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All Things Black Bass

Started by Onslow, November 28, 2022, 20:31:12 PM

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I've got to get over the border and hook up on some Chattahoochee bass. Those guys are beautiful with those fire tipped fins. 
Jeremiah 17:7


I'm no expert on the subject of bass flyfishing, but I've been river bass for almost 40 years. What I do know is rivers.  The purpose of this thread is to assist those who may want to try their hand at bass fishing in the rivers of southern VA, NC, and SC.  I know nothing about the bassing in the deep south, or the plateau country of WV, Kentucky, TN

It is pointless to get too deep in the weeds as to what is native, and what is not native.  There seems to be fact fluidity. According to the USGS, largemouth are native are native to all east slope rivers from the Savannah to the Roanoke. Fact fluidity muddies up the discussion as to where the Kentucky spots and smallmouth native ranges are. What is factual is largemouth bass occupied nearly every waterway east of the Blue Ridge until the Kentucky Spots were introduced in the Cape Fear and Yadkin watersheds, and illegal stocking of Alabama bass by tourney types in nearly every reservoir in the SE. In 30 years, the native largemouth bass my be a threatened species.  In some rivers species replacement has largely occurred by Kentucky Spots.  The Alabama bass are reportedly even more aggressive than the Kentucky spots, and are currently spreading quickly in the the lower and middle Tar watershed, and the entire Albemarle sound watershed, which included the Chowan, which also included the Nottaway, Blackwater.  Enjoy the largemouth while you can.  Their days are numbered everywhere except ponds.

Many offhand remarks are made about which species are better suited for flyrodding.  If there is anything learned in recent years, what really dictates methods of catching are the river, and not the species.  It is important to understand what category of water one is fishing, and adjust methods accordingly.


Watershed in NC are highly variable in terms of gradient and runoff and geology.  These are the factors that will determine what approach one should use to when bass fishing

Highland Watersheds

Streams that drain the east slopes of the Blue Ridge, and the Smokies which include Shining Rock tend to have much runoff.  The wettest watersheds are the Green River in Polk, Pigeon, upper Tuck, upper French Broad, Wilson, Cullasaja, Nantahala, Ocoee, Hiwassee, Chattooga, Talullah, SF New, South Toe, and the Cheoah, .
These rivers tend to be swift, and stay somewhat relatively most during the course of the year. These rivers have an average runoff that exceeds 2 cfs per square mile. The Cheoah, Cullasaja, Nantahala, Chattooga and others exceed 3 cfs per square mile.

Mid Altitude and semi wet Watersheds

Summers tend to be drier and the flows are a bit slower in the Summer, but this also depends on geology as well.  North Toe, Nolichucky, Lower French Broad, Rocky Broad, NF New, Roanoke above BRP, lower Tuck, lower Little T, Powell.  All other east slope rivers the drain the BRP upstream of the Foothills Fall line.  Where is the Foothills Fall Line?  This is an area where area geology tends to change. There also is a spike in river gradient at all Fall lines.  The Foothills Fall line is located at Lynchburg down to a line to Smith Mt on the Staunton/Roanoke, Turkeycock Mt on the Smith, Hanging Rock area on the Dan, Bean Shoals/Pilot Mt. on the Yadkin, Lookout Shoals on the Catawba.  This line tends to fizzle and blur as one heads southwest, but will include all Upstate SC streams north of I 85 in this category.  With the exception of the Clinch, Roanoke, and Holston, these streams are prone to Summertime thunderstorm activity, and are prone to be dirty after rain. Like the highland streams in the first category, one will be dealing with swift water, but do tend to drop lower flows during periods of drought.  The New River watershed is an outlier, and this is due to the deeper soil found upstream of Ivanhoe.

Secondary Foothill Watershed

This is a small category of streams which include Jacobs Fork, Henry Fork, First and Second Broad River, Cove Creek, Hunting Creek, SF Catawba, and South Yadkin, Hardware River, Falling River.  These form on Foothill chains east of the Blue Ridge.  The streams mentioned in NC do have fish, but are generally perform poorly. Like those streams that drain the Blue Ridge, they tend to get blown out from storms, and carry high sediment loads. These tend to have an average runoff between 1-1.5 cfs per square mile.  The ones in VA are drier, and may very well fish well where they cross Fall lines. The Reedy, Enoree, Tyger, and Twenty Mile Creek in SC almost fit into this category as well, but then again, the Reedy Enoree, and Tyger are more like the streams mentioned in the Piedmont Category.

Upper Piedmont

Rocky (Pee Dee), Deep, Haw, Appomattox, Nottaway.  These streams are similar in terms of rainfall and runoff.  Nearly all streams in the Coastal plain and Piedmont produce .9cfs per square mile of runoff.  How these streams above thread through the mid Piedmont Fall line are unique, but what sets these streams apart are size and Summer flow.  They tend to be mid size rivers that get really low in the Summer.  They also tend to cross to minor Fall lines, and have many many miles of rapids.  This is not true for the Appomattox.  It is a weird one.

