|South Branch Report - 2003
Another year of fishing and exploring the beautiful South Branch of the Potomac
River is upon us. The river located in the Potomac Highlands of West Virginia has had
its problems in recent years as discussed in South Branch Report 2002, however a new
year is dawning and we at Mountaineer Flies have high hopes. Following are daily
summaries of my experiences fishing the "Branch" with fly rod in hand. I'll give a
summary every week or two. Have a great year and we welcome you to visit the South
Branch Report-2003 often.
This has been the first evening that I have been able to visit the river. Winter and
high water has been "hanging on" longer than normal. I have found that the best
water level to wade and fish The Branch is 1.8 - 2.5 ft. on the gauge as recorded at
Springfield. You can access this data by clicking WV Streamflows from my Links
page. This day the water was 3.8 ft., but I had to get to the river. The water
temperature was 60 degrees and the time of day was 5:30 PM. I had good luck for the
hour that I fished. Four smallmouth and several large sunfish were taken. Three
males ( 8-12") and one female full of eggs (14") with plenty of fight were landed. All
seemed to be in good shape. All were taken on the Smallmouth Seeker (below). I
fished the Seeker along the edge of a submerged sand bar in the center of the river.
The Seeker is heavely weighted with lead and a bead head. I drifted the fly along the
edge of the bar next to the main current. The spawn will take place in about three
weeks when the water temperature remains arounr 65 degrees. Hopefully the water
level will remain stable and alow them to have a good spawn. More later!!
I've had several people email me wondering if I were still alive. Yes I'm here! Just
waiting for the water to settle down. For the past month, water levels have been
extremely high. Twice the 'ol South Branch left her banks. I do have some things to
repot. First- The State Fisheries have been conducting some sampling. They have
shocked at least two three times with encouraging results. The testing from Petersburg
to Moorefield has been particularly good. Many fish of all sizes have been taken. They
will continue sampling in the near future below Moorefield. I'll post the results. I
haven't fished for a month due to the high water levels. I'm almost strictly a wade
fisherman and the river has been too high and swift. My Pal David has floated some
and has been catching fish. From the Romney bridge to the Blue Beach bridge has
shown good results. Several largemouth and smallmouth in the two to three pound
range have been landed. All looked to be in good shape. The fish are full of eggs and
trying to spawn. They had their beds made about two weeks ago then came the rain and
cold days. The river rose and the water temperature fell into the fifties. No spawning
took place. They are holding their eggs and I hope things settle down soon so they can
spawn. I'll be hitting the river soon and give you my take on fishing conditions. Stay
The river is finally settled down and is low enough to wade fish. As a matter of fact...it
is perfect. I spent a couple days on the South Branch and landed many smallmouth. It
was great standing again in my favorite river. The water is in fine shape. Good flow
and NO weeds. None! The fish kill from a year ago still looms. It seems that the sunfish
have taken over. I caught six sunnies to one smallmouth. Most of the fish were taken
on The Smallmouth Seeker and poppers. The poppers that worked best were white.
Most smallmouth were taken ethir in or within 150 feet from a riffle. Above or below..
Slack water or long deep runs didn't produce fish. I guess I caught on average five
smallmouth per hour. One thing for certain...The big ones are in short supply. I did
catch a good distribution of sizes from 2 inches to 12. They were all fat. I hope that the
river is recovering from the devastating kill of June 1, 2002. Tight Lines...Carl
I fished this evening with my Pal David. We had a great evening fishing the Catch &
Release section near Romney. The river has settled down from all the rain that we have
had over the past several months. David and I both commented about springs that were
dumping into the South Branch. It has been several years since we have seen them.
The ground water seems to be replenished from many years of dry weather. We
thought that we would cover the water column so I used a white popper and David used
the Smallmouth Seeker. We caught a lot of fish on both. Size ranged from 6"-16". I
had the good fortune of catching the heavy 16" fish. She really gave me a fight, but
released well and healthy. It was a glorious evening and my hopes for the "Branch" are
I fished the past two Mondays and had good luck. The river is now at a stable level and the
bass seem to have settled down. On September 1, I fished with a friend from Mass. We
fished for about ten hours at three different locations on the Branch. The weather was
overcast and the water temp. was 78 deg. We caught approximately forty bass between us.
Peter was fishing the Smallmouth Seeker near the bottom and caught plenty of bass. He
then switched to a small nymph call Fore and Aft. This fly is not weighted, but remains just
under the surface. He hammered them. Peter likes fishing fast water or riffles. At the head,
in and just below. I was fishing top water below the riffles a little distance. We both had a
great day, BUT Peter had the best. On his last cast (7:45 pm) he landed a 17", 2.5 pounder.
September 8, my Pale David and I fished the stretch in the above picture. The water temp.
was 72deg and the water was up a couple inches more than ideal. We caught plenty bass, but
they were mainly in the calmer water on the edge of the main flow. All fish looked good and
in both cases we caught five Sunfish to one bass. The water is looking good. No weeds at all
this year. The rocks look fairly clean. I think the South Branch is starting to rebound! I'm
going to take my first pontoon trip this weekend. Will let you know the outcome.