Roanoke River – City – Wasena

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Stream Category: Category A – stocked 8 times between October 1 and May 31.

Type of Stream: Freestone River

Stocked Trout: Rainbow and Brook

Other Species of Note: Smallmouth Bass, Largemouth Bass, Sunfish, and Carp

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Gear:

  • Dry Flies: Adams, Midges, Caddis, and Terrestrials
  • Nymphs: Pheasant Tails, Hares Ear, Prince Nymphs, Zebras, Caddis Pupae, Grub Worms, Squirmy Wormies, and Mop Flies
  • Streamers: Kreelax, Leeches, Sculpins, Wooley Buggers, and Minnow Patterns
  • Rod: 9-10’ 5-7 weight (depending on what species of fish you are targeting) Also Switch and Spey rods can be used on most sections.
  • Waders: Chest or Convertible Chest ( During late Spring, Summer, and early fall you can wet wade in shorts and river sandals. During late Fall, Winter, and early Spring waders will be needed)
  • Net: Big fish can be caught throughout the Roanoke River, it is highly recommended to bring a trout catch and release net wherever you are on the Roanoke. Additionally when fishing for Carp a larger fish net is recommended.
  • Additional Gear: Wading Staff

Casting: Overhead, Side, Tuck, and Roll.

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About:

***I apologize for not sugar coating this post, normally I try to keep my opinions to myself when it comes to Stream Posts for this site, however staying true to my intent of this site this must be said.***

Located in the City of Roanoke from Wasena Park to River’s Edge Sports Complex, adjacent to the Roanoke River Greenway, this section is a prime example of how detrimental over fishing and lazy “spot” stockings can be to a river.

This section is one of the easiest to access, a favorite of kayakers, tubers, bicyclists, walkers, and runners. Offering fast runs, deep pools, and several areas that are easily access by handicapped people. It’s a beautiful spot, it offers not only the outside lifestyle that most Roanokers love, also it offers several restaurants and bars that are within yards of the river. Sadly, when it comes to fishing, this area is a horrible and should be avoided.

So why is this section so bad that I would recommend avoiding it? Honestly it has nothing to do with kayakers and tubers, during the times that this section is stocked (October 1 – June 15) there are not that many kayakers and tubers out on the river to make a difference. The big problem is the lazy spot stockings that the state of Virginia executes each time this section is stocked. I understand that it might take extra work for the DGIF personnel and volunteers to stock different areas of this section instead of their yearly favorites (every low water bridge), nonetheless these yearly favorites give the stocked trout little chance to migrate through the river in order for this section to be a challenge to fishermen. Stocking in this section truly needs to be “spot” sporadic so that this section can be enjoyable for all fishermen.

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The final problem, the one that plagues every easily accessed stocked trout stream here in Virginia is over fishing. I’ve seen some of old photos (not of the Roanoke) where fishermen are elbow to elbow casting into the same hole after a stocking, every sized fish being taken, well this section of the Roanoke is exactly like those photos. People are literally elbow to elbow on the banks and off of the low water bridges fishing exactly where the state has stocked. The day after stocking, sadly, the only thing to be found in the river are hooks and fishing line that have been left to rot, zero fish- the occasional fish can be found on the bank, dead, from swallowing some fishermen’s power baited bass hook. I apologize to those spin fishermen that follow this site, however spin fishermen need to rethink how they fish and understand the harm that they cause to a river/stream by using tackle to big for trout (and probably bass).

So what are some solutions that could help this section of the Roanoke River? Honestly if the state of Virginia made this section delayed harvest or catch and release, this section of the Roanoke River would be one of the top areas to fish in the state. Because of it’s beauty, ease, and local attractions fishermen throughout the state would seek out this section to fish, knowing (because of the restrictions) that big fish will be found in this section throughout the State’s Trout season. Until the state addresses these issues, I can not in good conscious say that this section is worth the time and effort to fish.

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Directions:

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Game Plan for Summer 2017

Oh the changing of the seasons, I cannot explain to you how eager I have been for summer weather. To hell with Fall, Winter, and Spring! This past trout season has been one of my worst; from very crowded streams, to piss poor stocking by the VDGIF, and snapping the tip off of my Recon rod, I am very ready for warm water fishing. I haven’t given up on trout altogether, but there is some remarkable feeling about being out on a kayak in the middle of the river, fishing for various fish, that I have been missing since last Fall.

