Early Spring report/outlook

With the cherry blossoms blooming and daylight savings extending light for us fishermen, it’s just about time for fishing to take off!

An often overlooked fish is the chain pickerel, the smaller cousin of the northern pike and musky. They don’t get super big, a 20 inch fish is pretty nice one, but they make up for it in their voraciousness hitting attacking a fly.  Spring is the best time of the year to fish for them and they are active before every other fish. This year is no different! Several waterways in central Virginia hold them, but the Chickahominy River and Reservoir have very strong populations.

Everyone is always asking about shad… generally they will be here for the middle two weeks of April. They best fished in the James up to the fall line from a boat.

Smallmouth in the James and other rivers have yet to consistently begin eating. Depending on who you ask, the magical water temp for them to start the prespawn feed is between 55-60 degrees. The spawn usually last through end of April and then pick back up in May. Usually in May we find the water is warm enough to wade for the smallmouth, so long as levels remain stable!

Farm pond action is just starting to get going! Right now you can find largemouth bass and bluegill slowly moving into the shallows to warm themselves in the mid day sun and prepare to spawn. If they aren’t on shallow flats yet, look for drop offs adjacent to those flats.

A recent trip revealed that crappie are in full on feasting mode. If you catch one, don’t move! They are a schooling fish and you can get 3, 4, 5 or more in the same spot. Crappie love to eat minnow flies.

I find the best retrieve was with very short strips, causing the weight fly to jig. These fish loved the IC Fly, which is a very simple guide fly to tie. Tail is 8-12 rubber strands, a body of ice chenille and a cone head!

Don’t forget, one of the most magical ways to catch a fish is on a fly a fisherman has tied himself. It’s a whole separate aspect of the sport that provides hours of creative enjoyment in off hours when not fishing, like winter or evenings. We’re happy to help teach beginners or experts how to tie flies with our one on one tying classes. Shoot us a message for questions about tying!

Fall Fly Fishing at Cape Lookout, NC

If you haven’t been to Cape Lookout, North Carolina by now, then a fishing trip for electric False Albacore should be added to your bucket list pronto! Come September and lasting through as late as Thanksgiving, False Albacore migrate down the East Coast following a myriad of bait species heading south for the winter.  

The Albacore maraud schools of bait in a blitz on the surface, staying up for a few minutes, but sometimes only seconds. This fishing is run and gun, and the birds are your friends in locating bait and fish. There is a level of southern courtesy here, so don’t over crowd other boats.  Cast your fly into the blitz and use a two handed strip to rip it out of the boil as fast as possible. You’ll feel the weight of the fish, strip set hard and then hang on! Grabbing the reel knob or line here is not a good idea, unless you like line burns or busted knuckles. False Albacore, like other members of the tuna family, do not stop swimming, so when releasing, they need to hit the water with a head start. Hold the fish by the tail over the gunwale and drop them in from a few feet up so they can take off under water.

Albies can be picky as trout, called “sippers,” or as aggressive as a bass, depending on the size of the bait in the water.  Flies can be a small and sparse inch and a half long, or a full size Half and Half. Albie Candies and Clousers in chartreuse and white, tan and white and chartreuse and pink are go to flies, but don’t forget Crease flies for topwater.

September through mid-October features smaller albacore in the 6-10 pound range but has other gamefish varieties too, such as Spanish Mackerel, Bluefish, Red Drum, Blue Runners, Spinner and Blacktip sharks and the occasional Kingfish. Come November, the weather turns rougher and bigger Albacore up to 20 pounds show up but the other species head south.

Sharks will sometimes join the mix to chow down on bait or your recently hooked Albacore. Larger ones also follow shrimp boats as they cull their catch and can be hooked on fly… landed is another story. If you get lucky, you may come across a school of 15-25 pound bull Red Drum cruising down the beach just under the water’s surface, a pumpkin patch!

Typical equipment is an 8 through 10 weight fast action rod with a quality reel, intermediate or floating line and 200 yards of backing for the Albies. Leaders are typically nine feet long down to 16 or 20 pound fluorocarbon. Ten weight rods with heavy sinking lines are needed for the bull Drum and larger 13 weight rods required for Jaws.

If the weather turns too rough or your arm needs a rest from all of the albacore, you can always stay inshore and find protected waters loaded with Puppy Drum (Redfish up to 28”), Speckled Trout or Flounder on the fly. The False Albacore run is epic in its own right, but it’s not the only game in town!