After a mild weekend, the Nation’s River is back around the 50 degree mark (after spending most of last week in the mid-40s). Despite the colder water temps last week, feeding fish could still be found in areas with depth variation, current, and bait. With temps on the rise this week, look for the bite to pick up a bit.
Albeit sluggish, the resident striped bass bite remained a strong option for those willing to brave the wintry weather at places like Gravelly Point and the outflows of Little Hunting Creek and Pentagon Marina. Swinging streamers and clouser minnows to these fish on sinking lines and a few feet of 0-3x tippet remains the go-to technique for this time of year. But if stripers aren’t your thing you have a couple other options!
Look for largemouth bass to move shallow on sunny days and to hold in areas with dark bottom or hard cover (both will warm faster than surrounding areas and thus, hold more bass in winter). Think areas near deep water close to shallow water. Tidal creeks can also be a great place to find bass this time of year with Four Mile Run, its warm water discharge, and an outgoing tide the prime place to be. For flies, think like a spin-fisherman (who are almost exclusively using soft plastics, slow-rolling spinnerbaits, or jerkbaits this time of year) and bring out your deadliest baitfish imitations or clawdads. FISH SLOW…..or throw small woolybuggers, crazy charlies, and big nymphs to panfish/carp/whatever you find in there…..There are few places with a more eccentric fishery than 4MR….especially in the winter.....
Carp on the C&O remains a strong option as well…..
With ideal tides last week, I ended up getting to fish Gravelly Point a few times before and after work. Fish were hanging slightly deeper than normal but that’s to be expected when the river dips into the mid-40s and it's dark out. Despite these less-than-ideal conditions, I was able to land a dozen or so stripers up to 18” over the course of a couple trips. Swing streamers on sinking lines…nothing really too new to report here!
This 18" WV bow munched a sz20 zebra midge
With most of the leaves gone, now is the time to start thinking micro-midges and dries or swing for the fences with streamers and CHUCK THE MEAT for that fish of your life.
BWOs, zebra midges, and sculpin patterns are all solid bets as far as flies go this time of year on the wild trout streams in our region.
Flashier attractor nymphs and woolybuggers remain the go-to on local DH streams. Just remember to taper your expectations. While fantastic fishing days certainly still exist, it’s still the early stages of winter. Things are starting to slow down and food is generally smaller in size……
After travelling for most of October, I finally had time to fish one of my favorite trout waters in the region this past weekend—West Virginia’s Smoke Hole canyon.
Fishing the C&R section on Saturday with my buddy Andrew, we managed to get on the water at 10am and fished all day until a 4:30 sunset pushed us off the water and back onto the road.
Having last fished Smoke Hole in the midst of September, I was accustomed to hungry, aggressive trout that were looking up for food and asking few questions about what drifted in front of their fezzes… What I found on Saturday was the exact opposite of those trout.
Arriving around 10am, the sun was just starting to peak over the canyon walls and shine on the cold, crystal clear water. From the get go, I could tell this was going to be a game of light line and small nymphs.
After cleaning up on egg patterns, stimulators, and terrestrials earlier in the fall, I did not find a single taker on any of those patterns Saturday. Instead, most of the action came on the zebra midge trailing said egg….which despite the refusals still worked well in tandem as an attractor fly.
On top of the midge takes, there were a few monster blow ups and a snapped line on both a dead drifted and swung #Runwayspecial. Always cool to see a new pattern get some love and that fish were still aggressive enough to commit – but by far, the fly of choice on Saturday was a size 20-22 zebra midge.
Expect the pattern of smaller nymphs, midges, and dries to continue as water temps keep dropping….and remember—streamers will find your active fish.
Our Nation’s River is now hovering around the 50 degree mark….which unfortunately means that after weeks of Game of Thrones references …Winter might actually be here…or for those of us in denial...it’s “late, late fall”.
Right now our beloved main vein to the Chesapeake is starting to fish a little slower. Don’t run to the tying table just yet though! Action still exists for those looking to get slimed.
The migratory striped bass we saw all spring and summer are gone. Get over it. However, hope is not lost for those wishing to pursue the man in the striped pajamas— resident fish (14-20”) can be found all winter long for those looking in the right areas. Creek mouths, marina outflows, tidal inlets, etc will hold these fish throughout the winter as they look to take advantage of the baitfish being flushed out of these areas on tidal changes. Use sinking lines and baitfish patterns (size 2 clousers are a pretty good bet anywhere on the Potomac) and look for fish to be holding in deeper water. Slower retrieves will serve you well.
Now on to some Hot Spotting.
This past week, I fished Gravelly Point and Rock Creek Park.
Gravelly has started to become hit, miss, and just tantalizing enough to keep you coming back (no fish in the first hour, two fish on back to back casts, one fish a half hour later…no fish the rest of the day—you know the deal). Temper your expectations and come out swinging with the sinking lines on the outgoing tides. Dress for the season. Goretex gloves, thermal long johns, winter hat, etc......
While Gravelly is slowing down, Rock Creek Park seems to be shutting down completely.
Working my way from the Connecticut Avenue Bridge downstream to the footbridge at the graveyard, there was a noticeable lack of life in the stream. Perhaps this is due to the valley’s geography (the valley “peaks” do a great job at keeping the creek shaded which limits how much the water can warm up on a sunny day…good in summer, bad for late fall/winter), but I only found one stretch of creek that held fish.
Gin clear water made for some good sight fishing opportunities to the couple stray late-season bronzebacks and shivering catfish I could find, but with that clear water comes the need for lighter tippet (4-5x) and soft presentations…which is hard to do with a weighted clawdad or hellgrammite.
When these situations arise, I like to use a rubber-legged wooly bugger (size 6-8) with some split shot and dead drift it through the main channel. Unfortunately, in three or so hours on the water, I only managed to pull out one large creek chub (14”) from the stream. I also received ZERO love from any other resident fish, which was surprising considering the robust panfish population in the creek.
My suggestion is to fish elsewhere until spring rears her beautiful, warm face and the largemouth/shad move into the creek to spawn….OR bundle up and sight fish for anything you can find, dead drifting small streamers or large nymphs (think stonefly) on 5x through the sunny, deep sections of the creek.
We’re definitely starting to get into Four Mile Run on an outgoing tide/warm water discharge territory as water temps dip south of the 50 degree mark. But all is not lost yet for those wishing to not stink up their waders! Throughout the colder months, the C&O (although drained of most of its water) will continue to produce opportunities for those wanting to sight fish carp. Walk the canal and look for tailing/mudding fish or mud slides that would indicate a feeding fish. A well-presented large nymph or small woolybugger on 3x will produce.
Trent holds the fish of a lifetime at Beaver Creek
Similar to last week, I haven’t managed to get out to the wild trout streams…but if you’ve been checking out the Facebook Page – Trent and Kenny did this past weekend.
When Trent gchatted me early last week asking about the differences between the Gunpowder and Beaver Creek, I spoke to Beaver’s big fish potential, closer proximity to the district, and lack of pressure as the main factors between the two trout waters….Little did I know that Trent and Kenny would redefine my and many others' perception of “The Beave” forever.
Measuring 29” long with a 17” girth, the duo from LethalFly stuck the rainbow/steelhead/HAWG JOHNSON of their dreams on "The Beave"....a small ass spring creek known for its wild browns!
Trent managed to stick this legendary pig on a small scud fished without an indicator on his 4wt. Despite hooking into such a large fish on a light set up, Trent kept his cool and Kenny manned the camera/net to make sure this memory wouldn’t get away from them (no small feat when dealing with a real life river monster).
After a few minutes of heart stopping, knee-shaking adrenaline—the boys had the fish in the net and a night destined the sweetest tasting beers of all times.
In other news……
Delayed Harvest trout streams have received their first stockings of the season. Time to bring out your attractor nymphs (flashback pheasant tails, hare’s ear, etc), Y2Ks, and olive or black woolybuggers. Accotink, Holmes Run, Passage Creek, and Stony Mill should all be fishing well right now.
Get out there before the fish are poached out.
Making a return trip to the Smoke Hole this weekend. Stay tuned.
We are in the midst of an awesome schoolie striper bite right now, people!
Fish are definitely around and feeding when the opportunities present themselves (low light, moving water, and bait in the water). That said— get out while you can. All good things eventually come to an end.
With water temps in the low-mid 50s and nighttime lows bound to push temps lower later on in the week, now is the time to swing often and furiously. Just because it’s 45 degrees out today doesn’t mean we’re done just yet. Got the tide? Let it ride...at least for the next few weeks….
With ideal, low light conditions on the outgoing tides last week, I was lucky enough to get on the water a couple times to take advantage of my favorite fall pastime on the Nation’s River—swinging streamers for stripers.
Hitting Gravelly Point for a morning session last Tuesday with Orvis Bethesda Fishing Manager, Trent Jones, we proceeded to hook into a few decent schoolies in the 14-16” range before work beckoned us back to the real world. While the fishing certainly wasn’t dynamite (fish were holding deep and acting sluggishly), we managed to stick a few in the deeper water and garnered a few empty handed-whacks by getting our flies down in the water column with intermediate and full grain sink lines. Even though the action wasn’t fast and furious, the presence of chunky schoolies more than inspired a return trip….
So naturally, after helping my saintly mother hand candy out to the myriad of monsters, ghouls, and miniature pop culture icons that visited our home Thursday night – I hopped in Buffy and made the short jaunt over to Gravelly for a little trick or treating.
With the vast majority of New Columbians exercising their right to dress in silly garb, get weird, and instagram the shit out of themselves, I knew the outgoing tide at GP would be all mine. Donning the waders and making my way to the inlet that quiet night, conditions…well…they couldn’t have been better.
A new moon kept the sky dark. The air temp was in the upper 60s. The tide was flowing out of Duck Pond at a solid pace. From the moment I got there at 8pm until I left the park around 10, fish were popping off in a big way. By working my way down the inlet, casting to the bank, and letting the fly swing through the main current – I managed to pick off a dozen or so stripers up to 20” with the majority of schoolies playing a size or two up from their usual variety (14-18”).
Fish were caught on a few different streamers I’ve been tying up recently, but for the most part any baitfish pattern or clouser minnow in sizes 2-6 will get the job done. It’s more a matter of getting the fly down at this point.
Haven’t gotten a chance to play in the wild trout streams recently, but Delayed Harvest trout streams have received their first stockings of the season. Time to bring out your attractor nymphs (flashback pheasant tails, hare’s ear, etc), Y2Ks, and olive or black woolybuggers. Accotink, Holmes Run, Passage Creek, and Stony Mill should all be fishing well right now.
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