The streams that form at the base of the Blue Ridge in SC such as the Reedy, Enoree, Tyger, portions of the Saluda, Pacelot are much like the Haw, Deep, Rocky.  These are all good bass waters.

Second Tier Piedmont Streams

These tend to be smaller Fall line streams that form at the upper Piedmont Fall Line, then produce nice smaller rocky streams.  These are the Tar, Eno, Flat, Little (Neuse), Uwharrie, Little (Pee Dee) Richardson Creek (Pee Dee), Long Creek.  The Second Tier Piedmont streams in SC are lousy.  There is one good beat on the Little (Savannah).  Fishing, Rocky Creek, Little (Broad) all look nasty.  Same for the Meherrin in VA. Some of these terminate into larger watershed, while others are the headwaters of new watersheds, and as they grow in size, generally the opportunities improve. 

The middle/lower Piedmont Fall line is weak in areas, and well defined in other areas.  It starts very weak in VA at Rock Castle on the James, continues south to Blackstone.  At the NC VA border, it is located at the Ivy Hill area at Kerr Lake. Yes, the Roanoke and Dan drops up to 10 fmp under Kerr.  This line continues through Wilton (Tar) Rougemont-North Durham for the Neuse watershed, Bynum on the Haw, and Moncure for the Rocky and Deep, Thickety Rd for the Little, and the confluence of Long Creek and the Rocky for the Rocky (Pee Dee) and the most dramatic drop is on the Yadkin at Narrows/Upper and Lower Falls. In SC, it is Great Falls on the Catawba.  The Fall lines on the Saluda and Pacelot are irregular, and heavily dammed.

Lower Piedmont Streams

These are the most underrated streams imo.  They form at the second Piedmont Fall line, then flow across the lower Piedmont/Coastal Plain Fall line.  They tend to be located in plantation pine forests. Soil is deeper, Summer flows are better, water is cooler, and less muddy water.  The bottoms tend to be sand and gravel with some silt.  They may turn rocky for a brief moment as they cross into the Coastal Plain around the I 95 area. Examples are Fishing Creek, Sandy Creek and Shocco Creek in the Tar watershed, Middle, Swift Creeks, and Little River in the Neuse watershed, and the Upper Little, Little River in the Cape Fear watershed.

Coastal Plain

Farm pond water. Not to familiar with fishing in these parts.


Where the rivers are juicy, go deep.  Pretend to be euro nymphing.  Use Clawdads, crawfish colored intruders, Woolly jiggers (jig head/hook WBs) Go DEEP!.  Top water fishing on big fast water is a fools errand.   Fishing for Bartrams at the Chattooga or Redeye in the Little River Canyon will be a different experience than fishing for them on a smaller skinnier beat.  This applies to every species of black bass.

In the Rocky Piedmont waters w/no gar, one can fish on the top more.  Deceivers work well.  Sneaky petes can be shredded across fast water between ledges in later afternoon hours, and LMB will destroy them. In smaller skinnier water with spooky fish, Fat Alberts, and other topwater offerings get in done. The Rocky (Pee Dee), Rocky (Cape Fear), Deep are gar infested. Gotta fish deep.  Gars push the bass down low during the day. They may come out briefly in the evenings, and push up into the rapids, but that is only a 2 hour window. Keep in mind however that 80 percent of the LMB diet in these type of streams are crawfish.

Sandy Streams are best saved for acute drought situations. These streams sandbar out, and one can walk on the sandbars to get to the holes where fish stack up.  2002, 2005, 2007, 2011 were remarkable years in central Carolina for flat sandy river fishing.  One could walk for a a half mile on near dry riverbed, then find a spot and wear em out in the late afternoon. This is LMB fishing at its finest.  I once caught a 3 pound bass in a 5' wide channel in water 18 inches deep.

The Lower Piedmont streams are very satisfying. They tend to be clean, cool, remote.  Beware of feral dogs.  Some stretches are deep, and full of wood making fishing miserable. I would advise against point to point commitments over a mile without scouting first. I once attempted to bust out 3 miles on Sandy Creek 5 years after hurricane Fran.  Huge mistake. Loggers had pushed brush piles up against the banks, deadfalls from the hurricane were everywhere.  Water was over 6' deep bank to bank in spots.

Some of these streams are full of snakes. Shocco was armpit deep, and unless one like to make eye contact with a multitude of snakes, perhaps you might want to skip this.  Some of the streams grow in size large enough to float.  It is best to seek these out.  I've floated the Upper Little above the Cape Fear.  Neat little stream.



This link is a search for a very useful PDF doc.  USGS drainage areas for selects sites. Download this doc, and review it.

