Wednesday, January 29, 2014


        Since its creation in 1973, central Virginia’s Lake Anna has offered anglers the chance to fish for many species of fish, from the regional change-of-pace that is the striped bass to the small but feisty table fare, the white perch.  But this spring, in partnership with the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, biologists from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries will enrich further the angling opportunities present in Lake Anna, through the pioneer stocking of 96,000 hybrid striped bass.

Meet the Fish

        The hybrid striped bass—or “wiper”—is a striped bass-white bass cross.  The family lineage endows the hybrid with the deep, humped body of the white bass and the larger potential size of the striped bass.  Broken black stripes, reminiscent of both parental species, seems indicative of the species’ engineered existence.  They typically weigh 5-10 pounds, though the Virginia state record is 13 pounds, 9 ounces, and potential exists for even larger specimens.

Why Lake Anna?

        Hybrids currently fin the waters of just two of Virginia’s impoundments—Claytor Lake and Flannagan Reservoir—thanks to stockings elsewhere in the Piedmont; but certain characteristics also make them a perfect match for Lake Anna. 

        “Hybrids are being added to the mix due to their tolerance of lesser water quality than pure stripers,” reports Virginia state fisheries biologist, John Odenkirk, the project lead.

        Pure stripers require an abundance of cold, oxygen-rich water to grow to large sizes; and Anna does not offer such an environment.  However, Odenkirk reasons, “Hybrids should grow faster due to increased vigor and reduced metabolic demands for gonad development.  Larger fish should better tolerate the marginal temperature and oxygen conditions.”

        “It takes stripers about 30 months on average to reach the legal 20-inch minimum, notes Odenkirk.  “I would expect hybrids to get there a few months faster.  Max size should be well over 12 pounds.”

        Given the appropriate forage base, these 10-pound-plus fish will grow, in time.  Hybrids stocked in Claytor Lake in 1992 have only recently acquired such size. 

        Additionally, Lake Anna is well-known for its abundance of baitfish, a detail vital to the success of the new predator species.  Lake Anna guide ChrisCraft is very aware of this asset, and welcomes the addition of hybrids to the waters where he makes his home and business.

        Craft, believes that there is “entirely too much bait in the lake,” a common complaint among Lake Anna fishermen, and hopes the introduction of another pelagic species will help control the number of baitfish present in the lake.  “It will also provide opportunities to be able to target another predatory game fish when others may not be cooperating,” and “provide anglers with great memories and even better table fare,” says Craft.

What Does it Mean?

        The principle benefit of the addition of hybrids to the Lake Anna fishery is increase biodiversity.  Hybrids don’t vary much from their parental species.

        Anglers will have success with hybrids fishing as if for stripers, though with slightly lighter tackle.  Choose lures mimicking the preferred forage species of gizzard shad and blueback herring.  Crazy Blades and Toothache Spoons, available at Anna Point Marina, as well as soft plastic swimbaits are Lake Anna favorites, as are Zara Spooks and Jitterbugs, provided you can find fish feeding on the surface.
        Like their parents, hybrids are schooling species, and can be found following bait in the winter and early spring months when the water temperature and oxygen levels are more to their liking.  It is during the winter that fish can be found busting bait on the surface in the early morning and late evening hours.  Hybrids may continue this feeding pattern longer into the year than pure stripers due to their physiological difference in water tolerance.

        During the warmer months, both hybrids and stripers will seek out the thermocline, where the oxygen level and temperature is most suitable.  Again, the warmer water-tolerating hybrids may deviate into thinner water during this time, and at longer intervals; but their pattern is largely to be generalized with that of the stripers.

Originally published in the Rural Virginian

Sunday, January 26, 2014


Just finished putting up the latest batch of photos on Flickr. Find them via either the link below or the photography tab above. Thanks for following. I appreciate any and all comments!

Zebra Midge, abstractLower RapidanHare's Ear at RestRacoonsIronyCemetary
Net JobBowed with a 'BowSomerset MountainsCapniidaeEphemerella invariaTeardrop
Keeping me company on the Moormans RiverFlying SquirrelBlack CKGrande HerringBrookies North of Wolftown
Twilight WrenRapidan BrookieShenandoah Trout Stream

Saturday, January 25, 2014


December feigns winter, but deer season is still in full swing.  But once January and February set in, the outdoorsman’s mind really dives into winter.  Luckily, there are a number of outdoor shows on a multitude of subjects offered across the Commonwealth to help ease the winter doldrums.  Read on for a detailed description of the outdoor shows coming in the 2014 season.

