Beauty and bass on one of Virginia’s “undiscovered” rivers

Outdoors Bound

ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — The poet and author Robert Louis Stevenson once wrote: “Smooth it glides upon its travel…”

He was talking about rivers, and those six words perfectly capture the essence and beauty of those waterways.

Very fitting, because streams are like books. Each riffle, twist, and bend are new pages written in a language only few can decipher.

Some streams, like some books, are better known than others. In our region rivers like the Shenandoah, the New, and the James take the spotlight, and rightfully so. Each is beautiful in its own right.

But, there are some hidden gems among us, too.

The Jackson River is one such stream. It’s like that wonderful old tattered book that you may have overlooked on the shelf, but once opened, you can’t put it down.

Rob England has spent much of his life unlocking the secrets of the Jackson. He is an Ohioan by birth, but a Virginian by choice. He fell in love with the streams in our region, especially the Jackson. England now runs guided trips on area streams through his Appalachian Bronzeback Adventures guide service.

He says the only way to really get to know a stream is by floating it at wave level in a drift raft. His knowledge gives his clients an advantage.

“This fishery is still a very formidable fishery,” England said of the Jackson. “As to the population of smallmouth bass and musky, on a good day, you can catch probably 75 to 100 fish.”

England has been running trips on the Jackson for more than a decade. One of his favorite floats is from Clifton Forge through Rainbow Gap and down to the Head of the James.

“It’s just a gorgeous stretch of river,” England said, gesturing up the tree-covered hillsides on either side of the stream. “You can only get this view from the water.”

The Jackson River near Clifton Forge

As a smallmouth fishery, the Jackson is fantastic. In two trips this spring and summer, we caught more than 60 fish with a few trophies mixed in. As a bonus, we also took a brook trout and spotted muskies cruising the streambed. England targets those, too.

“This is a strong musky fishery, there are lots of good-sized fish and we catch a lot of them in the spring and fall.”

But, that’s not all. There is wildlife to be seen including otters, bald eagles, and black bears.

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