River-Run Smallmouths

Upon entering West Virginia's Greenbrier Valley from the east, visitors immediately notice the wide-ranging forests. Numerous natural springs flow down mountainsides and along the forest floor. Native Americans and early settlers alike believed these springs possessed curative powers. Today the centerpiece of the valley, the Greenbrier River, is a "healing water" for September bass anglers.

While most bass destinations, especially reservoirs, are crowded and bustling with boats, the Greenbrier knows only the wakes of canoes and wading fishermen. It's the largest tributary of the New River and one of the longest free-flowing rivers in the East. Anglers will find plenty of elbow room and plenty of bass.

West Virginia fisheries biologist Mark Scott grew up fishing the Greenbrier and says it's not uncommon to catch 50 smallmouths a day. The average Greenbrier bronzeback measures 9 to 10 inches, but Scott notes there are good numbers of fish up to 5 pounds. A 10-inch river smallmouth is accustomed to battling swift stream currents, making it a worthy fighter, especially on ultralight tackle.

FOLLOW THE TRAIL

Flowing from the peaks of the Monongahela National Forest, the Greenbrier River has humble beginnings as it races through fog-laced canyons. Starting at Cass, W.Va., the river is accompanied by the Greenbrier River Trail, constructed more than a century ago to transport timber.

With less than 1 degree of elevation change over the entire 76 miles, the trail is easy to negotiate. Walk-in or bike-in anglers have no problem accessing prime stretches along the river all season. Most of the river is easily waded, and even the deeper holes can be bypassed at the river's edge. Canoes offer better access, but paddlers might have to drag their vessels over shallow shoals in the late summer.

State Route 219, which parallels both the trail and river from North Caldwell to Marlinton, is crisscrossed by several smaller roadways. Many of these smaller travel routes have signs marking stream access.

There are more than a dozen primitive campsites located along the trail, which makes staying an extra day easy. The river can rise quickly, so don't camp too close to the edge. Additionally, there are no signs on the river marking campsite locations. Use a map when planning to float and camp.

The Greenbrier River is dominated by cobble substrate--grapefruit-sized rocks--with occasional boulders. As is true of most rivers, the Greenbrier has an identifiable pattern of riffles, pools and runs. During August and September, when the water is relatively low, bass will seek out current.

"The area I like to fish in particular is on top of the shoals," says Scott. Weed beds are another hot spot.

A quality ultralight spinning outfit coupled with 6-pound-test monofilament is a good choice for the Greenbrier. If you're fishing soft plastics, consider a stiffer rod. Scott recommends spinnerbaits for trophy fish.

Contact: Division of Natural Resources (304-256-6947; www.wvdnr.gov).

For more regional information, go to www.outdoorlife.com/destinations