10th Annual Orange County Fishing Expo

        In affiliation with the Orange County High School Anglers, Central Virginia’s fastest growing fishing exposition is coming to the Orange County High School Hornets Sports Center on February 15th and 16th.  As in past years, the expo will take the form of a marketplace, where fishermen can purchase fishing tackle, kayaks, and bass boats; learn about guide services and trip opportunities; and find taxidermists to mount that trophy fish.  Other vendors will sell candles, candy, and jewelry.  Kids can participate in casting contests, which may lead to a national competition where college scholarships are awarded, or cast a line in the trout pond.

        Admission is $6 for adults--$9 for both days—and kids get in free with an event flyer or ad, downloadable from the expo’s webpage.  Hours are 9 AM – 5 PM on the 15th and 9 AM – 4 PM on the 16th.
        For more information, or to print an expo flyer, visit .

27th Annual Western Virginia Sports Show

        The Annual Western Virginia Sports Show will be held this year at Augusta Expoland in Fishersville on February 21st, 22nd, and 23rd.  This year’s show will feature several outdoor celebrities, including RJ and Jay Paul Molinere of Swamp People, Mike Stroff of Savage Outdoors TV, and National Champion Turkey Caller Lance Hanger.  Other attractions such as artwork from 2014 Wildlife Artist of the Year Melissa Ball, Welde’s Big Bear Show, falconry presentations by “Raptors Up Close”, a taxidermy game display, and a kid’s trout tank make this event one for the whole family, while free seminars and demonstrations by top pros make it a prime place for dedicated outdoorsmen to hone old skills and learn new ones.
        Tickets are $9 for adults, $4 for kids, and children four and under get in for free!  Hours are 12 PM – 9 PM on the 21st, 10 AM – 9 PM on the 22nd, and 12 PM – 5:30 PM on the 23rd.
        For more information, visit

Rapidan Chapter Trout Unlimited Annual Fishing Show

        The Rapidan Chapter of Trout Unlimited will hold its annual fishing show on Saturday, March 1st at the Fauquier County Fairgrounds in Warrenton, Virginia.  The show is the chapter’s way of fundraising for programs like Trout in the Classroom, the annual Youth Conservation and Fishing Camp, and Kid’s Fishing Day, as well as for conservation projects and river restorations.
        A number of speakers including master popper maker Walt Cary and keynote speaker John Ross will fill the show with informative presentations on topics like “Fishing for Smallmouth,” “Building Furled Leaders,” and “Fly Fishing the East.”  Several raffles, including one for an all-expenses-paid trip to Yellowstone National Park will be held and drawn at the conclusion of the show.  Tickets for the Yellowstone trip are $25 and limited to 300, and are available for sale before the show.  So visit the chapter’s website to have your chance.
        For more information, visit

Augusta County Fishing Expo and Flea Market

        For the second year, the Augusta County Bass-Jon’s will host the Augusta County Fishing Expo and Flea Market, Saturday, March 15 at Augusta Expoland in Fishersville.  The expo will include fishing tackle vendors, information from guides and outfitters, advice from industry pros, visits from the Bass Jon’s “Zoomie the Lizard” and “Smoky the Bear,” and raffles.
        Hours are 9 AM – 8 PM.  Visit for more information.

Originally published in the Rural Virginian

Friday, January 24, 2014


A video from Simms to help recall the (warmer) more comfortable days of fall.

"Intimacy" is perhaps the perfect word to describe late fall fishing.  The often cloudy and drizzly sky seems to make the world smaller and drive thoughts inward.  Steelheading allows a lot of time for thought.  Enjoy!

Thursday, January 23, 2014


        My guides were frozen; and my fly line was a synthetic toothpick hardened by the cold, held fast in their icy grip.  Unslinging my pack, I found a boulder in the river's shallow overflow and covered it in fly boxes and tools, digging for some pre-packaged energy.  I caught movement in the corner of my eye; and a gray bug came into focus, short but slender--an illusion of spring.  A little brown stonefly.

