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Got out both days this weekend to do my absolute favorite kind of winter fishing. It was a mix of good and bad.

Saturday- Belews Creek. Water was surprising dirty (or turning over) but found some cleaner water and they were biting the FnF pretty well. Caught 6 bass (up to 15"), one catfish, hooked two more, and had several pull-downs that never had the hook. I think they might have been bluegill. Overall it was a very fun afternoon. Water temp 55 degrees. Clarity was about 4.5 feet which is low for the lake.

Sunday- Philpott (near Martinsville, VA). I fished this lake once last year and I wanted to try it again. Made the trip with my wife and while a beautiful lake and a nice day the fishing was awful. It was totally dead out there. No birds, squirrels, deer, or any other kind of wildlife out. Was eerie quiet. Bait was generally pegged on the bottom. Never had a bite in 5 hours. I think it may be turning over an that generally puts all the fish deep but I still feel like I should have gotten a few bites. I haven't given up on the lake but I wish I had gone back to Belews creek again. Water was 55-56 degrees. Didn't check clarity but it was well over 6 feet. Water had some haze to it which made me think it might be turning over. One final tidbit, they normally charge a launch fee but they had covered the drop box so it was free.
 

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I use to live by Philpott Lake. The usually super clear water makes it a tough place to fish for many anglers, including me. Go back in the spring when the water temps hit 50 degrees & above for better odds. There are some nice fish in that lake for sure.
 

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I use to live by Philpott Lake. The usually super clear water makes it a tough place to fish for many anglers, including me. Go back in the spring when the water temps hit 50 degrees & above for better odds. There are some nice fish in that lake for sure.
Glad to hear there are fish in the lake, I was wondering after the other day. :D I actually like the deep clear water. It is the kind of conditions that the float and fly should be perfect for cause the fish will tend to suspend in that kind of water and the technique floats that little jig right in their face.
 

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Red X Angler
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Thanks for the reports, Andrew. I like seeing reports from some of my old stomping grounds that I miss so much, so I appreciate the posts!

We've seen Belews get more stained at times depending mainly on rainfall (that day we caught all those bass in the back of that pocket with the modified swim jigs was a good example), but I don't think I've ever seen the lake turn over like some lakes do during seasonal changes. I had always attributed that to the fact that a significant portion of the central part of the lake sees a certain degree of 'current' from the circular flow created by the discharge on one side and the intake on the other side. I think it keeps the lake too 'stirred' to really stratify and then turn over.

But God knows Belews can act squirrelly at times, that's for certain.
 

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Thanks for the reports, Andrew. I like seeing reports from some of my old stomping grounds that I miss so much, so I appreciate the posts!

We've seen Belews get more stained at times depending mainly on rainfall (that day we caught all those bass in the back of that pocket with the modified swim jigs was a good example), but I don't think I've ever seen the lake turn over like some lakes do during seasonal changes. I had always attributed that to the fact that a significant portion of the central part of the lake sees a certain degree of 'current' from the circular flow created by the discharge on one side and the intake on the other side. I think it keeps the lake too 'stirred' to really stratify and then turn over.

But God knows Belews can act squirrelly at times, that's for certain.
You might be right. It could be that it is just stained from mud coming in. The lake isn't nearly as warm as it used to be since the power plant switched to natural gas. It is well down in the 50's and that cold muddy water probably doesn't sink as quickly as it used to when the lake was 60 degrees. If it gets stained it might completely change the way if fishes.

I went again on 12/22. Caught 6 again (5 spots and a LM) with the biggest about 14". Hooked 2 more. I fished longer and the action was slower. Water was down to 52-53 and it was only 56-57 at the hot hole. Clarity about the same as last time 4.5-5 feet. I did see a couple fish bust on top but it wasn't much.

For any of you that do fish the FnF I got about every kind of bite this trip. Got pull downs, lift bites, lift then pull down, and the look away then look back and the bobber is gone.
 

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Red X Angler
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I keep saying I'm going to try the Float n Fly for speckled trout in the winter here, when they suspend in the holes and bends in the river mouth creeks, but I haven't followed through on it yet.
 

