Since this is the holidays, most of you will probably be staying home or visiting friends and
family. I doubt that many of you will be traveling to and fishing the Smokies although I hope you
do. January and the first part of February is probably the coldest time of the year and you will
have to pick out the better days to expect much success fishing the freestone streams. By the
end of February, everyone will be doing their best to force the bugs to hatch and the trout to
respond even though they will probably have to wait a few more days to see any surface action.
That considered, I thought I would write about some fishing trips we have made to various other
destinations. Don't expect these articles to win any awards, just tell you about some things I
hope you will find interesting and a few that I look back on with a gleam in my eye.
Fly Fishing the Jackson River, Virginia - Part 2
The Jackson River tailwater is not the only thing worthy of mention when it comes to
fly fishing water. The upper Jackson River above the Gathright Dam and Lake
Moomaw provides some decent fly fishing opportunities.
The thing not often mentioned about the Jackson River that sets it apart from most
large southern streams, is the fact that it is a limestone stream. It has a higher PH
value and that results in plenty of food for trout. The specific area of fishing I am
referring to lies in Hidden Valley Recreation Area. The river is unlike most
headwater streams or freestone streams in another way. It is rather large.
The stream is stocked but it does have a good population of hold-over brown trout.
It is a shame that this area is recommended in priority to the tailwater section of the
Jackson River, but it is. The tailwater section has (according to what I am told) a
excellent population of wild rainbow and brown trout. That is of little value if you can
only access a few small areas of water to fish.
The area of water that provides the best fishing in the Hidden Valley area requires
a hike of about three miles. You can follow a maintenance road the entire way. It is
not steep. In fact is has only a little grade increase the entire way according to my
topomaps, so by Great Smoky Mountains hiking standards, it is easy going. We did
not get to make the hike. I decided I would slip off a fairly high bank into the river
not far from the famous Warwack House, and almost break my leg and neck. Hiking
to the best area of the river the following day was impossible for me. I was black
and blue from my waist down to the calf in my right leg. My upper back was
scratched deeply. My brother-in-law, who (thank goodness) was only 22 years old
at the time, helped me get out of the fairly deep water of the river or I may not have
been here to write this. The edge of the bank broke off beneath my feet. Thats
what I got for trying to see if any brown trout were hiding beneath the undercut
That was our second day on that part of the Jackson River. The day before
produced little results. I didn't manage to catch a single trout in about three hours
of fishing in what appeared to be a perfect location. We spent the rest of the first
day in that area, driving around on the numerous roads surrounding the upper
Jackson River and the several feeder streams that flow into it in that area. Most all
of the tributary streams and upper Jackson River is on private property.
I am told that there are some local outfitters and guides that are able to access
certain parts of the tailwater section in the lower part of the river. I certainly don't
want to take anything away from them. I can just say that if you want to travel to the
Jackson River, upper or lower tailwater section, you may be best advised to consult
with one of the local outfitters beforehand. Our four days on the river (one with a
hurt leg), produced only a few rainbows in two of the small access areas on the
tailwater section. You can catch trout right below the dam but my guess is that the
fishable section there is less than a quarter of a mile long.
If the reports of the large wild rainbows and brown trout is accurate, then I can only
say that it is a shame that what is at least potentially, the best tailwater trout fishing
in Virginia, or possibly the East, cannot be accessed by the public.
Copyright 2008 James Marsh