Loudoun County, Virginia, June 25, 2010
After a few hours of fishing I got caught up in the repetitive casts to the weed beds and was daydreaming a bit so when the bite came it was like waking up from a sound sleep and realizing, "Hey, I have a fish on."

It was going to be a very hot day but I decided to take the kayak out and try fishing at Beaverdam reservoir. I have not fished here since
the drought in 2007 brought the water level way down and was curious to see what it was like. The 2007 drought in Virginia was disastrous for this fishery because faced with a possible massive fish kill due to low dissolved oxygen in whatever little water remained in the reservoir, anglers were instructed to catch and keep everything. And with fish concentrated in a body of water that grew smaller and shallower with each passing day, the harvest was bountiful. I saw huge carp, catfish and lots of bass filling stringers and buckets but faced with the prospect of a possible total collapse of all life in the reservoir it was better that these fish were harvested and hopefully eaten rather than dying in stagnant pools. The return of seasonal rain and snow eventually refilled Beaverdam reservoir but I never returned to fish until now.

The reservoir was full and the water looked great. The parking area has been improved a bit--it's still gravel and dirt but some of the major ruts and potholes have been filled in and now you can drive your vehicle almost to the water to unload. A small floating dock is there but the gentle slope of the inlet makes getting into and out of your watercraft very easy.

I quickly set up the kayak--making sure all the fly fishing gear was stowed and the depth finder was operational. I crossed the reservoir and hugged the shoreline as I paddled to several of the spots I fished before the drought. As I paddled I watched the depth finder and there were several encouraging signs that indicated fish had rebounded in the reservoir. I marked lots of bait schools moving mid-water and there were lots of targets clustered around structure on the bottom. The bottom of Beaverdam is pretty flat and devoid of geological features but in some areas there are piles of rubble or clusters of boulders that create instant fish havens. There is also an old lounge chair, two sunken boats, some 55-gallon drums, some very large tree stumps, a small stone bridge and the old steel one-lane bridge that provide a safe place for fish to hang out and all of these spots returned lots of swimming targets on the depth finder. The wildlife is also back in force. I saw numerous deer, two raccoons and several blue herons.

I turned into one of my favorite coves and paddled to the far end. Everyone who fishes this spot usually does it bass masters style--quickly moving down the bank rapidly firing off casts. I sit and wait. If you pay attention, you'll see a lot. I brought a fast action 5 weight fly rod and a clear intermediate weight forward line. My leader and tippet was five feet of very stiff 10-pound fluorocarbon line with a size 2 weighted black woolly bugger tied on the end. A very heavy fly for this rod but for the technique I use it works. As I prepared my gear I watched the weed beds and soon I saw the movement.

Wind usually blows through the weed beds causing them to wave about. But if you watch carefully you'll see plants move in an unnatural way. They'll jiggle around or jerk and bob up and down. That's caused by feeding fish, rooting up insects, crustaceans and invertebrates that hide there. When the fish are really on the feed, you'll hear splashed and see tails waving in the air, sort of like bonefish feeding on the flats.

I could track the movement of the fish by watching the weed bed. As it got closer I saw by the coloration that it was a carp. When it was about 15 feet away I placed a cast in front of its probable approach, going a bit past so I could strip it in a bit if it changed course. It got closer and I adjusted the fly and waited. It came right up to the fly and passed over it. Not interested. It continued feeding down the weed bed as I repositioned for another cast. A gust of wind blew the kayak into an awkward position, spinning it on its anchor point but instead of waiting and getting a better angle on the fish I wound up lining it and with a big splash and plume of mud it took off for deeper water.

I continued to hunt fish in this area but the wind made things difficult. I saw lots of fish on the bottom and in one area several bass were clustered in a group out in the open on a mud flat, sitting there finning with no cover around. I made one cast and they took off as soon as the fly hit the water. In another spot I drew nothing but small bass. Really small bass. But they were hungry. Several of them impaled themselves on the size 2 woolly bugger, which was almost as big as they were. Dapping the fly on the surface and giving it a few good wiggles was good enough to draw in several of these juvenile bass who would investigate the fly and attempt to grab its tail. The carp and many juvenile bass was a good sign that perhaps the reservoir was coming back as a fishery.

The sun was beginning to go down and it was time to do some serious fishing. I moved to another location and as I came around the corner I set up the kayak to drift along the weed bed on a slow cruise. Paddling and casting a fly rod takes a bit of coordination and if you get it wrong you'll have a mess draped all over the cockpit. I lined up on the course I want to cover and took four shallow, slow strokes with the paddle beginning on the right side and ending on the left, putting the kayak into a glide not much faster than a slow walk. I put the paddle down and fired a cast high over my head at the weed bed . At this point the kayak is on a slow glide so I cast at likely bass holding spots as it moves along. By dipping the paddle into the water on the left or right side, I can make minor course corrections or paddle a bit to continue the glide. Everything is done slowly and quietly.

I don't strip the fly line when I do this type of bass fishing. If the fish is there, it will hit the fly almost immediately or not at all. There's no finesse to the presentation. I slap the fly down onto the water, making a big "splat" sound then draw the fly through the water with a jerky movement using the tip of the rod. This also water loads the line for the backcast which consists of quickly yanking the fly out of the water, picking another target area and slamming it back into the weeds. After drifting about 40-yards and daydreaming a bit I got a solid strike as I was hauling the fly out for the backcast. It turned out to be a very decent bass and measured out to not quite 16 inches and weighed a little over one and 3/4 pounds. It was a very fat and healthy fish.

I headed back to the launch area around 8:30pm. In my opinion, although I saw lots of fish, Beaverdam reservoir is still in recovery. Except for the one decent bass I caught most of the other fish I caught were dinks, many not much larger than the fly I was using. I'm confident that barring another crippling drought fishing at the reservoir will recover but it might take awhile.

EQUIPMENT: I used a fast action 5 weight rod and clear weight forward intermediate fly line with five feet of 10-pound fluorocarbon leader/tippet. The size 2 woolly bugger was the top producer for the day.

DIRECTIONS: Beaverdam reservoir is located off Belmont Ridge Road down Mt. Hope Road next to the Mt. Hope Church. The parking area is dirt and gravel and holds a limited number of cars. Please take any trash you create home with you when you leave. Shoreline fishing access is limited and the best way to fish the reservoir is from a kayak, canoe or john boat although I have seen high powered bass boats here. Electric motors are allowed but NO gasoline-powered motorized watercraft. This area is heavily patrolled by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and you should have a valid freshwater fishing license and follow all boating rules to the letter.