More and more anglers are heading to West Virginia for the state’s excellent fishing opportunities. West Virginia has some top fly fishing rivers and lakes, which until recently have been kept a well-hidden secret by the local anglers. But now, people are starting to catch on and it’s not hard to see why!
With superb streams and excellent lake fishing, it’s well worth a trip to West Virginia. You can fish for brook, brown, and rainbow trout as well as warm water fish that are stocked all across the state. There’s something for every fly angler in West Virginia!
We’ve created this guide to fly fishing in West Virginia so you can get all the info you need to know in one place. Plus, we’ve included our recommendations of the best fly fishing locations in West Virginia!
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West Virginia Fishing License
Before you grab your rod and hit the water in West Virginia, don’t forget to purchase your fishing license. The annual resident license costs $19, while an annual non-resident license will set you back $37. You can choose to buy a one-day license for $3 instead if you’ll only be in the state for a short time.
You’ll also need a Trout Stamp, which costs $10 for residents and $16 for non-residents. There are more than 180 license vendors across the state, or you can buy online instead if you prefer. Find out full details on the different license options and check out the latest prices on the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (DNR) website.
West Virginia Fishing Regulations
It’s always wise to get yourself up to date on the fishing regulations before heading out on the water. You’ll need to be aware of daily bag limits, restrictions, catch-and-release zones, and more.
The trout daily creel limit is 6 (in any combination of trout). You may catch and keep up to 2 Northern pikes and 4 striped bass. However, the regulations may differ from area to area and river to river. It’s always best to look up your chosen spot to see what rules apply there.
The DNR has put together a helpful PDF with all the latest fishing regulations here, so check it out before heading out on the water. You can also find out where and when the trout stockings take place in this guide.
West Virginia Fishing Reports
Check out the latest fishing reports provided by enthusiastic anglers and state rangers to stay informed of the latest conditions on the water.
You can find out how the fish are behaving, what they’re eating, and how deep the water is. It’s an invaluable resource for any angler. The WVDNR provides regular updates at least once per season (spring, summer, fall, winter), and sometimes more frequently, on their site.
Best Fly Fishing West Virginia: Rivers & Lakes
Not sure where to start among West Virginia’s fly fishing spots? Here are the top locations for some epic fly fishing action! From the Monongahela National Forest waters to the gin-clear mountain streams and calmer lakes, WV has something for everyone.
You can’t go to West Virginia without visiting the Cranberry River! Beginning in the Monongahela National Forest, it flows through wild but beautiful countryside. To reach certain areas, you’ve got to be dedicated and willing to hike to the river. But the trout fishing more than makes up for the effort you put in!
The Cranberry River sees large numbers of anglers, so it can be hard to find a quiet spot. If you’re looking for solitude, head to the fly-fishing-only section at Dogway Fork. It’s catch and release only here, and you can try your luck for the wild brook trout that thrive here. There’s lots of overhanging vegetation, so a well-honed roll cast will come in handy.
Further down the river, there are regular stockings of brown, brook, rainbow and golden rainbow trout. This 15-mile section has rich pickings – it’s an ideal spot to camp out for a few days and reconnect with nature, fly rod in hand.
Located in central WV, Elk River is famous for the high numbers of lunker rainbows and brown trout than can be found here. In these waters, they often reach 22 inches or more. You can also catch golden rainbow trout and brook trout here.
However, you’ll need to be at the top of your game to catch one of these trophy trout. This river is challenging, which is why many pro anglers love to fish here.
Elk River is accessible in several spots, including the Webster Springs Park, Whitaker Falls, and the Elk River Railroad Bridge. You’ll find a well-stocked fly shop at Elk Springs with knowledgeable, friendly guides. If you need any local info or want to stock up on any gear or flies, it’s the perfect spot, just a stone’s throw from the water.
If you prefer to fly fish on remote backcountry streams, you’ll love Williams River. Set amongst incredible wilderness scenery, you can take in the views while you fish for golden rainbow trout, brook trout, and brown trout. The beginning of the Williams River is located in south Pocahontas county. Then it flows westward through WV until it meets the Gauley River.
More than 20 miles of stocked river flows from North Cove Run down to Swago Road. With stockings from fall through to the end of spring, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to catch fish. Make sure you read up on the local regulations, as some sections are catch-and-release only.
