Copyright 2017 James Marsh
Fly Fishing The Cranberry River West
This river was a fine wild trout stream at one time that
was ruined by acid several years ago but thanks to
Trout Unlimited, this forty-one mile long stream has
come back as a very fine trout stream within the past
few years. It flows through a huge wilderness area
called the Monongahela National Forest.
The river is divided into two basic sections - the
backcountry and the lower section which is fairly
easy to access. The backcountry does not allow any
vehicle access and consist of sixteen miles of remote
stream including both the North Fork and South Fork
tributaries. There are overnight shelters along the
The lower section of the river provide excellent access
and has roads that runs near the stream the entire
distance. The river holds more trout per acre than any
stream in West Virginia.
There are three special regulation areas on the river.
There is a quarter-mile long catch and release area on
the North Fork in the backcountry. Another catch and
release section, over four miles long, runs from the
mouth of the North Fork downstream to the Dogway
Fork Bridge. The best section to fish is probably the
catch and release section from Woodbine to camp
Sprinter which is just over a mile long.
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Recommended Tackle & Gear
4, 5 or 6 weight
Dry fly: 9 &12 ft., 5 or 6X, Nymphing: 71/2
ft., 3 or 4X, Streamers 0X
Dry fly: 5 or 6X, Nymphing: 3 or 4X,
Best Fly Rods:
Perfect Fly Supreme Four, Superb Five or
For 5/6 fly line
Fly Floatants and Misc Items:
Floatants, KISS Strike Indicators
Tools & Accessories:
Nippers, forceps, retractors, etc.
Cranberry River Fly Fishing Guide:
The headwaters of the North and South Forks of the
Cranberry River and the upper reaches of the
Dogway Fork is mostly brook trout fishing.
This fine trout fishery is due mainly to the addition of
limestone by the DNR. Limestone drums are
responsible for the recovery of the Cranberry River.
Miles of water is now treated with limestone to
increase the pH level in order to provide water that is
more suitable for aquatic insects and the trout. At
one time the river contained so much acid that warm
water species couldn't survive there.
There are sixteen miles of backcountry river including
the North and South Forks of the Cranberry River.
There are overnight shelters along the river for
anglers to spend the night. Many use bicycles to get
into the backcountry. No vehicles are allowed in this
area. As mentioned, most of the trout in the
headwater tributary streams are brook trout. Most of
the time they will take generic and attractor flies. You
do not have to get very sophisticated to catch them.
The North and South Forks and the Dogway Fork are
the best areas for the brook trout. The Dogwood
Fork is designated "Fly Fishing Only".
The other sections of the backcountry has
some rainbows but mostly brown trout. The
gradient of the river is steeper in the
canyon section. There is some heavy
pocket water in the middle sections of the
stream. The lower section of the stream
has lots of long riffles and pools. The
gradient is much lower and the water runs
slower. There are not many runs. Boulders
and rocks of all sizes are scattered
throughout the river creating lots of pockets
of all sizes. The lower section is also much
wider but the makeup is about the same.
There are some pools where the water is
smooth and the trout are very spooky, but
for the most part the stream is broken up
The best way to fish the river is in an
upstream direction. Usually, shorter
accurate cast are more productive than
long cast. Long presentations get easily
caught up in conflicting currents. You want
to try to keep as much fly line out of the
water as possible. Focus on the current
seams where most of the food would be
likely be drifting. When the water is low
like it is in the images shown, it is much
more difficult to fish. The low water
situation takes longer presentations using
longer, lighter leaders that normal or high
water conditions require.
Cranberry River Hatches and Trout
Our information on aquatic insects is based
on our stream samples of larvae and
nymphs, not guess work. We base fly
suggestions on imitating the most plentiful
and most available insects and other foods
at the particular time you are fishing. Unlike
the generic fly shop trout flies, we have
specific imitations of all the insects in the
Cranberry River and in all stages of life that
are applicable to fishing. If you want to fish
better, more realistic trout flies, have
a much higher degree of success, give us a
call. We not only will help you with
selections, you will learn why, after trying
Perfect Flies, 92% of the thousands of our
customers will use nothing else.
The hatches on the Cranberry River are
diverse and but not necessarily numerous.
One of the first to start the year out is always
the mighty midge. There are burrowing red
blood worm midges and light green midges
by the millions.
