The Calling

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Ever since I was a little boy I felt this need for something, it was not something physical or mental (i.e. some new toy, gadget, piece of clothing, girlfriend, or even a since of belonging). This need has carried on throughout my life, trying to piece out exactly what it is has been a rough go. Growing up on a dairy farm in a small Southwestern Virginia town, where your nearest neighbor is three miles down the road, and on the other side of the hill, was a bit difficult. Because of this I really didn’t have many friends until I hit school age, even then it was still hard being socially adept. I instead loved those old fishermen that fished my families farm pond, they were my best friends. One thing of note: I was always horrible at sports and I never had that father that was a hunter – we were dedicated farmers. Literally ever day of my early life was spent in this fashion; wake up at 4 am to milk, 6:30 am go home and take a shower, eat breakfast, then go to school. Once school was over I would come home and help Dad finish milking, after that we would go home for dinner. Depending on what season it was dictated what we did after. During the summer time a lot of time after dinner was spent in the hay fields, fall was spent cutting wood or silage time, winter was spent bringing in wood and watching tv, spring was planting time and repairing things that were damaged. 

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Now the one reprieve I got was the occasion to fish at our families bass pond, these were the times that I always looked forward to. Whether with my dads friends or not, I spent a lot of free time there, until I could read the water, knowing every inch of it. This was until I realized I was a becoming a man and found girls. Now I said before my father was not a hunter, but what I also failed to mention was he was not a trout fisherman, he only liked to fish for bass and crappie. My dad’s passion was working on cars and trucks, fixing them up, and selling them. Needless to say I do not have that passion. So for the longest time spin fishing for bass was my passion, but it still seemed like I had a need for something regardless.

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One summer in college I was working for a company that sprayed the undergrowth under power lines and it was there in Boone, NC I found what I had been needing in my life. Ok so a better way of saying of what I was needing is more akin to what we Catholic’s call a calling. My calling was fly fishing. In Boone, NC I witnessed for the first time someone fly fishing on a small creek near where we were working. Between the mountains, standing in a small creek, I saw a man casting the traditional dry fly casts and I became enamored by the simplicity and zen like qualities of what he was doing. It was like watching a craftsman at his trade, or someone doing tai chi, or a yogi… it was a kind of magic. My heart and soul yearned for this one thing, it felt like I just found the love of my life, my partner that would never leave me. 

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Over the next few months, after I purchased my first fly rod and reel, my love of affair with fly fishing blossomed, but just like any relationship it was odd and clunky. At first it was like that mysterious sensation that you have when you are dating someone new; you can not wait to see her, to breath her, to feel her. Then when it is time to go out on your date you find that you are as nervous as a new born pup, you fumble, you stumble, and sometimes you fall. I fell a lot.

Throughout college I continued at fly fishing, often secretly because it was my alone time. Then after graduation the railroad came. Needless to say that a lot of changes came about. Being on 24 hour call really hurt my fishing time, not to mention adjusting to having people around all of the time to having no one around was a bit daunting. I had became a social person, but now it felt like I was having to relearn that trait again or else become a recluse. I still kept at fly fishing when I could, but those times were cut to almost non-existence. 

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Finally after I got a regular shift job with the railroad I decided to move closer to home, so I moved to Blacksburg, VA. It is such a fun town, one that I relearned how to be social in and I was able to hone in my skills as a fly fisherman, it reminded a lot of Boone, NC were my calling was recognized. It was also during this time that I decided that I wanted to learn how to tie flies. After watching several youtube videos, and going to Tangent Outfitters fly tying 101 class the other part of my calling was fulfilled. 

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My mind, body, and soul seemed to just fit together perfectly together, it was like my third eye had been opened, it felt like I was finally in my true skin. Even when stress would enter my life fly fishing and fly tying were my armor from that stress. Ok to be fair, it wasn’t just fly fishing and fly tying, it was the exploring part of fly fishing that also set my heart afire. Exploring the mountains, and valleys of Virginia for new water was in itself enticing. I have probably seen more of the off beaten paths in Virginia then most will ever see and that makes my soul smile. 

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Now that I find myself in another state I long for those mountains and rivers of Virginia, they haunt me daily. Luckily the railroad didn’t move us to far from home. I can still come home on weekends to fish for my beloved brookies, rainbows, browns, smallies, and muskies.

