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4 Reasons Why Virginia is for Trout Lovers

While neighboring states have spring openers, trout season is pretty much open year-round in the Old Dominion.

4 Reasons Why Virginia is for Trout Lovers

Nymph patterns like Bead Head Princes and Copper Johns in size 14 to 18 do well on White Top Laurel Creek throughout spring. (Photo by Bruce Ingram)

Early spring trout fishing in Virginia is a little like the girl with a curl in the Longfellow poem: "When she was good, she was very good indeed, but when she was bad she was horrid."

For example, last March my son and I went fishing for native brookies in the Jefferson National Forest and the weather gods clobbered us with high, stained water and icy rain. However, I’ve experienced sublime days in March, too, on put-and-take trout streams like Potts and Jennings creeks, where I’ve caught my six-trout limit in an hour or so.


You gladly take the bad with the good in the Old Dominion since the season is open year-round there (though a few streams close briefly prior to a traditional "opening day").

Let's take a look at some of the leading destinations.

WHITETOP LAUREL CREEK

Located in the far southwestern corner of the state, Whitetop Laurel is one of Virginia’s premier trout streams. According to Zac Stoval and Chris Mann, who operate Feeld Trips in Damascus, the two special regulations sections (12-inch minimum, single-point-hook lures) are outstanding places to fish. One section is from the first railroad trestle above Taylor Valley to the mouth of Green Cove Creek; the second is from the mouth of Straight Branch to a sign at the Forest Service boundary.



Stoval maintains that a 6 1/2-foot 3- to 5-weight rod with a 7-foot, 3 1/2-pound leader will perform well on Whitetop—or any any stream in the state, for that matter. Solid spring patterns include size 14 to 18 Bead Head Prince Nymphs, size 14 to 18 Copper Johns, size 16 Cinnamon Caddis and size 12 to 14 black or olive Woolly Buggers.

  • Guide: Feeld Trips (276-728-8866; feeldtrips.com)
  • Lodging: Damascus Cabins (276-492-1041; damascuscabins.com)
  • Dining: Located in the hamlet of Taylor Valley, the mom-and-pop Creeper Trail Café is well-known locally for its three-layer chocolate cake. I highly recommend the tomato soup and chicken salad as the main course.
Virginia-Trout
Virginia's mountain waterways are home to rainbows, native brookies, and brown trout alike. (Photo by Bruce Ingram)

POTTS CREEK

Potts Creek, a highland put-and-take trout stream in Craig County, is one of Virginia’s best stocked trout streams. Potts receives five stockings between October 1 and May 15, and given its rural setting, fishing pressure is typically very light during the week. The numerous stocked sections are well-marked; many are along Route 18. I’ve done well there churning Mepps Aglia spinners through prime runs or drifting nightcrawlers around current breaks.

  • Guide: Potts Creek Outfitters (540-897-5555; pottscreekoutfitters.com)
  • Lodging: The Depot Lodge (540-897-6000; depotlodge.com)
  • Dining: The Swinging Bridge Restaurant (540-897-5099; theswingingbridge.com), a sister business of Potts Creek Outfitters and The Depot Lodge in Paint Bank, has its own buffalo herd. Try the buffalo burger or stew.
Virginia-Trout
4 great spring trout waters in the state of Virginia.

JENNINGS CREEK

I first fished Jennings Creek in Botetourt County in 1970 with a group of high-school chums. Today, it’s one of some 20 heritage waters in Virginia that are closed for a single day prior the opener on the first Saturday in April. These waters are heavily stocked the week before and are great destinations, especially for anglers with children.




Jennings is typical of many Virginia trout streams, with its rocky substrate, riffles and current breaks. The Blue Hole sees most of the fishing pressure, though numerous other pools and runs are stocked along Route 614. A medium- or light-action spinning rod spooled with 4- or 6-pound-test mono will suffice.

If you prefer solitude while fishing, a number of Jefferson National Forest native brook trout rills flow into Jennings and are within an easy drive. Some of these streams, which are characterized by their plunge pools and rhododendron-shrouded banks, also hold wild rainbows.

  • Guide: Dead Drift Outfitters (540-521-9214; deaddriftva.com)
  • Lodging: The 25 East Main B&B (540-798-5134) is located in the historic town of Fincastle.
  • Dining: Just down the road from the B&B is the Fincastle Café and the Pie Shoppe. All three businesses are operated by the Barkett family. I recommend the chicken-and-vegetable pot pie and key lime pie at the Pie Shoppe (pieshoppefincastle.com).
Virginia-Trout
Many of the trout streams in western Virgina are characterized by their picturesque rhododendron-shrouded pools and runs. (Photo by Bruce Ingram)

ROANOKE RIVER

If you enjoy urban fishing with amenities nearby, the Roanoke River in the Salem and Roanoke area meets that requirement. The upper delayed harvest area begins at the Route 760 Bridge (Diguids Lane) and extends upstream for one mile into Green Hill Park. Access is easy inside the park along the Roanoke River Greenway trail.

The lower section is in downtown Salem along Riverside Drive, and runs from the Colorado Street Bridge downstream for about two miles to the Route 419 Bridge. During the delayed harvest season from October 1 through May 31, only artificial lures can be used, and, of course, catch-and-release is required. Numerous stocked trout sections exist in Roanoke and Salem as well.


The Roanoke features runs, riffles and Class I rapids, so this is a larger body of water than the others mentioned here. Elk Hair Caddis, Woolly Buggers and streamers consistently perform well come spring.

  • Guide: Dead Drift Outfitters (540-521-9214; deaddriftva.com)
  • Lodging: The Hotel Roanoke (540-985-5900; hotelroanoke.com) is the iconic place to stay when visiting the Big Lick, a Roanoke city nickname derived from the salt licks that once attracted deer and elk here.
  • Dining: My wife and I have two favorite places to dine in Roanoke. Try the flounder almandine at the Coach & Four (540-362-4220; coachandfour.com) and the grilled salmon at Hollywood’s Restaurant and Bakery (540-362-1812; hollywoodsrestaurant.com). Better yet, try them both.

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