Trip Report: Shenandoah Smallmouth Float Trip

St. John’s Fly Fishers

Float Trip on the Shenandoah River, July 12  14

Reported by: Dan Robertson


On the weekend of July 12 – 14, twelve members ofthe St. Johns Fly Fishers ventured to the legendary Shenandoah River in search of smallmouth bass.  By any measure, the weekend was a success, with plenty of fun, fishing, and fellowship.  Those in attendance included: Dan Robertson, Jeff Pruitt, Matt Williams, Craig Murden, Tracy Murden, Will Jetton, Brooks and Mark Williams, Julie and Greg Williams, Terrell Price, and David Possage.

For many of the participants, this was a weekend of “firsts”. For most of us it was the first time on the Shenandoah River, situated in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of western Virginia, the first time to float fish a river in a canoe, and the first time to catch a smallmouth bass. Despite our lack of experience with this species of fish, everyone caught at least one fish, due to the excellent tutorage of Craig and Tracy Murden who had floated and fished this river over the past 20 years.  

Craig and Tracy also did an awesome job of transporting several of their personal canoes to the Shenandoah River, in addition to picking up and returning several canoes rented locally.  Jeff Pruitt did a great job of securing outstanding accommodations at the Outlander River Camp in Luray, Virginia.  Our accommodations included a cozy two bedroom cabin with a kitchen, den, and dining facilities for the group, which functioned as our central meeting spot.  In addition there was a grassy campground (complete with a fire pit), where about half of the trip goers set up tents.  

Many thanks to Jeff also for coordinating and preparing all the group meals. As usual, Jeff did an outstanding job and the food was delicious.

The trip from Charlotte to the Shenandoah River took approximately 6 hours, so we planned a lunch break and fly shop visit in historic Harrisonburg, Virginia.  While visiting the Mossy Creek Fly Shop in Harrisonburg we learned that the area had been inundated with heavy rains over the previous three days, which muddied the river and increase the water levels and flow.  As a result, the local guides recommended that we change our targeted fish to trout in smaller tributaries. This news was very disappointing because most of us did not bring the appropriate gear or flies for this type of fishing. But as we continued to drive north to our final destination in Luray, we noticed that the water clarity and flow improved significantly.  God truly blessed us as the conditions on the Shenandoah proved to be ideal.  Although the water flow was swift, it was manageable and reduced the amount of paddling that was necessary.  The river had numerous outcroppings of rocks that provided the opportunity to park our canoes and do some wade fishing.  Most of the participants used a 5 or 6 weight fly rod to cast heavier streamers, poppers, and flashy minnow pattern flies.

The trip down the river on Saturday covered 9 miles and took virtually all day as it included numerous stops for fishing.  The weather was glorious with beautiful blue skies and very few clouds making sunscreen essential.  The scenery was awesome and we even witnessed a bald eagle flying over the river. Saturday was a very full, but fun day, and no one had trouble sleeping on Saturday night.

This trip was everything it was hyped to be, and offered plenty of opportunities to refine our fly fishing abilities, regardless of our skill level. We also picked up many planning tips that will aid in preparing for future events, whether floating or wading.  But more importantly we had abundant opportunities to encounter God as he continually revealed himself in the beauty of this creation, in the glorious blue skies, the sights and sounds of the river, the faces and voices of participants, and the gentle breezes of the evening.  We thank you Lord for sharing your creation with us.

Fly selections like “Tracy’s Smallmouth Selections” are on display and available for purchase in the Parish Shop, and at each monthly meeting in room 125.

The St. John’s Fly Fishers meet at St. John’s in room 125, every 2nd Thursday each month. All are invited to attend — from “interested” to super experienced. A learning topic is included each month to share knowledge and passion for this sport.

Visit the St. John’s Fly Fishers web site to explore and encounter Christ through the art of fly fishing. Click Here



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