Best Fly Fishing in Virginia

A serene river flows through the lush Virginia countryside, surrounded by tall trees and vibrant greenery. A fisherman stands on the bank, casting a line into the clear water, with the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance
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Virginia offers a vibrant and diverse fly fishing scene that beckons anglers to its picturesque landscapes. Whether you’re a novice or an experienced fisher, the Old Dominion state provides an abundance of rivers, lakes, and streams, each housing a variety of species such as trout, bass, and musky. To fully engage in fly fishing in Virginia, ensure you are equipped with a valid fishing license, which is an essential step to experiencing this angler’s paradise responsibly.



Shenandoah National Park

When you embark on a fly fishing journey to Shenandoah National Park, you’re engaging with some of Virginia’s most pristine trout fishing waters. Nestled in the Shenandoah Valley, the park boasts a diverse range of freshwater species, with a particular emphasis on trout.

Trout Species:

  • Rainbow Trout: Known for their vibrant hues and spirited fight.
  • Brown Trout: Elusive and rewarding for the patient angler.
  • Brook Trout: Virginia’s revered native with distinctive patterns.

The waterways within Shenandoah offer a mix of wild trout and stocked trout, giving you a variety of fishing experiences. For the authentic feel of the region’s fishing heritage, pursuing the wild populations promises a satisfying challenge.

Fishing Spots:

  • Rapidan River: Historical and abundant with wild trout.
  • Moorman’s River: Popular not only for its beauty but also for its plentiful trout.
  • Madison Run: A quieter locale with opportunities for larger catches.

Remember to equip yourself with a suitable fly rod, ideally a 9-foot 3- or 4-wt with floating line for larger streams. In tighter, brush-lined streams, opt for a shorter rod, ranging from 6-1/2 to 7-1/2 feet, to navigate with ease. Align your tippet size (3X to 5X) with the selection of flies you intend to use.

For detailed access points and trails, the Wildcat Ridge parking area provides entry to prime fishing spots, particularly for those willing to indulge in a riveting hike. The park’s diverse topography—mountains, forests, rivers, and freestone streams—ensures that every fishing trip here is more than just a cast into the waters; it’s a full embrace of Virginia’s natural splendor.

Mossy Creek

When you are seeking a premium fly fishing experience in Virginia, Mossy Creek is an essential destination. Known for its robust population of large and wary brown trout, this limestone spring creek offers a unique challenge that beckons anglers from all over.

Location and Access:
Mossy Creek is situated in the picturesque Shenandoah Valley, and you have access to approximately four miles of water thanks to the cooperative efforts of the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR), local landowners, and Trout Unlimited. To fish in Mossy Creek, ensure you have a valid Virginia fishing license and a signed permit card, an agreement designed to maintain the creek’s pristine condition and high-quality fishing.

Regulations and Conservation:
Because Mossy Creek is a special regulation stream, it’s important to note that only fly fishing is permitted. There’s a slot limit to encourage conservation: you’re allowed to keep just one trout over twenty inches. This careful stewardship contributes to making Mossy Creek one of the best trout streams in Virginia.

Flora and Fauna:
The stream’s name is inspired by the lush aquatic vegetation that lines its bed, providing excellent cover for trout and creating a scenic backdrop for your fishing adventures. The aquatic environment is described as thick, offering an abundant food source for fish and a challenging setting for anglers.

As you cast your line into the clear waters of Mossy Creek, the serene environment, combined with the thrill of pursuing the creek’s elusive brown trout, culminates in an unforgettable fly fishing experience. Remember, the challenge is significant, but so is the potential reward when you’re fishing in Mossy Creek’s storied waters.

Smith River

The Smith River in Virginia provides two distinct fly fishing experiences: tailwater and headwater adventures. If you’re seeking native brook trout, explore the river’s upper reaches. The headwater sections promise a serene and less-crowded experience.

For a challenge, the tailwater section below Philpott Dam is known for wild brown trout. The river’s character changes dramatically with the release of water from the dam. To keep informed about the water levels and generation schedules, which can transform the tranquil pools into fast-flowing currents, call the provided hotline at Philpott Dam. Be cautious as high water can create dangerous conditions.

The Trophy Trout Water section spans three miles and presents an opportunity to catch larger fish. Here’s what you need to remember:

  • Cold water flows year-round from Philpott Dam.
  • Generation schedule can be checked by here.
  • The river is accessible through State Route 57 and several secondary routes.

Fly patterns to consider for the Smith River include:

  • Zebra Midge Red – Size 16
  • Mercury Midge Black – Size 20
  • Bow River Bugger – Size 4 – 8

The Smith River boasts multiple public access points supported by Henry County Parks & Recreation and the Dan River Basin Association. Plan your visit accordingly to experience the best of Virginia fly fishing on the Smith River.

