Chase Wild Trout in SW Virginia

May 29, 2020

Wild trout flourish in Southwestern Virginia, a unique fact considering it is one of the lowest elevations and eastern-most points on the continent where this occurs. That fact, and the pristine Blue Ridge Mountains that define the area geologically, combine to create a fisherman’s paradise.

The clean, cold Dan River welcomes fly fishing. Part of the Roanoke River system, it flows over 200 miles and crosses the Virginia and North Carolina border in eight places. The headwaters of the Dan are in Meadows of Dan, a mountain valley about 45 miles north of Winston-Salem, N.C.

The Dan begins north of U.S. Highway 58 and slightly northeast of the Meadows of Dan in mountainous Patrick County, at an elevation of over 3,000 feet. In this section of the river anglers will find fishing for native brook trout in waters classified as wild trout waters by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. Brookies require clean, cold water to survive, far more so than rainbows and browns, and their presence here is indicative of the quality of the flow.

Just above and below U. S. Highway 58 the river is a put-and-take trout stream – Category B, in Virginia's classification system. Traveling farther east, the river flows through a deep gorge within the Pinnacles Hydroelectric Project owned by the City of Danville.

This area has been dubbed the Grand Canyon of Virginia, rugged and spectacular country that appeals to the hardy. Trout fishing becomes first class for rainbow and brown trout in the six-mile section between Talbott Dam and Townes Reservoir. The stream from Townes Dam to the Pinnacles Powerhouse has been designated as catch-and-release trout water, and it holds some big fish. From the powerhouse several miles downstream (Kibler Valley) is a popular Category A put-and-take trout stream.

A 6-mile stretch of the Dan runs through Primland, a boutique resort covering some 12,000 acres of wooded mountains. The property is rugged, remote, and beautiful. Two impoundments are adjacent and provide hydroelectric power for the city of Danville. Below the dam is designated as a Special Regulations Trout Water, meaning there is a reproducing population of wild born fish throughout that section. Brown, brook and rainbow trout are found here. A small section of the Smith River below Philpott Dam also has a thriving population of wild fish.

Fisherman can expect year-round action with the best fishing occurring in spring and fall. Hatches of mayfly, caddis and stonefly happen every month and anglers can expect dry fly or surface action any time of year. It never hurts to carry some bead head nymphs and all-around fish catchers like the San Juan worm in sizes 12 to 16. A 5-weight rod 8 to 9 feet long works fine. A pair of waders will be welcomed. Even though you're in the South here, the water is cold year around.

Primland is a massive mountain resort property larger than many wildlife management areas (and probably has more deer and turkey than many--guided hunts are offered in season.) It's located about 40 miles north-northwest of Winston Salem, N.C.  The resort, recently re-opened after the COVID-19 shutdown, also offers guided fly fishing on a catch-and-release basis, golf, paddle-sports, mountain biking--all the good stuff.

For fly casters seeking less challenging Blue Ridge Mountain fishing, the broader and more forgiving Kibler Valley section of the Dan River is located nearby. Guided fishing with local Orvis pro's is available April through November depending on weather and stream conditions--as everywhere in trout country, too much rain or runoff makes for tough going.

The Orvis-trained guides not only provide guided fishing trips they also offer fly casting and fly-fishing lessons. There's an Orvis Dealer Pro Shop on the property, stocked with a large selection of flies and all the other goodies fly fishers love. They also rent Orvis rods and sell fishing licenses at the shop.

For other fishing options, there are three ponds at Primland stocked with trout, bass and channel catfish and open year-round. Fish cleaning is available for the put and take fish in these ponds, so anglers can cook their catch at their Mountain Homes, one of several lodging options at the resort. For details, visit www.primland.com.