Monday, August 9, 2010

Of Friends And River Smallies: Evolutions

My love of fishing for smallmouth bass in moving water began in ernest on the New River in West Virginia. And it was my best friend who got me started. At that time, Marc and his wife lived just a few miles from the river. He began fishing it on a regular basis and it wasn't long before I was making trips from my home in Kentucky to fish it with him. Even though I grew up in WV, I had never fished the New.

New River, West Virginia

Our fishing evolution began below the Bluestone Dam. During our early exploits, we would simply wade across the river below the dam trying to cover as much water as possible while trying to avoid drop-offs and swift currents. It was often easier said than done. The New River is not to be trifled with even on a good day. The pay-off was usually quite good, though, as we would hook into smallie after smallie. We practiced catch and release and allowed even big ones to return to the river.

Our equipment also underwent an evolution. During those initial outings, we could usually be seen wearing cheap waders, inexpensive boots, and throwing lures like Rooster Tails. There was nothing necessarily wrong with what we were using, but it didn't take long to figure out cheap waders don't last long. It's not a pleasant feeling to be waist deep in cold water and have your waders spring a leak. 

Bluestone Dam, New River   

We had a blast wading below the dam and caught a lot of fish that way, but we naturally developed an itch to fish more of the river. The places we wanted to fish could not be waded. Our equipment evolution led us to buy one-man pontoon boats. Marc and I both purchased Creek Company ODC 816 float crafts. These were lightweight dual-pontoon boats with take-down frames. With these boats in our arsenal, we began taking float trips and covering water we had never fished. We were able to carry more rods, more tackle, as well as food and drinks.

Not only did our method of covering water evolve, but our fishing gear evolved as well. We began to move away from inline spinners and similar lures to spinnerbaits, crankbaits, plastic worms, and our favorite - tubes. Not only were we covering more water, but we were catching bigger fish. In addition to using a wider variety of lures, we also began using better rods and reels. By no means were we spending hundreds of dollars on these items, but we bought stuff that was going to last longer than the $19 combo special at Wally World.

After fishing the New (and nearby Greenbrier River) for a couple of years, Marc and I started a river and stream smallmouth fishing website. It went on to become extremely popular and opened doors in many ways. It was a big part in the evolution for us. That's another story, though. 

Creek Company ODC 816

As our fishing knowledge evolved so did our tactics and equipment. That did not necessarily protect us from mishaps and injuries, however. We experienced the usual bruises and scrapes, particularly while wading. I buried a treble hook in my palm during one outing. Marc took a nasty fall while wading and dislocated a finger. We lost many, many lures and broke a lot of gear. Our most potentially dangerous mishap, though, was a result of our own stupidity...

We were floating the river one day and had chosen a section of river that included Brooks Falls. Portaging the falls was no easy task and we weren't thrilled with the idea of stopping our trip at the falls. We wanted to fish farther down river. As we were floating along, we tossed around the idea of going over the falls in our ODC's. We both knew it wasn't a bright idea, but by the time we got to the falls, we had talked ourselves into it. 

There's a certain point when you realize it's too late to stop what you've started. As I was going over the falls after Marc, I realized it was too late to stop. And I really wanted to stop! When I got to the bottom I knew my ODC was probably damaged. I had barely stayed on it. Marc had not been so lucky. He ended up in the river and one of his pontoons had been punctured. He managed to get back on his ODC, but was soaked through. After we collected our respective composure's and gear, we realized how foolish we had been. Needless to say, that little stunt put an end to our trip for the day.

Marc with a New River smallie

Marc and I fished the New River for several years. I often stayed with him for a week at a time and we fished daily. Through the website we met some guides and had the opportunity to fish the river from rafts and drift boats. We were using good gear and had developed a nice arsenal of lures to match any conditions we faced. It was good times!

Our fishing wasn't the only thing undergoing an evolution, however. Life was going through an evolution and, for Marc and his family, it meant moving away from the New River. Because of that change, we haven't fished the New in several years. My fishing took me to the many lakes and streams here in Kentucky as well as trips to Canada and New York. I still miss the river, though.

Brian with a New River smallie

Marc and I have been best friends since school and have been on many fishing and hunting trips together. Life's evolution took us away from the adventures on the river, but perhaps one day we can fish the New again. Even if it means wading below the dam throwing Rooster Tails. 


LarryB said...

Great post Brian. Really hope you & Marc Will fish the New again in the future. I just recently heard that my best fish'n friend Marcel from high school days had passed on recently. I had not actually been fishing with him since we waded streams together for native Specks as teens. We had talked on the phone once or twice and I visited him and his family about 20 years ago. Praise God for that eh. The loss of that bond we had was suddenly and totally heart break'n for me. We were blood brothers, like even rub'n bleed'n palms together and I So looked up to him.
It hit me harder than the loss of my mom and dad years ago even.I would have so loved to fish one more time with that awesome guy.

Thanx for share'n your great friend with us all and make sure you don't lose contact with him like I did. And,try to string together a NewR trip 4 2011 or 12 dude.

Giddeeup. :-)

heyBJK said...

Sorry to hear about your friend, Marcel, Larry! I guess you never know, huh? Just another reminder that we can't take things for granted. It sounds like you guys had some good times!

Fortunately, Marc and his family just moved last weekend to within two hours of me. It was a ten hour drive where they lived previously. We're within striking distance of the river once again!