After a frustrating morning looking for fish on Dragon Run and on the Mattaponi, Lon and I were desperate to tie into some good water. Our attitude was that pretty much anything would do and it turns out that’s what we got. A quick look at the Virginia Gazetteer revealed that the Pamunkey was only another short hop to the east from where we ended up on the Mattaponi. Remembering Lon’s good luck on the Pamunkey at the 301 bridge, we decided to go back to the Pamunkey and move a little bit farther downstream to see if the character of the river changed. With that, we headed for the Norman bridge crossing which was a couple miles downstream from where Lon caught his monster.
We were thrilled to see that the water was wadeable at the VDOT access point next to the bridge. There’s a small parking area about 100 yards east of the bridge that will fit two trucks. We parked there and walked back and discovered a well beaten path to the stream on the left hand (south) side. As usual, I headed upstream while Lon worked the area around the bridge with the hope of repeating his experience on the upper section. The Norman section had an optimistic feel to it as I started to wade my way upstream. The water was reasonably deep; running between 1 and 2 feet in most places with fairly deep holes hugging the western bank. There was plenty of structure decorating both sides of the river. In fact, the river is full of sunken logs and trees which have pitched into the water while maintaining a tenuous hold clawing into the bank with an odd root or two. A quick glance at the banks reveals the reason why. I was surprised to see that the high water mark was a least 10 feet above where I was standing and speaks volumes of the violence of the runoff this river must experience. You could easily see the gray band dirt marking that high point.
But I wasn’t here to marvel at how nature could rip and tear trees and throw them into the river. I was here to catch smallies. Sadly, this place was horrible. Even the reliable bluegills were not active on the day we were here. I think I picked up one 6 inch long smallie and maybe two bluegills in the 90 minutes we fished this river before giving up. Lon experienced the same ill fortune. After working my way up the river for about 3/4 mile, I looked around and realized the character of the river was not going to change. The current would be slow to moderate, the bottom would be exceptionally sandy with no rocky structure to attract smallies and the only thing interesting would be all the fallen tree cover. I had thrown everything from every pocket on my vest. I worked through a set of dry flies focused on terrestrial and attractor patterns, poppers of various sizes, and small plastic grubs that I rigged up with weights to drag them across the bottom. Nothing worked, nothing was moving, nothing remarkable about this river to recommend it to anyone. In other words, it was like the other sections already documented.
Bottom line: Three strikes and you’re out. While Lon did catch that big beast at the 301 bridge, that was the only action we have had in the approximately 3 miles of this river that we fished. That’s enough bad luck to tell me that this is not worth drive from Northern Virginia. While we did run into the locals after 301 bridge who were happy to sit and fish right under the bridge, we needed more action than tricking a random bluegill or two.
I rate this as red for pressure because of beaten-down nature of the trail leading to the river. That may be why this was a nonproductive place for us. If it is heavily pressured, it’s logical to conclude that you have to go farther up or downstream to get away from the saturated area and perhaps three quarters of a mile was not enough penetration into the unknown to break away from the crowd. So this posting closes out the Pamunkey River for me. There are much better places to go and I hope that you have better luck here if you decide to risk the drive and give it a whack.
Getting There: Get off I95 at exit 98 for Kings Dominion and head east on Rt 30. Turn right onto 301 S and follow it until you come to Norman’s Bridge Road. Turn left (east) and follow it to the bridge crossing.
Google Local Coordinates: 37.76997,-77.339094
Secrets Revealed? No. This is a very public location that is documented on the Virginia VDGIF page on the Pamunkey and is mentioned in the Flyfisher’s Guide to Virginia.
Looking downstream from the entry
Looking upstream from the entry
Calm water, plenty of structure
Runs about 1 – 2 feet deep on our day
Unless stated otherwise, this article was authored by Steve Moore