Updated: Sep 17, 2022
Virginia is a great place for exploration. There are really so many fishing and outdoor opportunities throughout the state from saltwater to freshwater, lakes, rivers, and streams. The Shenandoah Valley boasts some of the finest fly fishing in the state, without the hustle and bustle of the cities and beaches. Anytime of year is a good time to visit the area full of activities, arts, and scenery, but most of the best fishing takes place from fall to spring, but a healthy trout stocking program is in place all throughout the winter.
If you are here to fly fish then you can run from one side of the valley to the other and catch a variety of species. If trout are your quarry then Stoney Creek in Edinburg and South River in Waynesboro are the largest trout waters of the area. Stoney Creek has special regulation areas in its headwaters and is stocked frequently throughout the year. A true vision of stream revitalization has taken place on the South River in Waynesboro. Once a heavily polluted stream, several recent clean ups and improvements have now made this one of the few self-spawning rivers for trout in Virginia. The local fly shop helps with trophy sized trout for the downtown area, and you can find a bit more seclusion on the special regs area outside of town. Just make sure that you get a pass first, free from the DWR website: dwr.virginia.org
If you are a bit more of a technical fisherman and looking for bragging rights then Mossy Creek outside of Bridgewater is the most well known spring creek in the area. With it’s constant temperatures and population of wiley brown trout, this stream has produced some huge fish, but also a lot of long days without much action if you don’t study up a little. Buffalo Creek outside of Lexington is similar, but has more freestone water coming in, and has rainbows as well as browns. Beaver Creek west of Otterbine is sometimes an option as well, if you are lucky. There are only four passes a day sold out of a gas station nearby off of Route 257 and it opens at 6am, first come, first served.
Another option for those looking for adventure and hiking is to fish for brook trout. Most streams in the area are very small, as well as the fish, so a lot of ground and water to cover in a day. Those who love the forest and rhododendrons will find ample opportunity in the streams of Shenandoah National Park, George Washington National Forest, or the most densely populated brook trout stream in the state, Ramsay’s Draft. Be prepared with extra flies and tippet as you will be fishing in heavy cover most of the day.
As the spring turns into the summer, many streams in the area get low or dry completely and many turn to fishing the area’s warmer waters. The main drainage of the area is the Shenandoah River. Loaded with smallmouth bass, this is one of the most idyllic places to be. While shore access is available at several boat ramps throughout the valley, the best way to experience the river is by boat. Kayaks, canoes, and rafts are rowed while herons can be seen overhead and mountains surround each side of you. Largemouth bass and sunfish are available as well, and stretches boost a fairly healthy muskie population.
Smaller tributaries hold plenty of fish as well, but access is a problem most of the time as most flows through private farmlands. The North River flows through the upper valley north of Harrisonburg. The aforementioned South River flows north through the Waynesboro area with floating access starting in Grottoes all along route 340. I again would reference the DWR website for boat ramps and access.
The Middle River flows through the Staunton area east and we are fortunate to be the only outfitter with private access. Though the river is small, it boasts a great number of smallmouth and catchable sunfish. Fish are often in the 8”-12” range, but great fun for a fly rod. No one I know of has broken the 20” length yet, but there has to be a few in the deep pockets and root balls chomping on crayfish. There are a lot of ledges and drop offs to pick apart and several downed trees and overhanging sycamores. If you are looking for a quiet, nature filled smallmouth experience then this is a great way to go.