Lon and I wanted to get together to go fishing ever since we started chatting about the Rapidan last summer. Trout season was a distraction for me and it wasn't until last week that we were able to join forces. Since we had the entire day to explore, we decided to strike farther west than the Rappahannock or the Rapidan; water that represents more familiar territory for both of us. VAFlyFish.com had some pretty good information on the Robinson river so we decided to go there. There are a number of reports on that site which discuss the availability of smallies - our target for the day. Without a clear goal in mind, I did a map recon to look for places where the road would permit public access to the water.
After a little bit of study, it looked like River Road north of route 29 crept within a few feet of the river. Failing that, we would follow the guidance in the Flyfisher's Guide to Virginia which indicated that VDOT has an easement on either side of any bridge that theoretically allows you to gain access to the water; assuming, of course, that nothing is posted. Granted, there's controversy around that with many people claiming that a landowner cannot post that easement. But that's for lawyers to argue about, not me. If I see a posted sign, I go someplace else and so should you. Make no assumptions.
Lon and I rolled up to the Robinson; arriving there a little bit after 8 AM. We turned onto River Road and drove a short distance to where it swung left to follow the river. Thankfully, there were no posted signs and there was a small turnoff that had clearly been used before. We got out of the truck to do a quick visual recon and immediately saw a well beaten path from the turnoff (which will only hold one truck) to the water. All was good, so we geared up and jumped in.
Right above the turnoff is the first good pool. Just above it, the river takes a sharp bend to the east, compresses between a rock cliff face and a steep bank to dump into a pool that is probably 6 to 7 feet deep and 30 yards long. You can wade on the west bank. Lon started at the lower riffle and I went half way up to work the deeper water. First cast... bluegill. Second cast... 13 inch smallie. This was going to be a great day in a good place.
I was using small plastic crappie lures that I picked up in Gander Mountain and Bass Pro Shop. In effect, I converted my fly rod into a bass rig and I took this opportunity to try out a couple new ways to put it all together. I've been experimenting with the various small plastic grubs, worms, minnows, and crayfish patterns to see which would be the best. So far, it looks like all of them are pretty good. The trick is that you have to figure out how to keep the plastics from causing your line to twist into knots as the current rolls them. I solved this by tying on the smallest barrel swivel I could find 24 inches above the plastic lure. I continue to experiment with the best way to weight the lure and I'll report my findings sometime later this summer after a work off my backlog of trip reports and confirm that this approach is actually useful.
Back to the fishing....
This stretch of the Robinson is about 30 feet wide and fairly consistent in its structure. It's almost as if it was stamped with a cookie-cutter. Working our way upstream, we went from pool to riffle to pool to riffle. Every pool seemed to be a standard 30 yards, 4 to 5 feet deep and every riffle stretched for about 10 yards. The water was running fast and clear throughout the section. There was one spot that broke the mold where the 30 yard stretch was a flat rocky bottom, a foot or two deep. In the other areas of the river, the bottom is mostly sand with the rocks consolidated in the riffle areas. There were many places where you will sink into the sand/silt up to your waist; almost like quicksand. After my first two encounters with this, I learned to take a poke with my foot before I put my weight anywhere. From looking at the map above, you might assume this stretch of the river would be fairly boring. While in many places the high banks hide the surrounding terrain from view, there are several cliff faces that add character to the scene. Each cliff face shelters a deeper section of water where you are likely to catch any number of fish.
Remember to refer to my rating explanations - these are based on what I look for - so RED for Physical Fitness translates to easy physically - you do not need to be in shape to fish this section. I prefer terrain that is tough to get into and out of.
While most of the fish we caught were bluegills, there were plenty of smallies in the mix. The typical smallie this stretch of the river was between 8 and 10 inches. It took about four hours to work up to the end of the track. We did not encounter a posted sign all day and are grateful that the landowners allow gentle fisherman like ourselves to have a great day on this nice water.
Bottom line: This was a nice spot, but I doubt I will come back again. Not that there's anything wrong with it but there's just so much water to investigate. Every bridge over any river in Virginia marks a potential access point assuming you can park legally and it is not posted. Make your own judgments on access. Given the number of rivers in the number of bridges, I think I will be busy for a long time to come. I'll stick with places that have turnouts that are clearly open to the public.
We did not see any evidence of fishermen other than the beaten track from the turnout. Thankfully, it looks like this section of water as well take care of. We did not see any trash or other waste left by careless jerks. This is a perfect stretch of water for catch and release. You probably won't catch anything large here but you will have a good time. So why not leave everything there for the next guy?
Getting there: Head south from Culpepper on route 29. Turn right on River Road and go about 100 yards and you will find a turnoff on the right. Park there, find the beaten path and hit the river.
Google Local Coordinates: 38.401546,-78.229952
Secrets revealed: No. The Robinson river is well documented on VAFlyFish.com.