The phenomenal growth of fishing-particularly fly-fishing, the fastest growing segment of angling-has its good and bad aspects. The good, of course, is that more people are finding connections with the natural world, something we desperately need in a technology-driven world alienated from nature. If a few more people immerse themselves in mayfly hatches, riffles, and trout environments, that's more people who have a stake in protecting the resource.
But, ask any trout fisherman who has spent time in mountain waters, and they can attest to the growing popularity of the sport. Ironically, the very qualities that draw the angler to mountain streams in record numbers -natural beauty, healthy fish populations, and the opportunity for solitude-are becoming harder to come by with every new fisherman who wades into the sport.
There are other downsides to the growth, including greater fish mortality from improper handling, trampling of spawning beds, and over-crowded rivers. Often, weekend warriors uneducated about angling ethics make life miserable for their fellow angler by crowding their space or spooking fish.
West Virginia mountain streams offer an alternative to this heavy fishing pressure or private water cost experienced in other states. With its rugged terrain, numerous streams in hard-to-access locations, and state stocking program, West Virginia offers a fly-fisherman paradise. While the Cranberry and Williams are well documented to the northeast of Oak Hill, Southern West Virginia can also boast about some of the best fly-fishing in the state.
One of my favorite small streams is Glade Creek near Oak Hill, in Raleigh County (exit Highway 19 for Glen Jean, then routes 16, 61, 41 into the New River Gorge National River area). The National Park Area of Glade Creek provides excellent catch-and-release opportunities for big trout and solitude in a rhododendron forest setting. There is also camping and sanitary facilities at the park. I have had the best luck with Royal Coachman flies and my casting friends use ultralight spinners on a matching ultralight spinning outfits with good results. Keep your equipment small here and expect a lot of side arm casting and a similar terrain as the Great Smoky Mountains National Park creeks in North Carolina and Tennessee. Glade Creek is stocked every two weeks in the Spring and twice in October.
For spectacular wild and scenic fly-fishing, go to the Gauley River north of Oak Hill near Summersville, WV. This river, with its huge boulders and eddies, provides one of the best fly-fishing experiences in the East. Due to the difficult access for most of its 28 mile fly-fishing length, fishing pressure is almost non-existent. Expect big deep pools, large boulders and eddies that provide opportunities for big back casting and big fish. This river is truly a fly-fisherman's dream, and is stocked.
The easiest way to fish the Gauley River is through an outfitter that provides guided fishing through the canyon, on an oared raft. I go with AAA Adveture Outdoors as they have the most convenient put-ins and take-outs on the river, and great lunch sites on all sections of the river. AAA can operate on the Gauley any day there is enough water. The Gauley is stocked in the Fall each year.
There are many other creeks and rivers that are great fly-fishing experiences in our area. Mill Creek, Dunloup Creek, Paint Creek, and Laurel Creek are just a few in Fayette County offering big trout and low fishing pressure. AAA Adventure Outdoors is a great home base. They can be contacted at (828) 273-3332 or on their website at www.aaaadvetureoutdoors.com.