Virginia Fly Fishing 6 min read

DIY Guide to the Best Fly Fishing in Virginia

Ken Sperry

Posted by Ken Sperry

June 3, 2024

Thanks to its location, Virginia is a wildly popular state to live in and visit. There is just so much that attracts people to the state, and its outdoor recreational activities are one of those top reasons. Although it hasn’t always been the case, Virginia has become quite popular for fly fishing. Anglers love that they can find a true challenge here and take on water that will push their skills.

The sport is becoming so popular that there is now an annual Fly Fishing Festival. This festival takes place in April, and it may be what you want to plan your trip around. This festival has grown to be so popular and large that it is now one of the largest fly fishing festivals in the U.S. today.

This guide is dedicated to fly fishing in Virginia. We will explore some of the top locations, examine the fly fishing season and hatches, and even discuss the gear you should bring. So sit back, relax, and learn what this beautiful state offers.

Virginia Trout Fishing Map

map of places to fish in Virginia

Get Directions to the Fishing Access Points shown above with the DIY Fly Fishing Map

Best Places to Fly Fish in Virginia

Virginia’s varied terrain is perfect for those looking to do a little fly fishing. Not only can you find various locations scattered across the state, but they vary in skill level. You can push your skills to the limit, or maybe you want an easy go of it, where you can relax and catch fish easily. Virginia has it all.

According to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, there are more than 2,900 miles of trout streams, lakes, ponds, and reservoirs to explore. Within this area are 600 miles of stocked trout waters. Here’s a look at some of the most popular areas for fly fishing.

Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park is a trout angler’s paradise, offering a vast network of pristine streams and rivers teeming with wild, native brook trout. Anglers can wade through crystal-clear waters, casting delicate dry flies or nymphs to rising fish, enjoying the serene beauty of the Appalachian Mountains.

The park’s remote, backcountry streams provide a truly immersive experience, with the chance to spot wildlife such as black bears and white-tailed deer. Whether you’re a seasoned fly fisherman or a beginner, fly fishing in Shenandoah National Park promises an unforgettable adventure amidst stunning natural surroundings.

Accotink Creek

Accotink Creek is located near Annandale and is ideal from March through the end of November. Anglers can look forward to catching brown and rainbow trout. It is fairly close to a major highway, which can be distracting for some. On the positive side, it means the location is accessible by car. This location is perfect for a half-day or full-day experience.

Lake Brittle

Sometimes, you don’t want that small stream experience. Lake Brittle could be the answer if you’re looking for a lake to enjoy. The lake is located near Broken Hill in Fauquier County. The season runs from May until November, giving you plenty of time to visit. The water here is a little warmer, which changes up the type of fish you’ll find. Fish species in Lake Brittle are walleye, largemouth bass, and sunfish. It’s not the typical trout fishing that many other areas offer. Weekdays are best if you’re looking for a “quiet” time to visit the lake. This little-known lake gets next to no anglers during the week. The weekends attract some people, but it doesn’t usually get crowded.

Holmes Run

Located near the city of Alexandria is Holmes Run. This is a very small, scenic, and quiet creek. The water from the creek flows from the Lake Barcroft dam. What’s unique about this creek is that it’s not in some remote location. Instead, it’s in the busy suburbs. You can easily escape to the creek for just a few hours of solitude and fishing. This is a perfect example of a stocked creek by the state. The rainbow trout are stocked twice a year, which means a fairly simple fishing experience for you. Another great benefit of this creek is that it is open year-round for fishing. No time is a bad time for Holmes Run.

Shenandoah River – South Fork

The Shenandoah River—South Fork is one of the more popular options in Virginia. Anglers can expect to find a healthy number of smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, channel catfish, crappie, muskellunge, common carp, and more.

The catch rate for the smallmouth bass in this river is higher than any other river in the state, according to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. With that said, you won’t be catching the big trophy-sized fish here. As a side note, the river is stunning as far as the scenery goes. You’ll be in awe of the natural beauty surrounding you. This river can be enjoyed by float or by shore. Fishing is open year-round on the river. That said, smallmouth bass has a shorter season from April to September.

Best Time for Fly Fishing in Virginia

If you are fishing for trout in Virginia, you can do so all year. With that said, the state sets limits. You won’t be able to catch more than six trout per day. There is also a size restriction, as the trout can’t be shorter than seven inches long. It doesn’t matter if you are fishing in stocked or wild trout streams; there is no low period.

That said, the summer months can prove to be a bit more challenging. During these months, the water starts to heat up and suffers from low stream flows. These factors play into how difficult it can be to catch trout. You may find it takes a bit of research to find a good spot in summer. Experienced anglers probably won’t have many difficulties during these months. They will be able to adjust their technique accordingly in most cases.

Virginia seems to hit that perfect balance in terms of weather. It never seems to get too cold, nor does it get too hot. Instead, it’s that “just right” temperature consistently. The summer months are warm and can get humid. It can get as hot as 88 degrees in July, depending on the region. Meanwhile, the winter temperatures in January can drop as low as 19 degrees. This is mainly in the northern area of the state. So what this tells anglers is that it’s going to be comfortable most of the year.

It’s always wise to familiarize yourself with a state’s hatch chart before you pack your gear. In Virginia, the best hatches occur from about March until the end of October.

Mayflies emerge from March through June. Stone fly and caddis fly hatches tend to take place from April until July and again in September and October.

Terrestrials appear from April until the end of October. Keep in mind that hatches typically occur at this time, and some areas may be a few weeks earlier or later.

Essential Fishing Gear

It’s important to determine where you’ll be fishing in order to pick the best equipment, such as your fly rod and reel. Other factors to consider are the time of year, the hatches taking place, and the fish species you are fishing for.

Most experts would agree that choosing a fly rod between seven and a half and nine feet is ideal for Virginia waters. A five or six-weight is usually a safe bet as well.

If your fishing area doesn’t offer much room for casting, you may need a shorter rod. This will give you a bit more control while casting.

Virginia covers all the bases, whether you like floating, wading, or fishing on the shore. You can pick and choose based on the style of fishing if you like. If you plan on doing any wading, be sure to pack a pair of high-quality, chest-high waders.

Best Flies for Fly Fishing in Virginia

When choosing your flies, you want to match the hatch. A good Virginia hatch chart will give you a pretty good idea of what is in season. 

Visiting a local fly fishing shop can certainly help find those perfect flies. A fly shop will carry what’s in season, what works in the region, and what is most popular with anglers.

Virginia Fishing Regulations

Anyone who plans to fish in Virginia and is 16 years of age or older requires a valid fishing license. There are resident and non-resident licenses available. Choose from a one-year or five-day license. For those who plan to hunt and fish, a combination license is available. For information on licensing and fishing regulations, visit the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries website.

Virginia Fly Fishing – What’s Not to Love!

Virginia is a state that is ready and waiting to welcome visitors and residents to its many fly-fishing locations. You won’t be disappointed in the scenery, the diversity of fish species, and the amount of ponds, lakes, streams, and rivers open for fishing.