Where to Fish: Jackson River (Upper)

by Frank Meade, Wintergreen Sporting Club

The special regulated section of the Jackson River above Lake Moomaw in the Hidden Valley Recreation Area is a very special place for fly fishermen, especially those willing to walk 45 minutes or bike 15 minutes upstream to the special regulation area that starts above the swinging rope bridge. The river from the parking area up to the swinging rope bridge is a stocked put and take water, not fly fishing only, so it gets pressure. The river is accessed from very easily walked or biked fire road.

The coolest way to do this trip is to put a mountain/hybrid bike in the car, take a backpack loaded with lunch, wading boots, fishing vest, some TP (!) , etc., and literally toss your waders over your shoulders, strap your rod to your backpack or carry across handle bars, and the bike in to the special reg section. It is flat, easily biked and very scenic. This will provide you at least an hour more fishing time, but walking isn’t bad either if you build in the time. You will have to walk your bike across a small stream and across the bridge, and along some rocky trail after the bridge before the road becomes wide and smooth again for biking. Once well up above the bridge, there are loads of great fly-fishing waters. Just ditch the bikes behind some trees and have at it.

This is a day’s adventure. It is not a trip for someone who has a commitment back home in afternoon. But it is really not strenuous and it is great fun. 

Afterward, there are some neat places for sandwiches and usual beverages on the return trip near The Homestead. I would be delighted to host a trip to this destination.

Of course, state fishing license, trout stamp, and national forest stamp required. I have been checked by game wardens here. Orvis and other fly shops track conditions on this water, so feel free to call Orvis in Richmond (Short Pump) and see what they say about hatches.

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.

Note that this is a wonderful area for hiking, paralleling the river almost entire way.  Thus good for fisherman/non-fisherman together (but I’d suggest the fisherman will want to be there longer!)


Distance from Wintergreen: 90-100 minutes, beautiful drive through Goshen and Millboro Springs.

Water Type: River

Primary Game Fish: Rainbow and Brown Trout

Recommended Lures/Flies: Numerous dries, wets, nymphs and streamers as appropriate for most Virginia freestone streams.

Not Kayak/Canoe Suitable

Websites: http://www.fs.usda.gov


Directions: I-64W to I-81S to first exit (#220) for Route 262 bypass around Staunton, to Route 254W (Parkersburg Turnpike exit). This becomes Route 42. Follow to Route 39W, through Millboro Springs, over mountains, cross over Route 220, continue on 39W 3.2 miles to right hand turn onto McGuffin Road. Go 1 mile, take slight left onto Hidden Valley Rd, marked for Hidden Valley Recreation Area. Follow to end for parking (and a porta-potty).

Jackson River

Jackson River