I fished a section of the river upstream of the reservoir a year or two ago and was anxious to experience the delayed harvest section. It’s a drive to get there! You’ll drive forever on Panther Falls Road beginning to believe that you missed all the turnoffs to reach the river. You need to persevere! Continue past the reservoir and the road will turn away from the river to climb a hill. You will experience a moment of panic thinking you have somehow taken the wrong turn, but, eventually, a sign will appear that points you towards the first of three access points to the delayed harvest section of the river.
Continue past the first two signs and turn left at third. The road into the parking area is a little bit rough, but a flatland car will be able to get to the parking area if driven carefully. High clearance vehicles will have no problem at all. Once you arrive at the parking lot that will hold 5 to 6 cars, walk to the left of the gate and pick up the trail down to the river. A third of a mile and 248 feet later, you will stand on the bank of the river staring at one of the most beautiful pools you will ever see. The river cuts around the corner to run across a shallow section of riffles spilling into a deep pool at the base of a cliff. Given that there is a fire ring for a campsite at that location, I took this to be a scenic feature and did not bother to fish it.
The best way to get up river is to continue left on the old road that crosses the base of the trail before you get to the campsite. Go north. Ford the stream where the old road crosses. It disappears briefly on the other side as a result of significant erosion but eventually returns. You can use the road to move as far up the river as you care to. I recommend going up 100 yards and then cutting back the river because the river seems to feature a regular pattern of deep run followed by deep pool – so the only thing you miss by walking is the pressure around the trailhead. You should be able to pick up fish anywhere in the river except where the water is only inches deep as it splashes over the rocks.
There was a small hatch underway when I arrived, so I tied on a March Brown with an Adams dropper and began flipping that into the current. I began getting hits and eventually picked up my first fish. To my disappointment, it was a chub. Granted, this is the southern terminus of the delayed harvest section and there clearly is no way a stock truck can get into this part of the river – causing the trout in this section to be the ones that migrate from upriver. You can confirm the inaccessibility for yourself as you sweat your way back up the hill to your vehicle.
I switched to a hares ear with a prince nymph dropper and began dredging the bottom. Speaking of the bottom, it’s perfect. Nothing but medium to small sized rocks interspersed with gravel leading up to a sandy bank. There has to be plenty of aquatic life in this section of the river. In fact, there’s probably too much because no matter how hard I tried or how many different patterns I put on, all I could pick up was chubs. With so much real food available, I guess the trout were not interested in anything I was throwing. After moving approximately a mile upstream and fishing all sorts of beautiful water, I decided to face the steep hill leading back to the truck and slogged back on the fire road to cut up the hill. With a sweaty sigh of relief, I was happy to see the truck loom into sight on the other side of the kiosk.
Bottom Line: There have to be trout in this river during stocking season. I’ll write off my poor performance to bad luck — at least I caught something. A word of caution! The hill is steep and even though it is only 248 feet, it is a precipitous drop. Do not attempt it if you have a problem walking up stairs.
Getting There: Follow Route 60 from Lexington over the mountains and into the valley. Turn right on Panther Falls Road. It will turn into FR 315 (do not turn off to Panther Falls). It will turn into Reservoir Road towards the dam. Stay on Reservoir until you see the third sign for the delayed harvest area
Google Local Coordinates: 37.652449,-79.269383
Secrets Revealed? No. This is a very public location that is documented in the following places:
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Date Fished: 4/6/2010
The scenic pool – look at that color
Upstream from the pool
Pedlar runs wide in this section
Good rock structure and riffles
These spots were shallow
Every bend had a chub….
Unless stated otherwise, this article was authored by Steve Moore