Virginia's Top 5 Trout Streams


Virginia's trout fishing is better than you might think. Even though the trout waters of Old Dominion are close to major metropolitan areas like Baltimore and Washington, D.C. (which means that these 2,800 miles of streams get a lot of angling pressure), the state's fisheries are in better shape now than they have been in a decade.

Trout can be found in the western part of the state, in the Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountain ranges, in the George Washington and Thomas Jefferson National Forests, and in Shenandoah National Park.

The beautiful, rugged scenery of the Appalachian Mountains, rich with flora and dense pine and oak forests, will delight anglers. Most Virginia streams don't enjoy prolific hatches, but matching the hatch is a must on many rivers.

Virginia boasts a diversity of trout streams ranging from freestone mountain creeks to limestone streams to spring creeks to tailwaters. Trout fishermen can fish the Virginia small streams that rush down mountainsides, cascading over mossy rocks and plunging into dark green pools teeming with brook, rainbow and brown trout.

Fishermen won't catch trophy trout in these waters— but the trout fishing in the beautiful mountain country, casting to trout under streamside laurel and rhododendron, walking along the Appalachian Trail—makes for a complete wilderness fishing experience.

Embattled Habitat

For decades, the native brook trout have been losing habitat, retreating to the highest elevations. Virginia trout streams face a number of obstacles, not the least of which is acid rain. Despite efforts at amelioration, more and more streams and their trout have been affected by increased acidity.

Native brookies have long been threatened by overharvest, mining and logging, increased sedimentation, high water temperatures, loss of riparian habitat, channelization, and pressure for food and cover from competing trout.

But the times, they are a-changin'.

Even though many Virginia trout streams require stocking with hatchery trout, more than 2,300 miles of water are designated wild trout streams, a number the state wants to increase. Increased catch-and-release regulations, other protective restrictions, and the accompanying preservation attitude have helped many of the native brook trout hold their own.

And by the way, choosing only five top trout waters meant I had to leave out some excellent streams. For the inevitable naysayers, I know that the Rose, North Fork Moorman's and the Dan offer top-notch trouting.

Published: 30 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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