I love local fishing shops. Unfortunately, they are becoming more and more rare. So to find a shop that still offers great customer service and intimate local knowledge is a treasure. I have heard excellent things about Serenity Now Outfitters in Lewisburg, West Virginia. Lewisburg is located in the Southeastern part of the State right off Interstate 64 and near the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest. Their location puts them at an ideal location to stock up for fishing a number of different West Virginia and Virginia waters. Their outfitters also can provide a day to remember on their local fisheries. Craig Miller of Serenity Now Outfitters was kind enough to take some time to fill us in about what they do and how they do it so well.
I want to start with the giant smallmouth bass caught by “Papa Bear”. Can you fill us in on the fish story behind this trophy smallie?
The morning was unseasonably warm for early November, so we decided to take a chance and see if the fish were still reacting to topwater. My father just turned 80, and his days of fly fishing are all but thru due to his limited mobility, yet conventional tackle is still on the menu. We tied on a Heddon Tiny Torpedo, and chaos ensued shortly thereafter.
The big smallie slammed the plug right next to the boat, and luckily we had our Stowmaster musky net on board to land the wild hawg. The resulting catch was one of the largest smallies we have ever encountered, and as it turned out, it was Papa Bear’s largest smallmouth to date.
Serenity Now Outfitters has been around since 2003. Why did you get into the retail fishing business with your store?
The main reasoning behind delving into the retail fishing business was due to an inherent passion for the sport. There also were no available locations in the area to pick up supplies, so it seemed like a good fit.
From the photos, your retail space looks really cool, but how do you maintain a competitive niche in this day and age of big box stores and online shopping?
Maintaining a competitive niche has been increasingly more difficult over the past few years. A surge in online shopping has cut away from brick and mortar stores as a whole. Factories overproducing, and then liquidating items under wholesale, and small shops selling overstock on places like Ebay cheapens the whole sport, preventing many fly shops from maintaining.
We’ve had two more shops in West Virginia close just this year. With that being said, our superb customer service, local knowledge, and community spirit have kept us in the game. Those things, and that handsome Golden Retriever named River who graces our front window and greets all customers at the door.
Moving to your fly fishing guide service, what waters do you guide on?
We guide on many rivers and small streams throughout West Virginia and Virginia, some portions of which are private. Our float trips are conducted mostly on the New, Greenbrier, Jackson, and James River. A few times a year, we offer float trips on the South Holsten in Tennessee.
All of these river systems were integral in the settlement of the United States, with the New River being one of the oldest rivers in the world, which also happens to flow from South to North. The Greenbrier River is the longest river east of the Mississippi that is without any type of dam structures. Most importantly for the fisherman, they’re all relatively healthy bodies of water that produce some amazing fish year in and year out.
One thing that is unique is that you guide for muskie with the fly rod. For those who have only tangled with muskie with conventional gear, how do you describe the experience of fishing for muskie with a fly rod?
Well, for those who are acquainted with muskies with conventional gear, then they are aware that they are deemed the fish of 10,000 casts. How many false casts is that? Lol. Seriously, throwing the fly for the big toothies is not for the faint of heart or those with weak backs. The experience is one of the more challenging, and often aggravating in fishing, but with a very high reward.
What is a day like on the water with your guides?
A guided day on the water can range from a comfortable float from a drift boat along miles of a wild and scenic river, encountering bald eagles, river otters, and an occasional black bear while we pursue the finned ones. A day on the water with us could also consist of a walk and wading excursion along an intimate small trout stream, catching various trout species whose beauty is beyond description.
Put yourself in the place of someone visiting your area to fish. If you only had one day to fish with one of your guides, what month are you coming; what body of water are you fishing; what species are you fishing for; and what fly fishing methods are you using?
If we had to choose one particular time of year and body of water to fish is a very tough decision to make because we have so many options throughout the year. We have no closed seasons on fishing, so we’re hard at it 365. The winter and early spring months can be very productive, but I’d say June is my favorite. Floating one of our larger river systems, we can concentrate on post spawn Smallmouth Bass and Musky. These fish may not be at peak weight at this time due to the vigor of the spawn, but they are re-packing on the pounds, and often in a topwater mood. There is nothing more heart-stopping than having a 45 inch musky blow up on a surface fly you tied up the night before. It is overtly exhilarating, and will be an experience that you will never forget.
Thanks so much Craig. Take a visit to SerenityNowOutfitters.com.