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Backcountry SMB Odyssey

Started by JMiller, September 25, 2017, 10:42:20 AM

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There's a saying among fly fishermen that, "kayak fishing sucks."
While it's true that they're not usually the best option, sometimes they're the only option. My friend Austin and I had been talking about running the Big South Fork gorge for a couple years. We've explored most of the place over the last couple summers, but the remaining sections we had not hit loomed large, with the promise of some really remote water holding lots of dumb fish; the kind of water typically only reached by the types of kayakers that don't carry fishing rods. Of course, the reason for this is that the stretch of river we wanted to float takes at least a couple of days, and there are dozens of class 3 and 4 rapids that just aren't conducive to boats loaded down with fishing and camping gear. At high enough flows, you can get through the gorge in a day with a white water boat. But in late summer/early fall you're not really supposed to float it at all. We did anyway with fishing kayaks. It was rough ride.

Unable to contain our enthusiasm, we decide to meet the night before our scheduled departure so we can ditch his Taco at the takeout, load up the trailer and be ready to head to the put-in at first light. Well we got to drinking beers and catching up, and don't find the sleeping bags 'til around 3 am.

Not as early a start as we wanted the next day, but once the coffee perked, we were loaded up and on our way.

The first couple miles were pretty uneventful. The temp had dropped into the 50s at night, so it seemed to take a little while for the fish to warm up that morning.
Once they did, we were into them pretty thick. We never got so many that it got boring, but we got enough that things were living up to our expectations.

It's not a system known for its big smallmouth, but the numbers are there.

Austin has an account on this board. He never posts, but he does catch fish. I guess that's all you can ask for if you're the guy with the camera.

In the rare moments you'd stop fishing long enough to look around where you were, it then became hard to stop taking pictures of the canyon.

Day one goes by too quickly, and with big rapids looming, we decide camp at the confluence of two great rivers.

We find a likely spot on the bank, drag up the boats. As luck would have it, there was firewood aplenty.

A couple 2-inch thick steaks, instant mashed potatoes and some green beans.

The next morning, we're on the water by 7.

Quickly, the gorge got steep. It became clear we wouldnt be fishing, but instead just trying to make it though.

This next pic pretty much sums up the bulk of the day. Way too many rapids we had to end up roping the boats down. Boats were flipped, a rod was broken, and 1/0 fly embedded in a leg. The possibility of having to hike out without boats was discussed. We literally covered MILES of water that looked like this or worse.

But the river periodically offered us breaks. And in the flat water, we were floating through exactly the type of place we had envisioned.

In the end, it was fine. We made it through by the end of day 2. Pretty happy to see that bridge.

Austin says he's going to contribute some more photos. We'll see how it goes.

PM me if you plan to fish here. Don't just dump a boat in and try it. You  might die, seriously.

"The problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubts, while the stupid ones are full of confidence."

― Charles Bukowski


A remote and beautiful report. One of my favorites that I've had the pleasure of reading here. Excellent adventure. I'm glad you guys made it out okay. Memories that'll never be forgotten.


"Why don't you knock it off with them negative waves? Why don't you dig how beautiful it is out here? Why don't you say something righteous and hopeful for a change? " <br />-Oddball, 1970


Damn, took a lot of balls to belly up to that table.  Kudos on the depussification of the of this chat room.

I've dreamed of doing something similar to this on a segment of the Gauley, but my testosterone level has dropped a bit in recent years.

Thanks for taking us all along for the ride!


Very nice.  I'm impressed you made it back with the gear you did.  please tell me no yeti was hurt in the process!


Possible report of the year candidate.

Any squatch sightings?


No 'squatch sightings, but there were two Yetis, neither of which were harmed in the making of this report.
The beer stayed cold.
"The problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubts, while the stupid ones are full of confidence."

― Charles Bukowski


September 25, 2017, 13:35:13 PM #7 Last Edit: September 25, 2017, 14:16:12 PM by ryguy
Did the fly make it out ok?  Glad the barb is not in the way.  That's a great trip.  Nice to see such remote places.

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk


Hell yes 0:0   I love the adventure.   The fly in the leg pic should be a poster for de-barbing hooks.
Yup, going fishing


Thank you guys so much for the kind words. I try to take nice pics, so Im glad y'all enjoy them.
Also, yea the fly came out on the river. I have set of pliers with some cutters on them, tried to clip off the point but the cutters broke, so we ended up smashing the barb down to pull it out.

Here's a few more pics I got in my email from Austin's camera:

Didn't do much exploring on the bank, but this was a pretty cool creek tunnel running into the river. Looked squatchy to me.

I guess you'd call this "portaging". Sliding kayaks down 8 ft drops in the boulder fields.

Not gonna lie. Really do love fishing from my kayak.

One more fish!

"The problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubts, while the stupid ones are full of confidence."

― Charles Bukowski


Those huge boulders though. I miss kayaking/kayak fishing.


Jebus, that sandstone.  Those boulders are  as imposing as those on the Upper Gauley and the New Gorge below Cunard.

This is the TR of the year imo.



Sent from my SM-G930V using Tapatalk



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