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I keep saying I'm going to try the Float n Fly for speckled trout in the winter here, when they suspend in the holes and bends in the river mouth creeks, but I haven't followed through on it yet.
You should, I'd just rig a slip bobber and not try and fool with the big fairy wand. Tip a jig with some gulp and I bet you can catch them pretty good. Watching that bobber drop is addictive. The FnF is my winter spinnerbait. If I can get them to bite it I won't put it down.
 

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Red X Angler
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You should, I'd just rig a slip bobber and not try and fool with the big fairy wand. Tip a jig with some gulp and I bet you can catch them pretty good. Watching that bobber drop is addictive. The FnF is my winter spinnerbait. If I can get them to bite it I won't put it down.
Yes, this I know... and every time we've fished together during winter, I start to lose faith and pick up a shakey head or jerkbait, you catch one and make me wish I'd stuck with it. :D

So far it hasn't stayed cold enough consistently enough to get those specks stacked up in the creeks yet, but I suspect January might deliver. I have my eye on offshore flounder if the north wind ever lets me get out there, but maybe I'll get a chance to try it. Part of my problem is I get distracted by everything else... February rolls in and I'm already eyeing sheepshead, then March comes and I am chasing triggerfish (possibly my 2nd favorite eating fish after tripletail), and so on and on.

Still miss my reservoir bass fishing, though!
 

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SurfRider you sound like you're living my life about 5-10 years ahead of me :)

All my life my objective has been "live on the water".

In Georgia we had a small pond
In Minnesota we lived directly on the upper Mississippi River
Then we made it down to NC and got a place on Belews.....and you've helped me tremendously with advice on this forum about Belews...

And I always said my next step is to live on saltwater where I could be catching speckled trout and stripers .....so like I said, you're ahead of me :)



Anyways - BleedingBlue, I know you've done this before but can you explain the float & fly again?
 

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Red X Angler
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He can give you a better description, but it's basically a small jig (the ones I have seen used are tied with duck feathers), typically pretty lightweight - 1/16 or 1/8 ounce. You put it on a long leader for the depth you want to fish, 10 to 15 feet depending where you think the fish are suspended. The leader is under a bobber or float - typically you want a weighted float so that if the jig is 'lifted' (referred to as a 'lift-bite' where the fish just picks up the jig and rises a little in the water column) you will see the float flop over and lay on its side.

Because the leader is so long it works best on a long spinning rod - I most recently picked up a crappie rod and a light spinning reel - you have to cast it almost like a fly rod, with the leader out behind you, you sort of flick it while you cast to bring the leader out and the float carries the rig on the cast since the jig is so light.

Then you just jiggle the float to make it dunk under, up and down, so that it's basically making the jig dance up and down in front of the fish. If there is some ripple on the water, it kinda gives the jig action without much movement from you. Sometimes the float will go under, other times it will just lay over when there is a fish on. The lift bite is the reason a slip-float rig isn't as good because you might not see the lift bite if the line can slide through the float.

Hopefully that makes sense. I have seen Andrew catch a lot of fish during winter at Belews just working that rig along the steeper banks especially in a channel swing.
 

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Sam pretty much nailed it. I use an 8.5 or 9.5 foot rod. I use 10 lb Nanofil (any small diameter braid will work) for the main line tied to a small 3-way swivel. The the leader and bobber are on the other two connections. I make my bobbers special to be unstable to catch the lift bites but a pear shaped bobber will do OK. At Belews I use a 7-8 foot leader (8 lb fluorocarbon) to a 1/16 oz craft hair and duck feather jig.

The advantage of the 3-way swivel fixed bobber system is that you can easily put action into the jig. I gently bounce the tip of the long rod while reeling slowly a turn or two then pause. This makes the jig jiggle under water as it rises a bit. When you stop it sinks slowly back down like a struggling minnow. As mentioned, it also shows the lift bites which are 10-15% of the bites you get and as the colder the water gets they get more common. The downside is you really need the long rod to cast it and get the action. It is very hard to manage with less than a 7.5 foot rod. The other part I love about the long rod is fighting the fish. It can make catching a 12" spot very enjoyable and big fish are a blast.

