You Learn Something New Every Day
I've been a frequent visitor to the Shenandoah River for about four years now. I fished the river constantly during my college years, and was constantly learning. I went from being a one-dimensional angler to a very versatile one - at least I think so. Though I now possess a much greater knowledge of bass (and other species too) than I did a few years ago, the river is still teaching me.
A river changes frequently, forcing the fisherman to change as well. The Shenandoah is no exception. To consistently find success, an angler must be able to adapt. Lately fish have been transitioning from late spring / early summer patterns to late summer patterns. Also, the water levels are constantly fluctuating. Due to the recent lack of rain, the water level has been low; but after a heavy rain it can flood quickly. On my last visit to the Shenandoah, I faced low water levels, partly cloudy skies, and clear water.
I started out visiting a few holes close to the dam that always hold fish. I caught one on a spinnerbait out of a tailrace pool in 6 inches of water. I then began throwing a "creature bait" around a pile of large submerged rocks in slack water. After pulling a few decent fish from under the rocks, I moved to a faster riffle area and soon hooked and lost a solid fish. After visiting a different hole that produces well for me in the spring and seeing little action, I decided to hit one more spot before leaving.
This spot features a large metal beam that's wedged in between some rocks and is solidly anchored. It has survived numerous floods over the last four years, and its always covered with debris. It sits at the end of a long riffle and just below a trickle of water that flows in from the power generator. Throughout the warmer months it always has at least a few fish on it, but on this day it produced nothing. It did lead me to discovering a new pattern though.
Just before reaching the obstruction I tossed the spinnerbait into the tail of a riffle that was smothered with grass (ranging from knee to waist high). I caught a decent smallmouth on the first cast. Curious to see if anything else was holding in the shallow grass, I waded over with the creature bait. After quickly catching a couple of largemouths and seeing several others, I opted to fish the weeds for the rest of the afternoon. I couldn't believe how shallow the fish were holding. They were way back in the weeds - as far as they could go - in water as shallow as six inches. They were sitting just out of the current, but they would come out for a well-placed bait. Occasionally you could watch the weeds move as a spooked or recently-released fish swam through them. It was incredible to watch.
I worked the main weedbeed in the middle of the river, following it as far as it ran downstream, and then moved to a similar spot upstream. The action was consistent throughout - lots of keeper fish, with a big one mixed in every once in a while. The pattern was so strong that I could predict where the fish would be, and almost call my shots. I pulled probably a dozen largemouths from the weeds that afternoon, and I missed several others. Counting the fish I pulled from other areas, I had probably twenty total. My five biggest were around 7.5 lbs. total - not bad on any day.
This weed pattern is one I'd never experienced on the Shenandoah before, so I'm anxious to exploit it again. I know there were several good-sized fish I spooked, and it'll be fun trying to catch them next time around. I'll be looking for this largemouth pattern for the rest of the summer. Hopefully they'll let me of work to see if the fish are still around.