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Middle River, A Private Journey for Bronze Backs

Updated: May 15, 2023

The Middle River is one of three major drainages of the Shenandoah Valley that create the renown Shenandoah River of Virginia. Starting from tumbling mountain runs and small springs, the Middle River is born along the eastern ridge of North Mountain. This small stream flows south to north from Summerdean, a small farming area toward Swoope. Cold, clean water is unfortunately spoiled early by intensive farming operations that rapidly pollute the water and sully the creek bed and smother macroinvertebrates. Areas of the stream are resilient, however, and bold springs continue to broaden the stream. Heavy canopied areas keep the water temperatures right around 70 degrees or so. With ongoing conservation efforts and stream repair, optimism abounds with potential sustainable trout populations in the future.

Just west of Staunton on 250 is the little town of Churchville, where a fairly sizeable Jennings Branch starts to add more volume to the river. This stretch is very tight and only able to float in canoes or kayaks in Spring flows. Some have heard stories of large trout in this stretch, through Frank's Mill, and into Verona. Plenty of sunfish and smallmouth bass start to become more prevalent and will actively take wooly buggers or other mid-sized streamers.

Just beyond Verona is where the river begins to look a lot more like smallie water. Log jams, rock ledges, and huge sycamores begin to hang over the river. A heron or two is bound to be spotted nearby, and a solid stream begins to have stretches of slack water that begs for a popper. Fish start to range in the 8'-12" range, perfect for a 5 weight fly rod. Plenty of 15+" fish have been caught, but none above 20", yet. The river starts to flow more eastward, first under I-81, and then through the farmlands of the central Shenandoah Valley. As it continues to flow eastward, it doubles back on itself several times. These turns create deep ledges and pools below, sometimes up to 10 feet deep. Smallmouth lay in these rock ledges looking for crayfish and large bait fish streamers. We carry 8 weight rods with sinking lines to get to the bottom of some of these deeper holes.

As the middle river reaches the eastern side of the valley it slows to very long stretches of farmlands. Carp become more abundant and largemouth start to find there way in here and there in the slower water. The river eventually meets up with the North River, about a mile upstream before the shared waterway's confluence with the South River. Here the Shenandoah is created, heading 56 miles north through Elkton, Front Royal, and finally it's confluence with the Potomac at Harper's Ferry.

Understanding the source of the Middle River and how it evolves through the valley is something few get to experience. All land adjacent to the river is 100% privately owned and accessing the water seen as trespassing. A few members of the community are trying to change the relationship of the river with the community, and therefore expanding access and opportunities to clean up and protect this waterway.

As the only current guide service able to operate on the river, Middle River Outfitters offers a nearly exclusive, secluded opportunity for smallmouth bass fly fishing on our raft. Wildlife, birds, and plenty of fish are available as you slip silently through the valley. Grab a friend and book now for a unique experience.

~Available April-October and based on water levels~


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