Class-V Smallmouths

Cast fast and hold tight when you shoot the rapids on the New River.

Outdoor Life Online Editor

West Virginia has a problem picking the right names for its natural wonders. For instance, its most famous stream, the New River, isn't new at all. Geologists think it's one of the nation's oldest, in fact.

There's nothing geriatric about the river, though. Indeed, for most of its tour through the state, it runs like an adolescent en route to his first date. It tumbles through 800-foot hills-not your typical smallmouth habitat.

Called the River of Death by Native Americans, the New drops 750 feet on its way through North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia, and nearly half its descent takes place in the Mountain State. Spitting and roaring, gurgling and splashing, the New accelerates, barreling over and over like a runaway roller coaster heading into a confusion of foam and bubbles. White-water enthusiasts think it's the neatest thing since Kevlar. Smallmouth bass love it, too.

When the raft slides into a huge, churning hole or punches through a towering wave, you might find yourself floating momentarily. The guide works the raft out of the water's grip into the relatively smooth, sliding current, giving you a moment to wipe your eyes and maneuver an uncooperative fish to your net. Contact: Class VI River Runners (800-252-7784; www.raftwv.com).