Virginia is a state rich in history with many hidden gems. In addition to being home to some of the United States' most iconic landmarks, Virginia is also a top destination for fly fishing. The Shenandoah Valley is one of Virginia's most popular spots for fly fishing. This area is home to many fish species, including trout, bass, and panfish.
Some of the best places for fly fishing in Virginia include:
- Clinch Mountain
- Crooked Creek
- Douthat State Park
- Jackson River Tailwater
- Mossy Creek
- Shenandoah National Park
- Smith River Tailwater
The George Washington and Jefferson National Forests are also great places to fly fish in Virginia. There are also many streams and rivers located in these forests that are teeming with fish. This article will provide information on Virginia's top 15 places to fly fish.
Best Freshwater Fly Fishing locations in Virginia
Freshwater fly fishing offers anglers the chance to catch a wide variety of fish, and Virginia is home to an array of species. The state is also home to numerous streams, rivers, and lakes perfect for fly fishing. Here are some of the prime locations for freshwater fly fishing.
1. Clinch Mountain
Clinch Mountain is a mountain ridge in the Appalachian Mountains of Tennessee and Virginia, lying in the ridge-and-valley portion of the Appalachians. It runs from Kitts Point along East Knox, Union, and Grainger counties in Tennessee to Garden Mountain near Burke's Garden, Virginia, a distance of approximately 150 miles.
To the north is the Clinch River basin, and to the south is the Holston River basin. The Clinch Mountain Wildlife Management Area has spectacularly beautiful 330-acre Laurel Bed Lake for those who enjoy trout fishing.
A brook trout fishery, Smallmouth bass, and rock bass are all popular species in the lake. To fish in Laurel Bed Lake, you only need a trout license. From October 1 through the first Friday of April, a trout license is required throughout the rest of Clinch Mountain Wildlife Management Area.
Recommended Fly Patterns for the Laurel Bed Lake Clinch Mountain, Virginia:
- Muddy buddy - Black - Size #6
- Trophy Dungeon - Black - Size #8
- Slump Buster with Cone - Black - Size #6
2. Crooked Creek
The Crooked Creek Wildlife Management Area in Carroll County, Virginia, offers excellent fishing for both native and stocked trout. This area is 5 miles east of Galax and comprises a 5-mile stock section and an approximately 2-mile untapped wild trout fishery. From April 1 through September 30, a daily permit ($8) is required.
Four times a week throughout the fee period, rainbow and brown trout are stocked in the river. Fishing begins at 5:00 a.m. daily, except for the opening day at 9:00 a.m., and ends one hour after sunset. The location was initially developed and managed as a fee fishing area, offering approximately 2.8 miles of natural brook trout water and 3.5 miles of stocked rainbow and brown trout water now.
Recommended Fly Patterns for Crooked Creek, Virginia:
3. Douthat State Park
Douthat State Park is a Virginia state park in Bath and Allegheny counties. It has 4,545 acres (18 km2) of total area, with a 50-acre lake. The park was one of the first to be established in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Douthat offers trout fishing within its stocked lake with a valid Virginia Fishing License and a daily permit. Douthat Lake is part of Douthat State Park.
The reservoir is stocked with rainbow, brown, and brook trout twice a week for the fee season (from April 1 through June 15 and September 15 through October 31).
Recommended Fly Patterns for Douthat State Park, Virginia:
4. Jackson River Tailwater
Virginia's Lower Jackson River (Tailwater) is a great trout river. It has a healthy population of wild rainbow and brown trout. It was stocked before 1993, and since then, it has shown that it can generate plenty of wild trout.
The main section of the river where people can fish is immediately below the Gathright Dam. Access to portions of the approximately 18-mile stretch of water may be had in five other areas open to public fishing.
The tailwater on the Jackson River may be waded throughout low-water periods but is best fished from a drift boat. The chilly water from the dam remains year-round, ranging from the high fifties to the low sixties.
Recommended Fly Patterns for Jackson River Tailwater, Virginia:
- Parachute Adams Indicator - Size 12-$16
- Pheasant Tail Jig Hot - Tungsten Barbless - Size 12
- San Juan Worm - Size 12
5. Mossy Creek
Mossy Creek is Virginia's most famous fly-fishing location. It is a typical limestone stream with tough-to-catch brown trout, undulating masses of aquatic greenery, and fast runs flowing through rolling farmland.
It can be difficult even for experienced fishermen, and it may even put seasoned anglers to shame. Because no wading is allowed, fish must be approached carefully from steep banks. Those with enough patience and skill might get a bite here.