Blue-winged Olives are the first mayflies to
hatch. They can show up in February but are
more plentiful in March. Look for them to
continue into April and May but they will be
different and larger species. There's also a
late season hatch in September and October.
Little Black caddis show up in April and
early May. Cinnamon Caddis start
hatching in June and continue through the
Summer through late September. Green
Sedges are also fairly plentiful. The rock
worms, or larvae of the Green Sedge or
Green Caddisfly is worth imitating
Sculpin, several species of dace and
other baitfish are also plentiful.
Terrestrial insects are plentiful along the
banks of the Cranberry River. Craneflies,
both the aquatic and the terrestrial variety
are also plentiful. Ants, beetles and grass
hoppers make up the majority of the
terrestrial variety. These become more
important in the summer months when
fewer aquatic insects are hatching
The trout in this stream can be very
selective and we are certain that you will
find the more realistic imitations at Perfect
Fly are a huge help in your fly fishing
success fishing the Cranberry River.
The season is open year-round.
Winter can be tough to fish except on the
Spring is the best time for fly fishing the
Cranberry River due to the hatches that
A beautiful and usually very rewarding
time to fish for certain.Late summer can
bring about low water and tougher fishing
Fall is normally a good time to fish the
river. Many anglers consider it the best
Cranberry River Fly Fishing Report:
11/24/13 River flowing very high and will
take two or three days at least to drop to
fishable levels. USGS Data at Richwood
Flowing at 981 cfs at 4.84 ft.
Thumbnails: Click on image to enlarge
Thumbnails: Click on image to enlarge
Fishing Report Updated 01/09/17
(Bottom Of Page)
12/31/13 Cranberry river currently
flowing at 610 cfs which is high. It will
take a couple more days for it to get
back down to good levels. No reports of
fish caught this past week.
01/07/14 Currently extremely cold but
warming up by Thursday. Rain is in the
forecast for Saturday. I see only a short
period of time late in the week that
anglers will have some opportunity.
01/21/14 Heavy snow today but clearing
and cold. The stream is back down near
normal levels and there may be some
opportunity for those who dare to brave
the cold weather.
01/28/14 No reports of fish caught this
past week but the weather has been
horrible. Much better weather is on the
way near the end of this week.
02/11/14 Customer ordering flies for a
March trip but no reports from anyone
fishing probably due to the lousy weather.
02/18/14 Much better, warmer weather is
in the forecast for this coming week.
Keep an eye on the stream levels but
otherwise, this should be the first decent
week of fishing in a long time.
02/25/14 Local reports say the stream
levels are currently high but should be
falling most of the week. Colder weather is
in the forecast so conditions will be
03/04/14 One report from a customer this
past week wasn't that good. The water is
still very cold and fishing very slow but
conditions will improve this coming week.
03/11/14 We have set up several
students on Spring Break this past week
with flies. Some are backpacking in.
Hopefully, we will have some good reports
03/18/14 One customer reported catching
several rainbows during the rain last
week. He used our BWO nymphs.
03/25/14 Our local contact reported that
he spotted some Blue Quills and Little
Brown Stoneflies this past week. One
customer reported catching several trout
on our BWO nymphs.
04/01/14 The Cranberry has been high
much of the past week but is back down
to normal levels with much warmer
weather in the forecast.
04/08/14 Stream levels have resided and
customers reported catching some trout
the past weekend. There should be a few
insects starting to hatch.
|Options For Selecting Flies:
1. Email us (email@example.com)
with the dates you will be fishing this
stream and we will send you a list of our
fly suggestions. Please allow up to 24
hours for a response.
2. Call us 800-594-4726 and we will help
you decide which flies you need.
3. Email us (firstname.lastname@example.org)
with a budget for flies and we will select
them to match the budget and get them to
you in time for your fly fishing trip.
All orders are shipped free in the
U. S. Orders over $50 are shipped via
04/15/14 One customer reported catching
some trout and one wasn't so lucky. The
weather has fluctuated quite a bit this past
week. Currently the stream is below
normal levels but some rain in forecast for
today and next Saturday.
04/22/14 Stream levels are now in great
shape and angler reporting catching a
few trout. A few have been taken this
past week on the dry fly.
04/29/14 Several reports of catches the
past week but we think the heavy rains
will shut it down for most of this coming
05/06/14 Stream levels are back in good
shape and plenty of trout are being
caught. American March Browns are
working great at this time.
05/13/14 Stream levels are still in good
shape but some heavy rain is forecast
this week, so be sure to check the levels.