Still though, there seems to be a golden shore to be seen out of the Peach state. Georgia has such promise, especially in regards to the Chattahoochee and for its streams in the northern part of the state. It just makes me once again hit the open roads on my days off, searching for those  off beaten paths. It also gives my calling more of a calling then ever, with this website and with the help of the local Trout Unlimited here, maybe I can help this region grow to its fullest.

South Mayo River (NF)

Stream Category: C

Wild Trout: None

Stocked Trout: Brown and Rainbow

Other Species of Note:

Gear:

Dry Flies: Adams, Terrestials

Nymphs: Hares ear, pheasant tail, prince, stone, perdigon, squirmy wormy, and mop

Streamers: tiny, tiny minnow and wooly buggers

Waders: yes

Net: yes

Wading Stick: no

Casting: Tuck

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About:

The South Mayo River (NF) might be one of the crappiest streams in the state of Virginia, with so much other water to stock I have no clue why the state of Virginia would stock such a stream. The water can be cold at times, and it does come from from fresh mountain water, however the creek is very, very tiny… it is not a river yet. 

Personally I love fishing all water, and yes some creeks can be very tiny and still have amazing fish living in them. However this portion of the South Mayo River is not one of them and it should be abandoned for more ripe streams in Patrick County near the Blue Ridge Parkway.

If you do not heed my warning and decide to fish this area, be prepared to be disappointed because the fish here get fished out quickly, and be prepared to tuck cast only. 

Additional comments: 

There are very few pull offs, so once you are at one of these stay there. Also lock up your vehicle, though I love Patrick County it is still not a safe place to leave cars unlocked. 

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Rock Castle Creek

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Stream Category: B 

Wild Trout: Lower Sections are considered to be a Wild Trout Stream (Rainbow and Brown)

Stocked Trout: Brook, Brown, and Rainbow

Other Species of Note:

Gear:

Dry Flies: Adams, Caddis, Royal Wulff, Terrestrials 

Nymphs: Caddis Puppa, Pheasant Tail, Prince, Hares, Stone, Squirmy Wormy, Mop, and Perdigon 

Streamers: Small Minnow 

Waders: Yes

Net: Yes

Wading Stick: No

Casting: Tuck, Overhead, and Roll

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About:

Rock Castle Creek, which is located right off of the Blue Ridge Parkway, is a gym of a stream. It is one of the few streams that a person can access easily off of the parkway. The beginning of this stream reminds an angler that they are fishing in brook trout waters, that the streams are very rocky, with deep pools, and fish here are relatively small. However the stream opens up when it gets going and becomes a stream that can rather large fish. 

This mountain stream, immersed in laurel thickets and deep in a very natural forested area, is extremely cold: even during the summer months.  I would highly suggest wearing waders at all times, unless you are one of the few that love wading in freezing water. 

Honestly I don’t know what else to say about this stream, besides fish it almost immediately when it does get stocked. No wait, I guess I can say one other thing, this stream reminds me of what all of the state of Virginia mountain streams should be like. By this I mean it is very cold, shaded, and has a lot of rocks in it, it really is the perfect stream for wild trout to be reintroduced into and become one of a few special regulation wild streams that can be accessed off of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Sadly though it is a Category B stream that gets fished out rather quickly. However if you are willing to hike off the beaten path the stream does have wild trout in it, but this is towards the end of the stream.

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Additional comments: 

There are very few pull off points to the stream, and some of these still leave your vehicle very close to a road that has a ton of traffic on it. Be mindful also of trespassing and take precautions when it comes to little to no cell phone service. Also, and I can not stress this enough when it comes to Blue Ridge Parkway streams, be mindful that you are in bear country, be safe.

Directions:

South Fork Holston River (Buller Dam)

Stream Category: A

Wild Trout: Very Probable

Stocked Trout: Rainbow

Other Species of Note: Brook Trout

Gear:

Dry Flies: Adams, Caddis

Nymphs: Pheasant tail, Prince, Hares Ear, Stonefly patterns, Copper John, Perdigon, Squirmy Wormy, Mop, Hot Spot Flies

Streamers: Sex Dungeon, Kreelex, Wooly Buggers

Waders: Yes

Net: Yes

Wading Stick: No

Casting: Overhead, Roll, Spey, and Tuck

About:

 

Ok so what is so amazing about a hundred yard section of a river that has been damed? Well these fish are not bashful and they hit like a pitch hitter. Literally the section is like a very small pond that has an abundance of fish. You really don’t need waders, you can fish it from the banks with plenty of casting room. I actually highly recommend Switch or Spey techniques on this section, just because you can get so far across from this section of water and be proficient in covering all of the water. 