It is a very finesse technique and as long as you have good clarity, water temps below 60, and suspended bait and/or fish it will produce.
 

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I went out to Belews again yesterday. It was a beautiful day (at least I thought) with the overcast skies. I struggled to find any concentrations of bait but did manage to find a few fish. I ended up with 5 fish, 4 spots and 1 LM. No size to the spots but near the end of the day the LM bit and it was a very nice fish (for Belews anyway). It was 3 lbs or more and I had it up to the boat 4-5 times. It was basically done then shook its head one more time and got off. It was disappointing but I got all the fun out of it before the quick release. All fish on FnF.
 

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I went out to Belews again yesterday. It was a beautiful day (at least I thought) with the overcast skies. I struggled to find any concentrations of bait but did manage to find a few fish. I ended up with 5 fish, 4 spots and 1 LM. No size to the spots but near the end of the day the LM bit and it was a very nice fish (for Belews anyway). It was 3 lbs or more and I had it up to the boat 4-5 times. It was basically done then shook its head one more time and got off. It was disappointing but I got all the fun out of it before the quick release. All fish on FnF.

Thanks so much again for the explanation above (you too SurfRider). I've always been confused about the leader part because I've heard of guys using bobber stops but also the 3 way swivel you mention. I didn't understand if the leader was "reeled up" to the bobber using a bobber stop (and hence the way it sinks away from the bobber) or if you just casted it with really long piece of leader. Probably takes some getting used to to throw it accurately.
 

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Thanks so much again for the explanation above (you too SurfRider). I've always been confused about the leader part because I've heard of guys using bobber stops but also the 3 way swivel you mention. I didn't understand if the leader was "reeled up" to the bobber using a bobber stop (and hence the way it sinks away from the bobber) or if you just casted it with really long piece of leader. Probably takes some getting used to to throw it accurately.
The slip bobber will work and many use it. It just has the disadvantage of not catching lift bites and harder to put action in the jig without moving it vertically.

The fixed bobber is a hard rig to throw with accuracy, especially around overhanging trees. The good part is you don't need to be ultra precise because the fish can see the jig in the clear water and they will move to eat it as it looks like such an easy meal.
 

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Red X Angler
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Probably takes some getting used to to throw it accurately.
It does take some getting used to. I had the advantage of watching Andrew do it when I was learning, so the curve was fairly short. The best way I can explain it is close to how you get a fly off the water when casting with a fly rod. You sort of lift the line to start which pulls the leader up closer to the surface, then whip it hard back behind you, pause long enough to let the line go straight and the jig and part of the leader touch the water just before you whip it back out ahead of you. The long whippy rod is of great importance for this. And he's right, it does make it fun to fight the fish in. Once I got used to it, I could manage a leader up to about 12 feet; after that I just couldn't get it to cast, but usually if the water is clear you don't need more than that, and sometimes less.
 

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I keep saying I'm going to try the Float n Fly for speckled trout in the winter here, when they suspend in the holes and bends in the river mouth creeks, but I haven't followed through on it yet.
I'm late to the discussion, but I can tell you first hand, yes it works. I normally use a small finesse plastic (Z-man, Zoom, Finn-ess Fish etc.) under a slip bobber. Bites are usually subtle, but not too hard to detect. Not like cold weather bass or panfish where those lift bites are common. I'd give it a try.
 

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I went out to Belews Creek again this Saturday. It ended up being probably my best day yet this winter on FnF. I took my wife along and she was apparently the good luck charm. I ended up with 7 fish, all spotted bass. I had boated 5 including a very nice 2.5 lb spot (nearly 18") which was the biggest spot I had caught in some time. The sun disappeared and it clouded up. She was getting cold so I took her back to the ramp. As soon as she left the luck went away. On the way back up the lake I hit something and ripped the transducer off my fish finder at the stern. Then the fish stopped biting. Finally caught one off a main lake point and got a couple more bites. Near dark I caught one more before I had to leave. With the cloud I was expecting the evening bite to be better then the afternoon bite but it wasn't. All in all a very nice day on the water for February.

