Tomorrow will be my final trip on the upper Roanoke River for 2022. This marks my 15th year fishing the Roanoke out of Weldon, NC and I had a great time as always. I spent a total of 12 days on the river with my anglers in May, a lot of fish were caught, and a bunch of great memories were made.
I was able to catch up with some returning anglers who have fished the river with me in past years. I also got to introduce some of my saltwater anglers to the Roanoke for the first time. And I got to spend time on the river with new clients that had not fished with me before. We fished both fly and artificials on spin. We had a range of weather from sunny, calm and hot...to cold, windy and rainy. We caught everything from 16" schoolies to 30"+ fish. Not just Striped Bass, but some unexpected fish too. Some days we really had to work for them, and other days all you had to do was cast and reel in fish...over and over again!
There were a ton of these schoolies around, and sometimes it seemed like the smaller ones were much more aggressive to get to the fly/lure than the larger ones were. They all hit like a brick though, and they use the current to their advantage once you hook them. Even a smaller Striper in the current will bend an 8wt as much as a nice Redfish will.
Chartreuse and White Clousers, and Half and Halfs were the ticket most days, but sometimes we had to experiment with colors and patterns to find what they were in the mood for.
In the evenings, we had a good popper fly bite on topwater. We had a few nights where they were spawning on top and busting herring out of the water, and they would crush a popper only a short cast away from the boat.
The topwater bite on spin was excellent too. Top Dogs, Zara Spooks, Skitterwalks, Wakebaits, Poppers ...if it was loud and obvious, they wanted to kill it. Some of our highest numbers of fish, and biggest fish, came on topwater right before dark.
If they weren't eating on top, then we would locate them on the sonar and dredge a sinking fly line for them. Sometimes the schools of the fish were in the mood to eat, and sometimes they were too focused on "love" to be bothered with chasing a fly. These fish are like lottery tickets. Not every single one is a winner, so the more lottery tickets you can scratch, the higher your chances are.
A whole bunch of lottery tickets...time to start scratching.
Normally on the Roanoke you have a month-long keeper season, basically all of April. This year the keeper season was reduced to only 4 days, and I hear it was a madhouse. I started fishing the day after keeper season ended, and we did our best to treat these spawning fish with care. It's already a rule to fish single barbless hooks, but we also made a point to only bring a few fish into the boat for photos, while de-hooking and releasing the rest boat side.
We got to break in some new 8wt Waterman and Osmosis rods, along with new Scientific Angler lines and a shiny new Galvan Torque reel. Thanks to Galvan for rush shipping it to me for the trip!
I absolutely love fishing this river every year. It's an experience to be had! I worry sometimes that the experience is lessened by anglers having too high of an expectation. Several anglers, guides, magazines, and social media posts have sold the Roanoke as the place where you catch 100 fish per trip. Does it happen? Sure...some days. We experienced it a few times this year. The truth is that I see what everyone is catching, we all float down the same river. Not everyone is catching nearly as many as they say they are. Are you fishing fly? Jigs? Live bait? Are the fish pre-spawn? Post-spawn? Did they just drop or raise the river levels? A lot of things factor in. I've seen the most senior of guides on the river struggle to catch a dozen fish some days. I've also seen a local catch a hundred fish while standing on the bank using a $20 rod and reel combo. Every day is different.
The truth is this river is so much more than numbers. It's one of the best fishing experiences to be had in the state of North Carolina. Where else can you see Bald Eagles above you, Turkeys along the banks, River Otters splashing at your feet? All while watching dozens of angry male Rockfish fight each other on the surface, trying to spawn with one big female as she releases several hundred-thousand eggs? Seeing all that, and also having the potential to catch more fish on fly or spin than you ever have in a single day? How awesome is that? I love this river and the experiences she provides on a daily basis during the Striped Bass migration.
This is the only place I know where someone could possibly go catch 20 fish on fly and go home disappointed. If you come with your mind set that you will catch fish every cast, you could be really let down, and miss out on all the other great things happening around you. If you come looking for a great overall experience, then you'll never be let down.
I'm already looking forward to fishing the Roanoke River again in 2023, and planning to spend even more time up there. It's never too early to book a 2023 trip for a bunch of Striped Bass and anything else the mighty Roanoke may present to you.
Rockfish love bad weather days.
Always great to see old friends on the river.
You never know what the Roanoke will present to you!
Too much fun!
Carpe diem...seize the Clouser.
Love helping people make lasting memories!
Largemouth on the Spook!
Well that was unexpected!
Crushing the topwaters.
When it's so good that your anglers let you catch a few so they can take a breather!