Fly Fishing the New River in West Virginia
Known for its mountains and hills, West Virginia offers an abundance of freshwater fishing. From native brook trout in its mountain streams to hefty smallmouth in its bigger rivers. West Virginia is a fly-fishing paradise.
West Virginia may be one of the most underrated fishing states in the US. The mountain streams produce clear cold water that trout can thrive in. Wild rainbows and browns can be found throughout the state, and native brook trout are abundant.
Be prepared to hike into most spots. Especially if you’re looking for seclusion. There are a handful of rivers that are easy to get to that hold good numbers of fish, but if you plan on fishing weekends then there’s a good chance, you’ll be rubbing elbows with other anglers.
The good news is that there are tons of small streams throughout the state that can provide you with miles of river that will on see your flies that day.
West Virginia has all four seasons so be sure to dress appropriately for each. Spring and Fall are the most comfortable as well as the busiest. Summer can get very hot and humid and winters while normally mild can reach temperatures below freezing.
It’s a landlocked state which means it’s all freshwater fishing. You shouldn’t need anything larger than a 7 weight unless you plan on muskie fishing which will require a 10-11 weight.
If you’re blue lining for native brookies then you can go as small as you’d like. A 2-3 weight is usually recommended though.
New River Trip
Ironically named, the New River is somewhere between 260-325 million years old. Making it into the list as one of the 5 oldest rivers in the world. Depending on who you ask it could either be second or fifth oldest.
Besides being great for kayakers, canoers, and weekend swimmers, the New River boasts one of the best smallmouth fisheries in the region. Making it a destination spot for anglers who want to not only catch a great quantity of fish but also catch quality fish.
The morning I went out we knew it was going to be a scorcher. The middle of summer is known for two things, ungodly humidity and the cicada hatch.
So, with the drift boat loaded down with cold water and fly boxes full of cicadas we set out.
We spent the morning throwing a few poppers since the singing of the cicadas couldn’t yet be heard. We had caught a few decent smallmouth and one nice bream before we stopped and settled under some shade trees for lunch.
During those 15 minutes the cicadas began chirping and we switched tactics immediately. We threw large bugs and let them settle on the water as the ripple faded a few feet away from where they landed.
If we didn’t get a strike in those first seconds, we’d twitch the rod tip and make the fly dance on the surface, trying to initiate a strike.
The new few hours were spent reeling in fish after fish, until one took my fly deep and wouldn’t allow me bring it in.
It pulled the loose line at feet into the water and then pulled line from the reel as the drag zipped. It made its way towards a sunken tree, but not before I bent the rod to the side to put tension on him and turned its head back away. I reeled in line and felt it rise to the surface.
It jumped from the water and its long body was only dwarfed by its large belly. Making it look like the biggest football I’d ever seen. My friend and guide from the driver’s seat yelped in excitement. Exclaiming it was at least a 22” fish.
My forearm burned as the fish continued to fight me and pull line. I was able to get it within a few of the boat a few times before it dove back down, nearly taking the rod with it.
I stripped in again allowing it move towards the boat, as the net entered the water the fish was at the surface and only a few feet away before I felt the tension release and see it swim back down.
I pulled up the line to see where it snapped. Right at the knot.
I sat and moped for a minute and then recast to try and fish away the feelings, working on my double haul.
Right before the takeout another large smallmouth took my fly. It fought hard and as I brought it into the boat saw it was a nice size, but not nearly as big as what I had hooked into early. Still, a nice 18” smallmouth was a great way to finish off my day fishing the New River.