Best Fly Fishing in West Virginia

A fisherman casts a fly into a rushing river in West Virginia, surrounded by vibrant autumn foliage
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West Virginia, with its abundance of mountain streams and rivers, offers some of the most picturesque and rewarding fly fishing experiences in the Eastern United States. The state’s rugged terrain provides a haven for various trout species, making it a prime destination for anglers looking to test their skills. Whether you’re after the dynamic fight of the rainbow trout, the elusive brown trout, or the state’s only native brook trout population, West Virginia’s waterways deliver an exceptional fishing adventure.

Elk River

The Elk River in West Virginia, specifically near the town of Richwood, is a prime destination for fly anglers seeking diverse trout fishing experiences. Recognized for its year-round access, fishing is particularly fruitful in spring and fall, when the hatches are abundant.

Brook trout and brown trout dominate the Elk River, with consistent stocking ensuring the stream’s vibrancy. The presence of the coveted golden trout also makes this river a unique fishing spot. The size of the fish can vary, but it’s common to catch decently sized trout in these waters.

Here’s how you can make the most of your trip:

  • Seasons: The best hatches occur in spring, with caddis flies being particularly prevalent.
  • Techniques & Flies: Use nymphs in deeper pools or streamers in faster currents. For surface action, the Elk Hair Caddis and Woolly Bugger are successful patterns.
  • Locations: Look for quieter pools and runs which are likely spots for trout, especially if you’re planning to catch and release.

Arm yourself with a variety of flies:

  • Dry Flies: Elk Hair Caddis for skimming the surface.
  • Nymphs: Try a Prince Nymph to mimic sub-surface insects.
  • Streamers: The Woolly Bugger works well in the deeper sections.

Remember, the key to a successful fly fishing venture on the Elk River is to stay informed on local hatches and river conditions. Happy fishing, and may your lines stay tight with the bounty of the Elk!

North Fork South Branch Potomac River

The North Fork of the South Branch of the Potomac River flows gently through the picturesque West Virginia landscape, with lush greenery and clear, sparkling water, making it the perfect spot for fly fishing

When you’re in the Mountain State, specifically the rugged and picturesque region near Seneca Rocks, some of the finest fly fishing awaits you at the North Fork of the South Branch Potomac River.

Fish Species

You’ll encounter a diverse array of trout in these waters, including:

  • Brown Trout: Known for their resilience and intelligence.
  • Rainbow Trout: Noted for their vibrant color and fighting spirit.
  • Golden Rainbow Trout: A unique and visually striking variety of rainbow trout.

Fishing Experience

During the winter months, your perseverance can yield remarkable results as these cold waters often provide a thriving haven for trout. The river’s accessibility is particularly favorable, making it easy for you to wade and fish the north fork.

Access Points

One of your main access points will be off Route 28/55, providing you with a convenient path to these trout-rich waters.

Tips for Anglers

To enhance your fishing excursion:

  • Opt for stealth and patience, as the river’s clear waters can make trout wary of your presence.
  • Use fly patterns that mimic local insects, providing a realistic lure for the trout.

Remember, whether you’re a seasoned angler or new to the sport, the North Fork South Branch Potomac River will surely offer you a memorable fly fishing experience.

Cranberry River

When you venture into Monongahela National Forest, you’ll find yourself at the Cranberry River, a restored gem nestled within the rugged terrain of West Virginia. This forty-one-mile-long river is a beacon for fly fishers in search of wild rainbow trout. Its recovery, largely thanks to conservation efforts led by organizations like Trout Unlimited, offers you a serene and productive angling experience.

The Cranberry Wilderness engulfs the river, ensuring its waters remain pristine and teeming with aquatic life. Here, you have the chance to cast your line in both easy-to-access spots and more secluded areas, reached only by those willing to hike further into the wilderness.

Hatches of green caddis flourish along the river, providing the perfect bait for enticing the river’s spirited trout. The presence of these insects indicates both the river’s health and its ability to offer a genuine fly fishing challenge. Familiarize yourself with local patterns, as these will increase your chances of a successful outing.

Key FeaturesDetails
LocationMonongahela National Forest, WV
Fish SpeciesPrimarily wild rainbow trout
AccessibilityCampground access, hike-in spots in the wilderness
HatchesProminent green caddis hatches
Conservation EffortsRevitalized by Trout Unlimited

Your adventure on the Cranberry River is a perfect blend of natural beauty and the thrill of the chase. Respect this resource, practice catch and release, and you will be partaking in the preservation of one of West Virginia’s finest fly fishing streams.

