Laurel Bed Lake


There is a lake in western Virginia called Laurel Bed Lake. Kim’s step dad Fish wanted to check it out, so I juggled my schedule a little and we did a road trip. Laurel Bed is one of those places that reminds me of being back in the Adirondaks. Well, almost. Laurel Bed is well outside of a small town called Saltville, which is well outside of a less small town called Chilhowie. Clinch Mt game preserve, you know, Ralph Stanley’s neck of the woods.

Fish is a guy you have heard about from time to time if you’ve read my posts here or on my other blog. Here he is in action after a bit of a rain shower in his frog togs in one of the coves where we parked and fished for a while.


There is a lot to love about the Laurel Bed area. The road to get back up in there is all switch backs, with some available primative camping. The road follows the Tumbling Creek, which would be my home if I could somehow live without money.

Tumbling Creek is a pay stream full of brookies and rainbows and waterfalls. Pictures do not do it justice. If you’re any kind of a trout fisherman, this is the kind of place you dream about. A big gorge with big rocks and a lot of waterfalls and pools.

Anyway, Fish and I were not there for the trout. They would have to wait for my next trip up there. We were there for the bass and panfish.


This is Fish’s rig. We’re pushing it with my little electric motor since we lost Fish’s gas motor on a big rock in the James river. This was July 2, and we were the only people on the lake. The temp is low 70s if that, but the water is much warmer than expected. Our second day on the lake was overcast, and had a 10% chance of rain, so it only rained on us about 10% of the time.

Much of the lake was pretty shallow. We had heard that the lake was stuffed with rock bass (redeye), but we were having some difficulty proving that. I fished with a combination of lures (shad rap, rooster tails, assorted plugs) with no success, and then shifted to a good old bobber and worm. Most of the fish were so small that they could only toy with even half a crawler, but fishing in a cove around some tree stumps, this 18″ 3 pounder (small mouth) took the bobber down decisively.


This was the only fish of any consequence we caught, but we learned about a great area, and I will be back for the brookies!

One of the highlights of the trip was definitely seeing the bear swim across the lake.


As soon as we spotted it, we tried to get closer to it to get a good picture, but bears can swim almost as fast as an electric trolling motor! We were about 50 feet from him when he climbed out of the water and ran off into the woods.



2 thoughts on “Laurel Bed Lake

  1. Im glad you enjoyed our neck of the woods. Laurel Bed is probably one of my favorite spots in the world. Its beautiful, and best of all, there is rarely anyone there. You’ll see more bears than people. Also, they are planning on reintroducing Elk to the area. Fishing at Laurel can be hit and miss. The lake has a acidity problem. They add tons of lime dust every year(I think. Maybe every couple years). There was local talk of the state not maintaining it any more due to the cost. I hope not.
    If you are back this way, drive past Chilhowie for about 20 miles, to Abingdon. Ext 17 to highway 19. Look for Hidden Vally Lake. Here is the description of the fish there and the link to VA Game and Fishery Dept.
    “Fishing opportunities at Hidden Valley Lake are much improved compared to the late 1990’s. Stockings of largemouth, bluegill and northern pike effectively reduced the over-abundance of redbreast sunfish that was a problem in the past. Largemouth bass are increasing in both size and abundance, and are now reproducing in the lake. Bluegill have replaced redbreast sunfish as the dominant sunfish species. Black crappie are very abundant, but stunted at a small size. Most of the crappie collected in samples are less than 8 inches long. A few nice crappie up to 15 inches have been collected, but they are rare. Channel catfish and northern pike are stocked each year. These two species offer anglers some diversity. Overall the fishery appears to be improving.”
    One thing, gas engines are not allowed at Hidden Valley. Or at Laurel Bed either.(good thing you broke yours on the James)
    Come the last week in july, 1st week in aug for the VA Highlands Festival in Abingdon.
    If anybody wants to know about the area, feel free to email me.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s