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  Fly Fishing the Jackson River

Zeke and I decided that we wanted to see some other famous fishing places so this year (2011) we decided to go to Virginia and fish on the Jackson River.  The Jackson is not named for Andrew but for William Jackson who was a Revolutionary War officer and the first person to settle on the banks of the river. He received a King’s Grand for 270 acres from King George II.  The Jackson has somewhat of a bad rap for fishing in that people are afraid to fish on it because much of the water is private meaning that it is part of the various King’s Grants given to some of the early settlers.  

I should explain that a little bit.  When this country was first settled and the King George II of England gave land to some of the new settlers and the rules of English law applied.  Part of the title, gave the person owning the property the right to all fish and animals that were in any streams or rivers that ran through the property and the birds and anything that was in the air above the property.

Early settlers fished and hunted on their properties, and the land was not open to others.  What happened along the Jackson River was that the state of Virginia wanted to stock the stream and allow public access to the river.  That meant that there were fishing licenses, rules and limits on the number of fish taken, and the tackle used to take them.

Since I heard this from one of the owners of such a property, I will repeat it.  This person said among other things that meant that she could not take her grandson down fishing on her own property because he was using live bait .... an earth worm.

The King’s Grant property owners got together and sued the sate of Virgiana and won.

What this means to fishermen is that that along the Jackson river there is limited access, and many of the properties are posted and enforced.

We were lucky and had a guide who was very aware of the rules and knows the river well.  I was impressed with the fact that when we would see a fisherman on the bank he would make us stop fishing well before and well after we passed the fisherman.  The Jackson is a large river and in many cases I am not sure the fisherman would have been able to get his lure to the opposite bank.  With the right knowledge about the area and possibly with a good guide, this is a great place to fish and a destination for the serious fly fisherman.

I have fished in several places out West and Alaska and the Jackson River had some cliffs coming down all the way to the water ending in some beautiful deep pools.  It is really spectacular and worth a visit.  If you want the name of our guide I will be glad to share it with you.  Just email me.  jmcneary@(remove this)

We were fishing for Brown Trout along the Jackson River.  Zeke caught a nice pickerel which I had never seen before.  We got about 30 trout each day.  There had been lots of rain several days earlier and Lake Moomaw which is up stream was releasing water about about 1200 ccfs.  Normal summer time flow is more like 300 ccfs.  Most of the fish were in the 14 to 15 inch range and we were hoping for a 20 plus.  Guess we will have to go back.

Lake Moomaw is a lake that was coceived years ago but completed in the 1980’s.  The land of Thomas Gathright was flooded often and he was an early proponent for the dam which was named after him.  Benjamin Moomaw who was a successful businessman in Covington Virgina championed the lake and consequently the lake was named for him.  Lake Moomaw backs up twelve miles of the Jackson River and is a very successful sportsman’s fishing destination. 

BTW when one is fishing there is not too much time to take photos.   The Striper in the photos below was caught the first day we were there on the Stanton River.  .

See Stripers and the Roanoke River.

Here are some photos. 

Directly below is a Chain Pickeral caught on the first day on the Jackson River.  Blane Chocklate was our guide.

tejackson river pickeral zeke 0357sting site

zekes piceral 0359_edited-1

The sights along the Jackson river were great.  Steep rock banks and early spring the red buds were in bloom
really a pretty time to be on the river.   There was a very heavy rain the day or so before so wading was not too feasible.

The red buds were in full bloom and the dogwoods just starting when we fished here at Easter.   I believe the area is about 4 weeks behind Charlotte NC which is where we live.

redbus on bank jackson river 0420

We also fished on the Stauton River for Stripers.  Did not get many photos, the guide was supposed to do that but failed to send the photos to us.  We got in the schools of them for a short duration and then another bunch.  Here are couple of the striper shots.



Below is a bridge over the Stauton River.



This is me with a Striped Bass or Striper on the Stauton River.  Of course I caught this on a fly rod fairly early in the day and thought I would be exhausted if we caught lots of fish.  I wasn’t but we did catch a boat load of them. 

The red buds on the Jackson River were in full bloom and the dogwoods just starting when we fished here at Easter.   I believe the area is about 4 weeks behind Charlotte NC which is where we live.


On the Jackson we fished mile after mile of water where the rock cliffs come right down to the water.  Absolutely fabulous fishy looking water.

We also fished at Escataba Farms which was private water.  This is Zeke fishing.  I think I got my facts right because some of my photos disappeared and I had to go back into my archives.


It might look like Zeke is hung up but I got a series of shots of the fish in the water as the one below.





Bridge over the Stauton River (I think)



Stripers and the Roanoke River.

We fished on the Stauton River (pronounced Stanton) for striped bass.  The Stauton River starts at the base of Smith Mountain Lake and is a tail race river.  After the Stauton gets to the Dan River it changes its name back to the Roanoke River and heads on down to North Carolina and Albermarle Sound.  How did this name change come about?

The goal back in the late 1700’s and the 1850 was to get farm produce from Salem Virginia to the coast.  The Roanoke River was not entirely passable because of rock formations in the river and efforts were made to change the channel by blasting out rock and moving it manually out of the way and shunting the water so flat bottom boats could navigate the river.  This feat was accomplished by a company call the Roanoke Navigation Company and the work was done by 1850.?????  The route from ???/ to the sea was ???? miles.

Interestingly, about the same time this was accomplished the railroads were beginning to connect towns and the Norfolk and Western Railway to met the  Shenandoah Valley Railroad  in RoanokeVirginia.  Roanoke is still noted for its railroad and actually was called Big Lick before the railroads arrived.  The reason it is called the Staunton from the mouth of Back Creek River to its intersection with the Dan River.   A Captain Henry Staunton patroled the river valley prior to the Revolutionary War, and that part of the the river was called Captain Staunton’s River.  The name revert back to the Roanoke River after it connects with the Dan.

The name Big Lick came about because there were many natural Salt marshs in what now is the Roanoke Valley.  The largest of these was called Big Lick which was later changed to "Rawrenock" which was the indian name for Roanoke.

If you want to read some more details check out this link
More on the Roanoke Navigation Company here