Early fall in the Blue Ridge is a magical time. There is always that one week where the temperature and humidity drop dramatically and it feels like the autumn season arrived overnight. Of course, the mercury could shoot back up to 90 degrees the next week, but for a that fleeting moment, fall is in the air. The drop in temperature has a rejuvenating effect on humans, and it has the same effect on fish. The delayed harvest trout season is still about a month away, but mid-September is the absolute perfect time to wet a line for smallmouth bass on the mighty James River.
Virginia’s warm-water fisheries are some of the best in the Southeast, and as the water temps drop, the smallmouth bass liven up from their summer lethargy and get active. The top water bite is pretty consistent during this time, and the water is still warm enough to wet wade, so the best bet is to head out toward the middle of the day and fish through the warmth of the afternoon. Blue, white, and chartreuse poppers should bring bass to the surface; if not try a trusty Clouser minnow or other baitfish pattern.
If you are wading, some of the best spots on the James are around Scottsville, Va., area where the river is wide and shallow, allowing easy access to both banks and the river’s deep holes. There is a public boat ramp at the Hardware River State Wildlife Management Area. If you have a boat or canoe, this is also a great takeout if you put in above Scottsville.