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Me, the missus and our little Boston Terrier, Sophie spent Sunday through yesterday camping at the Shenandoah River State Park in Bentonville, VA. If you're into camping and have never been here we highly recommend it. In short, this trip was awesome. Weather was great, the river, valley and mountains beautiful, great wildlife watching plus some decent fishing.
I was excited when we first arrived and, after getting camp set up went right to the river. A little too early as it was still very bright out. Managed lots of small smallmouth (4-6" variety, biggest 8") and bluegills. 2 almost hand sized. Fun on light spinning gear. Most on small tube lures, twister tails and floating perch Rapala. Monday evening I waited a bit later and went down with the fly rod but not very successful. Just a couple. Went back to the light spinning gear and my trusty perch patterned Rapala and started catching again.
On Tuesday, we hired Downriver Canoe to shuttle us to Burner's Ford. We did an all day float via kayaks and had the river to ourselves. Only saw 2 other kayakers (non-fishermen) and 2 people in a canoe. My expectations on the fishing were low since I was out in the middle of the day the river is low. But I learned quickly to work the shaded downstream side of riffles with a tube lure and had some luck on the smallies. Nothing great as my wife is a non-fisherperson so it was also about the float experience together, the scenary and wildlife sightings: Bald eagle, Ospreys (saw one do an unsuccessful dive and another later eating his catch), vultures, Great Blue & Little Green Herons, many, many turtles, lots of fish to be seen, crayfish, etc. We stopped for lunch along the way and I was able to wade fish for a short time. I caught 2 nice ones and missed another. Overall, I caught a half dozen smallmouth 10-12" and one 14". Saw some real beauties well over that size. Of course, by the time I saw them they had long seen me and were exiting stage right! Some big catfish as well. Forgot to bring my SD card to work so will post a few pics later...
This park is a jewel. ( http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/state_parks/and.shtml ) Developed only a few years ago so all the facilities are new and very clean. We like tent camping and there are only 10 tent sites near the river. You cannot drive your vehicle to the site. We were surprised by this but it's not an issue. The park supplies large wagons to transport your gear and it's not that far to all the sites. The trails are wide and smooth. The sites are well spread out and not on top of one another at all. Only 58 miles from our home and we wondered how we hadn't gotten there yet! We will go back often now that we have.
Many thanks, Josh (L1Ranger) for your tips. Much appreciated. The float from Burner's was great. Next time though, I'll leave the missus at camp so I can focus more on the fishing!
Very nice report John....that's Josh's home water. Next time, he might tell you where the bigger fish hang out...knows them by name.
I did my 1st kayak smallie float with Josh and Hershel, started at Bentonville, where Josh used to live. I used a fly rod and actually caught a few nice fish including a horse head sucker!