Where to go for smallies w/camping nearby?
I’m looking for some suggestions for somewhere to take my son for 3 – 5 days, park our camper in a convenient campground to use as a base camp, and make daily sorties for smallmouth bass. Preferably on moving water rather than a lake. We do have a canoe we can use for a float trip, but kind of prefer wading.
A little background: Each summer since my son and I started flyfishing (three years ago but, boy howdy, it sure seems longer than that!) we have taken a multi-day fishing/camping trip to explore new territory somewhere and fish for trout. That first year we setup camp at Roan Mountain State Park and fished the Doe River, as well as the South Holston and Wautaga tailwaters.
In 2011 we camped at Jacobs Creek on South Holston Lake above the dam. The plan was to explore some of the nearby mountain streams like Beaverdam and Laurel over the weekend and then fish the South Holston early in the week after the crowds dispersed. That was while they were doing some repairs to the generators or some such and spilling a steady 200 – 300 cfs all day. Sadly, they finished the repairs that weekend and opened up the gates to draw down the lake level, thoroughly messing up our fishing plans for Monday morning. On the plus side, we had a great time fishing the nearby freestones so the trip was not a total bust.
Last year we planned to make a tour of Virginia starting out with Whitetop Laurel, then heading up to the Shenandoah NP to look for some of those BIG brookies I've seen pictures of in various fishing reports. Unfortunately it was storming when we passed through Abingdon and Whitetop Laurel was blown out. And when we got to the SNP they were still in the middle of a heat wave/drought and all of the creeks we visited were almost dried up with water temps in the upper 70's. Rather than add extra stress on the natives, we started looking for alternatives. Fortunately, we stopped in at Harry Murray’s fly shop in Edinburg and got to meet Mr. Murray himself. He talked us into trying our hand on some smallies on the North Fork of the Shenandoah, fixed us up with some of his favorite flies, and gave us some maps of good access points for wading. We had a blast! And started a new addiction – smallmouth bass!
When we got home, we spent the rest of the summer fishing for smallies every chance we got. Last fall, I bought a 16’ canoe to rig out for fishing those places you just can’t get to wading. Sadly, work, weather, and other obligations have all conspired to put a cramp on our fishing lately. So, when I asked my son where he wanted to go for our summer trip this year, he emphatically replied, “Somewhere we can catch some smallies!”
So I turn to you, my fellow forum members, where should we go to spend a few days and seek out some of our warmwater friends?
Fly fishing - it's cheaper than a bass boat!