Anglers must have a signed permit card and a valid Virginia fishing license while fly fishing. Thousands of young brown trout have been stocked into the river's waters since the 70s, and hundreds of browns have been caught and released from its spring-fed water.
Recommended Fly Patterns for the Mossy Creek, Virginia:
- Muddy buddy - Black - Size 6
- Rainbow Warrior Jigged- Tungsten - Barbless - Size 14
- Glo Bug Red Dot (Egg) - Orange) - Size 10
6. Shenandoah National Park
Shenandoah National Park has over 90 mountain streams and tributaries that provide high-quality sources for four of Virginia's ten major drainages: Potomac, Rappahannock, James, and Roanoke. Over 70 of those waterways contain fish, most of which are native brook trout. Shenandoah's waters abound in diverse aquatic life, with 40 species of fish and hundreds of types of aquatic insects.
The populations of Shenandoah National Park are largely dependent on natural fish spawning. No fish are stocked, and all the fish in the park are wild. Water quality monitoring and protection is an important component of the Park's conservation effort.
Recommended Fly Patterns for the Shenandoah National Park, Virginia:
7. Smith River Tailwater
The Smith River in Franklin and Henry Counties is one of Virginia's most distinctive trout fisheries. The cool water released from Philpott Dam covers miles of excellent trout habitat and provides good fishing throughout the year, with approximately 31 kilometers from Philpott Dam down to State Route 636 (Mitchell Bridge).
The Smith River is divided into two sections, one designated as put-and-take stocked waters and another as a special regulation section. Anglers can anticipate catching mostly smallmouth bass, rock bass, and sunfish in the tailwaters of the Smith River.
Before fly fishing on the Smith River, anglers can call 276-629-2432 to learn about the generation schedule for Philpott Dam, which regularly alters the water levels in the Smith River.
Recommended Fly Patterns for the Smith River Tailwater, Virginia:
8. South Fork Holston River
The Virginia portion of the South Fork Holston River begins in Smyth County, Virginia, near Sugar Grove, which is formed by the confluence of several coldwater streams. In the river's upper reaches, there are two special regulation trout fishing areas.
Only single-hook artificial lures are permitted in the largest section, with a creel limit of two fish per day and a 16-inch minimum size limit.
This section of river is about 4 miles long, from the Buller Fish Cultural Station near the dam to the upper Jefferson National Forest boundary (above the crossing of the Appalachian Trail), and it runs through remote terrain. Brown and rainbow trout are found in this South Fork portion.
Recommended Fly Patterns for the South Fork Holston River, Virginia:
- San Juan Worm - Size 12
- Formerly known as prince - Size 14
- The Frenchie - Tungsten - Barbless - Size 12
9. South River
The South River is one of the two major tributaries of the South Fork Shenandoah River. It begins south of Waynesboro, Virginia, and flows north to the Port Republic, where it merges with the North River to form the South Fork. The river is 52.6 miles (84.7 km) long and runs through:
- Stuarts Draft
- Grottoes, and
- The Port Republic.
The South River is a peaceful freestone stream with rainbow trout and smallmouth bass. The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries has designated the stream as "stocked trout water," which means it is stocked five times between October 1 and May 15.
Recommended Fly Patterns for the South River, Virginia:
10. Whitetop Laurel
Whitetop Laurel in Washington County, Virginia, is one of the state's largest and most beautiful wild trout streams. A total of seven miles of stocked trout waters are located on both private and public property, with an additional five miles of restricted regulation water flowing through the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area.
Anglers may target brook, brown, and rainbow trout within the special regulation areas while appreciating the natural mountain beauty. Whitetop Laurel is accessible to all anglers thanks to the park's special regulation sections, which include a fully accessible fishing pier with viewing platforms for wildlife.
Recommended Fly Patterns for the Whitetop Laurel, Virginia:
11. Cascade Stream
The beautiful private waterways of the Cascades Stream provide some of the finest Virginia fly fishing in the state. Anglers will navigate some of the most attractive countrysides while catching and releasing trout.
Fly fishing is most accessible at the Omni Homestead in Hot Springs, Virginia, which provides fly-fishing lessons and clinics on the Cascade Stream. Casting techniques, stream ecology, selecting the proper gear, and fly selection are all topics covered during instruction. The fishing license and much of the equipment you'll need are included in the packages.
Recommended Fly Patterns for the Cascade Stream, Virginia:
12. James River
The James River is a river in Virginia that begins in the Appalachian Mountains and ends in the Chesapeake Bay, flowing 348 miles (560 km). If one adds the Jackson River as well, the river's length reaches 444 miles (715 km). It is Virginia's longest river.