South Branch Potomac River

When embarking on a fly fishing adventure in West Virginia, the South Branch of the Potomac River stands out as a premier destination. Nestled in the Allegheny Mountains, this river’s stretch offers you an exceptional experience targeting a range of trout species.

What You’ll Catch:

  • Native Brook Trout: Thriving in the pristine waters.
  • Brown Trout: Known for their elusive nature.
  • Rainbow Trout: Adding vibrant color to your catch.

Before you set foot along the riverbank, ensure you have a valid trout stamp alongside your fishing license, purchasable through the WV DNR.

Fly Selection:

  • Surface: BWO, March Browns, and Adams.
  • Subsurface: Small nymphs and streamers.

Gear Recommendations:

  • Fly Rod: Five to six-weight configurations.
  • Fly Line: Weight-forward floating for most applications.

For a successful outing, consider the river’s conditions and the time of year, as these factors influence trout behavior and their feeding habits. Stealth and precision in your casts are as crucial as your fly choice due to the varying currents and pockets where trout might be lurking.

Williams River

When you visit Williams River for fly fishing, you’re exploring one of West Virginia’s cherished streams. This river offers an exceptional opportunity for trout fishing, particularly due to the regular stocking of the waters. For successful catches, acquiring the appropriate fishing license is a prerequisite. Make sure you have this sorted before your trip to avoid any legal issues.

What to Expect:

  • Trout Species: Brown trout, rainbow trout
  • Fishing Type: Fly fishing

Ideal Flies:

  • March: Early season may see March Browns
  • Spring/Summer: Expect caddis hatches
  • Year-Round: General attractor flies
MonthsRecommended Flies
March-AprilMarch Browns, Blue-winged Olives
May-JuneCaddis, Sulphurs
July-AugustTerrestrials, Tricos

A favored section for anglers is the two-mile stretch below Tea Creek Campground, which is accessible via FS86. The clear, fast-moving waters here provide an excellent environment for both the fish and fly fishing enthusiasts. Remember, being patient and observant of the hatches occurring can greatly increase your success rate. Different flies may be more effective depending on the hatch, so it’s wise to come prepared with a variety.

In conclusion, whether you’re a seasoned angler or new to the sport, Williams River’s offering of serene beauty paired with the excitement of trout fishing makes for a remarkable experience. Just remember to respect the environment and adhere to the state fishing regulations during your adventure.

For more information on the best practices and flies to use in Williams River, visit Whacking Fatties.

Shenandoah River

The Shenandoah River flows peacefully through the picturesque West Virginia landscape, with lush greenery and towering mountains in the distance

When you’re considering the Shenandoah River for fly fishing, you’re tapping into one of Appalachia’s cherished waterways. The river itself carves through the landscape offering scenic vistas and abundant opportunities for anglers pursuing browns and other trout species.

Known for its clear-flowing waters, the Shenandoah River can provide you with an exceptional fly fishing experience. Keep in mind that the stream might run through private property at points, so always ensure you’re aware of access rights.

Notable Sections

  • South Fork: Ideal for smallmouth bass.
  • Main Stem: Good for trout, particularly in cooler months.


Adhere strictly to local fishing regulations, and if in doubt, consult with the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources or local chapters of Trout Unlimited for guidance.

Fly Selection

  • Spring: Use March Browns and BWO patterns.
  • Summer: Terrestrials and light cahills are effective.
  • Fall: Streamers can entice the larger browns.

Remember, the Shenandoah has experienced environmental stresses in the past, but concerted efforts by conservation groups have improved conditions. As you wade into these waters, you’re partaking in a resource that is cared for deeply by the fly fishing community and environmental organizations alike.

Greenbrier River

The Greenbrier River rewards you with an authentic and fulfilling fly fishing experience within West Virginia. Renowned for its smallmouth bass, the river also boasts abundant rainbow trout and brook trout, especially around areas like Lewisburg and Slatyfork.

During the summer, focus on using appropriate flies to elevate your chances of a successful catch. Patterns such as the Green Drake Emergers and Sulphur Spinners are particularly effective. Terrestrials dominate the menu throughout the summer and into fall, so ensure you’re well-stocked.

Before setting out, secure a valid fishing license, a must-have to fish legally in the state. You can purchase this online or at local outfitters.

Essential EquipmentDescription
FliesA selection including local hatches like Green Drake Emergers.
WadersKeep dry while wade fishing in various river conditions.