Meet the Bug

Photo by Matt Reilly
        The little brown stonefly, a collective term for stoneflies in the Capniidae family, is a little known secret among many seasonal anglers, but well-known by those who stick it out throughout the winter months--and the trout.  They rarely exceed 1.5 centimeters in lenght; and their body color ranges from their namesake, brown, to a darker black, which helps them absorb heat in the frigid world in which they live.  

        Capniidae hatch throughout the winter--January through April--across the country, and can often be observed crawling around on boulders, vegetation, and snowbanks during that time.  Although hatches are not magnificent and storied, like that of the green drake in the West, or even the sulfur here in the eastern mountains, trout will readily take a stonefly nymph for its calorie-packing size, as opposed to seasonal midges, which seem to be a bit more mainstream in the winter fishing world. 

What Flies?

Photo by Matt Reilly
        According to Robert Younghanz, a.k.a. "The Bug Guy," a western entomologist and guide, these small stoneflies mate under cloudy, cold conditions.  As waters begin to warm towards the end of the stonefly's hatching season, these conditions will have fish keying in on adult females laying eggs on the water's surface.  Brown/black themed Stimulators, Goddard Caddis, Elk Hair Caddis, and other highly-buoyant hackled dry flies in sizes 14-16 are worthy imitations.  My own pattern uses mottled turkey fan feather fibers for a wing parallel to the hook, a brown hackle collar for buoyancy and legs, and hackle quills for antennae.

        Hatches occur on bright, sunny days, when the temperature rises into the mid-30s or 40s.  On these days, appropriately-colored emerging nymph patterns such as the Rubber Legged Stonefly Nymph, Kaufman's Stone, the CK Nymph,  and A.P. Hare's Ear Nymph in sizes 14-16 will be hot tickets.

        Under such conditions, anyway, dark patterns are a must.  Bright light and clear water contrast heavily with black patterns; and as fish will not (generally) actively cruise for food during this time, a highly-visible pattern is vital.

        Winter fishing is a mystery to many; but the regularly-occurring, dependable food source of little brown stones is a standby relevant across the country and on almost every stream.

        Fly high.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


    When the temperatures rise, the cold winds of March subside, and the warm April showers fill the air and waters with inklings of summer, the fishing in Virginia takes off.  The Old Dominion’s many small lakes and ponds can provide quality fishing in the spring months.  Here are just ten destinations that should be on every fisherman’s calendar this month.

Lake Robertson

    Contained by the Blue Ridge’s rocky skeleton, Rockbridge County’s 30-acre Lake Robertson is an overlooked place to catch big fish.
    Beaver huts, hinge-cut trees, and large emerging weed beds provide ample structure for spawning bass; and, coupled with the crystal clear water, suggest a great place to sight fish for one of the many 10-pounders.  Walleye also cruise Lake Robertson, and fish are caught up to seven pounds annually.
    Redear sunfish are particularly active on Lake Robertson later this month, and can provide exciting fishing on light tackle.  Leave a worm or nymph imitation motionless on the shallow bottom to produce strikes from the scrappy bottom feeders.
    The lake also sports good populations of bluegill and channel catfish.
    Gas motors are prohibited; but a concrete boat ramp and boat rentals make this gem an accommodating destination for anyone.

Lake Burke

    Located in Burke Lake Park in busy Fairfax County, 218-acre Lake Burke is one of the most fished lakes in the state.  This threat is met by a strict management practice to ensure the health of the fishery for years to come.
    Lake Burke is known for its largemouth bass fishing; but musky, walleye, bluegill, crappie, yellow and white perch, and blue and channel Catfish all fin the lake.
    No gasoline motors are allowed.

Lake Frederick

    With or without a boat, Lake Frederick of Frederick County can provide some great fishing.
    Its 117 acres are filled with standing timber, which hide a multitude of species.  Largemouth bass, bluegill, black crappie, channel catfish, walleye, and the occasional pike can all be caught from the bank of Lake Frederick.
    Gasoline motors are prohibited, but if you own a boat with an electric motor, cast to standing timber for one of the 10-pound largemouth that gave the lake its reputation as the best bass fishery in the Shenandoah Valley.

