If you’ve ever heard the name Dunkard Creek, it’s probably been pointed to as the “poster child” of why natural resources shouldn’t be extracted in West Virginia. I am by no means taking a side on this issue or trying to persuade my readers one way or another. I would like to give you a bit of history on the subject, though, and discuss how it relates to me. First of all, I moved to West Virginia in 2010, so most of what I will be discussing is second-hand information. Therefore, I won’t bother to repeat what others have already written and instead point you toward these comprehensive articles I found:
After reading these articles, it still is not clear what factors all combined to kill the fish of Dunkard Creek, but I’m sure there is enough blame to go around for both suspected parties. Whoever the true culprit is, we may never know, but the story does not stop there.
Around this time last year, Evan, a friend of mine posted a picture of a smallmouth bass he caught on Dunkard Creek (click here for another Dunkard Creek related article that mentions Evan as well). This was around the time I was just getting into fly fishing and Dunkard Creek was only a name I had heard in environmental case study settings in class and fracking protests. The thought of fishing for bass nearby stuck with me though, since it’s fairly difficult to find good after-work places to trout fish near Morgantown and still make it home for dinner.
Fast forward a year later. I get an invitation from Evan to go fly fishing for smallmouth bass on Dunkard and I jump on the opportunity. One, because he has more knowledge of fly fishing than I can hope to acquire anytime in the near future and two, because I wanted to learn a local stream that I can hopefully return to at a later date.
Fishing conditions were not ideal- the water was fairly murky- but we still gave it a shot. Sometimes it’s not so much catching fish as just getting outdoors with friends that brightens my mood. Evan gave me a couple “Sneaky Petes” and I still had a few white rubber tail wooly buggers left from my trip to the Smokies that I wanted to try. There was a good combination of runs and pools that looked decent for holding fish. It’s hard to imagine that less than 4 years ago this stream was void of nearly all aquatic life.
I fished an olive wooly bugger for a while to no avail, and was beginning to get frustrated catching it on rocks and vegetation so I switched over to the Sneeky Pete for a try on top of the water. After a few casts of letting it dead drift in an eddy I gave it a short, quick strip and almost immediately I had a small (4-5″) sunfish on the line. At least I could go home and say I hadn’t gotten skunked! After a few more casts with that fly I switched over to my rubber tail wooly bugger and fished it down through a run. On one of the attempts I hooked up with a little smallmouth.
That concluded the action for the day, but this catch was rewarding for several reasons.
- First, the fly I caught the bass on was one of my own, which has been really fun to experience this year.
- Second, having heard and seen photos of the devastation of the 2009 fish kill, I was encouraged to know that the fishery was recovering.
- Third, I now know of a stream I can fish within 20 minutes of my home that I can go to when I can’t make it to the mountain streams.
- and Lastly, this was the first time fly fishing for smallmouth bass with a fly rod besides a few I’ve caught on a farm pond.
All this together made for a great start to the week and hopefully I’ll get to do it again soon!