On my way back from the North Branch a few weeks ago, I detoured through West Virginia to check out the South Branch of the Potomac. This is the first year I have invested in a full year West Virginia fishing license and wanted to get an eyeful of what was in store for me. On this particular weekend, I had spent so much time in Maryland that I did not have much time to devote to West Virginia. In addition to the South Branch, I wanted to look at three other bodies of water that are labeled as stocked trout water on the West Virginia Trout Map. Those will be the focus of upcoming reports over the next month.
As I drove into Petersburg on Route 55, I saw a sign for River Road to my right. I can't resist anything with that label so I yanked the wheel hard to the right and headed over a large hill that would hopefully lead to the river. As the road transitioned from asphalt to gravel to dirt, I could start to see the sparkle of the river ahead of me. As it joined the river, the road took a hard right and ran parallel to it for about 100 yards; terminating in a "no trespassing" sign. Not a problem, there was a skinny shoulder and I parked at the end near a steep rock face on the northern bank..
Looking up river, another huge cliff face with deep, green-dark water at its base loomed to my right front. Looking to my left, I could see that the river was running at a good clip with decent depth to terminate against some medium-sized boulders where the road began to parallel the river. I made a snap decision since I only had an hour and decided to plumb the depths of the cliff face instead of investigating the intriguing portion below the white water.
On this day, the wading was easy although the closer I will came to the cliff face, the deeper it got. Even with that, you can get out far enough out to be within casting range to drop your fly right up against the rocks. At about that time, two things occurred. First, the wind picked up just enough to make casting obnoxious. The second was that I felt a cold seep inside my waders that told me I had sprung a leak. In mid-March, this water was icy cold. Since I was here, I decided to fish until I couldn't stand it anymore and then leave.
This early in the season, I limited my attack to various streamer patterns. I flipped them out into the current and waited for them to sink, twitching back with no results. In hindsight, I know I did not allow enough time for everything to sink fully, but the water was going so fast that it would be swept below me and I was in a cold panic as the water slowly filled my right wader leg as I wanted to catch a fish before the water got to any sensitive nerves.. if you know what I mean. Next time I come here, I'll have a sinking tip that I can attach at the ready... and serviceable waders.. As you can see from the map to the right, I didn't fish much of this area but I did fish enough of it to know that it is a place I would like to return to. Both the upstream and downstream sections look good. West Virginia stocks plenty of trout into the South Branch and it also warms up enough in the summer to support a vibrant population of smallmouth. So if you time your trip correctly, you can pick up a little bit of everything.
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.
Bottom line: With the South Branch , there's a lot to love. This is just another small window into that great body of water. I'm certain to come back here when the weather warms up and I've got some more time.
I did not catch anything, but I assume there are good sized trout and smallies here. I rate it red for pressure as a result of the identification of this on the West Virginia stocking map.
Getting There: Head west from Petersburg, WV on Rt. 55. Turn left on River Road. Follow it to the river and park. Do not go beyond the cliff face on your right - it is all posted down there.
Google Local Coordinates: 38.991804,-79.177083
Secrets Revealed? No. The South Branch is documented in the Flyfisher's Guide to Virginia (West Virginia Section). In addition, this particular spot is marked with a big fish symbol on the new West Virginia trout stocking application.
Date Fished: 03/23/2009