Harrison Lake

    If you’re looking for a peaceful place to fish or paddle, Harrison Lake in Charles City County might be your next trip.  At 82 acres, Harrison Lake is the epitome of larger tidewater fisheries like the Chickahominy River.
    The usual tidal customers occupy the lake, including chain pickerel, warmouth, bluegill and redear sunfish, flier, bullhead, bowfin, crappie, and largemouth bass.  While the lake is not known for trophy sized fish, its inhabitants are known for the sport which they are able to provide. 
    A boat ramp and piers for the handicap or bank fisherman provide access to the lake.

Germantown Lake

    100-acre Germantown Lake is located in Fauquier County’s Crockett Park.
The small lake is known for its thick population of trophy largemouth; and produces several fish a year approaching 10 pounds.
    Germantown also supports the traditional southern mixed-bag of bluegill, crappie, and channel catfish.
    Gas motors are prohibited; but the park provides boat and motor rentals; bait and food sales; and a fishing pier to the prospective angler.

Skidmore Reservoir

    A big part of spring in Virginia is trout fishing—and Skidmore Reservoir offers just that.  The 120-acre, Harrisonburg impoundment is a put-and grow fishery, and therefore offers opportunities for excellent brook trout fishing year round.  Brook trout reach three pounds in the reservoir as a result of good management.
    Fisheries biologists have recently noted an emerging pike fishery within the lake.  These toothy fish spawn in April, and can be caught in the shallows on spoons.
    Skidmore also boasts a host of warm water species such as largemouth and rock bass, crappie, bluegill, and bullhead.
    Gas motors are not permitted on the lake.

Lake Conner

    Located in beautiful Southside Virginia, Lake Conner has a reputation that far exceeds its size.  The small 100-acre lake is renowned for producing the Virginia state record largemouth bass; and its other qualities can be easily overlooked.
    Lake Conner does feature a thick trophy bass fishery; but also yields citation-sized redear sunfish regularly.
    Gas motors are prohibited, but an electric motor can be used to chase crappie, bluegill, yellow perch, chain pickerel, or bullhead.

Hungry Mother Lake

    Hungry Mother Lake is a very diverse and unique lake.
    The walleye fishing here takes off this month, with night fishing yielding the best results.
    Trophy musky are taken from the lake annually as well—some reaching sizes of 48 inches and beyond. 
    Largemouth, smallmouth, spotted, and rock bass all inhabit the lake, as well as crappie, channel catfish, and sunfish.
    Gas motors are prohibited.
    Located in Hungry Mother State Park, camping is permitted and boat rentals are available.  A minimal fee is required to gain access to the lake; but the promise of great fishing is well worth the charge.

Lake Orange

    Spring wouldn’t be spring without crappie fishing.  Papermouths are in very good condition in Lake Orange, and offer good sport on light tackle.
    The largemouth bass population is just as successful, and the lake has produced 11-12-pound fish.
Lake Orange’s walleye fishery also deserves attention.  Walleye are stocked yearly, and anglers have a fair chance to catch 4-5-pound fish.
    Sunfish, channel catfish, northern pike, chain pickerel, yellow and white perch, and warmouth provide a further mix of species to the lake.
    Gas motors are prohibited; but boats can be rented, concessions are available, and a pier and a boat ramp provide access to some outstanding fishing.

Little Creek Reservoir

    A small lake in Southeastern Virginia, Little Creek Reservoir offers quality fishing for the tidal species:  largemouth and striped bass, crappie, chain pickerel, yellow perch, sunfish, blue catfish, and even walleye.
    Little Creek is a relatively deep lake containing little structure.  Most fishing is done along points and drop-offs, but in the spring, surprising crappie and perch fishing can be found in the shallows.
    It is worth noting that gas motors and bank fishing are prohibited.

Lake Shenandoah

    At 36 acres, Rockingham’s Lake Shenandoah is the second smallest on our list; and with an average depth of three feet, certainly ranks first in volume.
    What makes this lake special is its musky fishing.  Most other species in the lake are of small size; but the musky thrive in the small impoundment on stunted bluegill.  The toothy critters spawn in April, so catch them on spoons and big spinners near the grass.
    Gas motors are prohibited because of the lake’s size.
    Biologists are currently pondering a renovation of the lake, so have your chance at a trophy musky before it’s gone! 

