If you find yourself needing a trout fix in midsummer, I recommend you go to the Dry River. The Skidmore Dam looms above it and, since it is a tailwater, provides a constant injection of cool water into what otherwise would be a very warm river. Dick, Jim, and I visited the Dry in mid-May and fished the upper section where the Dry River crosses route 33. This is also the upper limit of where the VDGIF stocks trout during the season. While the rainbows will get hunted out quickly in this put and take fishery, the brookies seem to thrive in this stretch. I imagine thattheir small size protects them from those who are after dinner. Once the stocked rainbows are gone the meat fisherman’s interest in this water fades as well.
As you head towards West Virginia on route 33, it’s easy to find this spot. Look for where the Dry River runs under route 33 and pull off to the left after crossing the bridge. From this point, you can either move directly west and fish the Skidmore Fork to where it enters the Dry River or you can go to the bridge and work down the Dry River itself. Rather than going over to the Skidmore Fork, I elected to go to the Dry side. The river here is fairly narrow with a deep stretch approaching 4 feet deep in the vicinity of the bridge. It quickly turns into a run that is no more than 10 feet wide as it rushes downstream to join the cold flow from the Skidmore Fork. Once the streams join, they form a broad shallow pool that has plenty of brookies.
The brookies here are as anxious to take a dry fly as those we encountered in the lower stretch earlier in the day. They seemed to enjoy brown colored adams or gray colored mosquito patterns. You will not have to cast many times before you get a top water take on either of these patterns. I do need to point out that this water is fairly skinny; even after the junction of the two streams. It remains generally narrow and shallow from here on downstream. The good news is that the brookies are so small in this section that they do not mind the shallow water. It seems like any portion of the stream that is at least a foot deep will hold a fish or two.
The eastern bank of the stream features the plateau that has been enjoyed by numerous 4×4 clubs as well as other campers. Sadly, it seems like some of these have no regard for the area and there is plenty of trash strewn at the logical campsites to mark their presence. While there is no defined trail on the eastern bank, the vegetation is sparse which allows you to work your way downstream with relative ease. I elected to stay in the riverbed and fished my way down. After the pool at the junction, the river contains mostly moderate gradient riffles. While there is an occasional medium sized pool, you will find yourself fishing small targets where the water is a little bit deeper around the significant rocks or other structure that pokes out of the water here and there.
A final word on pressure… the Dry is hammered during stocking season as it receives 5 stockings. If you wait until the season is over, you will probably have this water to yourself.
Bottom Line: Do not come here if you are looking for fish of any significant size. The standard brookie that lives in this part of the Dry River is only about 4 to 6 inches long. Do come here if you want to get some practice working dry flies. The brookies don’t seem to be very interested in nymphs in this stretch but took to the dries eagerly. I doubt I will come back here anytime soon as I enjoy catching larger fish.
Getting There: From Harrisonburg, go west on Route 33. Once past the town of Rawley Springs, it begins to parallel the Dry River. Stop where it crosses the Dry.
Enter these coordinates in Google Local: 38.567965,-79.09255
Secrets Revealed? No. This is a very public location that is documented in the following places:
Virginia VDGIF Trout Map
Flyfisher’s Guide to Virginia
Virginia Trout Streams
The farther down you go, the narrower the water gets
Sadly, jerks have been here as well
Junction of the Dry and the Skidmore Fork
High gradient stretch
Nothing real big here – just little brookies
Dick working a brookie – here’s the video
Unless stated otherwise, this article was authored by Steve Moore