Now time for the controversy. According to VDGIF this section is only stocked with rainbow trout… I call bull shit on this! In all of my time fishing this area I have never caught a rainbow in this area, I have only caught huge brook trout. It could be that the GIS person put in the wrong species on the VDGIF website, or that the special regulation area above this area is producing wild brook trout that make their way into this pond like area. Either way there are brook trout in this area. 

Take a moment and observe if they are hitting top water, if they are put on a dry/dropper. If not fish deep with nymphs, and use moderate size streamers if you are fishing them. These fish hit with a purpose. 

Because of the dam and the special regulation area, many think that some of these fish are making their way over the dam into the other special regulation area. I myself know that there are definitely brook trout below the dam because I have caught them there. Are they wild or stocked? Who knows, either way be prepared to catch brook trout in this section. Cover every inch of this water, especially 10 feet off of the bank.

Additional comments:

Park at the parking lot at the dam and get to work. Also you will definitely be in bear country, be mindful of this. Also do not expect to get cell phone service, make sure you let someone know that you are going here and when you expect to be back. 

Directions:

Back Creek Delayed Harvest

Stream Category: DH

Wild Trout: Very Probable 

Stocked Trout: Brown, and Rainbow

Other Species of Note: Possibility of Steelhead and Brook Trout

Gear:

Dry Flies: Adams, Caddis

Nymphs: Pheasant tail, Prince, Hares Ear, Stonefly patterns, Copper John, Perdigon, Squirmy Wormy, Mop, Hot Spot Flies

Streamers: Sex Dungeon, Kreelex, Wooly Buggers

Waders: Yes

Net: Yes

Wading Stick: Yes!!!!!!!

Casting: Overhead, Roll, Spey, and Tuck

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About:

What can I say about the Delayed Harvest Section of Back Creek that I haven’t already said in the post about the main section of Back Creek… ? Well it is technically a tail water that is stocked. Located in Sunrise, Va this stream has been reconstructed  by Dominion Power after they built a dam to generate power, now this dam and Dominion Power has created one amazing fishery. 

Fish this area just like I have mentioned in my regular Back Creek section, but fish deep. Again, make sure you have a wading stick. This water when it is high can move very fast, and even at its lowest it moves faster than most water in other near by rivers and creeks. 

Additional comments:

Parking can easily be found throughout Back Creek, and the camping area/fishing ponds near the Dominion Power house. Just be mindful of the “No Trespassing” signs. Also you will definitely be in bear country, be mindful of this. Also do not expect to get cell phone service, make sure you let someone know that you are going here and when you expect to be back. 

Directions:

Back Creek

 

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Stream Category: A

Wild Trout: Unknown

Stocked Trout: Brook, Brown, and Rainbow

Other Species of Note: Possibility of Steelhead

Gear:

Dry Flies: Adams, Caddis

Nymphs: Pheasant tail, Prince, Hares Ear, Stonefly patterns, Copper John, Perdigon, Squirmy Wormy, Mop, Hot Spot Flies

Streamers: Sex Dungeon, Kreelex, Wooly Buggers

Waders: Yes

Net: Yes

Wading Stick: Yes!!!!!!!

Casting: Overhead, Roll, Spey, and Tuck

About:

Back Creek is one of those streamers that will fool you in a heart beat, make sure you have a wading stick. This is the only stream I have ever fell in and ruined a phone. It happened so quickly that I didn’t even have a chance to recover. This stream moves fast, even at its lowest, beware of sudden shelfs in the water you are wading in. 

As far as the stream itself, well all i can simply say is “beautiful.” This is a stream out of a story book, the down side is that unless you live close by then it will be a drive. However the drive is also beautiful. It is definitely a freestone creek with lots of limestone. The fish here have so many places to post up and hide in that it is unreal. But don’t be dishearten by this fact: yes you will lose flies a lot on this stream if you are fishing deep like you should, but the rewards are marvelous fish and one of the most secluded areas to fish in. I have never been out west to the Rocky Mountains, however this area makes me feel like that is how every stream is out west. 