    While Virginia boasts many large fish-producing impoundments, the smaller waters often get overlooked, and can provide the angler with an equal chance of landing their trophy.  This list is only a small selection of such waters.  So do some research, and enjoy the spring season!

Thursday, January 16, 2014


The EPA has released their final assessment of the Bristol Bay watershed being threatened by the Pebble Mine project.  What comes next is up to sportsmen.

In response to the Environmental Protection Agency's public statement, more than 1,000 sportsmen's interest groups and businesses authored letters calling on the Agency's scientists to implement their conclusion that "large-scale mining in the Bristol Bay watershed poses risks to salmon and Alaska Native cultures" to protect the fishery from the Pebble Mine project being pursued by Northern Dynasty Minerals.

Read the EPA's press release HERE.
Read the Sportsman's Alliance's press release and letter to the EPA HERE.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014


The woods seem dead, dark and growing colder, with a slight breeze filtering through the woodlot over frost-covered oak leaves.  In minutes, the morning sun breaks the horizon, casting warm shadows as it graces towering hardwoods.  The woods come alive, freed from the nocturnal wind and chill.
A Bushytail suns on a branch before beginning the morning's activities.  Photo by Matthew Reilly
        Deer begin to move, without worry—the deer season in Virginia has been closed for two weeks.  One trots to within view, shaking off the wintry night in the woods with every sprightly step.

        When the sun emerges from the rolling ridges in its entirety, another woodland creature is awakened by the warming of the tree trunks.  A gray squirrel scrambles out of his den in an ancient oak and suns for a spell on a branch soaked in sunlight.  Before long, the bushytail abandons his perch, and scuttles to the ground to feed.

        But his descent is intercepted by the tapering bark of a .22 rifle.  He tumbles from the tree and lands with a thump on the forest floor.  I left my bed earlier than even the whitetail to begin my vigil, tucked in a grove of oaks and hickories, and now recoil back, behind cover, memorizing the location of my first squirrel of the morning.

        Deer season may be over, but squirrel season is in full swing.

A New Season

        Historically, the rabbit season has outlasted the squirrel season just as the squirrel season does deer season.  But this year, biologists have discovered reason to extend the season on red and gray squirrels to match the rabbit season’s close on February 28, while the close of the season on fox squirrels remains January 31.  This allots small game hunters three months (September, January, and February) to chase their bushy-tailed quarry without being considerate of the meticulous activities of those hunting bigger game.

        The reason for this change, as stated by Marc Puckett, State Small Game Biologist, is “more [hunting] opportunity without negative impact.”  All of Virginia’s border states set squirrel seasons ending in late February.  Virginia is a regional holdout.

A Different Game

        Early in the squirrel season, food supplies are abundant, allowing squirrels to be easily patterned by the location and presence of hardwood trees.  Foliage still clings to tree branches, shielding the still-hunting hunter from the vision of game feeding in the treetops.
        In the late season, hunting is not quite so easy.  Most of the mast has fallen from the trees, as have the leaves, making stalking, and sometimes locating, squirrels a difficult game.

The author with a stocky Bushytail.
Photo by Matthew Reilly
        Squirrels feed primarily on the ground during this time, rooting up acorns squirreled away in the ground in the fall, and eating up the last of those gone unclaimed.  For this reason, I’ve found creekbottoms to be particularly profitable places to hunt in the winter.  Gravity naturally concentrates acorns in hilly country in creekbottoms, where squirrels produce much racket perusing the forest floor for them.  The soft earth and often-wet leaves that are characteristic of creekbottoms permit me to stalk a noisy squirrel while minimizing my own noise.

        I have also observed squirrels feeding on ferns in the winter, which grow predominantly in damp soil, making creekbottoms a prime late season squirrel magnet.

        However, even if you know where to search, squirrels can be reclusive in harsh weather.  Schedule hunts for warm or seasonal days without precipitation or wind.  On days forecast as windy, hunting the morning may allow you a few hours of calm woods.