Trout Unlimited lists Seneca Creek among the top 100 trout rivers and streams in the entire US. If you’re in WV and don’t take the time to fish Seneca Creek, you’ll miss out on an incredible experience!
You’ll find plenty of golden rainbows and wild brookies here, making it well worth the trek to get to this remote river. If you can, plan 2-3 days to explore this river and make the most of the superb fly fishing opportunities. Bring a tent and set up camp; you’ll be rewarded by the solitude, the calm, and the abundance of trophy-sized trout!
South Branch River
If you don’t fancy hiking through the wilderness, the South Branch River might be more your kinda place. We recommend the 9.3-mile section that runs parallel with Smoke Hole Road, where access is easy and the fishing is fantastic.
The South Branch River is stocked with a good variety of brown, brook, rainbow, and golden rainbow trout. If you want to harvest your catch, avoid the catch-and-release section that spans a mile from Pretty Ridge Road. Otherwise, this whole section offers excellent opportunities for fly anglers, set against the backdrop of the stunning Allegheny mountains.
Tygart Lake is a beautiful, calm spot to fly fish for bass, walleye, crappie, and panfish. Surrounded by forests and stretching more than 1,800 acres, you’ll be spoilt for choice for fantastic fishing spots.
The best way to fish on the Tygart is from a boat so you can reach those promising spots. It can be tricky to hike around certain parts of the lake.
The bass fishing is superb throughout spring, summer, and fall, while the best times to fish for walleye are during the spring and fall.
North Fork Cherry
We’ve covered some of the more remote streams in WV. So you’ll be pleased to hear that the North Fork Cherry is easy to access, just a few feet from the parking lot! Not far from the Gauley District Ranger Station, the North Fork Cherry is a beautiful little stream.
You can fish here with a 3 or 4 weight rod, but there are lots of trees and vegetation along the riverbanks. The upside is that they provide shade for fishing even in the heat of the day; the downside is that your fly can easily get tangled up. Work on your roll casts before hitting the North Fork Cherry!
BWOs and Elk Hair Caddis flies are particularly productive on this river.
Pipestem State Park
Pipestem State Park, located in southern WV, has a great angling lake with conveniences nearby. This makes it ideal for a family day trip, or you can take a vacation and stay in the park lodges. It’s easy to park here, and with restrooms nearby, it’s the perfect spot to introduce the kids to fly fishing.
No matter when you visit during the season, you’ll find something to tempt with your flies. Four types of trout are stocked here: focus on rainbows and golden rainbows earlier in the season. Later on, switch to targeting brook and brown trout, and you’ll have lots of success.
West Virginia Fly Fishing FAQ
Where can you trout fish in West Virginia?
West Virginia offers an incredible range of trout fishing locations. Some of the best trout spots in WV include the Cranberry River, North Fork River, South Branch River, and the Pipestem State Park.
What is the state fish of West Virginia?
The state fish of West Virginia is the brook trout, as voted by the local anglers in a poll run by the WVDNR.
What kind of fish are in the Elk River in WV?
There’s a wide variety of fish in the Elk River. While most anglers head here to fish for golden rainbow and brook trout, you can also find walleye, bluegill, rock bass, smallmouth and largemouth bass, crappie, channel catfish, and carp (among others).
Do you need a fishing license to fish in West Virginia?
Yes, you do need a fishing license to fish in West Virginia. There are resident and non-resident options available, and you can buy online or from vendors all over the state.
Are there trout in the New River?
Several tributaries of the New River are stocked with brown, brook, rainbow, and golden rainbow trout every spring. The best sections to fish for trout include the Little Bluestone River, Gauley River, Mill Creek, and Meadow Creek. These streams offer great prospects if you want to get out on the water and fish for trout!
The Wrap Up
Now you know what WV has to offer, what are you waiting for? From the mountain streams to the crystal-clear lakes, you can always find the perfect fishing spot.
Wherever you choose to fish, you won’t be disappointed by your experience! So pick up your fly rod, get yourself to your nearest fly shop to stock up on some productive fly patterns, and head out on the water. Just don’t forget to pick up your fishing license first!
If you found this article helpful, then check out our extensive range of fly fishing guides and reviews at Fly Fisher Pro!