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Honestly I have caught fish at this stream on almost everything, they are vicious.. However you must read the water, and sight fish. Look for deep holes or shelfs that fish can hide in, they are there. I prefer hot spot and mop flies on this stream the most, just because it gives those fish a little more to entice them to strike. But most streamer patterns also work, just be prepared to be hung up a lot. 

So if you noticed on the “Wild Trout” section I put “Unknown,” this because there is a lot of speculation on whether this stream actually holds wild trout or if just continues to hold hold-over trout. Either way you can fish this stream year round and catch fish in it, just like the Jackson River. Also there is a slight chance that you might catch a steelhead in this stream. They were introduced by the State of Virginia into Lake Moomaw, with the hopes that they would go up the Jackson River towards Hidden Valley and also up Back Creek to spawn. However, again, there is much speculation as if this ever succeeded. I for one have never caught a steelhead on Back Creek. 

I highly recommend this stream, big fish do exist in this stream and it is one of the few that you can fish year round. 

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Additional comments:

Parking can easily be found throughout Back Creek, just be mindful of the “No Trespassing” signs. Also you will definitely be in bear country, be mindful of this. Also do not expect to get cell phone service, make sure you let someone know that you are going here and when you expect to be back. 

Directions:

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To Live Is An Awful Big Adventure

Good grief I feel like I am getting older and older everyday, everything just hurts more and more. 

“God I need some Advil,” I think to myself.

Since I have moved to Atlanta I swear my bones are hating the humidity. What I thought might have been an old injury from falling at a creek in Virginia just before I moved here is actually arthritis… great. Hey that is just the price we pay for getting older I guess. But can we let that shit get us down, no. Sometimes in life you just have to keep believing, never let yourself give up. Thus it is with old outdoorsmen, I really don’t even classify myself strictly as a fly fisherman anymore… nature is my home; my veins are the creeks and rivers, the water is my blood. the mountains and forests are my bones, muscles, and my heart… most of all they are my heart.

Once upon a time, long ago, I promised myself that I would live my life with every step, that I would be mindful of each step, that I would smile with each breath. Over the years of constant drama – whether it was moving, stress from work, relationships ending – I lost touch with not only this promise, but also who I was down to my old bones. Now I come full circle and realized once again who I am and what makes me want to live. Life is precious, but to truly enjoy it you must live and you must share it. We are all stewards of life, but most of all of we all have a bit of Peter Pan in us that refuses to grow up, to have such wonderful adventures. My adventures are exploring, fishing, sharing my love of fishing, and preserving what makes me who I am so that others like myself can also enjoy them. 

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So why the hell am I being so philosophic on a website dedicated to promoting fly fishing here in the Southeastern US, well the mission statement says it all… I am dedicated to promoting… this is promoting. Sometimes people need a swift kick in the ass to remind them that we all have a purpose, a motto, something that we live and die by, something that makes us smile as we do it. What makes me feel alive is being outdoors, some people do not like certain aspects of being outdoors, they can not let go of the connection to the modern technological world for five minutes, much less an entire day. Or you have those that need the outdoors to calm the demons in their mind. So I try to promote fly fishing to see if this will help them to find their purpose. Some people complain that I put too much information on this website, that they fucking hate that I am giving away my knowledge to total strangers that could lead to heavier pressure on streams… well so be it. If I can help one person to get outside, to connect to their purpose that they might have never found without my help then all of the naysayers words mean nothing to me. 

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Also If I can get one person to clean up their trash on a stream bank, to leave no trace then once again my motto is being fulfilled. Fly fishermen love their water’s, but they most of all love clean water. Look you don’t have to join Trout Unlimited or any other organization, I know I stress good habitats on here a lot, and as a member of Trout Unlimited I mention the organization a lot. However you don’t have to join to be a good steward of our waters. But always be mindful that you are a steward, never slack in this purpose. If you see someone else’s trash pick it up and bag it, don’t be a wuss if you see someone leaving their trash behind, harass them to leave no trace. If they are still a douche pick it up yourself and carry it out. You are a steward after all. 

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Remember always that you are alive, listen to Peter once in awhile, take a leap, go on a wonderful adventure. Most of all smile and be at peace. 

