Trout – Conway River (VA – Middle Section)

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Earlier this summer, at the start of the heat wave, I resolved to take one last trip into the Blue Ridge in pursuit of mountain trout. Looking through my notes, I realized that I had never fished the Conway River upstream of Devils Ditch. With that, I rounded up Lon and his son Sean, pointed the truck towards the mountains, and bounced over the rough dirt road to pull to a stop at a likely looking spot upstream of the junction where you would normally park to walk downstream to access Devils Ditch and the lower part of the Conway.

There was plenty of water in the stream in mid-June. Thankfully, the water was still running cold at just over 58°, the pools were deep and filled with anxious fish. I was pleased to see that it was fairly easy to walk along the stream bed. The vegetation does not hang closely over the top of the water; making casting easy without having to deal with obstructions. Of course, I was using my Tenkara rod and didn’t really have to worry about that. Instead, the biggest challenge I faced was spooking the fish.

With the water still, calm and clear, a slow methodical approach is the ticket to success. I fished upstream to take advantage of any drop in elevation to shield my approach. I hunched down as I approached each pool and was grateful that I was wearing knee pads to keep the assault as painless for me is possible. We used Adams and Mr. Rapidan dry flies with great success. In the deeper sections, I tied on a small nymph and floated ir back down through the channels. While I did not have a spectacular day, enough small brook trout were active to make it a good trip.

Do not leave this post with the impression that the upper Conway is full of the pools. Rather, it’s a narrow section of river that is mostly a marginal dribble tying together the “larger” pools that hold fish. You will spend a lot of time walking and even a good deal of time throwing at water that you think is deep, but when you finally get abreast of it, you’ll discover it is shallow — inches deep — and that you wasted of your time trying to coax nonexistent fish from marginal water.

As I fished up the stream, I realized that if I were still spin fishing, this would’ve been an exceptionally frustrating day. With the rare exception, few of the pools were deep enough or featured large enough fish to make throwing a spinner or a spoon worthwhile. Most of the fish were clustered in small, deep cracks protected by rocks that would snag anything that did not float on top. The only reason nymphs were successful was that they are light enough to bounce off the obstructions on the bottom rather than snag. If you prefer to spin fish, focus your attention on the lower Conway instead of the upper section.

Bottom Line: From Devils Ditch to the north, the Conway grows smaller and smaller. I’ll discuss the upper section in a different post, but the skinny water reduces the pressure. You do have to walk to find a fishable pool and the exertion associated with that contributes to the lack of pressure in this stretch of the river.

Getting There: From Rt 29, turn west onto Rt 230.  Follow Rt 230 to 662 and follow it to the right.  It will take you to Graves Mill where you can access the lower Rapidan.  Bear left on 615 and follow it over the mountain.

Secrets Revealed?  No.  This is a very public location that is documented in the following places:

Virginia VDGIF
Flyfisher’s Guide to Virginia 
Virginia Trout Streams 
Virginia Blue-Ribbon Streams 
Fly Fishing Virginia 

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Date Fished: 6/18/2010

Typical small mountain pools

Easy walking, for the most part, over the rocky bed

Several sections of good runs

Every turn holds a pool

The higher you go, the skinnier the water

Unless stated otherwise, this article was authored by Steve Moore

Disclaimer and Warning:  The contents of this site reflect the opinion of the author and you, the reader, must exercise care in the use and interpretation of this information.  Fishing is a dangerous sport.  You can slip and fall on rocks and sustain severe injury.  You can drown.  You can get hooks caught in your skin, face, eyes or other sensitive places.  All sorts of bad things can happen to you when to go into the woods to visit the places documented here.  Forests, streams and lakes are wild areas and any number of bad things can happen.  You must make your own judgment in terms of acceptable behavior and risk and not rely on anything posted here.  I disclaim all liability and responsibility for any actions you take as a result of reading the articles on this site.  If you do not agree with this, you should not read anything posted on this site.

Disclaimer and Warning:  The contents of this site reflect the opinion of the author and you, the reader, must exercise care in the use and interpretation of this information.  Fishing is a dangerous sport.  You can slip and fall on rocks and sustain severe injury.  You can drown.  You can get hooks caught in your skin, face, eyes or other sensitive places.  All sorts of bad things can happen to you when to go into the woods to visit the places documented here.  Forests, streams and lakes are wild areas and any number of bad things can happen.  You must make your own judgment in terms of acceptable behavior and risk and not rely on anything posted here.  I disclaim all liability and responsibility for any actions you take as a result of reading the articles on this site.  If you do not agree with this, you should not read anything posted on this site.

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