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Shenandoah River Float Trip Grove Hill to Newport - South Fork 7-25-21

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  • Shenandoah River Float Trip Grove Hill to Newport - South Fork 7-25-21

    This was my first trip on the South Fork of the Shenandoah River and it did not disappoint. This post will be a little overview of the trip and then the fishing report - for those looking for a fairly easy float trip, this 6 mile trip is well worth it. Aaron (aka PsuHntr) and I met up and dropped the first truck off at Newport, loaded up his kayak and gear and we set off for Grove Hill. For those wondering, the parking lot at Newport is a tight turn on a blind corner - this makes leaving a bit sketchy as its difficult to see on coming traffic. The parking lot is not large but there is plenty of room for vehicles, even though there is a concrete ramp, it is not designed for boats.

    We headed up to the Grove Hill ramp (again not designed for boats) and unloaded our kayaks. The Grove Hill parking lot is much larger than Newport. We put in at a nice little open stretch, the water was relatively clear but also low. There had not been much rain which made some spots a bit rocky. The upper portion of this stretch has a nice slow current which gives you plenty of time to fish with a fair amount of rocks and over hanging trees along the banks. This topography on the South Fork carries on for roughly the first few miles. Within the first mile there is a large sweeping bend when the Shenandoah swings north, along here are a few small gravel and rock bars (hardly call them islands) that offer some nice back eddy's for fishing.

    Around 2 to 2.5 miles in the South Fork opens up and becomes much deeper than the first part of the float. Several large rock bluffs come down right into the river bed. This is probably one of the prettiest stretches of river in Virginia. The fishing changes and there are many more largemouth bass in this stretch. In this stretch there are several private launches and there will be boat traffic. Though, any canoe or kayaks are fine in these stretches. We saw several bald eagles in these stretches, along with a lot of great blue herons and green herons.

    At about mile 4.25, there is a dam, there are plenty of signs and red buoys strung across the river. On river right, there is a portage to go around the dam and reenter the Shenandoah. Word of warning, the portage is terrible. The exit is deep water, there are broken concrete chunks to try and help with erosion, but it is bare bones. Its a little bit of a steep climb up to where the trail starts. The trail to enter is well maintained but it does have ruts etc., - but overall is better than the exit point. It is highly recommended to have a cart for your kayak or canoe. The trail from start to finish is roughly 550 feet long going up and then coming back down. There is great fishing at the tailwaters of the dam, with plenty of smallmouth in the deeper waters.

    After putting back in, the South Fork has great fishing, with several rocky areas that hold fish, and the current is nice and smooth. From re-entering the river, its roughly just under 1 mile to the Newport ramp which will be on your left at the base of a little set of riffles. As for rapids, there are not many, on the low water levels it makes a few rocks much more prevalent which makes it tricky. The biggest set is halfway between the dam and the Newport ramp. On the left will be a campground right on the river, there is a little set of rapids right at the beginning of the campgrounds. The biggest set of rapids in this stretch happens to be at the end of the campground before the river sweeps to the right. The water here is much quicker and the drop is noticeable upon approaching the rapids. Pick your line and stick to it making sure to not end up sideways on a rock. For those who don't wish to go through, you can consider exiting and carrying your gear along the side though there isn't any really good way to carry as access is a challenge. At higher water levels, the river will be much faster, but some of the bigger rocks wont be as shallow.

    Now for the fishing. There is a significant number of smallmouth bass in this river and a good number of largemouth in the slower deeper stretches. We were looking to have a good time and catch some nice fish. Early on Aaron and I both caught bass on flukes, jerkbaits and the whopper plopper. There are a lot of fish in that 8 to 10" range and we easily missed as many as we caught. My largest smallmouth was in that 15 inch range, with my biggest largemouth right at 17 inches. Most all my fish came off a fluke, but the whopper plopper caught its fair share. My biggest smallmouth came off a gill colored lucky craft jerkbait. You can easily catch numbers, but there are also many really good fish in these stretches with smallmouth easily in the 3 to 4 pound range and up. At the end of the day, I ended up with 29 smallmouth and 3 largemouth - with Aaron beating me by 1 fish.

    I highly recommend people doing this trip, just make sure the water level isn't too low. This would be about the lowest I would want to make this paddle.

  • #2
    Great writeup. I used to love fishing the Doah but I haven't been in years. Such a pretty river.

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    • #3
      I've floated the 40 miles upriver of Grove Hill, but never below Grove Hill, need to do that stretch. Great writeup!
      sigpic

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      • #4
        Andy- there is a reason we don't like this stretch of river and it is that hateful dam- When I go to Page County, I put in at the Shenandoah Dam and float to Grove hill. Smallmouth fishing on the Shenandoah has been unusually good this year- we just need some more water.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by jacker1 View Post
          Andy- there is a reason we don't like this stretch of river and it is that hateful dam- When I go to Page County, I put in at the Shenandoah Dam and float to Grove hill. Smallmouth fishing on the Shenandoah has been unusually good this year- we just need some more water.
          The portage def sucks...it sucks even more when you don't have wheels for your kayak...don't ask me how I know
          Make VAO Great again

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          • #6
            The dam would suck even more if the other guy ALSO didn't have his kayak cart... thank God someone came prepared.

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