Destination 105: Maury River

by Chris McCotter

Time spent with family away from daily work duties seems to have lessened in recent years for many folks. The duties seem to increase, the pay stays the same or drops and the truly important time suffers.

Some years back I came to realize you must make time to make memories or you’ll stop one day, try and remember some fun things you did with friends and family and all you’ll have is a blur of the ups and downs of work.

With this in mind, our family has set aside three or four days each year to hold a homecoming. For the past two we’ve held it at the Bare Farm Cabin on the Maury River between Lexington and Buena Vista, Virginia. We eat, drink, listen to each other and some music, kayak, swim, snorkel and fish. That’s it and it’s wonderful.

The setting couldn’t be more perfect. The over 100-year-old restored cabin we rent offers modern comforts. There’s a screened pavilion known as Frances’ Folly for our hoedown, and an expansive grassy slope that ends at the riverside where our kayaks often reside.

This year my brother attended. He’s an avid float fisherman (his fishing partner is W2 Lake Country Regional Editor Toby Newcomb) and had been through this section of the Maury before.

Early Saturday morning he and I drove up to the Rt. 11 bridge in Lexington (just below the dam) and slipped an Emotion Stealth and a Jackson Coosa into the little river and set out for the cabin with an array of lures and rods intended to be introduced to as many smallmouth bass as possible.

The water was low and hot (about 1.3 and 85 degrees) but those sections that offered current and boulders harbored smallmouth. We caught them using a CASE Paddlestick worm rigged wacky style with a half of an insert weight in the head. We could “dance” this rig head down in the current or just let it since and those smallmouth (redeye and long ear sunfish) could not resist it. At times I had bites on every cast.

Now the fish weren’t huge – nothing over 12” but bigger fish were spotted on that float. Some appeared to be around 16” and we knew we could redeploy on the next float we’d take with our kids later that day below the cabin.

Turns out we fished some on that float but swam, snorkeled and kayaked more. We found a rock ledge where most of the river’s water poured through a narrow chute – a solid Class I about a quarter mile from the cabin and taught our nine-year-old sons how to pick a line and paddle through. We also had great fun “surfing” the hydraulic from below in an Emotion Spitfire sit-on-top. Once you locked into position, you didn’t have to paddle to stay there.

Around 4 pm we paddled back up river for the official family feast and evening festivities, all the while looking forward to the next day’s expedition on the Maury.

After church on Sunday we had a big lunch in the Folly with family again then went back down to the chute with the kids and friends. What a great way to reconnect and relax with the river as the setting.

Late in the afternoon, when the guests had departed and the itch to fish remained, my brother, me, my wife and my son set out down river. The water was mirror-calm and we could see fishing leaping out of the water before the riffles. It was time to fish.

I had used just about all of my Paddlesticks and all of the insert weights, except for the one I had rigged for my son. He was fishing in an Emotion CoMotion with the wife and doing well.

I decided to go with an old favorite – the Bud’s Hellgrammite (1.5” in black) on a light drop shot, hoping for fewer little fish and perhaps a 15 incher.

We were fishing a boulder-strewn outside bend of the river before the chute and catching the occasional smallie and plenty of red eyes and sunfish when I must have made the perfect presentation because my rod loaded up and I had a good fish take the imitation larvea.

That fish fought round and round the kayak, up to weed-lined shore and finally came to my hand, a blaze of bronze, brown and red scaled muscle. Its belly was mostly white and its eye blazing red. I admired it, had my brother snap two photos, showed it to my son and then slipped the 15” fish back into the river.

While the trip was not made by that fish, it was a nice touch. As the sun began to set, my wife switched kayaks with me and paddled back to the cabin while the boy and I floated downriver as far as we could knowing we’d have to paddle back in the dark.

We caught fish after fish together. Then it was time for five more cast and finally time to turn the kayak upriver. My son was silhouetted against the orange sunset and I felt a deep sense of contentment as we paddled together back to the cabin.

Packing up the next morning was much easier with such good times had. I was once again ready to “fight the dragon”. We shared one more meal with my brother and his son Monday morning and then came the trip home.

Think some river time might do you some good? Consider making the time to make some memories this fall. Get some kayaks and find your special place. It’s worth every penny.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

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