Water was 52-56 depending on where you were. Visibility was 6-7 FOW. I caught all the fish on a 7' leader. My winter bite is winding down because soon I'll be hunting a pre-spawn giant but it has been a good winter for fishing the FnF.
 

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Red X Angler
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Nice, Andrew! Glad she got to be there for some of the catching. Sorry about your transducer. It finally has gotten cold enough that the trout might actually be stacked in the creeks but we keep getting these 70 degree snaps that scatter the fish again in the marsh grass. I have caught a few this winter on the usual suspect baits but I have not put the float-n-fly to work in the rivers yet. But now the boat is in the shop getting its 100 hour service to gear up for going offshore again, as triggerfish will open back up in March. ;) Too many distractions!
 

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My last FnF post of the winter. Had a free weekend and decided to fish both days. I really wanted to learn more about Philpott because I had seen legit 4 lb smallmouth on a local bass club Facebook page. I arrived around noon on Saturday to an empty parking lot (not a good sign). Bluebird skies, a high temp of 38, and gusts over 20 mph were certainly not ideal but I was confident I could at least get a bite. Well I didn't. I just don't know about this lake, in three trips I have caught a total of 2 fish. Two trips in a row I haven't even gotten a bite. My plan was that if I had any success I would fish there again Sunday but I went to Belews. I really want to learn about this lake but with nothing to go on it is hard. Maybe next winter.
Water was 43-44 degrees with 8+ foot visibility.

Sunday was Belews cause I wanted to catch something. Had a pretty typical trip on FnF. Caught 5 bass (all spots) and, for the first time ever on FnF, a keeper crappie. I hooked 3 more that got off and had several good bites that I didn't hook at all. I suppose they were short striking it and I was hooking them in the lip instead of the mouth. With the water temps out there the fish are probably looking at pre-spawn anyway. Still a much nicer day for weather and fishing. Biggest fish was 2 lbs.
Water was 53-57 with 6+ foot visibility.

If this week is enough to warm the water above 46, it clears some, and with a full moon this week it could be on big time for pre-spawn. The fish have been held back for a couple weeks from when I caught in past years coming up to feed so there could be a big wave soon. I will be out there hunting a PB first chance I get.
 

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My last FnF post of the winter. Had a free weekend and decided to fish both days. I really wanted to learn more about Philpott because I had seen legit 4 lb smallmouth on a local bass club Facebook page. I arrived around noon on Saturday to an empty parking lot (not a good sign). Bluebird skies, a high temp of 38, and gusts over 20 mph were certainly not ideal but I was confident I could at least get a bite. Well I didn't. I just don't know about this lake, in three trips I have caught a total of 2 fish. Two trips in a row I haven't even gotten a bite. My plan was that if I had any success I would fish there again Sunday but I went to Belews. I really want to learn about this lake but with nothing to go on it is hard. Maybe next winter.
Water was 43-44 degrees with 8+ foot visibility.

Sunday was Belews cause I wanted to catch something. Had a pretty typical trip on FnF. Caught 5 bass (all spots) and, for the first time ever on FnF, a keeper crappie. I hooked 3 more that got off and had several good bites that I didn't hook at all. I suppose they were short striking it and I was hooking them in the lip instead of the mouth. With the water temps out there the fish are probably looking at pre-spawn anyway. Still a much nicer day for weather and fishing. Biggest fish was 2 lbs.
Water was 53-57 with 6+ foot visibility.

If this week is enough to warm the water above 46, it clears some, and with a full moon this week it could be on big time for pre-spawn. The fish have been held back for a couple weeks from when I caught in past years coming up to feed so there could be a big wave soon. I will be out there hunting a PB first chance I get.
Same results for me on philpott with the fnf and everything else. I would like to go up there during the spawn and try to catch some fish when they’re all shallow to see what kind of population it has. I don’t think it has a big fish or bait population at all. I know it has some big smallmouth in it but idk how many. I bet the time to fish it is at night.
 
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