For three years, I watched the recurring entry in the state stocking announcements that fish had been deposited in the South River near Grottoes. Previously, I fished the South River down in Waynesboro and knew there were plenty of trout in the town – particularly during stocking season. Since I was doing my overall recon of the west slope of the Blue Ridge, and happened to be driving through Grottoes, I decided to detour over to the access near Grand Caverns and check it out for myself. According to the fisheries website, the Grottoes is stocked for about 2 1/2 miles between the Grand Caverns and the next bridge downstream. I took a look at the map and determined that there were no easy access points other than the park surrounding Grand Caverns. That led me to conclude that all the fish get dumped in this particular location.
I rumbled across the bridge and swung to the right into the broad parking lot next to numerous picnic pavilions. This was a nice little park! Even in mid-September, it still had portapotties in place and I could see the grounds crew mowing the grass. After eating a sandwich, I wandered over to look at the water. It was crystal clear running across a mostly rocky bottom. Good so far!
For some reason, even though it was a hot day, I decided I didn’t want to get wet and pulled on my chest waders. With the first step into the river, I was very glad that I had done so. Even after a summer of high heat with over fifty 90° days, the South River felt like it was ice cold. My intent wasn’t to spend a lot of time here. Rather, I just wanted to get a feel for this location and assess whether it would be worth visiting in conjunction with attending the Virginia Fly Fishing Festival next year. I waded downstream approximately a quarter mile and was surprised again. After a summer when every other river in the state was running at dramatic lows, it was still waist deep in the center channel. The water leveled out to become shallow on either bank. In spite of the crystal clear water, I could not see any movement of fish. I did not have my temperature gauge with me and was unable to take a reading to see just how cold it was.
I tied on a small popper with a grasshopper dropper and began to flip it up underneath the shoreline vegetation. I had one slashing strike from an aggressive sunfish but nothing else. After fishing downstream, I walked up to hit the deep water underneath the bridge. I weighted a nymph heavily and drifted it through the deep channel between the two islands. Nothing.
Bottom Line: If Grottoes is stocked the next time I swing through Waynesboro, I think I’ll make a detour up here just to check it out. Since there are no easy trails leading to the river beyond the immediate vicinity of the park – particularly given the high bank on the left-hand side, I think you might be able to have a good day here.
Getting There: Navigate to Grottoes, VA on US 340. Turn west on VA 256. Turn left on Aspen Ave and follow it to the park.
Secrets Revealed? No. This is a very public location that is documented in the following places:
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Date Fished: 9/14/2010
Upstream to the bridge
Riffles above the bridge
Deep hole under the bridge
This is a really nice park
Unless stated otherwise, this article was authored by Steve Moore