Heading into the West Naked Creek trailhead, I felt like it took forever to negotiate the back roads off of US 340 south of the town of Shenandoah. Thankfully, even though the roads are gravel, they are well-maintained and that allowed me to keep up a reasonable amount of speed. Unfortunately, my high anticipation for reaching the trailhead evaporated when I saw the brown dust billowing up from the dry stream bed as the wind whipped it into a frenzy.
This is the fourth of four strikeouts on the west side of the Blue Ridge. Meadow Run was off-limits as a result of private property; Paine Run was a dry creek bed; Madison Run was another dry creek bed; and now the West Branch has to be written off as a day of recon rather than fishing.
Being the optimist that I always am, I decided to walk up the creek as far as I could tolerate just to see if I might be looking at an underground stream at the trailhead yet, higher up, it might turn into normal trout water. I initially started the walk by following the road on the other side of the creek bed that led up to the right, but immediately encountered a chain across the road overwatched by plenty of glaring posted signs. That must not be the way. I walked back down and only then noticed the dim remnants of an old road paralleling the creek bed.
The old road quickly evaporated into the forest and I slid into the dry creek bed to stumble up the boulder strewn bottom looking for water. Approximately a quarter mile up, some small pools began to appear and my spirits lifted. I began to notice an unusually high amount of bear scat spread all over the stream bed. It was as if those guys used the bed as their personal toilet. Approximately every 50 feet or so, there was another little mound sitting on the side of the stream. This gave me a little bit of pause as the last thing I wanted to do was run into another bear. I had seen one earlier in the day and scared it away with my air horn.
Since there was so much sign present, I pulled the air horn out and gave it a few bleats to announce my arrival. Setting my sights up the hill, I’m continued to climb over the medium sized rocks and ankle twisting boulders; dodging around numerous fallen trees that blocked the streambed. It never really got any better. I did find two small pools and I threw a fly in them just to see what was there. I succeeded in catching the 5 inch fallfish shown below. I really don’t think that trout survive this far down in the non-existent, skinny water.
There is no vegetation to speak of to provide overhanging cool shelter above the creek. All the trees hang back to allow the sun to beat unmercifully down; heating the rocks and what little water dribbles between them. At 0.6 mile, I started to notice wet footprints leading up the streambed ahead of me and it was obvious they were not human. They belonged to a bear. Since the water wasn’t any good, I decided to leave the stream to the bears, turned, and headed back to the truck. It took a long time to stagger back down without twisting my ankles in the dry streambed and I was relieved when the turnaround finally heaved its way back into sight.
Bottom Line: The West Branch of the Naked Creek may be fishable if you hike down from Skyline, but if you drive all the way to the entry from the bottom, you have just wasted your time. Even in the spring or late in the fall when there is more water, without fish being present in the summer, I doubt many would move down into this part of the stream. Don’t waste your time here.
Getting There: From US 340, turn left on Naked Creek Rd (VA 609). Follow it … it turns into Jollett Road (VA 750). Continue onto Weaver Road, taking a right turn when it becomes VA 607. Follow it to the end. If you are here on a school day, park close to the entrance to the turnaround since the school bus turns around here and needs plenty of space.
Secrets Revealed? No. This is a very public location that is documented in the following places:
Flyfisher’s Guide to Virginia
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Date Fished: 9/14/2010
Creek by the trailhead
Whoops… don’t follow the road
Follow this “road”
Upstream view about 1/3 mile in
Finally found a pool of fallfish
First “fishable” stop
produced this guy… no trout
Plenty of bear sign all over the place [ok… the answer to the question is “yes… bears do it in the woods”]
Second fishable pool… no trout
View upstream where I turned around
Unless stated otherwise, this article was authored by Steve Moore