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West Virginia's Best Trout Streams


by Charlie Watson

Ask any trout fisherman who has spent time in mountain waters, and they can attest to the growing popularity of the sport. Ironically, the very qualities that draw the angler to mountain streams in record numbers --natural beauty, healthy fish populations, and the opportunity for solitude--are becoming harder to come by with every new fisherman who wades into the sport .

The phenomenal growth of fishing--particularly fly-fishing, the fastest growing segment of angling--has its good and bad aspects. The good, of course, is that more people are finding connections with the natural world, something we desperately need in a technology-driven world alienated from nature. If a few more people immerse themselves in mayfly hatches, riffles, and trout environments, that's more people who have a stake in protecting the resource, right?.

But, there are many downsides to the growth, including greater fish kills from improper handling, trampling of spawning beds, and over-crowded rivers. Often, weekend anglers uneducated about fishing ethics make life miserable for their fellow angler by crowding their space or spooking fish. West Virginia mountain streams can offer an alternative to this heavy fishing pressure or the high private water cost experienced in other states. With its rugged terrain, numerous streams in hard-to-access locations, and state stocking program, West Virginia offers a fly-fisherman paradise. While the Cranberry and Williams are well documented to the northeast of Oak Hill, Southern West Virginia can also boast about some of the best fly-fishing in the state.

One of my favorite small streams is Glade Creek near Oak Hill, in Raleigh County (exit Highway 19 for Glen Jean, then routes 16, 61, 41 into the New River Gorge National River area). The National Park Area of Glade Creek provides excellent catch-and-release opportunities for big trout and solitude in a rhododendron forest setting. There is also camping and sanitary facilities at the park. I have had the best luck with Royal Coachman flies and my casting friends use ultralight spinners on a matching ultralight spinning outfits with good results. Keep your equipment small here and expect a lot of side arm casting and a similar terrain as the Great Smoky Mountains National Park creeks in North Carolina and Tennessee. Glade Creek is stocked every two weeks in the Spring and twice in October.

For spectacular wild and scenic fly-fishing, go to the Gauley River north of Oak Hill near Summersville, WV. This river, with its huge boulders and eddies, provides one of the best fly-fishing experiences in the East. Due to the difficult access for most of its 28 mile fly-fishing length, fishing pressure is almost non-existent. Expect big deep pools, large boulders and eddies that provide opportunities for big back casting and big fish. This river is truly a fly-fisherman's dream, and is stocked. The easiest way to fish the Gauley River is through an outfitter that provides guided fishing through the canyon, on an oared raft. I go with Rivers Resort, or Twin Rivers with Appalachian Wildwaters as both have the most convenient put-ins and take-outs on the river, and great lunch sites on all sections of the river. These outfitters can operate on the Gauley any day there is enough water, and some of the few outfitters that provides a guided raft or ducky trip on the Gauley in the Summer. The Gauley is also stocked in the Fall each year.

There are many other creeks and rivers that are great fly-fishing experiences in our area. Mill Creek, Dunloup Creek, Paint Creek, and Laurel Creek are just a few in Fayette County offering big trout and low fishing pressure. Rivers Resort or Appalachian Wildwaters are great home bases with a variety of lodging options from cabins, cabin tents, to primitive camping on there sites, complete with dining lodges and lounges.

These outfitters are also close to great hiking, biking and shopping. We stopped at the visitor's center I got to look at the Gorge. The Grand Canyon was amazing, but it didn't really compare to what I saw. The world's second oldest river canyon was staring back at me and there was not much I could do but just gaze at in awe. We drove down the canyon under the Bridge and headed over to the Rivers Resort to enjoy dinner and a drink in their Red Dog Saloon, stopping to make a short hike along the Kaymoor Trail to view waterfalls and an old coal mine. Looking at the mine was a view into the past of a state that broke its back for America.

One of the easiest way to book the perfect fishing trip is to call AAA Adventure Outdoors who will arrange your lodging, meals, shuttles and guided fishing experience with just one phone call!