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Luckily here in the Roanoke Valley the capability for kayak fishing and warm water fishing is outstanding. Not only do we have the Roanoke River right in our back yard, but we also have the New River, the James River, Smith Mountain Lake, Claytor Lake, Carvins Cove, and several large streams within a reasonable driving range, that hold a large variety of warm water fish. I am stoked to say the least.

This summer I am dedicating my time to knocking out as many warm water “Trophy-sized fish” as I can in order to get my Master Angler award from the state of Virginia. If you have never checked out this program that the state of Virginia is offering you should, it seems like an exceptional way to get Virginian’s fishermen, which are in a set selection of fish, to fish for other species around the state. The only rule that I am imposing on myself for this goal is that I can only achieve this award by using fly fishing gear only. Sorry spin fishermen I will never go back to the dark side of fishing again.

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After studying the criteria for Virginia’s “Trophy-sized fish” I came to the realization that several levels of the Master Angler Award can definitely be achieved by a fisherman here in the Roanoke Valley with very little travel involved. The only exception will probably be trout; more than likely a person will have to travel to a spring creek or a mountain river (Jackson River or North River) in order to find a large trout during the summer months.

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So here are my ideas (feel free to correct me if I am wrong or if I am missing anything):

Smallmouth Bass: New River or the James River

Largemouth Bass: Local Ponds, Claytor Lake, and Smith Mountain Lake

Striped Bass: Smith Mountain Lake and Roanoke River

Hybrid Striped Bass: Claytor Lake

Rock Bass: New River, the James River, Smith Mountain Lake, and Claytor Lake

White Bass: Smith Mountain Lake

Chain Pickerel: Pandapas Pond and maybe Carvins Cove (I will need to research Carvins Cove more)

Crappie: the New River and the James River

Musky: New River or the James River (this I will have to watch because of water temps, I don’t want to kill them)

Sunfish: Any stream or river around Roanoke

Carp: Any river or lake around Roanoke

Walleye: the New River, the James River, the Staunton River (the Staunton River is 1 hour 40 mins away from Roanoke)

Brook Trout: holed up, big brookies stocked in the Roanoke River. Also any state fee fishing area (i.e. Crooked Creek or Wilson Creek)

Brown Trout: Mossy Creek and the North River in Harrisburg. Any river that might have hold overs in it, and also any state fee fishing area (i.e. Crooked Creek or Wilson Creek)

Rainbow Trout: Mossy Creek and any stream/river that might have hold overs. Also any state fee fishing area (i.e. Crooked Creek or Wilson Creek).

Hopefully by the end of the Summer I will have achieved at least one level, maybe even two. Even if I do not achieve any levels this summer, I am going to fun, challenge myself, and better my current knowledge as a fisherman here in Virginia and I implore each of my readers to do the same this summer. If you do not currently live here in Virginia check your current state’s programs, hopefully they will have something similar to this program.

 

Master Angler Program

Trophy Fish Size Chart

 

 

In short, Luck’s always to blame.

Six months ago I almost ruined my entire ’16-’17 trout season. On a late summer day last year I asked one of my buddies to go fishing with me on one of our off days, both of us were looking for a nice end of the summer trophy fish. He mentioned Mossy Creek and the New River, while I suggested the Jackson River and the James River. All four of these places have citation fish caught each year out of them, however the problem that we were both stumbling over was that the odds of us both catching a trophy sized fish, on the same day, out of the same body of water was just damn near impossible unless we travelled outside the state of Virginia.

Over the past four years I attribute catching a lot of my citation trout on being vigilant to watching the stocking reports and putting myself in the right situation to catch a citation, but realistically I attribute my citations to being lucky. Hell I know my citation smallmouth bass was without doubt luck because it was the only fish I caught that whole day. So trying to figure out a place that both my buddy and I could be in the right situation, to have the right conditions, and to have luck smile on us at the same time was definitely a quandary. Luckily I had heard of one place that would provide us with such a chance; Cedar Springs Fish Farm.

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Smallmouth Bass Citation New River

I had heard about Cedar Springs from several different people I work with and from several fishing guides that I knew in the area. There general consensus was that Cedar Springs was just an amazing place to fish. I know a lot of people frown upon fishing farm fisheries, but sometimes as a fisherman you just need to have that one day to be able to catch a monster fish and farm fisheries provide you with that chance. Also some days you just want it to be more about the trip, to enjoy the surroundings and just relax without being crowded.  Simply put Cedar Springs Fish Farm provides all of this.

