Just getting around to writing this one up.
There are only a few access points in Eastern VA to get at the Rapidan / Rapp complex. On the Rapidan, you basically just have Ely's Ford and White's Ford that I am aware of. In late September, fully cured from my obsession with trout that had extended far too long into prime Smallie season, I fished upstream from Ely's.
The first mistake I made was that I assumed I had to walk up the bank to put a bit of distance between me and the parking lot. Bad call. The bank is nothing but a thick jungle of wait-a-minute vines and saplings surrounded by thick humid air which turns the ground into a slick mess. Frustrated after fighting this for 100 yards, I slipped into the river to discover that it was easy wading. At this point last summer, with the gauge at Culpeper reading 0.38, the water generally hit my knees; maybe 1.5 feet.
As I continued upstream, I confirmed that this section of the river is nice with a smooth, sandy bottom scattered with a few rocks here and there. The deep cuts seemed to hug the southern bank in particular with the best places very obvious as you worked your way up the river. I was working flies and had to fight off very aggressive bluegills all day long. I was using grasshopper patterns and streamers depending on the target; gradually increasing the size of the fly until I finally switched to size 6 or 4 poppers to eliminate the small 'gills and give the smallies a chance.
Eventually, I broke the code and started to pick up some 12 - 14 inch smallies at the rate of 1 every 30 minutes. For me that was a spectacular day. I did tie into a real nice smallie who wrapped me around a tree and flipped the hopper back at me with a jump and a snort before he dove for the deep.
I worked upstream for almost two miles. Had a great time.
Someday, I'll actually have a nice, big smallie picture to post. But, for now, I'm happy to get these guys!