Fly fishing with topwater poppers, terrestrials producing nice catches
Anglers who want to escape North Carolina’s summer heat and catch fish might consider a float-fishing trip at the state’s northwestern corner, at least that’s the idea presented by guide Marty Shaffner of Elkin, who said his clients have been catching plenty of smallmouth bass on the New River.
“We are catching a lot of fish right now,” said Marty Shaffner, of Tri-State Angler Service (336-957-4630). “Our best fishing recently has been with fly rods and surface lures.”
Best fly choices have been yellow or black poppers, Chernobyl ants and large terrestrials, such as grasshoppers.
“The best ants have been the big o’ buggy-lookin’ things with lots of rubbery legs on ’em,” Shaffner said. “The people who use small spinning reels with 6-pound-test line also are catching fish with 4-inch soft-plastic worms and lizards. With clear water, we’ve been using 3-inch grubs.”
With slightly stained water, green pumpkin has been a favorite soft-plastic lure color while Junebug has been a winner when the river’s a little murkier.
“If the water’s clear, smoke-colored grubs work well,” Shaffner said.
He recommended 6- to 8-weight fly rods because “it’s easier to cast poppers with an 8-weight,” he said.
With high temperatures in the upper 70s to low 80s, Bermuda shorts or swim trunks, T-shirts and wading sandals are suitable, because anglers often can get out of a canoe, kayak or raft and wade fish.
“But people should take precautions and wear floatation devices,” Shaffner said. “It’s dangerous wading in the New because of ledges and drop-offs.”
A less-dangerous but pesky summer problem includes fast-moving thunderstorms that can roar across ridge tops with little or no warning.
“If it rains locally, it won’t color up the water much,” he said. “But when it rains heavy up around the headwaters of in Ashe and Watauga (counties), it takes a long time to drain out. It might be three to five days before the river’s clear enough to fish.”
Best places to cast during a float trip for smallmouth bass are toward shorelines because that’s where insects may fall into the river or be washed into the water.
“Good targets are banks where there’s a little current moving and a little depth, 4 to 5 feet,” Shaffner said. “You want it to be deep enough to hold fish, but not so deep they won’t come up. Smallmouth won’t come up from real deep water.”
Shaffner said an average all-day float trip will produce about 40 to 50 smallmouth. He said a 17 ½-inch fish was the biggest his clients have caught in recent days.