Need a trout fix and don’t want to go all the way to the Jackson tailwater or the North Branch of the Potomac? Never got the special pass to fish on Mossy Creek? Why not visit the overlooked option – the South River in Waynesboro? Granted, the water is a bit low right now given the lack of rain — so this is one you should put in your back pocket and remember when the water levels go up.
When I went to the Virginia Fly Fishing Festival in 2009, I volunteered at the T-shirt booth. One of the other guys working with me was involved with managing the water in the city. He told me that the South River runs at 70° in the height of the summer and was one of the reasons why this section of the river is being looked at as a trophy brook trout fishery. Given that, why not hit it when the water goes up if you are tired of the aggressive grab smallmouth bass provide in the other rivers in the area?
I had fished most of the South River on various expeditions during trout season as documented here. The one remaining place I needed to fish was the section immediately downstream of the Fly Fishing Festival area. That section joins the special regulations section that is normally accessed at the next vehicle bridge downstream. When I attended the festival in April of this year (2010), I drug my carcass out of bed and was on the water by 6:30.
There is plenty of parking and a quick walk puts you on the edge of the river. It is all stocked water and the river is easily wadeable near the festival area. You can only fish so far downstream on the west bank and then, just downstream from the railroad bridge, the depth forces you to cross the river. Once across, you can move quickly downstream as far as you want on an old road that parallels the river on the east bank.
That’s the strategy I adopted. I wanted to see the extent of the river and the structure it offered before jumping into the water. I walked about a mile downstream and noted that there were hardly any distinguishing features. Granted, there were a few riffles created by lines of rocks thrown across the river, but all looked the same. Given that, you may as well climb down the bank and pop into the water anywhere you can gain access through the brush.
Since nothing was hatching, I stuck to nymphs and streamers as I fished my way back up to the festival grounds. It was easy to wade along the east bank and the river was wide enough to offer plenty of channels and submerged boulders that should have held plenty of fish. Not that I found them on this particular day — I have to admit that I was skunked.
This is an easy fishing section of the river. The rocks are not that slippery, the brush hangs back from the edge of the river and allows for easy, unobstructed casting. Given the width of the river, you can unload long distance attacks. The current was moving swiftly in April and made drifting nymphs challenging; demanding the need for constant mending. Since the river is wide, I doubt you would feel crowded even if there were other anglers here. The number of channels, the number of rocks, all promise that the fish should be uniformly distributed throughout its length. Therefore, you shouldn’t have to cover a wide area of the river to catch fish. Okay, I didn’t catch anything, so this is conjecture — but I know the fish are there!
Bottom line: Don’t ignore Waynesboro and the South River as a trout fishing option. As a trophy brook trout fishery gets established, this will become a more popular destination.
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.
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
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Date Fished: 4/18/2010
Cross to the right bank at the railroad bridge
You will see houses along the west bank
Downstream, the river is flat… no unique features
Others will wade upstream from the special reg entrance
Plenty of channels… wide river
Unless stated otherwise, this article was authored by Steve Moore