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Trout Hike - NF of the South Branch Potomac (WV - Cabins)
Monday, January 11, 2010

In late March 2009, I took my normal "shake the cobwebs off" trip and included a swing through West Virginia. I knew that the North Fork of the South Branch as well as the South Branch of the Potomac itself were both heavily stocked by the West Virginia DNR early in the season. Therefore, I decided to swing by the North Fork in the vicinity of Cabins to see what the water looked like.

The North Fork of the South Branch is an easy river to fish since Rt 28/55 runs along its length for miles. I took a turn south on Smoke Hole Road, rolled across the bridge and pulled into the turnout on the left. As I went across the bridge, I noticed a number of other individuals fishing in the wide stretch next to the bridge so I resolved to walk downstream in an attempt to get away from the pressure. I waded across a small backwater that separates Smoke Hole Road from the main river. I started to sweat profusely as I stumbled my way across the broken boulder field littered with fallen trees and other underbrush on the wide island that pushed the river north towards Cabins. When I finally reached the river, I realized I had to wade across since it closed out on a tall cliff downstream.

Thankful that I had my wading staff, I moved slowly across the quickly moving water and finally reached the northern bank where I picked up a small trail through the woods along the shore. After walking a few steps, I realized that I did all of the above the hard way. As I walked down towards the cliff face, I found a broad dirt road (38.9862,-79.22915) that led directly to this spot from the highway as evidenced by the five or six trucks that were huddled in the parking lot and the additional anglers I saw spread out in the river below; all vigorously waving fly rods. Oh well, I was here so I decided to fish anyway. I walked farther downstream and moved out into the river to take up a position where I could work the fast-moving water as it crashed around the corner.

I rigged up a Patuxent Special, firmly planted my feet and hauled back for my first cast. When I pulled forward, I noticed that my rod tip followed my line into the river. "No big deal", I thought to myself.  "It must've come loose." I quickly pulled in the line to re-attach the rod tip and saw that my problem was bigger than a loose connection. It had snapped! Dang! It'd taken me a good 30 minutes to work my way to this spot and now I was closed out by broken rod? Like an idiot, I left my backpack in the truck since I only planned to fish here for an hour or so. I have my backup rod in the pack just for situations like this.

I know exactly what happened. As I flailed my way across the boulder field, I had dropped my rod, sacrificing it to save my life as I tripped. I must have put a nick in the graphite and now I was paying the price. What a bummer! Thankfully, during the 20 years I spent in the Army I was trained expertly by many First Sergeants in the art of cursing. They would have been proud of the coherent string of artful expletives that echoed across the canyon. Disappointed, I began the long hard walk back across the river to return to the truck.

My bad luck aside, this is a beautiful stretch of river. It gets a "yellow" in the scenery rating because of the homes that line the northern bank. But, the river itself is a boulder field of ideal trout habitat that, thanks to the efforts of the DNR, is usually full of fish during stocking season. Although I have not fished here in the summer, I assume the smallmouth bass come back when the water warms up.

Pressure Trout Size
Physical Fitness Bass Size
Access Regulations
Hard to Find Stocking
Scenery Overall

Remember to refer to my rating explanations - these are based on what I look for - so RED for Physical Fitness translates to easy physically - you do not need to be in shape to fish this section.  I prefer terrain that is tough to get into and out of.

Read the Review done by the
North American Fly Fishing Forum


Bottom Line: A good place to fish during stocking season. In addition to the section near Cabins, it's worth investigating any of the turnouts farther south on the highway. If you look at the West Virginia stock trout map, be aware that this is the northern end of the stocked section.

Getting There: From Petersburg, WV, go west on Rt 28.  Turn left on Smoke Hole Road after going through Cabins.

Google Local Coordinates: 38.98379,-79.232551

Secrets Revealed?  No.  This is a very public location that is documented in the following places in addition to the WV DNR stocking page:

Flyfisher's Guide to Virginia 

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Date Fished: 3/29/2009

Upstream from the entry point.  The bridge is around to the left.

Downstream from the entry point

View upstream around the corner where I broke the rod

View downstream towards Petersburg

 Unless stated otherwise, this article was authored by Steve Moore

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