Later in the week, drainage sizes will be discussed.  Numeric quantification of river stream size is one of the most important elements of stream literacy. Understanding the relevance of these numbers, and what they mean in terms of what can be floated, what shouldn't be is key to successful exploring via floaty boat when chasing bass.

Fun tidbits > Did anyone know Muddy Creek in Clemmons where it enters the Yadkin is considerably larger than the Fisher where it enters the Yadkin?  Who knew!  Why should I give a damn about Muddy Creek?  More on that later.


Muddy Creek enters the Yadkin a few miles below Idols dam.  The portion of the Yadkin between Tanglewood and Rt. 64 (18 miles) would take all day for a brisk paddle, two days for a quick hit float and fish, and three days for a determined effort still skipping water.  One can put in on Muddy creek at the last bridge, or take out there to break up this section. Using tribs to access larger water does open up opportunities for sure.

As a general rule, streams in the Piedmont can be float fished once they reach the 150-200 sq. mile drainage size. Fall line wading opportunities can be had when a stream reaches 30 square miles, but not all are worthwhile.  50 square miles is a great low end threshold.  The Eno at Fews Ford is 75 square miles.  Of course not all streams in this size are created equal. Fall line beats will have less wood, while lowland streams in eastern Piedmont will have deadfall issues. Some watersheds also tend to run wider than others even if the drainage size and flow are the same.  Most of the Catawba basin streams run wider than the Yadkin, and the Rocky in Chatham is more open than those comparable streams on the Neuse.  Flows?  go low, and yes, you will need to get out to line or drag some. Avoid slate belt streams during very dry conditions.

Foothills streams that drain the Blue Ridge can be float fished when the reach about 100 square miles without too much trouble. Water flows should always should be on the low end, as low as one can tolerate. I prefer 80-120 cfs for streams around 100 square miles, and 150-220 cfs for those streams that drain between 200-350 sq. miles.

Pushy water is not good.  This isn't recreational floating or whitewater, we're fishing.


Download PDF for some VA stream measurements.

There isn't as much variability in flow outputs in VA.  The upper New is wetter than most watersheds, but most VA streams produce between 1-1.4 cfs per square mile.



My favorite brfff thread in a long time
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For those seeking adventure, the Broad River in NC just below the Green confluence down to 221A may provide a quiet fishing paradise for those seeking to get away from people, and Alabama bass & Kentucky spots.  Crossed Poors bridge (formerly Pores), and this river looks really good.  Access is limited, and appears to be a great river for float camping. No signs of livery business.  I suspect the primary species is smallmouth.  There are some largemouth below Cliffside. There is an access above the confluence, and Poors bridge isn't a viable access.  Other bridges may be.

Looks like a cross between the Yadkin & SF New.

The Dude

Quote from: Onslow on February 12, 2023, 17:04:37 PMFor those seeking adventure, the Broad River in NC just below the Green confluence down to 221A may provide a quiet fishing paradise for those seeking to get away from people, and Alabama bass & Kentucky spots.  Crossed Poors bridge (formerly Pores), and this river looks really good.  Access is limited, and appears to be a great river for float camping. No signs of livery business.  I suspect the primary species is smallmouth.  There are some largemouth below Cliffside. There is an access above the confluence, and Poors bridge isn't a viable access.  Other bridges may be.

Looks like a cross between the Yadkin & SF New.

It's a smallmouth banger all the way to the SC line.  It is wadeable below Cliffside and through the Broad River Greenway, but during the summer months, be advised that you will see plenty of confederate flag bikinis with fupas and belly scars, mullets, and empty cases of busch light and other assorted trash scattered about the banks of the river.  I would recommend floating it.  There are plenty of 6+lb smallies to be had.
I was born by the river in a little tent, And just like the river I've been running ever since, It's been a long, long time coming, But I know change is gonna come.


For those who are interested, I fished the New over the weekend and the shallows were full of smallmouth fry.  In the area I mostly fish this would be two years in a row seeing what appears to be a successful spawn.  Hopefully this will translate to better fishing in the future.  On the downside this guy was prowling the shallows taking advantage of easy meals.You cannot view this attachment.


Very cool picture. 👍
Thanks for sharing.
"No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man."
― Heraclitus


I lost a monster two Fridays ago. Would have been the biggest on the fly by far. Consolation prize.
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For 2022, the Roanoke River SML came in third place behind the James and New for the most citation smallmouth caught in VA.   Perhaps most were caught at a sweet spot, but maybe not.   This is a shocker for several reasons.

1.  The New, James, Doah have many more river miles.

2. The Roanoke isn't a bro destination.  Probably not much guiding taking place.

3. The Roanoke is a fairly small watershed.  It only drains 508 square miles when it enters SML.  This is on the lower end of a medium size river, and much smaller than the lower reaches of the Clinch, Doah, Staunton. The James drains over 3k at the BRP, and over 7k in Richmond.