After fishing the lower section of the Hazel River, I knew there had to be something better upstream given the high gradient I saw on the map. So, in late May, I headed up the trail with the single-minded focus to put a significant distance between myself and the trailhead before fishing. To accomplish that, I moved quickly up the improved trail to the third crossing before I even started to think about fishing. At that point, the river levels off as it goes through a short valley and creates a number of good pools separated by long, shallow runs. I began fishing upstream using dry flies exclusively. The brookies started to hit immediately on Mr. Rapidan and even after my change to a black gnat and a Royal Wulff they continued to attack the fly with abandon. Sadly, most of these assaults were by exceptionally small fingerlings. You could see them nibbling at the fly as it floated back and I knew that was blowing that drift for the the big brother that was sure to lurk nearby. With plenty of good water to choose from, I quickly became more picky. I skipped the small 2 and 3 foot pools and moved to where the pool would be at least 5 or 10 feet long and focused my attention on those.
Each of those pools, and there were plenty of them, usually featured a deep 1 or 2 foot deep cut that sheltered the larger fish. Once I started to focus on the structure, I picked up some nice size brookies as you can see from the picture below. In fact, I even caught a nine incher – a Hazel River monster on a black gnat covered with a slight dusting of Frog’s Fanny floated next to a log. After fishing for a half mile, I noticed that the river took a dramatic upward pitch. There was a stark collection of large boulders with water gushing downstream. This had to be the Hazel Falls. The pool beneath that running water was deep. Given that, I decided to switch to a nymph to see if I could dredge anything up from the bottom. No luck. I’m sure I didn’t have enough line on but, I was anxious to continue to see what lay upstream, and fished my way through quickly.
Above the falls, the trail crosses the river again and provides the opportunity to either move quickly back to the parking area or continue up toward Skyline Drive on the Hazel Mountain Trail. I elected to stay in the water and fished upstream to the numerous pools that lay in front of me. Where the river crosses the trail again and marks a set of exceptional upstream pools that all hold decent sized fish. I’m sure that because this spot is over 2 miles from the parking lot, it gets minimal pressure and those who fish here stick to the catch and release ethic.
With the clock moving incessantly forward, I had to call it a day at approximately 2.5 miles from the trailhead. I stowed my rod and headed back down the trail to get back to the truck.
Bottom Line: Both of the lower sections of the Hazel merit more than a single trip. There’s plenty of water to fish and plenty of fish in the water. The farther you go, the better the pools get and the more densely the fish are populated.
Getting There: From Sperryville, VA, head southeast on US 522. Turn right onto Rt 231 south and follow it for 1.6 miles. Turn right on Rt 608 (Ashby Rd). At the “T” intersection, turn left on Rt 600 (Woodward) and follow it to the river. When you cross the bridge, look for parking.
Secrets Revealed? No. This is a very public location that is documented in the following places:
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Date Fished: 5/28/2010
Unless stated otherwise, this article was authored by Steve Moore