        If you must hunt windy or exceptionally cold days, hunt protected areas.  In such cases, squirrels will readily assume perches amid the lush, evergreen canopy of pine stands.  Pines are excellent protection from the elements.  Especially when insulated with snow, the thick crowns of white pines retain more heat than skeletal hardwoods, and also serve as a wind block, allowing squirrels to feel more secure at a time when they would have to sacrifice their sense of hearing elsewhere.

        Still, the hunter’s best chance at bagging squirrels may exist in the morning as squirrels rise from their dens.  Scout your woodlot for hardwoods with holes—dens—in the trunks, or bunched, leaf nests in the forks.  Take a stand in an area dense with such trees at daybreak and wait for squirrels to awaken.  Because morning temperatures often recede into the teens and 20s this time of year, squirrels will emerge later in the morning, after the sun has warmed the woods significantly; so being in place well before light is unnecessary.  Squirrels often peer out of their den holes for threats before emerging, so wear camouflaged clothing, and remain still and observant.  If you kill a squirrel, retain your cover, mark its location, and wait for another opportunity.

Originally published in the Rural Virginian                                                         

Tuesday, January 14, 2014


Southern Culture on the Fly Online Magazine launched back in 2011, bringing the virtually-inclined fly fisherman a taste of what fly fishing really is in the South--farm ponds, mountain trout, salt, oxbows--and with all the brilliant, terse, shorthanded wit that makes the South, well...

        SCOF does well to recognize the alternative side to fly fishing; and to anglers in the South, SCOF brings relevant content, apart from the majority of fly fishing material out there, that highlights the West and its horse-perched, trout-touting fishermen.  Not that I don't love the idea of a pudgy brown's smooth flesh spilling over my two cupped get the point.  These guys get it.

        Anyway, the point is, the SCOF Winter 2014 issue is up and live from the boys in Asheville.  Check it.

Monday, January 13, 2014


        In the new year, my mind often drifts to things I hope to accomplish, things new and exciting.  I've always had the desire to chase rabbits.

It was poring rain--Fluvanna County Schools called an all-too-regular "snow day" for rain--and I resolved to do just that.

        Noting the rain, as I gathered my things I realized the struggle I was undertaking.  Rain coat, gloves, hat, licence, food, hot coffee, 6-shot, 20-gauge--all here.  The pitter-patter on the ground would rob me of my sense of hearing, with which, on a sunny day, I could use to pinpoint the location of a rabbit settling in to a new hideout after being jumped.

        Oh well.  If nothing else, a few hours of slinking through the pine and rose thickets of a friend's lake property would put me on some rabbits.  I would know where to find them, where they hide out.  I could put together a pattern--which types of cover they prefer, which type offers the best shooting.
Photo by Matthew Reilly

        As I turned the key in the truck's ignition, the patch of rain on the doplar radar opened up around Cunningham, Fluvanna County.  I hoped I wouldn't get too wet.

        Turkey love the rain for the worms and grubs it exposes; and likewise, there were several feeding in the fields of long grass as I pulled into the property down gravel and dirt.  Turkey season reopens on January 11th--tomorrow--they're safe.

        Heading into the pines, I remember my GPS in my backpack.  I might need it.  The thick pines are somewhat disorienting.  I take the same opportunity to slip three shells into the chamber of my 20-gauge pump action.
Photo by Matthew Reilly

        Moving slowly, I approached each piece of potential rabbit cover shotgun shouldered, the barrel at a 45-degree decline, ready.  A kick to the trunk of a blown-over ceder flushes nothing.  

        On to the next piece of cover.  A hulking pile of uprooted pines caught my attention; and I stepped closer, still on alert.  Five paces from the log jam, a streak of white-gray fur exploded from the bows, striding out of sight, silent on the wet needles.  I missed my chance.  If the ground were dry, I would pause and wait.  With the rabbit's new location pinpointed, I would let it settle for a moment, then stalk, hoping to get a shot before or while it makes its next escape.

