Setting the Hook: Fishing & Festival Destinations in the South River Watershed

Acclaimed “trout central in the Old Dominion,” the South River waterway through Waynesboro lures visitors with the perfect combination of greenways, trout fisheries, kayak floats, and downtown dining. With a stunning lineup of river-focused festivals and educational offerings, we’re setting the hook. Whether you’re new to fly fishing or passionate about the cold, clear streams of the Shenandoah Valley, this season serves up South River adventures for all.

South River & Fly Fishing Events

Photo courtesy South River Fly Shop

Cast your line for back-to-back weekends of river fun. Some of the best fly fishing in the Valley is right downtown in Waynesboro’s Urban Trout Fishery, where Shenandoah Valley Trout Unlimited has partnered with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries to build trout habitat structures and an ongoing conservation legacy.

For an inviting welcome to this destination fishery, join these educational festivals on the banks of the South River. They pair perfectly with river strolls and evening dining beneath the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Fly Fishing Expo — April 27 & 28

Held on the banks of the South River along the greenway in downtown Waynesboro, this two-day festival features schedule-packed, multi-tent presentations to improve and inspire your fly fishing. Learn from the experts with classes on fly casting techniques, kayak fly fishing rigging, four seasons fly fishing, Shenandoah watershed Brookies and Bronzebacks and more.

The South River is a popular destination for fly anglers due to the great fly fishing opportunities and ease of access. One of the goals of the Expo is to provide funding for continued conservation habitat improvements on this great fishery, ensuring that the tips you learn can be applied to exceptional fishing for years to come.

Riverfest — May 4th

Riverfest, Saturday Apri. 30, 2015. (Photo by Norm Shafer).

This on-the-river festival features Reptile World shows, Stream Safari, presentations by the Wildlife Center of Virginia, Fish and Fun Rodeo, canoe rides, kids arts & crafts, stream electro-fishing with the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, and the always captivating Great South River Duck Race. Dedicated to environmental conservation and watershed stewardship in the Shenandoah River Basin, this family-friendly event promises interactive and educational activities for children of all ages and young-at-heart adults. Check out their full schedule for opportunities to participate in live fish species identification, learn frog calls, and meet the non-releasable falcons of the Virginia Wildlife Center.

Float the Waynesboro Water Trail

Riverfest, Saturday Apri. 30, 2015. (Photo by Norm Shafer).

If you prefer boats over banks for river exploration, the new Waynesboro Water Trail spans a scenie four-mile stretch of the South River with convenient boat ramps at Ridgeview Park and Basic City Park. With Class I and Class II rapids, this stretch offers the perfect mix of trout habitat, beginner-level paddling, and mid-way take outs for shorter float options. Connecting a downtown greenway and four separate city parks, this water trail is open every day sunrise to sunset.

Guides & Outfitters

Tommy Lawhorne works with Robert Dillard, of Winston Salem, N.C. during a guided fishing trip on the South River South River in Waynesboro, Va., Friday, Oct. 14, 2016. (Photo by Norm Shafer).

With half-day and all-day guided services along the South River, as well as expeditions for Shenandoah National Park Native Brook Trout and James River Smallmouth Bass, the South River Fly Shop offers full-service guides that introduce participants to premier fishing locations, providing expert instruction and ensuring that fishing gear is in tip-top form. Their helpful staff can also update you on the latest license requirements and delayed-harvest fishing regulations.

For independent adventurers ready to explore Shenandoah Valley trout streams and regional river floats, local outfitters Rockfish Gap and South River Fly Shop supply kayaks, fishing poles and equipment, bicycles, backpacks, and camping gear. With both sales and rental options available, their family-friendly services will have you floating in no time.

Whether wading, floating, or sitting on the river bank, reel in memories for years to come along the South River waterway.