Sometimes the most rewarding
experiences are the ones not everyone is talking about. Take a day to
experience the Staunton River with us and discover what we mean about this
beautiful, unique and varied fishery.
The Staunton River represents the section of the Roanoke River from
Leesville Lake to Clarksville, at the mouth of Kerr Reservoir (aka Buggs
Island Lake). The Roanoke originates near Christiansburg in
Montgomery County; below its journey as the Staunton, the river eventually
flows into Albemarle Sound near Edenton NC, which opens into further south
Pamlico Sound near Cape Hatteras.
Our fishing experience on the Staunton began in 1969. Angler's Lane
owner Doug Lane first fished it as a boy in the Altavista area, and started
fishing it frequently in 1989 soon after Appalachian Power agreed to strobe
releases from Leesville dam instead of the once-a-day releases which caused much erosion and prevented healthy spawning of black bass.
The steady releases allowed the smallmouth bass to flourish. Doug grew
up a long block uphill of the river and would venture down to wet a hook,
only to be disappointed as the surge began around noon ending the productive
fishing immediately. (Anyone fishing the Smith River these days can
relate.) Over these 40+ years he has learned about the river with
local fishermen, most of whom have been extremely tight-lipped about it,
until he got to know them better. As time has progressed he has taken
on some of the same characteristics as these fishing curmudgeons.
Our trips on the Staunton
primarily target smallmouth bass from April through mid-October.
During the spring we also focus on striped bass which migrate upriver from
Kerr Reservoir. Largemouth and
Kentucky (spotted bass) abound in some years, including 2012. While we
consistently aim for black bass (smallmouth, largemouth and Kentucky), we enjoy the variety which
this river offers. Walleye flourish in the Staunton, as do catfish and
carp--two hard fighting fish which do not get the respect they deserve.
Bream and red-ear sunfish are usually present in strong numbers, and
occasionally we land the Roanoke bass (ambloplites cavifrons)
peculiar to this river basin. The most elusive is the long-nosed gar,
which is easier to hook than it is to land.
Access on the Staunton is relatively limited. With only four Va State managed
public landings from the dam to Brookneal, public landings are fewer than on
the James, Shenandoah or New Rivers. The parks in Altavista and Long
Island offer some decent options for short floats. Leesville Dam to Altavista stretches 12 miles, while
Long Island and Brookneal runs at least 11.5 mi; plan on a long day if
you intend to float these latter stretches.
We have guided many clients on the Staunton each year since opening Angler's
Lane in 1998, own property on it and have been blessed with amicable
landowner relationships along the river since 1992. We fish this river
often and can guide you pretty much anywhere along the 48 miles from
Leesville Dam to Brookneal (and Clarkton below Brookneal). While we
are typically on the water 8 - 9 hours, we can shorten or lengthen the float
to meet client preferences. Not every float needs to be long in distance,
and a variety of short floats helps during summer months when thunderstorms
roll in. One float starts and finishes on our property, and can take 4
to 9 hours to work properly. Knowing which stretches to float and when
is a major part of the challenge, as feeder creeks can change water color if
one is not paying attention to flows. The good Lord keeps the river
interesting each trip, usually in a good way as we tangle into surprise
species or big fish each year.
One frequently-asked question: Where did the river get its name?
According to Herman Ginther, author of Captain Staunton's River
Staunton is said to originate from Captain Henry Staunton, a soldier of the
Revolutionary War, who earlier was in command of a company of soldiers
organized to patrol the river valley from the mountains to the mouth of the
Dan to protect earlier white settlers from incursions of the Indians."
The second possibility mentioned by Ginther and Dianne Popek in her
Tracks along the Staunton
is that Sir William Gooch, Gov
of Virginia from 1727 to 1749 changed the name of this section from Roanoke
to Staunton naming it after is wife, Lady Rebecca Staunton Gooch.
Neither the smallmouth nor waterfowl seem to care from whence the river's
Frequently our treasured rivers encounter environmental threats, and the
Staunton is no exception. As of early 2013 the uranium mining lobby is
rallying its troops to lift a ban on uranium mining in Pittsylvania County
in the Roanoke Staunton River watershed. At this time we are opposed
to lifting this
ban on uranium mining due to the potential threat to water quality on
the Staunton. The ban has existed since 1982, and we would need much
more information to change our minds that mining the uranium in these
deposits will present a significant danger to our water supply and our
As for our trps on the Staunton,
Doug floats from a 15' Maravia Willowaw II raft outfitted with generous,
comfortable bass boat seats for float fishing (see photo on right).
Each spring we hear sales pitches from driftboat reps, but seldom see or
hear them in the mid to late summer as the water drops to bottom-scraping levels.
Many clients prefer fly fishing while others will spin fish; we are prepared
for both. All trips are catch and release.
If you want to float fish the Staunton with an experienced guide and get the
most out of a days fishing on this Virginia Scenic River, give us a call or
book a trip now pending availability.