The lower Jackson River, in Alleghany County,
Virginia, flows clear and cold from the outlet
at the bottom of the Gathright Dam emanating from
the Lake Moomaw spillway. There is a prime public
fishing area for about a mile below the dam. Also,
interspersed along the river are other public access
areas; but, a few long distance casts would probably
cover most of the public water. They carry the
fanciful names of "Johnson Springs," Smith Bridge,"
"Jack's Island," "Indian Draft," and "Petticoat Junction."
Long touted as one of the possible premiere trout streams
in the state, it has been reduced to a "no stock" status
by the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries and
a "no fish" policy in many areas. This was occasioned by
lengthy court battles, to the highest levels, resulting
in a verdict in favor of a few land owners claiming a
"Crown Grant" right to the land, water and all within,
originally bestowed by good King George; not to be
confused with good King Wenceslaus.
It has been my good fortune to have fished these areas
and, especially, the access area from the dam spillway
down to the first land owner posted section. The river
here is fast, very deep in places and the slick rocks
are just waiting to gobble another felt-less boot footed
To access this area you must first stop at the Visitors
Center which also houses the Facility Manager, Gathright
Dam and Lake Moomaw Project, Norfolk District, U. S. Army
Corp of Engineers, and fill out a permit form to enter
the downstream area of the Gathright Dam via Stilling
Basin Road. The permit contains your name, address,
phone number, vehicle license tag number, state, vehicle
make, year and color. The permit is only good for a
specified time (last year good till September 30th.) and
you must have it with you if you are in this area.
The Stilling Basin gated road opens at 5:00am to one
hour after sun down. The Visitor Center and maintenance
roads are locked by 3:30pm. A phone number is available
to call for lake and stream information or changes to
the closure of the area.
There are camping, picnicking, boat launch, grill and
fishing access areas available and it is a wonderful
place to share with family, friends or a solitary
respite in pursuit of the wily trout!
On the particular day, captioned in the title to this
rambling prose, I had arrived fairly early after a one
and a half hour drive from home. It was a cool morning,
with fog still hugging the river, and the refreshing
smell of blooming flowers and trees. No one else had
yet parted the currents and I counted myself lucky to
have the river all to myself; knowing that it probably
wouldn't last too long on such a beautiful day.
Wading out into the shallow area just upstream from
the "standpipe," I made the first few casts with high
expectations. Even if these were later dashed, a trip
to this sparkling jewel is more than worth the time
and effort to be there.
The soothing rushing water makes it almost impossible
to hear much other ambiant noise although the raucous
cry of angry crows can be heard above the currents.
Looking skyward, as you are at the bottom of a long
gorge, I spied a hawk being harassed by a much smaller
bird. How come it is that these sharp taloned hunters
don't turn around and skewer their tormentors?
Within an hour, also spied was a bushy tailed red fox,
nose to the ground and ambling along at a goodly pace
up the opposite bank towards the heavily wooded
Still no cooperative trout to hand; but, a gorgeous
day was unfolding and I was heavily involved in yet
another unproductive nymph drift. As I lifted the
line from the water a slight movement caught my eye
and I looked up from the task at hand to see a small
dark creature on the far bank. It was weaving it's way
along the rip-rap rock that lines the banks on both
sides of the river and paused every now and then to
survey it's chosen path.
My first impression was that of an otter; however, it
didn't appear to quite fit the profile. I couldn't
discern webbed feet or the broad tail you would
associate with it and this animal looked slimmer
and it's tail was of the same ilk.
I hoisted my rod into an underarm at rest or "let's
change the fly" position and decided to more closely
observe the critter. Stopping directly across from me,
it paused, sort of stood erect and looked straight at me.
I said, not too loudly, "Good morning Mr. Mink. I'm
glad to see that you also seem to be out and about on
this most grand of days. That's a mighty impressive
fur coat you have on today. If you had come by a little
sooner you could have spoken to a wily red fox, also
out for a morning stroll. I only have a small digital
camera with no close up lens; but, if you would stay
still for just a moment longer I'd like to take your
picture. However, I see that you've given me enough
of your time and you must return to the morning's
ramblings. It was a privilege to have made your
acquaintance, if only for a short time. Maybe we'll
cross paths some day when I'll be better prepared to
record your handsome profile and add it to my
collection of fishing trip photos. Well, I see that
you have underwater business and so do I. Perhaps we
can share the bountiful trout that inhabit this
beautiful place. Till we meet again..."
~ Richard A. Taylor (aka Grn Mt Man)