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Chilly Pig Weather
April 12, 2000
Dave, John, and the recently returned from Germany Mark Frondorf took a last-minute float on Tuesday in windy and choppy conditions on the upper Potomac. Forecasts of a NE swinging into a SE with rain were greatly exaggerated, and the good fishing which often accompanies a changing front wasn't in evidence.
From the start the fish were picky, with bumps and light hookups predominating. By the time the excellent spawning areas of the middle Needles were behind us we had four or five small fish in the boat and were looking ahead hopefully to the Shenandoah. We had heavy hits and weighty hookups but few boatings as fish were light-biting and tail-grabbing. Notable exceptions: largemouths, which took jig-and-pig readily in the slower water, and a carp of over 13 pounds which got wrong-place wrong-timed (translation: foul-hooked) and provided a lively battle on six pound test in fast water. Potomac was surprisingly clear at 52 to 53 degrees.
As has been the pattern the Shenandoah provided a different story. From the mouth of the river more smallmouth were in evidence, though they were still picky and light-biting. In the large ledges around Whitehorse Rapids a flurry of action gave Dave high honors for the day with two 18" and one 19" smallmouth. The 19 was just shy of four pounds by the Boga. All big fish and several smaller ones blasted big spinnerbaits in a certain rather exotic color; other patterns didn't perform as well. From there it was more of the same; hits here and there but generally picky fish, probably due to the sharp rise then fall of the river and stable or lower temps as well as a howling week of wind.
On the other hand the river is in excellent shape for spring fishing, and clarity is good, perhaps excellent. The volatility of river levels reflect a drainage that is still parched despite above average rainfall in the past thirty days or so. Some sun and an upward hitch of the water temp--happening right now outside my window--ought to make it light up.
True to form, smaller fish became more prevalent in the Doah's water, which edged up to 56 degrees by midday, not much cooler than the air. With a steady firm breeze it was comfortable only in several layers, and the upstream breeze made us happy for John Hayes' outboard-powered Assault Sled. Better numbers of fish in the 8-14" range came in in the Brunswick area. Mark took one fish on his favorite-- the fluke--and I caught one on the flyrod, my first flyrod fish of the year. Total in the boat, maybe 30 fish, half over 14".
Opinions on spinnerbaits vary. I like larger ones, largemouth-bass sized, in lighter colors. I prefer to use willowleaf blades and I will take off the second blade in the two-blade versions. I favor a 1/4-oz. size; other than that, I'd say go with light on a light day, dark on a dark day (with red or grey or blue the darkest dark) with white as the default. Check your knots often; clients rarely snag spinnerbaits but an amazing number of them are snapped off on the cast, endangering passing cars, powerlines, and low-flying aircraft. Ok, that happens to guides as well. One reason is that the spinnerbait is a water-covering lure and long casts are no problem so we tend to heave it, and it's heavy. Any abrasion or weakness in the line, or a rough spot on your tip-top, and pop it's gone on a NASA-level trajectory. Spinnerbaits can be chuck-and-cranked over large areas of water, unlike the other early-season mainstay, jig-and-pig, which is a "spot" lure. One large fish yesterday hit the spinnerbait on the fall, which isn't unusual but is tough to detect unless you are very alert. (I was just lucky) Generally the lure should be cranked in the middle of the water column, with occasional pauses, jigs, or stop-settle moves until you have figured out what they want. In some situations just hanging the lure in the current will work, especially from a drifting boat. Ideally a cast passes from cross-current to the downstream quarter but any direction is reasonable as long as you keep the lure going relative to the current. The spinnerbait is an aggravator and strikes can be very hard.
Spring break next week--I'm open to fish Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and the weekend, and other guides are open as well. Call Mark at 301-588-8742 or e-mail me to set up a date with a pig.
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