Anglers are catching plenty of trout.
05/20/14 Stream levels are back down
near normal levels and the weather is
going to be much warmer. Conditions
should greatly improve.
05/27/14 The stream levels are still in
good shape. There is some rain in the
forecast. Anglers reporting some very
good catches the past couple of days.
06/03/14 Anglers are still reporting fish
being caught in good numbers but the
river is getting low. Isolated thunderstorms
should raise the levels soon. Low water
makes it a little tougher to fish but it is
better than high water you can't fish.
06/10/14 Two customers reported catching
plenty of trout and one not very happy.
The stream conditions remain very good.
A few hatches are taking place.
06/24/14 Stream levels have been up and
down. Those hiking back in are doing the
07/08/14 Mixed fishing reports have been
coming in. Some anglers doing well and
some not so well. Lots of traffic along the
easy to access areas is affecting the fishing.
It is best to hike into the backcountry a little
07/22/14 We suggest hiking upstream as
far as you can. The water is cooler and
less pressure has been placed on the
fish. We are still getting mixed reports
based mostly on exactly where anglers
are fishing. Terrestrial are now important.
08/12/14 We have received several good
fishing reports this past week. Some
anglers are catching plenty of trout and
others are not. We suggest fishing well
07/19/14 More good reports came in last
week. Again, it was from those hiking well
upstream. Terrestrials and Slate Drakes
are the main insects to imitate.
09/02/14 Two good reports from the upper
section of the river. Anglers haven't been
doing so well in the c and r section. Low
water isn't helping but rain is forecast.
09/16/14 Lower water temperatures has
improved fishing big time. The lower
section of the river is producing better now,
as well as the headwaters. Two good
reports from this past week.
09/23/14 Low water conditions caused two
of our customers to not do very well this
past week. You must stay low and hidden
and get good drag free drift and that isn't
10/07/14 Rain has raised the stream
levels and more is in the forecast.
Fishing conditions should improve greatly.
10/14/14 Lots of rain for the next two days
but that should help the low stream levels
and improve the fishing as soon as the
levels drop back down some.
10/21/14 The river has been high but back
down to fishable levels. No reports from the
10/28/14 One good report from a local and
loyal customer. He is catching some nice
trout on Blue-winged Olive nymphs,
emergers, duns and spinner.
11/11/14 Another report from a local
anger. He has been catching several trout
a day. Cold weather is on the way and
nymphs will be the ticket.
12/04/14 Sorry for the lack of reports, but it
hasn't been because the fishing has been
poor. Customers are catching plenty of
trout when the stream levels and half
decent weather has been availalbe.
12/16/14 Only a couple of good reports
from the past two weeks. Water levels are
back good and stocking has taken place.
12/23/14 No reports from the past week but
conditions remain very good.
12/29/14 One good report from a customer
who caught some browns on our Sculpin
01/05/14 No reports from the past week.
01/19/15 Water is in good shape and one
customer reported catching several trout
just a couple days ago. The weather is a
little warmer. He was using our Winter
01/26/15 No reports from the past week.
Cold weather is a problem.
02/02/15 Still no reports from anyone
fishing this past week. Stream levels and
the weather forecast isn't that bad.
02/16/15 Sorry, but still no reports and
none expected for the coming week due to
very cold weather.
03/02/15 Two good reports from week
before last and none this past week.
Stream levels are fine and the weather is
warming up, so get ready.
03/09/15 More trout were being caught until
the stream levels went up. There is more
rain forecast, so check the levels before
making a trip to the Cranberry.
03/16/15 No reports from anyone fishing this
past week. The water has been high but it is
falling with little rain forecast.
03/23/15 One good report. You should start
seeing some Quill Gordons, Blue Quills,
BWOs, and little Brown stonfles..
03/30/15 The cold weather shut things
down the past few days but conditions will
improve a lot the next few days.
04/06/15 More high water last week but
falling. More rain is forecast. Spring hatches
are underway- blue quills, little black caddis.
04/13/15 Much better water conditions with
hatches beginning to take place. Two good
reports for the past two days.
04/20/15 High water levels today but
conditions have been excellent with several
hatches taking place.
04/27/155 Mixed results from anglers fishing.
High water levels hurt but are back in good
shape. Lots of anglers are headed to the river
this coming week. Conditions look good.
05/04/15 Two good reports from the past
week. Amer. March Browns are hatching.
