Updated: Sep 17, 2022
We’ve had to hang up the gear here in the Shenandoah Valley until we can thaw it out, or we have that new rod and reel from Christmas that we can’t wait to use, but I want that first time to be amazing. It’s about February when I start champing at the bit to start fishing again as much as possible. Spring is still a dozen weeks away, though, and I’ve already tied too many flies. What am I supposed to do with all this Fish Fever and nowhere to put it?
Okay, so maybe Fish Fever might be a bad term in this time of Covid, but that actually brings up a valid point. You want to fish, find new places, and have new experiences, even if travel isn’t necessarily possible. This is the best time of year to search local and do a little research. Here in Virginia we have the Department of Wildlife Resources. They have a wonderful website dwr.virginia.gov/fishing that will direct you to exactly where you can fish in the state, species in waterways, trout waters, fly fishing only sections, and even where they have stocked the day before. This resource is vital in exploring what options are available directly in your county or those surrounding.
If you are like me, I love maps. Topographical maps are very helpful in seeking wild trout in certain areas. They also usually indicate forest roads and hiking trails that access streams that are not road adjacent. If you don’t mind a little bush wacking, you might stumble upon a little known stream covered in laurel and rhododendron. Be aware, however, that all maps are not always exact to private property and all landowner rights should be honored and respected.
Another option are books written about each state. All fly fishing states have some book somewhere highlighting fishing access, stocked waters, special regulations, and usually some write up about each given stream. These are extremely helpful, but usually not current as they are revised about once a decade. State forestry and management regulations change regularly and I would always refer to the state website for the most accurate information.
We can all continue to plan our bucket list trips to Alaska, Montana, or Patagonia, but this is also an opportunity to find places around the corner. A cold day could turn into a car trip with some coffee and a lunch and a couple of new streams to try out in the Spring. At the very least, we can get out of the house on a winter day and envision the upcoming season on the water.