River Smallie Addiction
If I only knew the caliber of the brown gems that swam in the James River here in central VA, I never would have waited so long to take advantage of them! I’ve been living here for 3 years now and just recently discovered the awesome river smallies that lurk less than an hour away from my home. And after 4 different outings to the James in the past 2 weeks, I could kick myself in the ass for not exploring that beautiful river sooner. I guess I’ll just have to make up for lost time. Anyway, enough with the could have, should have, would have…let’s get to the fun stuff.
So my wife, myself and two great friends from PA that were down to visit us all grab our yaks and hook up with my buddy Aaron Dryden for our first ever James River float. Aaron, a Pro Staffer for Wilderness Systems Kayaks, is a veteran yak angler on the James and being that the 4 of us had never taken our yaks out on any river before, he was more than happy to show us the ropes. Not knowing what to really expect, I traveled light with just two spinning rods and a 3.5” Food Chain Tube Kit. I figured river smallies + Food Chain Tubes = good times right? Exactly! Within the first hour of the float after catching a few smaller fish, I cast my Susky Slayer Purple Flake tube into a 5 ft deep pocket between 2 boulders. The bait settles on the bottom and a couple seconds later there’s nothing but heavy weight on the end of my line, and then the weight starts moving to the right! I immediately slammed back into what ended up being my biggest fish of the day, a beautifully thick 19” 4 lb. 4 oz. smallie that quickly ran out into the current and took me for a ride about 40 yards down river. What an absolute blast! Not to mention one hell of an introduction to the James.
That could have been my last fish of the day and I would have been completely happy with the outing. But about an hour later after a few more smaller fish, I laid into another 18.5” brute that had the same exact attitude as the big one I had caught earlier. Another awesome battle that left me with an ear to ear smile until the end of the day. What more could I ask for?
So of course after a first time experience like that I just had to go back to the river before the holiday weekend was over. This time a new fishing buddy of mine named Jesse shared his stretch of the river with me and once again, the river did not let me down. As matter of fact, it was even more of a rush! I had to paddle my way up and through some fast tricky water to get to where I needed to go but the end result was WELL worth the exhausting effort.
Still bouncing the Susky Slayer Purple Flake Food Chain Tube off the bottom on a 1/4 oz. FCT jig head (hard to put that down after my 1st river experience), the highlight of my day was locking into a beast of a James River bronze back which ended up being my new personal best smallie as well as a VA citation. How cool is that?!?! Fighting that 21” bull in white water on medium action spinning gear was an experience that I’ll definitely never forget! And the best part is, I caught the whole thing on my GoPro camera so I can re-live the feelings of excitement anytime I want to look back at the day. Very cool!
Okay, so at this point I am officially addicted to the James River smallies and I’m already thinking about when I can go back the very second I step foot into my truck for the ride home.
A few days later, the “fishing itch” takes over and I couldn’t help myself but make my way back out to the James to fish that section of white water again. This trip making it a trifecta, the river again treats me to a fun filled day that is topped off with yet another powerful 18.5” brute that was a complete expert at using the white water to its advantage.
The power of these big river smallies still “Wows” me every time I lay into one! And again, the Susky Slayer Purple Flake Food Chain Tube manages to fool the big girls that rule the river. Three is a charm!
Sunday rolls around and a couple of friends of mine ask me to go fishing and ask me where I want to go…like they even had to ask that question lol! Yes, you guessed it, the 4th outing to the river is under way. So bright and early I pick up my buddy Vince from the Appomattox River Company and we drive off to James river ramp where we meet our friend Dave. I think they were about as amped up as I was as we all scrambled to unload our gear and get on the water for the early morning bite.
The weather was beautiful but the bite was definitely tougher than expected. We we’re catching fish slowly and steadily throughout the day but the size just wasn’t there. I of course stuck with old faithful (like at this point I even have to say what I’m throwing) which again paid off big about an hour before we ended the day. After catching 3 back to back fish on consecutive casts, I hook up with a powerhouse that ends up coming unbuttoned after peeling her share of line off my reel. Argggggg!!! Are you kidding me? I blew my chance after all these hours?!?! Man if that doesn’t mess with an angler’s head I don’t know what does! I quickly re-tie, hit my Food Chain Tube with an extra shot of Hog Tonic (it’s a confidence thing), and continue to cast in the same area as I play the missed opportunity of “the one that got away” over and over in my mind. Then, about 5 casts later my tube gets thumped again as I let it drop into a dark shadow behind a river boulder! My heart skips a beat at the thought of a second chance and I set the hook like a violent spaz out of pure reaction. Slamming back with a vengeance ended up being a damn good thing because once again, after another awesome battle, I landed yet another beautiful 19.25” James River smallie! The big fish streak continues, and so does the high that comes along with it!
Looking back at my first 4 outings on the James River brings nothing but anticipation for the next trip. Great scenery with peaceful views, great friends, and powerful river smallies to round off each day. As a matter of fact, I should probably stop typing and get my ass back out there to wrestle some more of those bronze beauties. I can just hear the drag peeling now…..