling motor, make sure it works prior to opening day at Fletcher’s. Picking up a small depth finder is a good way to learn that area and know how long to soak your sinking lines to target non-shad.
Those are our 8 Tips for Surviving Bombogenisis…only 45 days until the cows come home.
Remick Smothers is a native son of the District of Columbia and the founder of FlyTimesDC.
A self taught fly fisherman and fly tier, Rem graduated from Rhodes College with a double major in fly fishing and English in 2012. He has been celebrating the fly life ever since. Just remember, if it's dark out, there's a shark out. Above all else, stay fly. #flytimesdc
Four Mile Run
Rock Creek Park
Shenandoah National Park
Tidal Potomac River