Once a year, I go on a long weekend fishing trip with my son. This year, we pointed the truck and our rods to the southwest portion of the State with the intent fishing Stewart’s Creek and then the Dan River at the Townes Reservoir. I’ll cover the great experience we had on the Dan in a post next week.
In his book, Virginia Blue-Ribbon Streams , Harry Murray touts Stewart Creek is a pretty good fishing destination. Excited by the pictures and the write up, we followed his directions to reach a confusing cul-de-sac/turnaround at the end of Parkwood road. There was a small gravel road that led beyond the turnaround that looked exactly like somebody’s driveway. Since I had also done research on the VDGIF site, I knew that the Stewart Wildlife Management Area actually existed, so we took a risk and followed the gravel road farther north. In short order, staying to the right, it terminated at a creek crossing. After putting the truck in four-wheel-drive, we climbed up the steep hill on the opposite bank to see the kiosk 25 yards to our left front announcing we had arrived at the right place. After dosing ourselves with suntan lotion and poison ivy repellent, we walked over to the gate and stared at the elephant-high thicket of thorn bushes and thistles blocking the dim trail that paralleled the stream on its right-hand bank.
We would later discover that the best way to get to the stream is to take an immediate left after walking through the gate, bushwhacking for a short distance into some thorn bushes and nettles to end on a dry creek bed. Follow the creek bed upstream until it joins Stewart’s creek a little farther north.
Unfortunately, we did not go that way …the minute we set foot into the underbrush, a pack of dogs kicked up a vicious, raucous howling on the other side of the creek. Since we were intent on moving away from the parking lot just far enough to where we could get back to the creek, we did not pay them any attention on our way upstream. We followed the trail, slapping down the thorn bushes and thistles with our wading staffs until the path veered to the right to move up the hill. At that point, we made a decision to cut left to the creek and finally found an opening that eventually put us on a steep bank with a risky slide down to the streambed.
The creek looked pretty good for late August. Murray indicated that this one stays cold during the summer and the temperature on the day we were there was right at the upper limit of 65°. I was disappointed with the slight milky sheen that a recent rainstorm had thrown into the water. I also noticed that the bottom had more than its fair share of silt — something you do not see in the mountain trout streams that hang off the Blue Ridge farther north. We began to fish our way upstream; hitting the deeper pools and the runs. I was using my 11 foot Tenkara rod and Chris was using a number two Panther Martin spinner. We both started picking up fish wherever we found a channel or a pool that was greater than a foot and a half deep. In between those spots, there did not appear to be much life. When you examine the stream bottom closely in the areas where it was shallow, it was also muddy or had flat, slick rock with no gravel.
We fished our way up to the junction. Murray reported that the South Fork, to the left, held the most water. We walked approximately hundred yards up the stream to where it became exceptionally tight and narrow. You can almost touch either bank with your outstretched arms. Given the precipitous increase in elevation that would necessitate some degree of hand over hand climbing, we decided not to move any farther even though Murray indicated that the best water was farther upstream. After all, we were a little bit stiff after sitting in the car for six hours to get here from Northern Virginia and were looking at this day as merely as a shakeout for the Dan River the following morning.
We walked downstream with the exit point being the foremost thing on our minds. Neither of us had any desire to bushwhack through the thick vegetation that protected the creek on its right-hand bank. The closer we got the parking lot, the more the dogs howled and bayed; clearly they were anxious about our approach. Luckily, we noticed the dry creek bed that paralleled the main body a little bit farther to the east. We used as our path back to the parking area to avoid the snarling dogs.
Bottom Line: I am mixed on this one. The water was small, but it was the middle of summer. We did not go as far as I normally would have if we were not pressed for time to reach the hotel we were staying at Meadows of Dan for the evening. Given that, this gets the benefit of the doubt and I’ll give it a yellow overall
Getting There: From I-77, take exit 1 onto VA 620 west. Turn left on Chestnut Grove Rd (VA 696) and follow it to Parkwood Rd. Turn right on Parkwood Road. Follow it to the end. It will sort of terminate in a turnaround/cul-de-sac with no obvious path to the WMA. Follow the dirt/gravel road from the northern end of the turnaround. Stay right and cross the creek (need high clearance vehicle). 25 yards later you will see the VDGIF sign for the WMA.
Secrets Revealed? No. This is a very public location that is documented in the following places:
Flyfisher’s Guide to Virginia
Virginia Blue-Ribbon Streams
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Date Fished: 8/27/2010
Tight vegetation and steep drop to get to the stream… if you go the wrong way.
Take the dry creekbed.
Mostly shallow, unproductive runs
Pools like this had 8″ brookies
Good brookie pool
View up the narrow canyon. I turned around a bit after this.
Yes… I am the “fish boss”… now if I can just get either the Basswife or the fish to believe that, I’m in tall cotton
Closer shot of the dense, tight canyon where I turned around.
Unless stated otherwise, this article was authored by Steve Moore