GLASGOW, Va. (WFXR) — Some fairytales are true.
Take for instance the story of Beauty and the Bass.
It is a tale told every day on the upper James River, and especially on the stretch from Glasgow to Snowden. That length of the stream is one of the most remote, most rugged, and most beautiful on the James.
Oh, and it is filled with smallmouth bass; one of the best places to fish for bronze backs on a stream rated the best smallmouth fishery in the commonwealth.
“This float is what we commonly refer to as the “Balcony Falls” float,” said Rob England, owner of Appalachian Bronzeback Adventures guide service. “It’s very remote; we’ve got National Forest Service bordering the river. There’s very little development down here.”
Because of that, it gets very little fishing pressure, and that means smallmouth bass have been able to flourish.
“It’s just a haven for smallmouth bass,” said England.
There are rocks everywhere, as well as fallen and sunken timber, just the right cover that smallmouth love. Plus, there is plenty of forage. Minnows can be seen everywhere, and crawfish, a smallmouth’s favorite food, are plentiful.
Access is very limited, and the gradient drops quickly, causing the current to funnel through gorges and rock formations, creating rapids and waterfalls. That can make traversing this stretch of the James a test. First-timers are encouraged to make the trip with a guide or someone with experience on the river.
“It’s a tough float,” said England. “There’s Class Three Balcony Falls, there’s also a Class Three Little Balcony Falls. It takes a lot of work, and you really need to know what you’re doing when you come down here.”
Fishing that section of the James makes an effort worth it. There are numbers, and there are trophies. Not only is the James rated the top smallmouth water in the state, but it is also rated top for trophy smallmouth in Virginia. Five-pound fish are not uncommon.
“They are in here, those trophy fish, definitely,” England added. “Crankbaits, jigs, spinners, plastics; they’ll all catch fish depending on the time of year.”
The spectacular scenery makes this resource even more special for anglers and paddle sports enthusiasts. England floats and paddles the stretch dozens of times a year, and he says it never gets old.
“If you ever get the opportunity, I highly recommend it,” said England as he gestured to a mountain towering over a gorge. “It’s an absolutely epically beautiful place to fish, kayak, and canoe. It’s just beautiful coming down here.”
So, Beauty and the Bass?
Sure, if you want to talk about living happily ever after because natural beauty and big bronze backs are certainly the happy endings to this fairytale on the upper James.