Trout Hike – Pedlar River (FR39)

In April, I investigated some of the water near Lexington. My first stop was the Pedlar.

There are several basic approaches to the Pedlar River.  I decided to follow SR 39 back to where the Pedlar cuts across it.  This is a dirt road but does not require any 4×4 capability; any flatland car will make it back there just fine.

5 miles after making that turn, I discovered the parking spot across the river with a small trail that follows the southern side of the river.  After gearing up, I scooted up the track and quickly ran into some tight going as the brush flops over the trail in numerous places.  The trail comes and goes, but eventually, you can work your way through to the flatter stretch of the river.  At the bridge, this water looks great.  It is a tight cascade of clean, cold water that just screams trout.  The higher you go, the calmer it becomes something that is indicated on the map as the contour lines spread out a bit.

I walked up about 0.75 miles to understand the river beyond the bridge and was impressed.  The scenery is pristine – no real evidence of man and, thankfully, not much in the way of trash either.  Even though it flattens out, the water is deep enough to provide plenty of good trout cover.  Large boulders are everywhere, and each one typically broods over a deeper holding area.  As I looked at the river as I walked, I realized that this is where they would have invented nymphing. 

On this day, the stream was quick and nimble, making it difficult to fish streamers.  The river is not wide and has enough shallow spots to keep you from making a good downstream quartering pattern.  Most of the retrieve will end up being on bad water.  However, with a nymph, it will just float with the current and stay in the right place.  The key challenge with the nymph is to adjust your indicator to get the nymph to tick the bottom, given the variation in depth.  On the other hand, dry flies will work anywhere and would certainly work here as well.  I did not try them as I saw no surface action or hatch in progress.

I worked this section for about 2 hours with various nymphs and got skunked.  To prove my streamer theory, I tried the Patuxent Special as well.  It just was not to be.  Since I wanted to fish the Piney on this day as well, I packed it in and headed to the truck.  When I returned to the bridge, I was surprised to see other fishermen since it was early on a Wednesday.  A brief chat confirmed the fact that this is usually productive water and worth returning to try again.


It’s not a demanding walk but is not as easy as walking on the C&O canal.  There is no hard climb, you just have to push some bushes out of the way.  It will take a bit of map reading to find the small turnoff on SR 39 that will lead you back into the Pedlar area.  I had the sense that while there was not a lot of evidence of other folks, that this section of the river does see pressure.  The large parking lot argues that plenty of folks enjoy working this stream.

I chatted with Chuck Woods about the Pedlar and, i I understood him correctly, he recommends fishing the Pedlar below the lake in a “gorge” type area.  Given the promise presented by this particular section, I think I’ll return in the future to find that gorge and check it out.

Getting there:  It’s a long drive from the Northern Virginia area – probably a good 3.5 – 4 hours.  Just follow 81 down and take Rt 60 through Buena Vista.  Go past the entrance to Skyline Drive and follow 60 to the bottom of the valley.  You will cross over the Pedlar, go around the curve and you will see the dirt road that is FR 39.  Follow it for about 5 miles to the bridge.  There is a vague dirt road on the Buena Vista side where 60 crosses the Pedlar.  Do not take it – go around the corner to FR 39

Bottom Line:  I’ll come back here.  I understand that there is a gorge section beyond the lake that is pretty good.  That will be the area I go to when I can break away to go to a place this distant from the DC area.

Looking upstream near the bridge

Looking downstream a little bit up from the bridge

View downstream about a half mile in

View upstream at the farthest point I walked in

Unless stated otherwise, this article was authored by Steve Moore

Articles on this site are out of date since some go back to 2006. Regulations and property ownership may have changed since publication. It is your responsibility to know and obey all regulations and not trespass on private property.

Disclaimer and Warning:  The contents of this site reflect the opinion of the author and you, the reader, must exercise care in the use and interpretation of this information.  Fishing is a dangerous sport.  You can slip and fall on rocks and sustain severe injury.  You can drown.  You can get hooks caught in your skin, face, eyes or other sensitive places.  All sorts of bad things can happen to you when to go into the woods to visit the places documented here.  Forests, streams and lakes are wild areas and any number of bad things can happen.  You must make your own judgment in terms of acceptable behavior and risk and not rely on anything posted here.  I disclaim all liability and responsibility for any actions you take as a result of reading the articles on this site.  If you do not agree with this, you should not read anything posted on this site.

Disclaimer and Warning:  The contents of this site reflect the opinion of the author and you, the reader, must exercise care in the use and interpretation of this information.  Fishing is a dangerous sport.  You can slip and fall on rocks and sustain severe injury.  You can drown.  You can get hooks caught in your skin, face, eyes or other sensitive places.  All sorts of bad things can happen to you when to go into the woods to visit the places documented here.  Forests, streams and lakes are wild areas and any number of bad things can happen.  You must make your own judgment in terms of acceptable behavior and risk and not rely on anything posted here.  I disclaim all liability and responsibility for any actions you take as a result of reading the articles on this site.  If you do not agree with this, you should not read anything posted on this site.

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