Being too warm for trout, Ben and I decided to try our luck at smallmouth bass on the Shenandoah River, a stretch of water in the valley that is featured in Chris Santella's book Fifty Places to Fly Fish Before You Die. The book contains spots like the Madison and Green, so this Virginia stream is in good company and worth adding to your list. The closest town to the North Fork of the river is Edinburg, home to the well-known Murray's Fly Shop. I called the shop to get some advice and was immediately put on the phone with Mr. Murray himself, who was friendly and helpful. He provided directions to good fishing spots and recommended reliable bugs, but unfortunately I did not write down the directions.
We headed to Edinburg on Sunday morning with no experience on the Shenandoah and no open fly shops to visit for advice. On the bright side, we were glad to be joined by a new fellow medical student and fisherman, Chris Winstead-Derlega. We made a quick stop by the home of a car restorer in Waynesboro who had recently finished putting a fresh paint job on Chris' vintage VW bus. The guy did a nice job and even managed to spray the same two-tone scheme on Chris' bike.
We started out fishing the North Fork of the river, which is just outside Edinburg. It is both smaller and slower moving than the South Fork, which is located on the eastern side of the Massanutten Mountain Range. The two forks flow northeast on either side of the range before joining to form the Shenandoah River in Front Royal, Virginia.
The North Fork is indeed smaller in every way, from the size of the water to the size of the fish. We started out catching bluegill on poppers of various design and eventually managed to pull in a few smallmouth that were maybe eight inches in length. We would move around in the river and find pockets containing many small smallmouth, but no one caught a fish with much size to it. On the other hand, the scenery really was great, earning it a spot in Santella's book in that category.
In the afternoon we drove over the mountain to fish the South Fork just below Bixler's Bridge, which is considered section #1. This is a wide river that moves a lot of water, which is quite different from its counterpart over the mountain. While still wadeable, it is much deeper on the whole and is undoubtedly best fished by boat. This stretch of river is known to produce larger fish, but I caught only one unimpressive smallmouth while there. All total, the three of us only pulled in two fish in the afternoon.
This river is located in a beautiful part of Virginia and is worth checking out, even when it's not too hot for trout to be eating. In summary, we had a great day on the water and caught a lot of small smallmouth and some bluegill on the North Fork but had little luck on the larger South Fork. We ended the day by following Chris over Afton Mountain in his freshly painted VW bus.