We’re here two hours early. It’s cold, wet, and blanketed by the fog. This wasn’t a part of the plan. In our minds, getting here early would allow us to get some quality fishing time in before the rest of the team showed up and we had to start working.
The surface of the lake seamlessly blends into the sky—a gradient of light grey and white. I’ve heard the photos from this place don’t do it justice. I’ll argue that point until I can actually see through this fog. I guess we have to go with plan b: open a beer and wait for the team to get here.
Laurel Bed Lake, located in the Clinch Wildlife Management Area almost resembles a high-alpine lake. Sitting at 3,550 feet in elevation, the ridge lines that contain this incredible smallmouth bass fishery drop off dramatically on all sides. It’s early April and there isn’t a leaf on a tree yet. It’s cold, wet, and blanketed by the fog.
We teamed up with Wesley Hodges to come out here, catch Smallmouth Bass on fly, and document how a professional fishing guide spends his downtime. As is with any outdoor endeavor, the weather is always an issue. Mother nature has her own agenda, and rarely is it the same as your own.
These aren’t ideal conditions for our cinematographer, Bobby Regan and our photographer, Roman Rusinov. These aren’t ideal conditions for anything really.
The forecast was bleak. We’d known this for days prior to our arrival. On our way out of Asheville, before making the 2.5-hour trek to Southwest Virginia, we stopped by Southern Raft Supply to pick up some essentials for the trip—dry bags.
Bless The Deck Bag
The black Aleutian Deck Bag is strapped to the front bungees of the Crescent SUP+ as Wes is gliding across the lake to the shallows. The first full moon of April is around the corner and the water is right at 50 degrees. It’s perfect pre-spawn time for Smallies. With the adjustable clips snapped securely to the deck, this bag was home for Wes’ cellphone, wallet, towel, and fly boxes for the trip.
Pro tip: The water bottle holder is a great place to store an extra crowler of beer.
Duffels and Drones
I’m manning the oars of the drift boat, following Wes around the lake while keeping Bobby and Roman in position for the shot. To my right, a cold beer and my shot list for the trip. To my left, extra fly rods and the Largo Tote. While our filmers have their own waterproof casings for their camera gear, the DJI Mavic Pro was stranded without a waterproof home—this is where the tote saved the day.
As we’re drifting across the lake, chasing fish and different camera angles, we’re constantly getting battered by the rain. As the drift boat slowly fills up with water, the drone sits soundly in the duffel, safe and dry. My feet, on the other hand, are going numb. It’s 45 degrees and they’re soaking in the cold rainwater. Crocs were a bad choice.
It rained over 2” on our trip. Our spirits were soaked, but our dry bags stayed dry.
Words by Justin Forrest