 

Cedar Springs Fish Farm, which is nestled just outside of the small town of Rural Retreat, VA (near Wytheville) is a wonderfully large farm, running through the farm’s interior is Cripple Creek; a medium sized freestone creek with large, deep holes. Although the State of Virginia feels that the minimum stocking size of a trout should be 7 inches, Cedar Springs doesn’t feel this is adequate, they do not stock anything below 15 inches.  Add in the fact that Cedar Springs only allows 6 anglers on the farm per day, you end up having all of the right conditions to potentially have a perfect day.

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Potts Creek Rainbow – Damn near citation

What I found to be truly special about Cedar Springs is that you still have to fish it like any other creek. It is not easy fishing, you have to work for every fish you put to net; from targeting a big fish, to casting your line so it doesn’t spook the fish, to proper drift management.  You will have to use all of your skills to catch a fish at Cedar Springs.

Not only did my buddy and I catch several trophy trout that day, but also my buddy’s dad, who was a late addition to our party, also caught several trophy rainbow trout.  In the end it was one of those days that all three of us will remember and be able to look back and smile on.  However like I said at the very beginning, that day almost ruined my trout season for this year. The very last rainbow trout I caught that day was a monster; just looking at this fish a person will realize it truly was a fish of a life time. Unfortunately no one in our party had enough sense to bring a measuring tape on our trip. I had to wait until I got back to Roanoke to measure it. Honestly that drive back from Cedar Springs to Roanoke was euphoria mixed with gut wrenching dread. I could not get over the fact of how huge that rainbow was, I dreaded learning how big it actually was, knowing that catching a fish like it again in any of Virginia’s streams was going to be hard accomplishment. My personal best for a rainbow trout is 24 inches, I caught that fish during the ’15-’16 season out of Big Stony Creek in Giles County. Fortunately after I measured the Cedar Springs monster rainbow I was completely euphoric, it only measured in at the minimum citation limit of 22 inches – my trout season was safe, and with a little luck, there was still hope of finding a fish in Virginia’s streams that could equal it without it coming from a fishery.

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Cedar Springs, Cripple Creek Monster 22″ Citation

 

Side Note:

I just wanted to relay something that I only became aware of over the past week. I knew that the state of Virginia awards certificates for each citation an angler catches, what I did not know is that the State of Virginia also keeps up with every citation and upon catching 5 citations of different species of fish (ex. rainbow trout, brown trout, brook trout, smallmouth bass, and musky) the state will award that angler a Master Angler award (which is a certificate and badge). There are four different levels, each with its separate requirements. Personally I think this is a very cool thing that the state of Virginia does, because it forces anglers to get out after other species that normally they wouldn’t even consider fishing for.

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Roanoke River Brook Trout – Damn near citation
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Big Stony Creek, Giles County Rainbow Trout Citation 24″

Geographical Oddity

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Have you ever clicked with something to the very being of your soul, something that you do not have share with anyone else? For some people it is hunting, some it is collecting comic books, others it is building or gardening. For me it has, and will continue to be, fly fishing. Without it, nothing in the world truly makes sense to me; it is my life.

When I first moved to the Roanoke Valley I was a bit concerned. If you looked at a map of the different places I fished when I was living in Blacksburg, you would notice a trend; they are all within a 30 minute drive of Blacksburg. However now that I live in Roanoke every one of those favorite streams are easily over an hour away.

Once I moved I decided that I would need new streams to fish close by, not knowing of any I began my research on Virginia’s Department of Game and Inland Fisheries stocking map. I had already been to Roaring Run (Roanoke’s alternative to Little Stoney Creek) several times when I lived in Blacksburg, I was certain there had to be good trout streams in the Roanoke Valley area. After my researching I noticed that Roanoke was a “geographical oddity,” exactly one hour away from even one stocked streamed, with the exception of Glade, Tinker, and of course the Roanoke River. Those three in particular I wanted nothing to do with. Now I am not trying to sound like a fishing snob, but the last thing I wanted to do was fish in an urban setting. Anytime I even considered urban fishing the hobbit in my head would start screaming, “I need mountains, Gandalf, Mountains….” Unfortunately without packing up my Jeep and being prepared for an hour drive, accessible mountain trout fishing like I loved in Blacksburg was not feasible.