If you’re new to the Greenbrier River, hiring a guide can offer invaluable local techniques and fly patterns best suited to the current conditions. Remember, it’s not just about the catch but also enjoying the serene beauty that this river has to offer. So gear up, step into your waders, and prepare for an unforgettable angling adventure on the Greenbrier River.

Cheat River

The Cheat River rushes through the lush West Virginia landscape, its clear waters teeming with trout and bass. The sun sparkles on the surface, casting a golden glow over the idyllic fly fishing spot

When you explore the Cheat River, you’re engaging with West Virginia’s longest free-flowing river, famed for its fly fishing experiences. The Cheat River consists of several forks, with areas like Milligan Creek near Parsons offering particularly noteworthy fishing opportunities. Fly fishers can anticipate encountering large brown trout in this river’s ecosystem.

  • Access: Accessing the Cheat River is relatively straightforward due to the presence of various access points along the river. This easy accessibility makes it a preferred destination for both novice and experienced anglers.
  • Deep Pools and Riffles: The Cheat’s characteristic deep pools and riffles create ideal habitats for trout and serve as the perfect spots for fly fishing. These areas are abundant with aquatic life that sustains the river’s trout population.
  • Aquatic Insects: Bring your collection of flies mimicking aquatic insects, which are a primary food source for trout here. Patterns resembling local caddisflies and mayflies will increase your success rate.
  • Catch-and-Release Areas: Be aware that certain sections of the Cheat River are designated catch-and-release, meaning that anglers must release their catch back into the river. This practice helps sustain the trout population for future generations to enjoy.

As you plan your fly fishing adventure along the Cheat River, remember to respect the local wildlife and follow all fishing regulations to help preserve this natural resource. Your experience on the Cheat River can be both thrilling and serene as you cast your line into the flowing waters in search of that elusive brown trout.

Seneca Creek

When you’re considering fly fishing destinations in West Virginia, Seneca Creek deserves your attention. Known for its serene beauty and the quality of trout fishing it offers, Seneca Creek was once recognized by Trout Unlimited as one of the “Top 100 Trout Streams in the United States.”

Your approach to fishing Seneca Creek can vary depending on the season. During the winter, fly fishing may be challenging, and productivity can be low. However, when conditions are favorable, here is the gear you should consider:

  • Fly Line: A lightweight 4 to 6 weight line is suitable for the size of the creek.
  • Leaders:
    • Dry fly fishing: Use a 9 to 12-foot leader with a 5 or 6X tippet.
    • Nymphing: A 7.5-foot leader with a 3 or 4X tippet is effective.
    • Streamers: Opt for a 0 to 2X tippet to handle these larger flies.

In terms of fly selection, patterns such as the Blue Winged Olive (BWO), March Browns, Adams, and Caddis are recommended. Small nymphs can also be very effective. Anglers have had success with Copper John size 18 and Black Beetle patterns sized 16.

This creek flows for about nine miles through a picturesque landscape before joining the North Fork of the South Branch Potomac River. Its proximity to Seneca Rocks adds to the appeal, offering fishing combined with stunning views. Keep in mind that access may require a bit of hiking, so prepare for a walk to reach the more secluded spots.

Remember, always be mindful of local regulations and obtain the necessary permits before fishing. Preserving the health and future of Seneca Creek’s ecosystem is essential for maintaining its status as a premier fly fishing location.

Gauley River

When you set your sights on the Gauley River for fly fishing, you’ll find yourself immersed in one of West Virginia’s pristine environments, renowned for its diverse fishery. This region is especially inviting for those in pursuit of smallmouth bass. The Gauley offers not only the thrill of the catch but also the serenity of the backcountry.

The Gauley is a tributary of the New River, melding cold and warm water fish habitats. Here, the waters provide the perfect balance for a variety of species. Despite being famous for its whitewater rafting, fly fishers have many opportunities to cast a line in the quieter stretches of the river.

  • Fish Species in Gauley River:
    • Trout
    • Smallmouth bass
    • Walleye
    • Muskellunge

As you plan your fly fishing trip, consider the accessibility of riverside cabins and the convenience they offer. They provide a comfortable stay close to the action so that you can maximize your time on the water.

Whether you’re wading in the shallows or floating down the river, be prepared for the challenging and rewarding experience that the Gauley River delivers. Respect for the river and adherence to safety precautions are paramount to ensure not only a stellar fishing trip but also the preservation of the natural beauty and fish populations for future generations.

For more information about what the Gauley River has to offer, including best practices for catch and release and gear recommendations, visit Gauley River National Recreation Area.

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