South Holston River

The South Holston River flows gently through the lush Virginia landscape, surrounded by tall trees and rocky banks

When you’re planning a fly fishing trip in Virginia, the South Holston River is an exceptional destination. Originating in Smyth County, Virginia, the river boasts several coldwater streams suitable for trout fishing. It’s renowned for its healthy population of fish, including a significant number of trout.

For an effective trip, consider your gear and timing. Your tackle selection could include:

  • Fly Line: 4 to 6 weight
  • Leaders: For dry flies, use 9 to 12 ft., 5 or 6X; for nymphing, 7 1/2 ft., 3 or 4X; and for streamers, 0-2X

In terms of attire, layers are your friend. A good base layer, preferably merino wool or a synthetic fabric, is crucial, especially in the cooler months. Steer clear of cotton as it doesn’t provide adequate insulation when wet.

If you’re eyeing the tailwater below South Holston Dam, that’s a wise choice. It’s cited as one of the best spots for fly fishing on the river, leading down into Boone Lake.

The best times to visit can vary, but many anglers find fall to be the second best time to angle for trout. Regulations do apply in some sections, such as the requirement to use only single-hook artificial lures. Always confirm current rules before your trip to maintain the river’s health and ensure a sustainable fishing experience.

Clinch River

The Clinch River flows through Virginia and boasts a reputation for exceptional fly fishing opportunities. Recognized for its pristine waters, you will find that the river is navigable from the confluence with Indian Creek to the Tennessee state line. However, access points can be limited, so you might want to plan your entry at locations like Blackford.

One of the river’s highlights includes its populations of musky, striped bass, and white bass—especially noted for seasonal migrations from Norris Reservoir in Tennessee. Here’s what you need to know about fly fishing on the Clinch River:

  • Fish Species: Primarily musky, with occasional striped and white bass.
  • Best Floats: The stretch recommended for some of the best musky fishing is particularly rewarding.

If you aim for trout, remember that the Clinch River is also known for sizable brown and rainbow trout. There are regulations to be mindful of:

SpeciesMinimum SizeDaily Limit
Brown Trout14 inches7 per day
Rainbow Trout18 inches7 per day

Make sure to check with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency for season-specific restrictions or closures.

For convenient river access and a concentration of large trout, consider the section near St Paul at A.R. Matthews Park. This area has been recognized as the 11th most popular fly fishing spot in Virginia. Keep your gear ready and your expectations high when planning a trip to the Clinch River, a true destination for the passionate fly fisher.

Jackson River

When you’re looking for an excellent fly fishing experience, the Jackson River in Virginia stands out. Bath County is home to this famed waterway, which is renowned for the opportunity to catch large brown trout using big streamers. The Jackson River also sustains a healthy population of wild rainbow trout, enhancing your fishing prospects.

Access Points

  • Wading Access: Numerous spots along the river, especially the public sections downstream of the Gathright Dam.
  • Boating Access: Official launches are available for float trips, a popular choice among seasoned anglers.

Fishing Conditions

  • Flow Rate: Streams flow at a normal rate for most of the season.
  • Water Clarity: Typically clear, except after heavy rainfall events.

Seasonal Highlights

  • Spring: Noted for significant hatches of aquatic insects.
  • Winter: Good conditions with hatches of light green and red midges, coupled with winter stoneflies.

For updated fly fishing reports on the Upper Jackson River, you can check out details like stream conditions, rate, and water temperature. On the lower stretch, timely reports will keep you informed about discharges, stream levels, and water clarity.

Whether you’re new to fly fishing or a seasoned angler, the Jackson River offers a serene and rewarding experience. Remember to research local regulations and secure any necessary permits before you head out, to ensure you have a responsible and successful day on the water.

James River

When you think about fly fishing in Virginia, the James River is a name that stands out for its abundant fishing opportunities and scenic beauty. This river is a prized location for anglers because of its wide variety of species, including smallmouth and largemouth bass, as well as sunfish, striped bass, carp, catfish, and gar. Known as Virginia’s largest river, it offers more than just a fishing experience; it’s a place where nature and sport come together harmoniously.

For the best experience on the James River, you’ll want to take note of the fishing techniques that are most effective:

  • Fly Fishing: Utilize streamers to target smallmouth bass, particularly around structures.
  • Spin Fishing: Try tube jigs and curlytail grubs in crawfish colors for a successful outing.

Essential Gear:

  • Fly rod and reel
  • Suitable line weight for targeted species
  • Assortment of flies (streamers, jigs, etc.)
  • Leaders and tippet material

The river flows for 340 miles, eventually joining the Chesapeake Bay, and its tidal waters near Richmond are particularly known for bass tournaments. Don’t overlook the opportunities for a peaceful day on the water, especially if you opt for a guided experience with local experts like Angler’s Lane that can help you navigate the best spots.

