Mountain Waters

There is much to be said for Virginia’s waters. We are blessed to live in a state which takes great pride in our natural resources. Virginia goes to great lengths to preserve and enhance its lake, rivers and streams so they are enjoyed by generations to come. Some of my favorite waters include Jennings creek in Botetourt County, The Maury River which is in Rockbridge County, The Jackson River in Bath and Allegheny Counties and the South Fork – Holston River which runs through Smyth County.

In my younger days fishing wasn’t an activity I spent much time pursuing. When I did go fishing, I looked for big waters where I hoped to land the big fish. In those days I had little patience being young and immature thought the sport was all about the fish.

Many years, trials and grey hairs later I have a new perspective on the sport and have come to understand, as Henry David Thoreau put it, “It’s not the fish I was after”. Oh, its nice to catch the fish. There’s nothing like a beautiful brown trout on the end of your line, fight to stay wet. It’s an exciting experience to see that brown jumping two feet out of the water as he defiantly says, you messed with the wrong one today!

No, It’s about standing knee deep in the cold mountain water of the Jackson River or the North Fork of the Holson and experiencing nature. It’s about getting away from the hustle and bustle of life for a while. It’s about the serenity you experience as you sit in the edge of Jennings creek with no other person around and all you can hear is the sound of the water making its way down the mountain.  And lets not forget that wonderful smell of pine trees, mountain water and dirt, which is the fragrance of earth. Yes, it is so much more than the fish. It’s the whole experience and what it does for me goes much deeper than a physical activity, it is a spiritual encounter which leaves me fresh and renewed.

Some of my warm water fishing buddies have a ritual of cleaning, inspecting and storing their gear for the season when the cold weather hits. For me, the gear is readily available in my truck year round. You never know when the need will rise and I have to hit that mountain stream to decompress. I often joke, I don’t need a Gone Fishing sign, mine should read; Gone to Church!


Some of my Favorite Virginia Mountain Waters: Jennings Creek, Maury River, Jackson River and North Fork Holston River

**Along with a fresh water fishing license you will also need a trout license and National Forest stamp. Get your fishing license here.


Jennings Creek: Botetourt County just North of Buchanan, Virginia in the Jefferson National Forest

Fishing Jennings Creek: Jennings is stocked trout waters which also include North and Middle Creeks in this area. The creeks run along the main road and you can find many spots to pull over to get out and fish. Don’t be fooled by shallow water, the creeks are packed with trout but you have to bring you’re “A Game”. Use your hunting tactics; stay out of their sight, don’t splash around, slow and patient is what it will take.



The Maury River: Rockbridge County

Fishing the Maury: This River offers a lot of different opportunities. Let’s take the rowdy water of Goshen Pass first. This section of the river is top trout fishing water, Category A. That means that it is stocked once in October, November-December, and January-February. But it is stocked twice monthly in March, April, and May, the top trout fishing months in Virginia. Like so many Virginia trout waters, the water becomes too low and warm to hold trout through the summer.

While the trout fishing is popular, the smallmouth bass and sunfish in the river hold more appeal for many anglers. Anglers frequently catch smallmouth bass while fishing the Goshen Pass waters for trout, but the best fishing begins downstream where the Pass waters become gentler.



The Jackson River: Bath and Alleghany County

Fishing the Jackson: Wild rainbow trout, wild brown trout, smallmouth bass, rock bass (redeye), and redbreast sunfish

Large, lake-run rainbow trout can be caught in the Jackson River above Lake Moomaw during the winter and spring. Much of this stretch is privately owned, so be sure you are fishing on National Forest property or have landowner permission. The Jackson River, through Hidden Valley, provides ample trout fishing opportunities, especially a three-mile reach of special regulation water above the Muddy Run swinging bridge.

Jackson River, downstream of Covington, VA, affords good angling for small-mouth bass, redbreast sunfish, and rock bass. Watercraft launch facilities are being planned at several locations along the lower Jackson River.



Holston River: South Fork – Smyth County

The South Fork Holston River originates in Smyth County, Virginia near the community of Sugar Grove, where it is formed by the combination of several coldwater streams. There are two different special regulation trout fishing sections within the upper portions of the river.

In the largest section, only single-hook artificial lures may be used, and there is a creel limit of two fish per day and a 16-inch minimum size limit. This section is approximately four miles long, extending from 500 feet above the dam at the Buller Fish Cultural Station upstream to the upper Jefferson National Forest boundary (above the crossing of the Appalachian Trail). Both rainbow and brown trout are available in this section of the South Fork.


Information obtained from the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries: