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GUIDE TO

Great Fly

Fishing in Southwest Virginia’s Blue Ridge Highlands

MOUNTAIN EMPIRE

DGIF Photo


DGIF Photo

Great Fly Fishing Waters General Freshwater Fishing Regulations For complete regulations, go to www.dgif.virginia.gov/fishing/

GRAYSON COUNTY Big Wilson Creek Elk Creek Fox Creek Hale Lake Helton Creek

WYTHE COUNTY Cripple Creek Gullion Fork Ponds Rural Retreat Lake Stoney Creek West Fork Reed Creek

SMYTH COUNTY Middle Fork Holston River North Fork Holston River South Fork Holston River

Trout Stream Legend Purple – Special trout regulations Red – Catch and release Blue – Catch and keep

WASHINGTON COUNTY Beartree Lake Whitetop Laurel 2 www.fishblueridge.com


Fly Fishing

SOUTHWEST VIRGINIA By John Ross

As a writer and consultant, I can work from anywhere close to an airport. So when I no longer needed to live near Washington, D.C., I packed my rods and headed for Abingdon, a charming small town, one of several including Wytheville, Marion, and Chilhowie along Interstate 81 as it nears the Tennessee line. But it wasn’t just Abingdon’s hospitality that attracted me, the town is located in the midst of what I believe is the best and most diverse freshwater fly fishing in the state. And the famed South Holston tailwater is 30 minutes away. This guide will introduce you to some great and easily accessible waters in the mountains of Southwest Virginia. Take Whitetop Laurel for example, 10 miles of first class pools and pocketwater known for rainbows and browns with a few brookies mixed in. An old railroad bed, the Virginia Creeper Trail, follows its route and has been converted to a hiking, biking, and horse trail. Bring your mountain bike to access sections of the stream that seldom see anglers. If you’re hankering for smallmouth in the three to five pound class, the North Fork of the Holston at Saltville may be to your liking. Float it in a kayak and cast poppers under the trees or wade the riffles swinging big streamers. John Ross, author of the TU Guide to America’s 100 Best Trout Streams, on Whitetop Laurel

Not far up Interstate 81, you’ll come to Marion. Head east to Buller Hatchery fed by the South Fork of the Holston. A new trail opens 2.5 miles of superb spring-fed freestone runs that used to be difficult to access. Big, stream-bred browns and rainbows offer excellent action on dry flies. While you’re in that neck of the woods, drive on up to Grayson Highlands State Park to fish for wild brookies and ‘bows.

Interstate 77 joins I-81 less than an hour north of Marion. Turning south you’ll cross the New River in another nine miles or so. Along the river runs New River Trail State Park. While the river is marvelous for smallies, you can take walleye and muskie on big streamers below Foster Falls. Plan to spend a long weekend, or better yet, carve out three mid-week days. If you’re a fan of creature comforts, book into the new Bolling Wilson Hotel in Wytheville, the Francis Marion in the town of the same name, or into any one of a score of bed and breakfasts that dot the rolling countryside. Motels and restaurants are plentiful as are stores selling fly tackle. From the list in this booklet, select the waters that suit your mood. For more information, go to dgif.virginia.gov/fishing, fishblueridge.com, visitwytheville.com or visitviginiamountains.com.

Virginia Creeper Fly Shop photo

www.dgif.virginia.gov/fishing 3


Southwest Virginia Fly Fishing

Bluefield •

• Tazewell

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Laurel Bed Lake

Wythevil 16

Rural Retreat

• Saltville

North Fork Holston

Marion •

Chilhowie •

Abingdon •

South Fork Holston Beartree Lake

• Bristol

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Whitetop Laurel

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Fox Creek Grayson Highlands State Park

• Ind

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Data use subject to license.

© DeLorme. Topo North America™ 9.

TENNESSEE

• Mountain City www.delorme.com

Blue Ridge P Mountain Sports photo

4 www.fishblueridge.com


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Introduction……………………… 3 General Map…………………… 4-5 The New River……………………… 6 Whitetop Laurel…………………… 7 South Fork Holston River………… 8 North Fork Holston River………… 9 Scale 1 : 550,000 Grayson Highlands State Park…… 10 Beartree Lake……………………… 11 1" = 8.68 mi Data Zoom 9-0 Laurel Bed Lake…………………… 12 Rural Retreat Lake………………… 13 Fox Creek………………………… 14 3

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20

15

25

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www.dgif.virginia.gov/fishing 5


FT CHISWELL

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The New River Ivanhoe

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New River Trail State Park

Byllesby Dam

smallmouth bass

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New River Trail State Park

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GALAX

largemouth bass

walleye

HILLSVILLE

flathead catfish

QUICK TAKE

Type – Broad river with many shoals Major Species – Smallmouth, largemouth, walleye, muskie Handicapped Access – Boat Notes – A river of state record monsters Think of it, nearly 50 miles of hiking, biking, and horse trail runs along the New River from the boat ramp at Fries down to where the converted railroad bed leaves the river at the head of Claytor Lake. The best way to fish the New is to float it. Launch at any of six ramps and take out at Allisonia. The river is perfect for rafts, canoes, and kayaks which can be rented at New River Trail State Park headquarters at Foster Falls. Or bring your own jon boat.

rock bass

channel catfish

redbreast sunfish

New River

Ross Photo

Streamers and poppers nail smallies all summer. Wade pocket water in the riffles and the shallows ahead and below islands. In 2003, the state record smallmouth, an 8-pound 1-ounce behemoth, was pulled from the New. Come the March spawn, a strain of walleye, found nowhere else in the world, school up below Fosters Falls. Clousers can be deadly. The state record 15-pound 15 ounce walleye is a New River fish. And if you happen to hook a bream near a sunken log, that log just might swirl and snatch it. The New is a favorite of folks who throw big plugs for Muskie, like the 45-pound, 8-ounce state record. Why not use a fly rod? 6 www.fishblueridge.com


Whitetop Laurel

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brown trout

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Creek Junction Access

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rainbow trout

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Virginia Creeper Trail

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DAMASCUS

Straight Branch Access

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<— Rt. 91 to I-81 at Glade Spring 91

Beartree Lake and Campground

Whitetop Laurel

Special Regulation Trout Waters Put and Take Regulations

QUICK TAKE

Type – Freestone Major Species – Rainbows, browns, a few brookies Handicapped Access – Creek Junction Notes – Bike in to best fishing Cinders crunch underfoot or bike tire along The Virginia Creeper trail which runs for 10 miles along Whitetop Laurel, one of Virginia’s premier trout streams. If you listen carefully, you can hear a steam engine chuffing as it pulled a Norfolk & Western freight up this mountain grade. A classic freestone stream of pocketwater and pools, Whitetop Laurel is not known for its hatches. Fish bluewing olives with a dropper or toss streamers followed by a # 16 or smaller nymph. A five-weight is all that’s needed. Easily reached on US 58 from I-81 at Abingdon, the half-mile below Creek Junction is perfect for wheel-chair bound anglers. The US Forest Service operates a campground at Beartree Lake, a few miles east of Damascus.

Ross Photo

Taylors Valley www.dgif.virginia.gov/fishing 7


Ma n rio

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rainbow trout

Thomas Bridge

South Fork Ho

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brown trout

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South Fork Holston River

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Buller Gorge Trail

South Fork of the Holston

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Put and Take Regulations Buller Hatchery Catch and Release Special Regulation Trout Waters

QUICK TAKE

Type: Spring-fed freestone stream Major Species – Browns, Rainbows Handicapped Access – Above Buller Hatchery Notes – Fish the gorge from new trail Rising in giant limestone springs in Sugar Grove, the upper South Fork of the Holston River produces prolific hatches of mayflies, stoneflies, and caddis. So rich is the river in aquatic insects and so pure is its water, that browns and rainbows reproduce naturally. In the dog days of summer, add ants, beetles, and hoppers to your fly box. A five-weight is perfect. Special regulations apply to the river from the Jefferson National Forest boundary on Teas Road down to the lower end of Buller Hatchery. Excepting 500 feet of put and take water with great handicapped access above the concrete dam at the top of the hatchery, the top 4 miles offers two 16-inch fish per day. The section through the hatchery is strictly catch and release. Twenty-inch ‘bows and browns are not uncommon. A new 2.5 mile trail opens the heretofore isolated gorge to anglers, thanks to a grant from the American Electric Power Foundation and the combined efforts of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Mountain Empire Chapter of Trout Unlimited.

Virginia Creeper Fly Shop photo

Virginia Creeper Fly Shop photo

8 www.fishblueridge.com


North Fork Holston River

Upper Saltville Access • SALTVILLE • Lower Saltville Access

LEBANON

• Hayters Gap Bridge • Toole Creek Bridge • Riverside Campground

• US 19 Bridge

• Nordyke Road Bridge

GLADE SPRING MEADOWVIEW

ABINGDON

• Mendota Loop brook trout

DAMASCUS smallmouth bass

QUICK TAKE

Type: Small river of ledges and pools Major Species – Smallmouth bass Handicapped Access – None Notes – Lots of lunkers thanks to Olin From 1950 to 1972 Olin operated a plant in Saltville and discharged mercury into the river, which at the time was not illegal and its effects on fish were little known. Now they are, and the Virginia Department of Health has issued an advisory saying fish from the river must not be eaten.