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Big Cedar Creek

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Stream Category: Put and Take – A

 

Wild Trout:

Stocked Trout: Brown and Rainbow

Other Species of Note: None

 

Gear:

Dry Flies: Adams, Caddis, and Terrestrials

Nymphs: Stone Flies, Pheasant Tail, Prince, Hares, Midges, Mop Flies, and Squirmmy Wormies, Perdigon

Streamers: Kreelex, Minnow Patterns, Articulated Minnow Patterns

Waders: Yes

Net: Yes

Wading Stick: Yes

 

Casting: Tuck, Roll, Spey, and Overhead

 

About:

Big Cedar Creek is a part of the rare few places in Virginia that look like they should be in Colorado. Also Big Cedar Creek should not be called a creek, believe me it’s a small river. Big Cedar flows right into the Clinch River, I could be biased because I love the Clinch Valley area, but I definitely would recommend going to Big Cedar at least once. One reason for it is that the area surrounding Big Cedar is just a gorgeous area. Big Cedar, itself, is not mucked up with trashed, people in the area keep this river kept up and in pristine order. The second reason why I am a little biased towards the Clinch Valley is that I dispatched trains going through that area for almost six years. The third a final reason I love the Clinch Valley area is that the people there are just down to earth people; they are friendly, you could probably leave your car unlocked, and they will do their very best in helping you if you’re ever in need. However Big Cedar Creek is not very accessible to anyone, except those that live in the Clinch Valley area. For those that live in the Roanoke area, it is at least a three hour drive (depending on traffic on I81).

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Big Cedar is just one of those few streams that it is hard to explain with words; it’s definitely a freestone creek for a majority of the area, however sometimes it transforms into a flat limestone creek. Just be very careful where you walk, I would definitely bring a wading stick with you. This stream you can use technique known to fly fishing: from streamers to spey this stream will accommodate you. Fish here can be pretty big for stocked fish, but the majority of the fish you will find are your normal 10-12 inch fish. But occasional you will lay into one of the fish that has escaped from a private section of Big Cedar, these fish are monsters. Fishing some areas (limestone flats) can be difficult, you have to aim for the deeper sections of the flats, or look for some type of structure that trout will often lay in. As you get in the freestone area fish it like you would any other freestone stream; there are a couple areas that have very deep holes that are really promising. However they are towards the end of the stream, where it feeds into the Clinch River and it’s about a 2 mile hike to this area.

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Additional comments:

Parking is great here, you have your own parking lot. Also there is a trail that covers the entire stream, sometimes the trail gets a little above the stream, but for the most part the trail is right next to stream.

 

Directions:

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Jackson River (Tailwater)

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Stream Category: Special Regulation

 

Wild Trout: Brown and Rainbow

Stocked Trout: Brown and Rainbow

Other Species of Note: None

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Gear:

Dry Flies: Adams, Caddis, and Terrestrials

Nymphs: Stone Flies, Pheasant Tail, Prince, Hares, Midges, Mop Flies, and Squirmmy Wormies, Perdigon

Streamers: Kreelex, Minnow Patterns, Articulated Minnow Patterns

Waders: Yes

Net: Yes

Casting: Tuck, Roll, and Overhead

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About:

What can I say about the Jackson River below Lake MooMaw other than it tough as shit to fish… well it is tough as shit to fish and you will probably get skunked. I am just being honest with everyone; this place is gorgeous, I have seen a bald eagle here, I have caught a lot trout (fingerling to 20+ inches), but more often than not I have been skunked.

 

The Jackson River below Lake MooMaw is a freestone tailwater river, with lots of vegetation during the summer time, and lots of water during the winter months. It can be very shallow at times, then other times it can be very deep. Be careful when you fish here, and for god’s sake if you here an alarm going off get out of the water.

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Realistically during the summer months if you are going to fish the section right below the dam you need to stick to dry flies, nymphs will get caught on the vegetation 90% of the time. If you plan on nymph fishing, hit towards the banks, the rapids, or the gigantic slow run (not mention deep) towards the end of the section. Streamer fishing is basically in the rapids and the gigantic run, just like nymph fishing you will run into a lot of vegetation towards the very beginning of the section. If you own a switch or spey rod, the long gigantic slow run will be perfect for swinging flies, it will also help you to get to spots that you would not be able to get to because of the depth of the stream.