        Moving on.
Photo by Matthew Reilly

        I came into an opening, swampy and wet.  A creek pooled in a small break in the pines, hardwoods surrounding, where a beaver had dammed and taken up residence.  Moving further, I came upon a skeleton, the beaver's.  It's no secret--where there are rabbits there are predators.  A beaver could make a strong meal for a coyote or bobcat.  I harvested its skull as a trophy.
Photo by Matthew Reilly
Another hour searching the thickets resulted in three more rabbits jumped, none offering shots.  As I headed back to the truck parked above the lake, I was still more excited to return on a dry day with better visibility.

        Packing my gear into the back seat of the truck, at last I detected a sound, natural and rhythmic, in the air.  It grew louder, and soon a hoard of dark figures emerged from the fog, onk-onking on time.  The flock of geese continued to grow from the thick cloud cover--50, 100, 200.  Roughly 200 birds flew over the lake in formation, circled, and disappeared into the fog once more, their call tapering out.  Again, moments later, the sound began to grow.  50 more birds arrived, bent their wings, and landed softly on the bank 200 yards away.  Feeling safe, hearing the squabble below, the original flock of 200 returned, bent their wings, and joined the first-comers by the water.  Another like-sized flock joined them moments later.


        Driving home, I was content with my afternoon.  I was wet, beaten up by brush and thorns--tired--but I knew where I could find rabbits on my next hunt, and I know where I will hunt resident geese this year!

Sunday, January 12, 2014


        In this world of ever-developing hunting and fishing know-how and strategy, I find reading historic articles from sporting magazines to be incredibly refreshing.  Now, Virginia sportsmen can find the same satisfaction in Virginia Wildlife Magazine.  Through a partnership with the Library of Virginia Online, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries has digitally archived back issues of their monthly publication, dating back to 1950.

        This online portal to the history of our state's outdoor heritage reminds us of the state of hunting and fishing before high-tech bass boats, compound bows, and trail cameras.  An article in the October 1956 edition by the Roanoke Times' Bill Cochran entitled "The Modern Bowhunter" discusses "The accurate, hard-hitting, modern bows of fiberglass, metal, or split bamboo!"
        Apart from nostalgia, this online archive offers access to  recently-published issues as well, for those not currently subscribed.

Friday, January 10, 2014


The year has turned and is well under way.  To appease the passionate sportsman's soul, winter is outdoor show season.  Some will come and go before I have a chance to write about them; so below you will find a detailed description of those coming soon to a place near you.

Annual Bass and Saltwater Fishing Expo

    The 7th Annual Bass & Saltwater Fishing Expo is returning to the Farm Bureau Center at the new Meadow Event Park in Caroline County January17-19. The family-oriented show is geared to be a fun and educational experience for all who attend. Whether you are a fly fishing enthusiast, a bass fisher, saltwater, lake or river angler, this show has something for everyone in the family.

    Again this year, your admission ticket will allow you to return to the Show another day. There will be conservation organizations represented and an incredible selection of outfitters, fishing charters, boating suppliers, and seminar presenters. Numerous nationally-known speakers will hold seminars to teach skills and share some great stories of their adventures and experiences. VDGIF staff will be on hand to answer questions on agency programs, angling education, special training events, and opportunities to enjoy Virginia's great outdoors. The Outdoor Report e-newsletter will also have an exhibit featuring Fishin' Report contributing reporters answering your questions on where to get the latest "how are they bitin'" info on more that 25 primary lakes and rivers statewide. Volunteers from the VDGIF Complementary Work Force will be on hand describing opportunities for volunteers to assist in carrying out a variety of agency programs. For information visit the Show website.

National Capital Sportsman's Show

    The National Capital Sportsman's Show is coming to the Fredericksburg Expo & Conference center January 17-19.  This traditional sportsman show has something for everyone.  Hunting and fishing outfitters from all over the world, the latest hunting, fishing, and outdoor gear, knowledgeable experts to answer any question, and long time outdoor celebrity Roger Raglin are just a few attractions you will find at the show.   The show is hosting the 2014 NWTF Virginia State Turkey Calling Contest and the 2014 RMEF Virginia State Elk Calling Championship, both of which are open to all wishing to compete.  Youngsters will enjoy fishing in the expansive trout tank or testing their marksmanship in the NWTF's air rifle range.  Come and hear about Virginia's new Elk Relocation Program or hear about finding great public fishing in Virginia.  The National Capital Sportsman show literally has something for all. For more information visit:

Adapted from the Outdoor Report

Thursday, January 9, 2014


Lake Anna, the 9,600-acre reservoir on the North Anna and Pamunkey Rivers, is one of the most bio-diverse impoundments in the state.  Anglers of all pursuits can find opportunity there, from America's favorite largemouth bass to the regionally-sparse walleye.