bluegill

rock bass Laurel Bed Lake

As a result, the river from the Rt. 91 bridge in Saltville downstream offers fly fishers the best opportunity in Virginia to connect with a three-pound plus smallmouth. At the ramp above town, the river is narrow and easy to wade. If you launch a canoe or kayak to Virginia Creeper Fly Shop photo float down to the takeout at the Clinch Mountain Wildlife Management area, you’ll need to portage around a low dam. Other than these ramps access to the river is very limited, though roads follow it much of the way to the Tennessee line. While big, weighted wooly buggers and Clousers are very effective in deeper runs and pools, the best fishing occurs in August, on bluebird days when the sun is high. Wade the flats, sight fish, cast green foam poppers, and hang on!

www.dgif.virginia.gov/fishing 9


16 <— R

Little Wilson Creek

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GRAYSON HIGHLANDS STATE PARK

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Grayson Highlands

Grayson Highlands

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Put and Take Regulations Special Regulation Trout Waters

QUICK TAKE

Type – Freestone Major Species – Wild rainbows, brookies Handicapped Access – None Notes – Small stream fishing at its finest You’ll feel like you’re on the fringe of boreal Canada, when you fish Cabin and Little Wilson Creeks and Quebec and Wilburn Branches in Grayson Highlands State Park. Laurel and rhododendron shade most of the waters. Plunge pools abound, and they are rich with wild rainbows and brookies. Got a 7-foot, 4-weight cane or glass rod? You’ll love using it here. Trout are not persnickety; toss #14 or smaller Adams with a #18 nymph as a dropper. From the park boundary downstream, Wilson Creek is a put and take stream and heavily stocked with rainbows, browns, and brookies. US Rt. 58 follows it closely. Parking pull-outs are plentiful. The park rests on the top of an extinct volcano and boasts excellent trails to the streams, great camping and picnic facilities, and stunning views of southwest Virginia. Ross Photo

10 www.fishblueridge.com


Beartree Lake

brown trout

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Put and Take Regulations

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Special Regulation Trout Waters

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Taylors Valley

rs V alle y

QUICK TAKE

Type – Mountain Beartree Lakelake Major Species – Rainbows, brookies, browns Handicapped Access – Excellent Notes – Fine water for kayakers

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91

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brook trout

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<— Rt. 91 to I-81 at Glade Spring 91

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Straight Branch Access

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rainbow trout

Beartree Lake Beartree Lake and Campground and Campground

Want a lazy weekend with very good fishing close by? Park your RV at the US Forest Service’s campground at Beartree Lake about 10 miles east of Damascus on US 58. While you’ll find some dry fly action on terrestrials from mid-July until days cool in late September along the edges, fans of kayaks will connect by trolling streamers deep at sunrise and sunset in this heavily stocked lake. Don’t forget your waders. Whitetop Laurel, one of Virginia’s finest trout streams is just over the ridge.

Ross Photo

www.dgif.virginia.gov/fishing 11


Laurel Bed Lake

el Laur

Lake

brook trout

747

QUICK TAKE

smallmouth bass

747

613 bluegill

91 Road Poor Valley

rock bass

1&

SALTVILLE

8 To I-

Tumbling Creek Road

Type – Mountain lake Major Species – Smallmouth, brookies Handicapped Access – Good Notes – Trollers’ paradise

Laurel Bed Lake

613

91

how Chil

New Englanders call it dredgin’. Load your tippet with a pair of weighted streamers and paddle your canoe or kayak leisurely along the edges. You’ll likely connect with a smallmouth up to 20 inches and maybe a brook trout of braggin’ size, especially if you’re fishing in the fall. You may also encounter a rainbow or two.

Bed

>

ie —

At an elevation of 3,600 feet, Laurel Bed Lake seems almost set in boreal Canada. It was well known for its robust brook trout population in the 1970s and 1980s. Acid rain caught up with it in the 1990s, and every two years since the end of that decade the lake has received doses of fine limestone sand. The brook trout are back. As you drive up to the lake, your eyes will pop as you look at the pocketwater and plunge pools in Tumbling Creek. Stocked several times a week, this is the place to catch rainbows for dinner. You’ll need a special fee permit to fish it. Tie on a big woolly bugger, let it swirl deep in a pool beneath a chute, and think of grilling filets over charcoal. And while you’re in that neck of the woods, don’t pass up the North Fork of the Holston at Saltville. It may be the best smallmouth river in the state.