All in all I still like fishing here, there is nothing like fishing a tail water. Even if the tail water is extremely difficult to fish.

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Additional Comments: Parking can be found on the road leading to foot of the dam. Also fair warning, do not cross the line when it comes to the no trespassing signs, those people mean business.

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Directions:

 

Jackson River (Hidden Valley)

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Stream Category: Put and Take – A

 

Wild Trout:

Stocked Trout: Brown, Brook, and Rainbow

Other Species of Note: None

 

Gear:

Dry Flies: Adams, Caddis, and Terrestrials

Nymphs: Stone Flies, Pheasant Tail, Prince, Hares, Midges, Mop Flies, and Squirmmy Wormies, Perdigon

Streamers: Kreelex, Minnow Patterns, Articulated Minnow Patterns

Waders: Yes

Net: Yes

 

Casting: Tuck, Roll, and Overhead

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About:

Honestly I was optimistic like I was when I first began this website, when I was young, loving to explore – hearing of great places to fish and wanting to fish them, still thinking that they would be amazing, that I would never get skunked, that every fish that I caught would be like the big ones on social media and in magazines. However now that I am older and wiser I have become very grim over the state of fishing in Virginia.

A lot of the books and information that is out there for anyone to find are often very outdated. Always check the copy write date on a book, not to mention what publication of the book it is. Honestly several of my posts are probably outdated, but I don’t think they are outdated enough for me to re-do them in their entirety.

So when I first heard of the Hidden Valley section of the Jackson River I was super stoked about going there, my buddy made it sound like it compared to the South Holston and Watauga Rivers of Tennessee. Both of which I have visited and will always admire. Now fast forward several years later, a buddy and I (who also has heard amazing things about Hidden Valley) see that it has been stocked the day before and decide to go to Hidden Valley. At that point in time I was living in Blacksburg and he was living in Pembroke, no matter how we went we were looking at a minimum of a two hour drive. So being young and stupid (there are a lot better places to fish in the Blacksburg area than Hidden Valley) we decided to take the day off and go see what all the fuss was about. Upon first seeing the place it was as describe, the Mecca of Virginian fly fishing; perfect parking, you could easily cast over handed, you could streamer fish to your hearts to delight. However what we quickly found out was that this was hardly the case. The water was low, the parking lot was filled with vehicles, the bridge leading to the bed and breakfast was as packed as Myrtle Beach, and that at almost every good hole or run there was already someone there.

Granted I knew that Hidden Valley was put and take, put I thought the people that would be there would have a little bit more class, especially since so many fly fishermen had recommended to me. Again I was wrong. By the end of the day my buddy and I were so disgusted of the place that we gave up only after being there a couple hours, yes we had caught some fish, but they were not the fish of legend.

So several years go by and one of my fishing buddies has heard stories of Hidden Valley and how great it was and wanted to go. I told him my original experience with the place, but he insisted that we go. Guess what we found… the same fucking thing that I had seen several years before. But being wiser and older I had learned how to combat fish, sadly my buddy didn’t know how to do that. I would bomb people’s holes with my nymphs, I would cast with reckless abandonment, and eventually a good hole would be ours. Hey spin fishermen due to same thing to us fly fishermen all of the time, it is only fair that they get a taste of it back once in a while. Needless to say we caught some fish, decent, but not great. After that we left. Since then I have been back only one more time and that was just to get photos of the damnable place.

Ok, enough bitching, as you can already tell – I do not recommend going here. The Hidden Valley of the Jackson river is a very lazy freestone stream, with the proper eye ware you can spot most of the trout from the banks. The spots going towards the Special Regulation section are a bit tougher to get to, but I do not think they are stocked as well as below the bridge at the bed and breakfast. Below the bed and breakfast just follow the path, look for any side openings in the brush and go explore them. There will be one section that the stream just opens up and almost becomes like a limestone stream, there is good fishing here if it is not packed.

So the moral of the story is having the correct information before going somewhere is often crucial, that is why I continue to do this website. If I had only known about Cowpasture or Bullpasture, I would have easily gone there instead of Hidden Valley.

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Additional Comments: Parking can be found at the Hidden Valley Parking lot.

 

Directions: