Wild Trout and Wild Times in Virginia

Fellow blog writer Joe Drake recently moved down to Virginia and expressed interest in fishing the local rivers. Unfortunately, our schedules did not line up for the first few weeks after his move. When he reached out last Friday expressing his interest to fish, I immediately suggested a trip to the Jackson River due to its mutual proximity. So, I looked for an Airbnb nearby and found one for $50/night.

I made the 3.5-hour trek on Saturday and arrived in the evening with a couple hours of daylight. I wasted no time in gearing up and scouting. At one pullout I saw some posted signs and quickly moved on. For the most part, I don’t worry about signage as long as I am in the river, but the Jackson has some very controversial access rules due to King’s Grant laws grandfathered in since before the Revolution. Weird, I know. From what I’ve found out, it only applies to a small stretch of river near the dam, but the landowners take it very seriously and I didn’t want to chance it. I eventually found another pullout where I could access the river. Overall, the fishing was a bit slow. and I didn’t get any action until I switched to a chartreuse Mop, landing some small wild bows.

The next morning, I woke up early and decided to continue scouting near a meeting spot I suggested to Joe. I fished downstream of where I fished the evening before. At this spot, amidst water somewhat reminiscent of New Hampshire’s Saco River, I landed several small bows and a decent wild brown. I got somewhat carried away and didn’t realize until our planned meeting time that I had no cell service. I got out and went back to the parking lot to greet Joe. After striking out at our first spot, I suggested going back to where I fished the night before.

Unfortunately, the fishing wasn’t much better there either. I landed a couple bows after throwing the kitchen sink. The next few hours were slow, with only a few sporadic takes. One of those was a decent 15-inch wild brown out of a textbook spot. Around lunchtime, the flood gates suddenly opened and fish started feeding heavily. I landed several wild bows, while Joe missed a large brown on a streamer and moved an even bigger one. At one point, I had a massive brown trout almost swim into the net while chasing a small bow that I hooked!

 

Eventually, we decided to grab lunch and move to another spot further downstream. Here, the river was slower with long riffles and deep pools. I decided to switch to a hopper-dropper. The fishing wasn’t fast and furious, but I hooked a couple larger fish including a 22-inch beast of a rainbow trout, which I lost after a spirited battle. Unfortunately, I had to end the day on that note and prepare for my 3.5 hour drive home. All said, it was an exceptional day. It was one of those days with highs and lows, some of which will keep us up at night. We will be back.

 

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