Remember, each season brings about different patterns and behaviors in the local fish population, so it’s important to stay updated on the conditions. Before venturing out, you can also gather more detailed information about local conditions and successful fishing strategies from resources like Best Fishing in America.

North Fork of the Holston River

The clear, rushing waters of the North Fork of the Holston River wind through the lush, green Virginia countryside, offering the perfect setting for fly fishing

When you’re seeking a premier fly fishing experience in Virginia, the North Fork of the Holston River is a destination you should consider. Offering a range of opportunities for smallmouth bass, this river will challenge and delight anglers of various skill levels.

Fishing Regulations:

  • Minimum Size: 20 inches
  • Catch and Release: All smallmouth bass under 20 inches
  • Daily Limit: 1 smallmouth bass over 20 inches per angler

Water Conditions:

  • Type: Small river with ledges and pools
  • Access: Public access points are available; however, there is no designated handicapped access.

Remember that historical industrial activity impacted the river, with mercury discharges occurring until 1972. While not illegal at the time, this affected the local fish populations. Today, efforts have been made to ensure the river is a safe and vibrant fishing location.

Familiarize yourself with local hatch reports and weather conditions before planning your trip to maximize your chances of success. Utilize local fishing reports like the one from Saltville Fly Fishing Report to gain insights into current river conditions and hatches.

In terms of gear, ensure you are well-equipped with the appropriate fly patterns. Whether you’re a beginner or an expert, the North Fork of the Holston River provides an authentic Virginia fly fishing experience. Take the time to explore this beautiful locale and enjoy the tranquility of casting your line in these storied waters.

New River

The New River offers exceptional fly fishing opportunities in Virginia. Known as one of the oldest rivers in the world, the New River provides a habitat for a variety of fish species, particularly smallmouth bass. If you’re seeking a serene setting coupled with the challenge of catching a feisty bass, the New River may be your ideal destination.

Here, you’ll find the best fly fishing in Virginia for smallmouth, and it’s also recognized nationally for its quality fishery. Here are some tips for your adventure:

  • Seasons: The spring and fall are excellent times to fly fish the New River due to the mild weather and active fish.
  • Gear: Arm yourself with a sturdy 6-8 weight fly rod to effectively handle the smallmouth bass you’ll encounter.
  • Flies: Streamers and poppers are effective for bass, while mayflies and caddisflies can entice the trout.

For an enhanced fishing experience, consider connecting with New River Fly Fishing guides, who have over sixteen years of experience guiding anglers through the best spots along the river.

To top it off, the New River isn’t just about the fishing; it’s surrounded by breathtaking views and has a rich historical background that adds to the overall experience. Remember to check local regulations and obtain the necessary fishing permits before you head out.

New River HighlightsDetails
Best SpeciesSmallmouth Bass
Recommended FliesStreamers, Poppers
Optimal Season for Fly FishingSpring, Fall
Guide ServicesAvailable for enhanced experience

Whether you’re a novice fly fisher or a seasoned angler, the New River in Virginia has something to offer. Embrace the beauty, engage with the waters, and you may just have one of the best fly fishing experiences in the country.

Lake Moomaw

When exploring Virginia’s fly fishing opportunities, Lake Moomaw stands out as a destination worth your attention. This sprawling body of water covers over 2,530 acres and is notable for both its size and its vibrant ecosystem. It provides a refreshing retreat tucked into the picturesque Allegheny Mountains.

Species: You’ll primarily find trout in Lake Moomaw, a species stocked frequently for your angling enjoyment. The cool, deep waters of the lake sustain an environment ideal for these fish, making it a popular spot among local and visiting anglers alike.

  • Location: Nestled in Western Virginia, your visit guarantees refreshing views and a tranquil environment.
  • Fishing Season: While fishing here can be rewarding year-round, certain seasons might enhance your experience. The spring ushers in significant insect hatches, offering prime fly fishing conditions.

Gear: A standard trout setup generally suffices for Lake Moomaw. However, understand that weather and water conditions may necessitate a variation in your fly selection and technique. It’s always wise to be prepared with a range of fly patterns.

Access: While access to the lake is generally straightforward, familiarizing yourself with local regulations and specific lake rules can ensure a hassle-free experience. Utilize resources like the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources for the most up-to-date guidance.

In short, your visit to Lake Moomaw for fly fishing promises a blend of scenic views with a chance to engage with vibrant aquatic life. Its reputation as a haven for trout enthusiasts is well-earned. Whether you’re seeking solitude or the thrill of the catch, Lake Moomaw delivers a memorable Virginia angling adventure.

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