Regional Reports-East

New River

Want to find out if there really are flatheads as big as railroad ties in the New River? It ain't easy, but it's an adventure. For anglers willing to float in with a commercial white-water outfitter, or to walk the railroad tracks and camp on some remote stretch of shoreline, the chances of hooking a 30- to 50-pound flathead are surprisingly good. This may be a demanding fishing venture, but take this as incentive: West Virginia's flathead catfish record has stood since 1956. That year a lucky, and strong-armed, angler named L.L. McClung took a 52-inch, 70-pound giant out of the Little Kanawha River. Perhaps the New River holds a fish that can challenge this record. From Thurmond to Fayette Station, the New plunges through a roadless, 900-foot-deep canyon in a series of thundering rapids and deep, swirling pools. The best flathead fishing occurs at night. Some of the river's guides offer overnight camping-and-fishing packages that combine daytime smallmouth fishing with nocturnal excursions for catfish. But you can also design your own adventure over several days if you don't mind doing some hiking or kayaking. Hauling big cats out of the New's swift currents requires pool-cue rods and softball-sized bait-casting reels, strung with line that could anchor a boat. Two-pound smallmouths are often the flathead meal of choice, live-lined deep, so save a few of the smaller bass you catch during the day. Contact: West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (304-558-2771; www.dnr.state.wv.us); Fayette County Chamber of Commerce (304-465-5617; www.fayettecounty.com).