This page is being provided to keep you abreast of the condition of the South Branch in
Hardy and Hampshire counties West Virginia.. Information will cover overall health and
fishability of the South Branch. Also covered will be smallmouth activity and the flies I'm
using to land them. All information will be based on my visits to the river.
The South Branch has finally settled down from a couple months of periodic flooding
and a fish kill contributed to bacteria as a result of excessive runoff. The spawn was
delayed a couple weeks, but is now completed. The river has returned to normal flow
and the smallmouth are finally coming alive. They are taking from the surface on
poppers size 6 & 8 as well as South Branch Deceivers. The weed beds are looking good
and holding plenty minnows. Water temperature is 80 degs. Smallmouth are moving
out of the deep pools and feeding close to the banks on the deep side of the river. Some
are being taken in the center of the river in runs. Sizes are ranging from 8-16 inches
on average. A normal fishing time of 2 hours from 6-8 pm is producing 6-8 smallmouth.
One thing that the floods did do to the river was to remove all the weeds (Coon Tail)
that have seemed to chock the river for the past several years. The river, including the
bottom, is clean. This might have somewhat of a negative affect in holding bass. I'm
sure the weeds will come back, which contrary to my thinking may be a positive thing.
Picking up rocks from the bottom has shown a healthy supply of Mayfly, Caddis, and
some Stonefly nymphs. To me this indicates healthy water quality.
Folks, the beautiful South Branch is having problems. I went fishing this evening in
one of my favorite spots. Most evenings would have produced 15-20 smallies. This day I
caught 3. One was a fine one. 17 inches about 2 pounds. All three looked good and
fought hard with several jumps. The water looks beautiful. Just the right height and 78
degrees.... perfect. The bass aren't there. Now the sunfish are plentiful. I must have
caught 15-20 sunnies. Nice big ones. But the smallmouth just aren't there. There is a
full blown investigation into the cause of their absence, but the results aren't in yet.
When I know the facts for certain, I'll post the findings. Until then, we just have to
keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best. More in a week or so.
I have fished the South Branch in the Romney area several times since my last report.
In general fishing has been good except for smallmouth. This report will cover this
date. The river is low and the weather has been hot. In the 90's most of this past week.
I would guess that the oxygen level is rather low except below riffles. The water
temperature is 84 degrees. Bottom weeds are beginning to form. Grass on the bottom,
which I like, and Coon Tail to some extent is beginning to break the surface. Neither is
inhibiting yet. I fished from 5:00-8:00 PM and caught approximately 35 sunfish, 15
rock bass and 5 smallmouth. All fish appeared to be very healthy. The smallmouth
were all small(3-12 inches). In a normal year the take would have been reversed
between sunfish and smallmouth. I fished with poppers. One white and one chartreuse.
Most of my fish were taken in a 4ft. deep pool below a riffle. I talked to a couple people
that were ending a 5 mile float and their results were similiar. Very few smallmouth
and all were small. I hope to get the scoop this week as to the smallmouth situation.
When I do, I will post my finding here. Tight Lines Everyone!
Water has always had its strange hold on man. Its mystic powers. Its soothing and
healing powers. Its life-giving necessities. Rivers, lakes and oceans are to each of us a
retreat into something that each of us finds healing. To me it's the South Branch River
in the beautiful mountains of eastern West Virginia. Its smells entered my nostrils
during the fall of 1972. Soon after I left its banks for destinations of higher pay and
unexplored territories never seen before. Those smells haunted me for ten years until
my return. The "Branch" is special to me. Of late my home water has come under
attact from some unknown plague. Fish have "rolled up" by the thousands. The fish of
my part of the Branch, smallmouth bass, have been severely depleted. My heart is near
breaking. Yes, there are still a few, but nothing like two months ago. Generations of
smallmouth have been whiped out. They say, 3 or 4 years to recover, but time is ticking
for me. Three or four years may be too many. I fished the "Branch" this evening.
Usually the catch is 15-20. This day it was one. The water temperature was a hot 84
degrees. The river looked her beautiful self, but I knew her depths held only a few.
Waist deep I fished. Cast after cast-nothing. Then a gentle gulp and a 17" smallmouth
was on. The fight was long. Too long. I tried for twenty minutes to revive. Her heart
beat in my hands. My arms were shaking and finally I had to let go. Lactic acid took
that beautiful fish. The first time for me. It brought back memories of others that I
have lost. It may seem to you strange and again it might not. Death is an unpleasant
thing. Life for me and the Branch goes on. We will both recover in time.