The first and current colonial capitals of Jamestown and Williamsburg, as well as Richmond, Virginia's present capital, are all located on the James River.
Recommended Fly Patterns for the James River, Virginia:
13. Shenandoah River
The Shenandoah River is the major tributary of the Potomac River, with a length of 55.6 miles (89.5 km) and two forks in Virginia and West Virginia. The Shenandoah and its tributaries drain the central and lower Shenandoah Valley as well as the Page Valley in the Appalachians on the west side of the Blue Ridge Mountains in northwestern Virginia and eastern West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle.
The North Fork rises in the Blue Ridge Mountains and flows southeast across Shenandoah County. It passes through Woodstock and Strasburg before turning briefly southeast to join the South Fork from the northwest to form the Shenandoah River.
Recommended Fly Patterns for the Shenandoah River, Virginia:
14. The Chesapeake Bay
The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the US. The Bay is located in the Mid-Atlantic region and is generally surrounded by the Delmarva Peninsula, including parts of Maryland's Eastern Shore and Virginia's Eastern Shore, with its mouth of the Bay at the south end between Cape Henry and Cape Charles.
The Chesapeake Bay is a very significant feature for the ecology and economy of Maryland and Virginia, as well as other states in the watershed, due to its northern portion in Maryland and southern portion in Virginia. The drainage basin of the Bay covers parts of six states:
- New York
- Virginia, and
- West Virginia)
- Plus, the District of Columbia.
It has a total surface area of 64299 square miles (166 534 km 2). Here are some of the most popular fish to target in the Chesapeake:
- Striped Bass
- White Perch
- Spotted Sea Trout
- Red Drum
- Summer Flounder (Fluke)
If you're just getting started, one of the greatest things you can do is go to a large public pier, such as Bill Burton Fishing Pier State Park's Rocky Point Beach and Park or King's Landing Park, as well as the beaches at Sandy Point State Park, Chapel Point State Park, and Fort Smallwood Park.
You can also fish in the Bay in places like Kiptopeke State Park and First Landing State Park, both of which have access to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, a favorite structure for many species like bull red drum.
Recommended Fly Patterns for the Chesapeake Bay, Virginia:
- Mylar Poppers
- Clouser Minnow
- Blados Crease Fly
15. Smith Creek
The Smith Creek (also known as Smith's Creek) is a 35.5-mile-long (57.1 km) tributary to the North Fork of the Shenandoah River in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley, flowing through Rockingham and Shenandoah counties on the western slope of the Massanutten Mountain ridge.
Its 106 square miles (270 km2) of territory is split between Shenandoah and Rockingham counties just north of Harrisonburg, where its source lies. The confluence with the North Fork of the Shenandoah River is south of Mount Jackson near Chatham Mills.
Recommended Fly Patterns for the Smith Creek, Virginia:
What Gear do I need to Fly Fish in Virginia?
Whether you prefer floating, wading, or fishing on the beach, Virginia provides everything you need. You can customize your trip based on the type of fishing you want to do, but if you are doing any wading, make sure to bring a pair of high-quality chest-high waders. Virginia's waters can be challenging to wade, so you'll also want a good pair of boots with felt or rubber soles.
Virginia fly fishing gear will generally require a 5 or 6-weight rod with matching floating line and tippet. A seven to nine-foot rod is ideal, and you'll want to make sure your reel has a good drag system. When choosing your fly selection, always match the hatch.
Additional Facts about Fly Fishing in Virginia
Does Virginia have good trout fishing?
The number of people who fly fish in Virginia is growing so rapidly that an annual Fly Fishing Festival has started. This event takes place in April and has grown to be so popular, it is currently one of the largest fly fishing festivals in the United States.
There is excellent fly fishing to be had throughout the state of Virginia. Whether you want to fish for smallmouth bass in a river or brook trout in a mountain stream, you'll find great opportunities.
Where is the best fly fishing in VA?
You'll find all of Virginia's best fly fishing spots on our list, but a few particular spots outweigh the others.
The best fly fishing in Virginia is in the James River, in Appomattox, the Shenandoah River, in Harrisonburg, and of course, the Chesapeake Bay in Gloucester. These all offer great opportunities to catch a variety of fish, and the scenery can't be beat.
When can you start trout fishing in Virginia?
Virginia's trout fishing is regulated by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.
Trout fishing in Virginia may begin as early as June 16 and continue through September 30 without the need for a trout license. However, Fee Fishing Areas (Special Regulation Trout Waters) require a daily fishing permit.
All in all, there is great fly fishing to be had throughout the state of Virginia. Whether you want to fish for smallmouth bass in a river or brook trout in a mountain stream, you'll find plenty of great opportunities.