What seems like many years ago, Melissa surprised me for my thirty birthday. She had arranged for us to go to a bed and breakfast that catered to fly fishermen in Edinburg, VA. This small town sits inside the Shenandoah Valley and near the Shenandoah River. We had a spectacular time there. The couple who owned the inn were friendly, warm and very out going. He loved to fish for smallies. He face would light up as he recounted time he spent on the river. He truly loved it. I think it might have been his mistress. We returned a few more times before life intruded on us. When we could finally return, we were saddened to learn that the the place had closed. He had passed away a few years before and she decided to close up shop. The last time we visited was in 2005 I believe. I have always wanted to go back so I was looking forward to this vacation.
The Shenandoah River is an interesting river to fish. Some might even call it the smallmouth capital of the East Coast. A mecca so to speak for us warm water fly fishermen. It may be famous to us because it is Harry Murray's home water. A place where some legendary flies have been created and the chance to land a 20 inch smallie is never far away. It is surrounded by mountains so the view is always stunning regardless of which section you are in. It holds largemouth, smallmouth, crappie, bluegill, red breasted sunfish, musky, and fall fish to name but a few. The fish are eager to take a fly and put up a great fight. This was the first place I ever experienced a fall fish taking a fly on top water. The first time it happened, I couldn't believe it. The river can be challenging though in that it is crystal clear a lot of the time. It has a very rocky bottom to say the least. Wading can range from easy to difficult. One moment you are standing in ankle deep water and the next step or two could put you in waist high water. This range of depth comes from the many rocks, boulders and ledges that make up this amazing river. It is very easy to get in over your head, pun intended, very quickly as I would find out. The good thing though is that you can get back to a decent water level rather quickly. I would also point out that due to this range of depth, getting where you want to be rarely if ever results in you moving in a straight line. Most of the time, you have to zig zag your way across the river. However, once you find a decent spot...hold on.
The first night we were at the cabin, I raced down to the river to fish. I decided to throw some glass. I stuck with the 5wt Eagle Claw Featherlight. I decided to give the Road Kill a try. This fly was created by Harry Murray so it seemed fitting to to chuck it here. I managed to get on the water around 1730 and I fished until 2000 hours. Not knowing this stretch of water, I stayed inside the park itself and around the canoe launch area. I did manage to make my way out to about the middle of the river where I caught some decent fish. Because to the rocks and how far out I was, I decided to head back towards shore as soon as the sun dipped behind the mountains. As soon as I managed to get there, I switched to a Retro Lime-A popper and was casting toward the bank. I managed to pick up a few more fish this way until darkness forced me off the water. I caught 18 panfish and 10 smallies for the day. The Road Kill was king. Color didn't seem to matter. They loved them all. Some even decided to keep them as lip jewelry. It was great to be back!