After spending the morning on Ramsey’s Draft, we decided we needed to tie into something bigger. Prior to going to Ramsey’s I spoke with Chuck Woods about other options in this area and he recommended going to the C&R section of the North River. Done deal.
The North River is about a 30 – 45 minute drive from Ramsey’s Draft depending on how many people you encounter going 25 mph on the country roads. But, keep your patience, it’s worth it when you get there. We pulled into the packed parking area with a little bit of trepidation. Wow… were all these people on the C&R stretch?
Turns out we did not have to worry as we saw a spectacle that I had never seen before. Once we walked down to the lake to start the one mile hike to the river below the dam, we were startled to see innumerable small family or buddy groups of folks sitting on the bank of the Elkhorn Lake fishing with bobbers from shore. These were clearly lake sitting professionals. Each of them had a commercially purchased small fork that stuck in the ground and elevated the rod at a 45 degree angle. Once they threw out the bobber with a baited hook, they placed the rod on the fork stand and waited for action. There had to be at least a hundred total people spread into 30 or so groups staggered with military discipline down the south bank of the lake. Frankly, it looked like a good time. Plenty of coolers, swarming kids tearing around and the occasional howl of delight when an unlucky fish inhaled the bait. But, that’s not what we were there for.
We pressed on to the top of the dam and then down the gentle trail to the North River. Along the way, we encountered two other fly fishermen. One commented that he had fished down to the bend (where the second “r” is in river) and had no luck even though he had used every tempting fly in his case. The other person was there with his fly fishing kids and he had had some luck, but nothing to brag about. He recommended that we go all the way to the bend and start fishing there. He had heard reports of plenty of poaching in the section of the river near the dam.
Following that advice, we crossed the river and headed to the bend. There is a well defined trail/road that parallels the river all the way to the abrupt “L” bend you see on the map. It’s also marked by several large logs that have toppled into the trail. Stop walking and start fishing here. You can work down the river and enjoy plenty of good looking water – some deep pools that scream for a spinner or nice runs that are perfect for a nymph with a small dropper.
We fished down to the end of the red line without seeing any other fisherman. At the very end of the line and late in the day, we poked around the bend and encountered one other fishing addicted soul who had worked his way up from the reservoir.
Since it was late in the day and we had each caught and released some decent 12″ trout, we decided to pack it in and head back.
From a fly fishing perspective, we used nymphs on this river floated on a 5x tippet with a Prince Bead Head hanging a small blue Copper John dropper. The current carried these along just fine and the river was big enough to allow you to stand away from the drift and avoid spooking the fish. Since I had just come from brookies at Ramsey’s, I was using my 4wt rod, but this river is big enough for a 6wt. The 6wt would have been easier to use with the drifts we were trying to do. My brief inexperience with fly fishing has confirmed that it is easier to flip out a nymph on a 6wt than the 4wt. Maybe someday I’ll be just as good on the 4wt.
There is enough turbulence in the river to protect you from being starkly visible to the fish and allow you to move gently to the optimum start position for the nymph. I think Dick used some dry flies with no luck. My son Chris was still with us with his spinning reel and did not catch anything. He was pretty beat from the 6 miles on Ramsey’s plus the 1.5 mile trek to get into here that he worked the section between the “r” and the abrupt turn – no luck on his Panther-Martins.
The nice thing about this section is that it is scenic and large enough to spend the day. You can work from Elkhorn down to the reservior, skip around the reservoir and keep going with good water all day.
Bottom Line: This is a keeper. The only reason it gets an overall Yellow rating is the poaching speculation – that indicates pressure. Also, in addition to the hundred folks on the lake, we did encounter a total of 5 other people fishing in three different parties. We hit this early in April, so it might get more popular, and pressured, as the weather warms up.
One other plus factor associated with this section is that it is “big water” for Virginia and is within a decent commuting range of the DC area. In terms of size, it’s comparable to the Pedlar, but smaller than the South River down near Lexington.
Getting There: From Churchville, take 250 west and look for the turn to Elkhorn Lake on 715 North. Follow that until it hits a T intersection, turn right toward Elkhorn followed by another right. If you cross over the North River, you missed one of the turns.
The entry of the North River into Elkhorn actually looks good for brookies. It might be productive to follow it up from the lake and see what develops in terms of pocket water.
Looking back toward the parking area from the top of the dam
Looking back toward the dam where the trail hits the river
Walk to this large bend and start here
Nice looking runs just down from the bend
Good water, plenty of rocks and runs
Deep pools are frequent
Typical trout from this stretch. They run around 10 – 12 inches
View downstream from where we stopped.
Unless stated otherwise, this article was authored by Steve Moore