But this year, another aquatic citizen will be introduced to the wide-open waters of Lake Anna.  Look for more info in an upcoming column, or check back here in the coming weeks!

Sunday, January 5, 2014


It is with every Christmas and New Year’s Day that I find myself with appropriate time for reflection on the year past, and the new year to come.  

School is out. I have few obligations.  And as always, the brand new Virginia Wildlife calendar that I unwrapped on Christmas morning hangs empty and unmarked on my wall.

New Year’s Resolutions

        In my mind I see that empty collection of dates branded with the experiences of the past year.  Bass fishing in the farm ponds near my home in spring, smallmouth fishing in the spring and summer, catching crappie as they move shallow in Lake Anna and other large reservoirs, trout fishing as the weather and water permits, squirrel hunting when the acorns begin to fall, and deer hunting as the year wanes and begins anew.

        Each experience is seasonal, as is the life of an outdoorsman.  You follow the spawning and feeding patterns, water temperatures, and migrations, hoping to land within the brief window of opportunity as it presents itself unannounced, albeit always anticipated.

        To miss one of those windows is a sad thing indeed, though unfortunately, it’s all too easy to do.  Cabin fever, as it sets in after the close of deer season, usually lasting well into February and March, is a blinding ailment.  Sitting at home, wishing for fishing and spring and a last chance at the buck you’ve stalked the season long, it’s easy to overlook the work that must be done prior to spring’s arrival; for once it has sprung, and idle world is set swiftly into motion, and time is limited.  You need to be prepared.

        So, as I am self-obliged, I form my “New Year’s resolution” to maximize my proficiency on the water this coming year.  I plan to begin, now, tying flies on a schedule, organized by species, and season, so that I am prepared for each phase of 2014.  I plan to camp more, spending more time in backcountry areas.  If possible, I would like to fish more often.  And above all else, I will fish smarter, not harder.

        Now that that’s out of the way…

The Planning Stage

        In taking to heart the time-old bit of wisdom, work smarter, not harder, the idle time between Christmas and New Year’s and the eventual restart of school is spent researching, planning, mapping, and organizing trips in accordance with the seasons, weather patterns, and fishing opportunities.  Balancing budgets for such trips, as well as several busy schedules makes planning a challenge, but a very welcome one, considering the end result may be the fish of a lifetime or a trip never to be forgotten.

        Suddenly, though school is finally out for a brief period, I enjoy homework again.  I start perusing guidebooks—Harry Murray’s Virginia Blue Ribbon Streams, Beau Beasley’s Fly Fishing Virginia, Bob Gooch’s Virginia Fishing Guide, and David Hart’s Fly Fisher’s Guide to Virginia—to identify areas of interest, and in hopes of finding a previously-overlooked gem.

        The areas of interest, and the trips from last year that I hope to do again, along with the corresponding season get scratched onto a piece of scrap paper by my desk.  From there they are transferred to the calendar, in messy scratchings in the margins.

        Each destination is plugged into Google Earth, routed, calculated for gas costs, and split between members of the party.  Lodging is arranged, and accounted for in the budget, along with gas, though camping simplifies this portion of the process.

    Maps can be downloaded from the US Geological Service website, or bought from, and studied and filed away for further examination.

        Study on the subject of each trip is then conducted.  At the time I will be going, what will the fish be feeding on?  Those lures, flies, and rigs, discovered on internet forums, revealed by local fly shops, or already known are listed, either with the trip information, or mentally, and bought, tied, and created on a deadline.

        Such trip planning not only helps you have your ducks in a row come time to fish in the spring, it can also serve as a refresher course on know-how and biology.  If you know you will have to use a certain tactic somewhere you are going later in the year to catch fish, practice it on short day trips close to home in the off season.  Practice casting, tying flies, or shooting.  This can be a very exciting time of year.

        Happy New Year!

Originally published in the Rural Virginian