by John Kirkland
4/13/2014: I found myself with a few hours to go fishing this afternoon, so I hit the computer and started going through all the spots I’ve been thinking about visiting. After my fruitless white bass trek to the Salt River a few weeks ago, I thought I’d try to go where there had been confirmed reports of white bass running. The KDFWR site had run a story about the white bass, and mentioned the Dix River headwaters above Lake Herrington, and also mentioned a VPA (Voluntary Public Access) property in Boyle County. I set out for the 45 minute trip from my house on the south side of Lexington, hoping to catch up with the white bass run.
The VPA is located at the end of Rankin Road, which is about halfway between Danville and Lancaster off Highway 52–turn north onto Rankin, and follow it to the end. Parking is along the right of way, and there was a fairly ample amount of graveled and cleared right of way. Park, then walk through the marked gate at the end of the road. Getting from the road to the VPA, you will cross about 20 feet of somewhat rough and rocky ground. This could be troublesome for mobility-impaired visitors. After that, the area is a long, flat, open field, with a steep dirt/clay bank dropping to the water. There are a few points where someone could ramble down to the water, but not many, in this area (the “front”).
At first I was a little underwhelmed–it looked like any river bank on any impounded river. I arrived about 3:30 pm, and some folks said that the bass had run earlier in the day, but the action dropped off. A few people reported catching a few various fish.The VPA is long and narrow, though, and there is fair access to the river upstream. I began walking upstream, fishing a rooster tail, then a big white grub.
There were quite a few people there, but the area is pretty stretched out, and I never felt crowded. A nice young guy with a slight European accent started talking to me, and he showed me what he was using, and how and when things worked, generally. Nice to have somebody with local experience to consult. He was throwing a 1-inch white curly-tail grub on maybe 1/8 ounce jig head. He said the white bass attack it if they are running, but also the hybrid stripers will hit. I asked him if there was a riffle or shallow area nearby, and he said to keep walking upstream, and I’d see the riffle.
It is a bit of a walk-about a half mile or so–until the river topography changes. The bottom opens up, and if you do a little scrambling, and can accept getting your feet a little wet, the riffle and subsequent wild-ish river are accessible. Today, there was a nice flow, with a few Class I rapids. There was 12-18 inches of water, with a pretty fair current, moving over the shoals and spots where you could cross.
I managed to land a 10-11 inch largemouth just below the riffle, and kept noticing big buffalo carp running and feeding up stream at this point. The nice fellow I met earlier had caught two 20-inch buffalo, maybe 5-6 pounds each, and had them on a stringer. He said his cats love to eat them. He said all you have to do is drift a grub on a big hook down stream where they are congregated, and they will hit. I thought I’d give it a shot. I sent a 2-inch grub on a half ounce head down the center of the rapid water, and sure enough, a fish hit. He fought for a few seconds, the got away. I did it again, and this time, I really hooked him. A BIG one, 15-20 pounds, at least. I fought him for at least 10 minutes, but he had managed to wrap a boulder or log. I’d give him slack, the line would head upstream, I’d reel, and he would surface briefly (25-30 inches, maybe 12-15 inch diameter body). After a while, it was obvious that I wouldn’t be landing him. Too much current, too many places to hang up, and I was throwing 12-lb braided test on a light spinning rod. I wasn’t equipped to land a big fish. I broke off the line, and headed home.
Dix River VPA is a great resource, and offers a lot of potential. Access to a river like the Dix is somewhat hard to come by. The setting is beautiful–palisade walls and rural scenery.
UPDATE 6/22/14: The field that stretches along the river/lake was unmowed and heavily covered in vegetation. The path disappears after the first fifty yards or so, making it difficult to reach the riffle upstream. If you are headed there in the summer, wear pants and boots, and watch for snakes…
Let us know what you know about Dix River VPA in the comments–we appreciate it!