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Upper Potomac River, Fairfax County VA, 8/23/2012

2008/6/28 15:57
Posts: 16
Fished for a couple of hours yesterday, new spot. Without getting too specific, I've discovered that the upper Potomac has some pretty good bass fishing, even down close to Washington DC. (The "upper" Potomac is divided from the "lower" Potomac by Little Falls, which is right about at the DC-Maryland border.)

Below Little Falls, the river is tidal, and it's a well-known largemouth bass fishery (also shad, stripers, perch, etc. and, lately, snakeheads.) It's deep water, either boat or bank fishing.

Above Little Falls, it's a smallmouth bass river (and carp, and catfish, and perch...) Much of it is wadeable, especially at this time of year. And I've found that you don't have to go to Harper's Ferry to find decent fishing.

Where I was yesterday morning, I saw at at least a half-dozen nice size bass breaking the water, chasing something or other. I also saw a little carp about 10" jump full-length in the air, about a foot out of the water. Water around 76 degrees, low and clear. Because of the top water action, I tried using some surface flies, but didn't get any takers. So I switched to a crayfish drifted deep, and about 10 minutes later got a nice bass about 13". Healthy, strong fighting fish. I got a small sunfish after that. Then I lost the fly on a snag. My only crayfish. Had to leave anyway, at that point.

Other high points: a trico hatch! Not a huge cloud, but they were definitely out there in numbers. Big schools of minnows, little ones about an inch long. Cormorants on the rocks. Also saw a darter fish in the shallows.

I'll be back. I know they're in there.

Posted on: 2012/8/25 6:17

Edited by JackM on 2012/8/25 9:04:20

Re: 8/23/2012 Upper Potomac River, Fairfax County VA
2006/9/9 17:32
From Gettysburg
Posts: 439
Good report. The Potomac has something for everyone. I usually fish further upriver and have only been able to get there once this year - hopefully again soon.

Posted on: 2012/8/25 8:13

Re: Upper Potomac River, Fairfax County VA, 8/23/2012

2008/12/29 12:54
From Frederick, MD & New Philly, OH
Posts: 4
Good report! One way of targeting the smallies of size this time of year on the Mac is to find the cold water with structure. I've been fishing upstream by accessing the MD side. There's a lot more places to pull off and park. The popper bite has been excellent! Barely missed my 20 incher last weekend around the mouth of the monocacy.

Anyway the water in Fairfax is pretty treacherous or "slippery" but there are some real toads down there. Especially of the VA side below violets landing. I've had unbelievable days there.

Have you ever fished up by Point of Rocks or Lander?

Let me know if you want some advice / locations

Posted on: 2012/8/25 9:17
When I grow up I want to be, one of the harvesters of the sea. I think before my days are done, I want to be a fisherman.
"I'll live and die a fisherman."

Re: Upper Potomac River, Fairfax County VA, 8/23/2012

2008/6/28 15:57
Posts: 16
I've fished both Lander and Violette's Lock a few times.

The water was pretty high both times I fished Lander. After a while I found myself up to my shoulders, basically swimming. And that river does pull, even along those long smooth stretches. It took some effort to recover my feet and fight my way upstream to the shallows by the weed beds. In two times there, I only got one bass, about 10" (and a few missed takes). But both times I was fishing in midday, on a clear day, in early summer. I've gotten to believe that the time of day is half of successful fishing, in the summertime.

I fished Violette's Lock in late August a couple of years ago a little bit before sunset, on the Maryland side. Heard that there might be a whitefly hatch- never having witnessed one, much less fishing one. I was skeptical about the whole thing, until I found myself at sunset +30 minutes, and they started coming off the water in droves. Along with another flock of insects- no-see-ums.

What a disaster. I had a mosquito net on, but no repellent. The biting midges ate me alive. Meanwhile, every fish in the river was rising, while I tried to replace my Clouser with a white wulff, on the end of my seven foot leader. In the pitch dark, with no headlight, just a handheld flashlight. Well, that took about a half-hour. But when I finished, there were still fish rising. Too bad I did not have a clue as to which ones might have been hitting my fly. I flailed around for a while throwing casts until everything settled down, without latching onto a single fish. Then I reeled in, and realized that I had been casting my line with my leader stuck on the tag end of my nail knot.

Live and learn. Next time- insect repellent, headlamp, cut back leader to 3', cast a fixed length of line about 15', strike on sound. Pliobond on my line-leader connection.

After that, I was bug-bitten, exhausted, sweaty, discouraged, and 400 yards from shore. Around 100 yards of slogging through the water, I realized that the no-see-ums were gone. Took off my steamy head net and took a good look around. It was quiet and peaceful, not another soul around. I turned around downstream and noticed that the lights of DC kept the place from being completely dark at night- there was enough light that I could change flies by the glow, as long as I faced downstream. So I decided to stick around for a while and fish. Put on a sink-tip with a Shenk's Sculpin, started working the weed beds up by the dam. After a while, it got clouted by something huge- stayed on the line about 10 seconds, and then everything went slack...I reeled in, and found that my blood knot tippet connection had failed. It's all about those little details, isn't it?

Then I heard a splash from downriver where I had hooked the fish. Sounded like someone had tossed a pony keg of beer in the river.

Flash-forward- I was just there (VL, Maryland side, aka Seneca) the other evening. But the water was even lower than it had been, maybe a foot lower. The weed beds were more like weed mats. I had expected higher water, and didn't even have a spool of floating line with me, only a sink-tip. Even trimmed down as it was, that line was basically unfishable in those weed mats. So I just turned around and went home. The velcro on one of my water shoes was giving me trouble, anyway (still is, actually).

So Thursday, I decided to try a little ways closer to home, and it worked out pretty good. (Getting one decent fish on my first time fishing a new location qualifies as "good", for me.)

Resized Image

(by the way, fiberglass fans- yes! that is a Shakespeare Ugly Stik fly rod.)

I'm going to try a different place next time around. As long as the water is low and comfortably warm, I want see how many good wade fishing spots I can find on the Potomac within a few miles of the Beltway, either to the west or to the east. And that will also help me to map the structure out, for when the water is higher and I have to fish from the bank there.

Posted on: 2012/8/26 17:27

Re: Upper Potomac River, Fairfax County VA, 8/23/2012

2010/5/29 8:13
Posts: 4
great, fun report!

Posted on: 2012/8/30 12:44

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