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Realistically though, the Roanoke Valley (Roanoke/Salem) is one of the most enjoyable areas I have lived in; it has this vibe that the local government is trying its best to contend with places like Asheville and Richmond for the best land back area. The Roanoke Valley Government, along with several local businesses, is also making the Roanoke Valley into an Outdoors person’s mecca. I mean really, it is hard to beat the hiking, biking, and kayaking that you can do within a 30 minute radius of Roanoke. However hiking, biking, and kayaking just do not cut it for me; I need to feel more involved with nature, a feeling that only comes to me when I am able to fly fish deep in the mountains. Needless to say, during the summer months I was seriously bummed out living in Roanoke and took a lot of day trips out of town.

In my defense, the people that I had spoken with about fly fishing on the Roanoke River had not impressed me with the Roanoke’s ability to be a good trout stream. Add in the fact I felt that the Roanoke, Tinker, and Glade are a bit trashy and in an urban area, yeah there was no way I wanted to fish in the Roanoke Valley. Yes you can fish for carp, bass, and stripers (below Explorer Park going to Smith Mountain lake), but none of these fish was what I wanted to fish for during summer, I wanted trout. Again in my defense, I decided to fish for carp, bass, or pretty much anything else I would just go to the New River or to the James, essentially giving me an excuse to get out onto big water. To my surprise, after a late summer evening at the Salem Delayed Harvest Section, I found a love for the Roanoke River.

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Since this past summer was such a dry summer for the Roanoke Valley, the Roanoke River was extremely low. I was under the assumption that the Roanoke River would not have many hold over trout, much less wild trout because of the water levels and water temperatures. Man, I was wrong! My bad! There are a lot of nice places in Roanoke that the river will hold stocked rainbow and brook trout year round, and even though the State of Virginia no longer stocks brown trout, they can still be found year round throughout the river as well.

By no means am I an expert of the Roanoke River, and it will take me at least another year before I am confident to do a full “Stream” post for it. However I am very pleased with the trout fishing so far. I now love the idea of being able to drive to place before work, not far from the road, being able to fish it, and then go to work that afternoon. Although this doesn’t completely replace my urge to fish in the mountains, it does help the matter.

Other than the Roanoke has heavy foot pressure (the Greenway Park runs right next to it) and it being quite dirty in spots (the City is fighting this through local cleanups), the only issue I have is the fishing pressure in the Put and Take sections, which seems to fish out quickly. Currently there two Delayed Harvest sections and two Put and Take sections in Roanoke/Salem, this is not counting Tinker and Glade which is both Put and Take. I feel like these Put and Take sections are hurting Roanoke Valley’s broad plan to make the area more of an outdoors person destination when people go there to fish and there are no fish.

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Not that I do not want every fisherman to get their monies worth out of their trout fishing stamp, I think the benefits of Roanoke becoming a very strong fishery to compete with those in Western North Carolina and Tennessee out weights losing the Put and Take sections. Instead I would suggest two sections of Delayed Harvest and two sections of Catch and Release only, leave Tinker and Glade as Put and Take though. Roanoke Valley fishermen would still be able to take fish from the area within regulation, but it would also help the area grow its wild trout population and inspire tourism. This also prompts me to say, I would love to see Southwestern Virginia come up with its own trout trail like Western North Carolina has, with the Roanoke Valley serving as its heart.

I will always remember the first time I went to the South Holston River in Bristol, Tn, it was awe inspiring to see wild brown and rainbow trout by the hundreds hitting little sulfurs all around me, all I could think was that if I lived at the South Holston I would never go anywhere else. Now imagine that being the Roanoke River. Although I think that the Roanoke River cannot ever be as great as the South Holston, because of South Holston’s dam and rich/clean water supply, I do think the Roanoke has a lot of promise and has the potential of becoming a top notch fishery in Virginia.

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Virginia, especially Southwestern Virginia (I am a tad biased), is one of the most beautiful states on the east coast. We have everything from skiing, to breweries, plus beauty of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Literally everyone should want to come to Virginia to vacation. Although our larger species fish (smallmouth, bass, and musky) do bring in fishermen, our lack of trout streams just make it easier for trout fishermen to bypass Virginia altogether. So how do we go about changing this attitude? Well I think transforming the Roanoke River and other streams into excellent fisheries is a good initial start. I also think that the State of Virginia should work with current landowners to open up streams that have been closed to the public before, also providing help through the use of fingerlings to beef up wild trout populations. Finally I think Virginia needs to have at least one Delayed Harvest Stream, one Catch and Release Stream, and one Put and Take Stream in each county that trout stockings occur. It is the only way to be fair to every fisherman, in state and out of state, and to make sure that the monies spent on Virginia Trout fishing are being well used and preserving fishing in the State of Virginia.

