The cover story for my trip down to the South River was that I had to volunteer at the Virginia Fly Fishing Festival on Saturday and Sunday.
The festival was a huge success! There was an above normal turnout on Saturday with over 800 people attending the festival. The vendor tent was packed with individuals and companies selling everything from flyfishing equipment to kitchen decor (not sure how that one happened). The vendor list included a good representation of outfitters as well as gear reps from all of the major makes and manufacturers.
Across the field from the exhibitor display, there were two instructional tents offering instruction on topics ranging from getting started in fly fishing to how to fish for smallies. All the classes were well attended with overflowing crowds at many of the events. The most encouraging thing was that over 50 people showed up for the introduction of flyfishing class taught by Beau Beasley. None of those individuals had any equipment and came armed only with their interest in the sport. All of us should take encouragement that there is a new generation of flyfishers beginning to engage in the sport. This increases our voting block and provides a better constituency to stump for key outdoor programs. But… I was here to fish… when I could.
I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I was the only person to hit the river early in the morning before the opening on the second day of the festival. I waded in above the Main Street bridge at around 6:30 AM and was immediately excited to see numerous dots created by rising fish speckling the river upstream. I quickly worked through a number of different patterns in search of whatever was attracting attention as I could not see anything obvious happening on the water. I finally found that the Mr. Rapidan pattern in a size 16 did the trick.
For the next hour and a half I pulled in 20 to 30 fallfish ranging in size from 5 inches up to 12. No trout — but any fish taken on top is a good fish. Once one Mr. Rapidan was ripped up by their aggressive behavior and my other offered up to the tree gods, I switched to a similar sized Adams and continued to have plenty of fun and action. Even though you are surrounded by a town with factories spewing white smoke, squint a bit with the glare of the street lights and have to ignore the roar of cars rumbling across the bridge, the river itself runs placid and calm. As I waded up from the bridge, I noted the bank on the east side seems to support most of the structure. The river runs from shallow on the west to fairly deep – 3 – 5 feet on the east with the depth increasing the father up I went.
There’s a nice hole that’s about 30 yards long just downstream from a submerged concrete wall – you will see it as you wade upstream. Upstream of the wall, it was reunion time for the fallfish – they were all over the place. I was startled at about 7:15 AM when a huge brown log leaped out of the water going after some type of flying insect. It was either a very big fallfish or, optimistically, maybe it’s a big brown that lives in that stretch of the river – although it was probably a big carp. I spent the next 40 minutes throwing everything except hand grenades in its direction. No luck with him.
In all, I fished up the river for about 200 yards and was fully engaged with active fish. I was totally surprised when I looked at my watch and realized I had spent almost two hours in that short section. There are plenty of targets and plenty of action — assuming you’re okay with fallfish in this section. The South River is stocked frequently – there are trout here – but none of them were interested in what I was throwing. Of course, they could just be smart enough to get out of town with over a thousand fly fishers packed into that park!
Bottom Line: While on volunteer duty, I spoke with the individual who manages the storm water runoff for the town. He told me the water temperature does not break above 72 degrees in the summer as a result of the large number of springs that feed the river.
Once I heard that, it made sense that Beau Beasley and the festival fund are going to make a run converting the South River into a trophy brook trout fishery. Now that would be spectacular! Imagine having such a river in the central part of Virginia that is reasonably accessible to the DC area!
But… it’s still in the middle of a city with all that goes with that environment, so I have to give this a RED rating overall. However, I would come back and fish here again.
Getting There: From I64, take exit 99 north onto Rt 250. Rt 250 turns into E. Main Street and will lead to the river. Pull into the parking lot on either side river and start fishing upstream. You can also take exit 96 heading north S. Delphine Ave. Follow it to Main Street and turn left.
Google Local Coordinates: 38.067926,-78.884497
Secrets Revealed? No. This is a very public location that is documented in the following places:
Flyfisher’s Guide to Virginia
Virginia Trout Streams
Fly Fishing Virginia
Date Fished: 04/19/2009
The early morning view upstream at the soft lights of the chemical plant throwing a hazy glow on the boxy buildings
Whoops… not so romantic in the stark light of day!
Looking downstream back towards Main Street. The deep area is on the right.
Representative fallfish. The bugger was already there when I caught this guy on my Adams.
Unless stated otherwise, this article was authored by Steve Moore