It was a beautiful morning and I hadn't fished in more than a week. The weather
forecast was for temperatures in the 90's. Water temperature was 82 deg. and I was
fishing in the trough. My Pal David and friend Todd put their pontoons on the river,
but I prefer to wade. The water was quiet...not a ripple in site. Two hours of fishing
brought not a single smallmouth. Several fishermen passed me that morning and their
results were the same. The sky was "deep sea" blue and the eagles were flying. What a
beautiful sight. Later that evening we fished another spot. The sun had cleared the
ridges and I caught several small smallmouth on a size 8 popper and also on The South
Branch Seeker. One 16 inch largemouth was taken. I've caught more largemouth this
year than ever before. Large sunnies were taken on almost every cast, but it's
smallouth that I crave. I've been invited to spend a day on the river shocking with the
State and Federal Fish Biologists. I'm looking forward to that and will write an article
on our findings. One thing that I can say for sure is that the smallmouth aren't there
and also that work continues by dedicated biologist to find the reason why. I'm
confident that the beautiful South Branch will recover. One other note. I'm doing a
little sampling of insect life on the Branch and plan to write a piece on my findings.
Nymphs are in great numbers and that gives me encouragement. Here is a picture of
one. See you later!
To read about my day with the State and Federal Fisheries Biologists on the South
Branch, go to my Home Page and click on "In Good Hands" or just click here.
In Good Hands
Finally a good evening on the South Branch. Not a spectacular evening, but a good one.
Let's put it this way- I slept well. My pal David and I meet at my river lot about 5:30
pm. He inflated his pontoon and I put on my bathing suit. He "put in" at my lot and I
drove down river maybe a quarter mile to begin my fishing at the spring. The plan was
for me to fish the spring and move on down about a half mile to fish my "honey hole"
which I call The Bush. The water was low - about a foot lower than ideal fishing level,
but this was fine for this evening in that I could get close to The Bush. At the spring, I
caught two small smallies and several sunfish. David floated to me and had also landed
a couple. I crossed the river and walked down the bank about a half mile to the area of
The Bush. I have visited this area many times. It is one of my favorite spots on the
river. The Bush is a deep hole on the east bank of the river about half way in a half
mile run. Most times I can't reach the exact spot I want to fish in that the water is too
deep to wade. Over the years I have got close and have also caught many large fish in
this area. This eve I could fish the area I wanted, but I was in water about neck deep.
Makes for difficult casting, but doable. I put on 3x fluorocarbon tippet and a size 8 blue
popper. It took some maneuvering to get the perfect drift, but I finally was able to do
so. I caught probably 8-10 sunfish and 4-5 smallies from this area before David arrived.
It was now 7:20 pm. David sat behind me in his pontoon and watched. "We better head
back", he said. I told him to "hang on" that there was a big one here that I wanted to
catch. Well it happened at 7:30. My popper floated past The Bush and she sucked it
under. Immediately I could feel her power. You should have heard David. "Hold on" he
yelled. After some struggle I landed her. Not a huge fish, but for this season a prize. 17
inchs and 1.7 pounds. I was happy. We headed back and got to the truck at dark. A
Note: When the water is exceptionally low, the fish are laying in the slightest
depression in the runs. You should wade very carefully and cast to these slightly deeper
areas. Good Luck and Good Fishing
I'm encourged by the results of my three hours of fishing this day. I'm not a fish
counter, but about the only way to get a handle on the condition of the South Branch. I
caught between 20-25 smallmouth during this outing. One of the best days for me since
the "big kill". Most were small (8-10 inches) with a couple 12 inch ones thrown in. I
was fishing behind two other fellows so maybe would have caught more. The fish all
looked healthy and fought like the smallmouth of old . The water temperature was 73
degrees which is perfect for "top water" smallmouth. I took all my fish on poppers in a
variety of water - In a riffle, below a riffle and a long and deep pool or run. They hit
near the bank as well as in the middle of the river. The best area was an "egg shaped"
gravel buildup below a major riffle. This gravel was about 3 feet deep with the water
falling off steep to 6 feet on one side. I took six smallies off the top of this forty foot
long gravel bar. The sun was bright after three days of clouds and drizzle. A beautiful
day on the South Branch in every respect.
The results of the study into the fish kill on the South Branch can be found at the
bottom of the page: In Good Hands
Well, this is the latest that I have ever caught a smallmouth on the fly rod. The
water temperture was 49 degrees. I tied a fly that resembled a tube bait and
heavely weighted it so it would go to that bottom. The area was a deep back eddy
out of the main current. There was a "washed in" tree from past high water that
was holding smallmouth. I caught severl small ones and two like this. Both were in
the neighborhood of 2 pounds. Nice and fat. Maybe the great South Branch isn't
dead yet. Below is the fly. Probably the last fish of the season. See you in the
spring. Have a great winter and God Bless..... Carl