Potts Creek

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Stream Category: A

Wild Fish: Rainbow, Brown, Smallmouth Bass, and Bluegill

Gear:

  • Dry Flies: Pheasant Tail, Sulfur, Adams, Royal Wullf, Green Drake, Terrestrials, and Attractors
  • Nymphs : Pheasant Tail, Hares Ear, Soft Hackles, Prince, Zebra, Green Drake, and Tellico
  • Streamers: Wooly Buggers, Muddler Minnow,  and Leech Patterns
  • Rod: 7’-9’
  • Waders: Yes
  • Net: Yes
  • Polarized fishing sunglasses

Casting: Roll, Side, and Back

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About:

If you are looking for a remote spot to fish, miles away from anything or anyone, then Potts Creek is the place to go. Located in Craig County, Virginia near the town of Paint Bank, Potts Creek is a bit bipolar when you talk about its characteristic’s. Within the four mile stretch of stocked water this stream goes from a meandering field stream to a rocky freestone mountain stream. Needless to say when you fish Potts Creek you need to have a plan of attack.

The easiest way to approach fishing at Potts Creek is to break the stream down into two sections; the Butch Fields Section and the Steel Bridge Section. By doing this you can eliminate certain elements, such as parking and posted land, that could hinder your day fishing at Potts Creek and it will also help you when it comes to planning what to bring.

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The Butch Fields Section is a fairly wide area that can be best describe as a field stream. The water here is slow moving and often not that deep hitting just below the knees. In fact in this area the deepest water you will find will be located along the banks of the stream where trees have fallen or where the stream has washed away the roots of a tree. When fishing this area bring a small fly rod, dry flies, non-weighted nymphs, and a few streamers. Do not use a large suspension device in this area, instead use a large terrestrial or attractor fly combined with a smaller nymph dropper or a yarn strike indicator and a small nymph. Pay close attention to any surface activity and make sure you hit the deep holes with some streamer action.

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The Steel Bridge Section of Potts Creek is a typical mountain stream area and it is my favorite section of Potts Creeks. From the day use parking area you will find a small trail that leads to the creek, once at the creek you will find a hole that is easily 5’-6’ deep and 20 yards long. The water here moves very slowly but it holds monstrous trout, honestly you could easily spend your entire day just fishing this one hole and have great day fishing. However if you continue fishing down the stream from this hole you will find areas that are just as prime as this one. Just below this hole is an area that is nothing but a slate rock riffle/rapids area that holds trout in almost every deep rapid. And on below here the stream settles back down into a freestone mountain stream with flat deep areas. If you don’t feel like walking down the slate riffles you can always fish the area near the parking lot and then walk thru the campground to get to the freestone area. For all of these sections I use my 9’ rod, dry flies, and nymphs. If the fish are not hitting top water dry flies I stick to a multi (weighted) nymph rig and a suspension device. The size of the suspension device will be dictated by how deep you need to get your nymph, but really you could use a small thingamabobber throughout the whole section and be fine.

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Additional Notes and Precautions:

This area is located in the Jefferson National Forrest and because of its seclusion one must keep in mind back country safety issues. There is little to no cell phone service here, I would highly recommend telling a friend or a relative that you are going here and a general time you will be back. Likewise make sure you bring plenty of water, some non-perishable food, and a med kit in case of an emergency (the closest hospital is over an hour away). Lastly, I suggest bringing bear mace because you will be in area that bears are known to be in.

Additionally here are a few places of interest you can stop by in Paint Bank if you have enough time; the General Store, the State Fish Hatchery, and the Buffalo Farms on VA-600.

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Directions:

From Main Street Blacksburg:

Turn on to E Roanoke St; make slight left onto Owens St, Turn Right on Harding Ave/VA-785. Continue to follow VA-785N for 13.1 miles. Turn left onto State Rte. 697 then turn right onto VA-624. Follow VA-624 for 4.5 miles. Turn left onto VA-311 N and follow it for 28.3 miles until you get to Paint Bank. Potts Creek will be the stream you pass over. Turn right on to VA-18 N and you can start fishing from here.

From I81 in Roanoke:

Take exit 141 for VA-419 toward VA-311 N/Salem/New Castle. Turn left on to VA-419 N, then turn right onto VA-311 N. Follow VA-311 N for 35.6 miles until you get to Paint Bank. Potts Creek will be the stream you pass over. Turn right on to VA-18 N and you can start fishing from here.