Virginia Creeper Fly Shop photo

Ross photo

12 www.fishblueridge.com


Rural Retreat Lake

0

Exit 6

wie hilho tol C , n o ris Mari nd B 81 to ngdon a I <— Abi

RURAL RETREAT

Cedar Springs Road

Ross photo

d ke R

QUICK TAKE

Every year muskie are stocked in Rural Retreat Lake and they are doing well thanks to an abundance of bream and crappie. You’ll need an 8-weight and a stock of four- to sixinch streamers like Roger’s Big Eyed Baitfish, large Lefty’s Deceivers, or Dahlberg Divers. His frog pattern would be good. Wading is limited so bring a boat or float tube. You’ll cast to wooded banks and reedy shallows. Tantalizing as these warmwater sharks are, Rural Retreat Lake is a great place to introduce kids to fly fishing. Put a little popper on and cast from where the bank is grassy. On a fly rod, a half-pound bream is great fun. And a small pond near the lake is heavily stocked with trout.

e al R

Rur

Type – Warmwater lake Major Species – Largemouth, Muskie, Northern Pike, panfish Handicapped Access – Limited Notes – Bring an 8-weight and your kids

largemouth bass

t La trea

749 bluegill

Rural Retreat Lake

channel catfish

largemouth bass

black crappie

749 bluegill

channel catfish

rainbow trout

brown trout

www.dgif.virginia.gov/fishing 13 black crappie

Rural Retreat Lake


16 rainbow trout

Appalachian Trail

brook trout

Fox Creek

rainbow trout

16

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brown trout

To I

-81

brook trout

Fox Creek Horse Camp

603

Fox C re

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Fox Creek

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Fox Creek

C Fox

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Put and Take Regulations

QUICK TAKE

Type – Freestone valley stream Major Species – Rainbows, brookies Handicapped Access – None Notes – A convenient stream for family fishing Rising east of the divide that spawns Whitetop Laurel, Fox Creek flows through a gentle valley that is followed closely by Rt. 603 and joins Rt. 16 in just north of Troutdale on the road to Marion and I-81. The upper reaches above the horse camp upstream from Fairwood holds brookies, but the main fare are ‘bows which are heavily stocked during the season. Fox Creek Horse Camp where the Appalachian Trail crosses the stream is a great place to set-up shop, take the kids hiking and fishing, and fry trout for dinner.

Ross photo

14 www.fishblueridge.com


CHILHOWIE • MARION • SALTVILLE • SUGAR GROVE • ATKINS

While you’re here,

LIVE MUSIC and WEEKLY JAMS

Don’t Miss… Live Performances

Hungry Mother State Park

General Francis Marion Boutique Hotel

Museum of the Middle Appalachians

Wythe History…

Comes Adventure! Museums of Wytheville Great Lakes to Florida Highway Museum Edith Bolling Wilson Museum Farmers Market and Local Foods Shops

“Cats” at the Dinner Theatre

National Name Hotels plus Southwest Virginia’s Newest Boutique Hotel, the Bolling Wilson Great Dining, including the famously unique Log House 1776 Restaurant Unique Attractions, including: • Beagle Ridge Herb Farm Shop Downtown Wytheville for Yarn, Fabrics, • Big Walker Lookout Antiques, Local Art, • Wohlfahrt Haus Dinner Theatre Special Gifts and more! • Ft. Chiswell Animal Park • Wineries

Great Local Restaurants

Unique Shopping

Unique Lodging

Virginia Sweetwater Distillery

MOUNTAIN MOTORCYCLE TRAILS!

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of th

agon.c

om

D. rag

e

www.visitvirginiamountains.com

on

276.646.3306 • 877.255.9928

e l l i v e Wyth virginia

Intersection I-77/I-81 Southwest Virginia

Toll Free 1-877-347-8307 • www.VisitWytheville.com

www.dgif.virginia.gov/fishing 15


Smyth, Wythe and Grayson Counties of Southwestern Virginia

Smyth, Wythe and Grayson Counties of Southwestern Virginia

GUIDE TO

GUIDE TO

GREAT FLY FISHING

GREAT FLY FISHING

in Southwest Virginia’s Blue Ridge Highlands

in Southwest Virginia’s Blue Ridge Highlands

DGIF photo

This project made possible by:

Smyth County Tourism Regional Visitor Center

Wytheville Regional Visitor Center

408 Whitetop Road Chilhowie, VA 24319 Exit 35, I-81

975 Tazewell Street Wytheville, VA 24382 Exit 70, I-81

Phone: (276) 646-3306 Phone: (276) 223-3355 Fax: (276) 223-3443 Fax: (276) 646-3301 Toll Free: (877) 255-9928 Toll Free: (877) 347-8307 VisitVirginiaMountains.com VisitWytheville.com The Virginia Department of Game and inland Fisheries Virginia Tourism Corporation 50M - 9/2014 Mountain Empire Chapter of Trout Unlimited

MOUNTAIN EMPIRE

www.FishBlueRidge.com

Great Fly Fishing in Southwest Virginia!  

Discover the best places to fly fish in Southwest Virginia! Includes detailed map of each location.

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