05/11/15 Lots of insects hatching and trout
being caught. Good stream levels.
05/18/15 Water levels were up some last
week but fell back down. Lots of hatching
taking place. Some more rain in the forecast.
05/25/15 Good reports from two guys this past
week. Mostly March Browns/Light Cahills.
06/08/15 Three good reports, normal water
levels and some hatches taking place.
06/15/15 There is a good chance of
thunderstorms each day for the next week. The
river could use some water but is sill in good
06/29/15 Lots of rain has had the stream levels
up and down lately. It is high now. Terrestrials
07/06/15 Be sure to check the stream levels.
They are high right now at 283 cfs and 3.48 ft.
07/13/15 Stream levels still high with more rain
forecast, so be sure to check them on the link
to your above left.
07/20/15 The river is back down just a little
above normal and in good shape.
08/03/15 Good reports have come in from this
past weekend. Terrestrials are working good.
Good stream levels.
08/10/15 No reports from the previous week.
Cooler weather and good stream levels.
08/17/15 Low water levels and spooky trout
but those staying low and hidden are catching
their fair share. Rain forecast through
08//24/15 Stream levels have been high all
week but back down near normal.
08/31/15 Anglers fishing the lower section
need to move upstream. Those fishing a few
miles up in the back country sections are
09/07/15 This would be a good place to spend
Labor day. Customers are reporting some
good catches. Slate Drake are hatching.
09/21/15 The bad news is the stream is very
low and the good news is it is raining as I
write this and this should change the levels.
The cooler weather should really help.
09/28/15 The river is a little high now but
falling. There is some more rain to come but
the levels should be fine. Great Autumn
Brown Sedges (caddisflies) are hatching.
10/12/15 Stream levels have been high the
past few days but falling out fast. There is
little rain in the forecast, so they should drop.
10/26/15 Stream levels are a little low right
now but there is some rain in the forecast.
They should be fine for the next week. Brown
trout are in the pre-spawn stage.
11/02/15 This should be a very good week to
fish the Cranberry. Good stream levels and
excellent weather. It doesn't get any better.
11/16/15 The river has been high but back
to near normal now. There is a chance of
rain on Wednesday, otherwise clear, so
stream levels should remain good. Midges
and BWOs are the most important flies.
11/30/15 The river has been running low but
is now back up near normal for this time of
the season. Midges and little BWO nymphs,
size 18/20, have been working good.
12/21/15 Stream levels are back to normal
and the weather is wonderful. There is a lot of
rain in the forecast, so what the levels.
12/28/15 Stream levels are too high for
wading and there's little chance they will fall
much in the next two or three days.
01/11/16 The flows are at 324 cfs and 3.61
feet or very high now, but it should fall out
fast. The water is cold and midges and little
Winter stonefly nymphs are the flies you need.
01/25/16 The USGS is frozen but the levels
should be near normal. The water is stained
from melting snow. In about 7 days from now,
the weather is going to be nice and warm, so
you should be getting ready.
02/01/16 The river is just a little above normal
but could rise some more with rain in the
forecast. It is warmer and you should be able to
catch trout. Little BWO nymphs are the best bet.
02/08/16 The river has just got back to a little
above normal level. There is snow forecast
from Monday through Thursday.
02/22/16 The river is very high and stained
now, flowing at 1400 cfs. Normal is about 290.
It will be a while getting back down to normal.
02/29/16 The river is down to normal stream
levels and clear. Little Blue-winged olives,
midges and Winter stonefles are the flies.
03/07/16 The stream level is great for wading
and the weather nice and warm. Midges and
Blue-winged olives are hatching.
03/14/16 Stream levels are excellent right now.
In addition to the BWOs, look for hatches of
Quill Gordons, Blue Quills, Blue-winged olives,
Little Brown stoneflies, and little Black Caddis
to start earlier than normal and anytime now.
03/21/16 Stream levels are still in good shape
to wade and hatches of Blue-winged olives
and mIdges are taking place.
03/28/16 Some of the new hatches listed above
under the 3/14 report have begin. Stream levels
are low and the river is safe to wade.
04/11/16 Stream levels are up near normal
and the weather getting warm again. The cold
spell is over and major hatches should begin
04/25/16 Stream levels are very low and you
need to stay hidden and make good
presentations. There is some rain in the
forecast, so this should soon change. Several
hatches are underway.
05/02/16 Rolling at 749 cfs at 4.48, or high and
dirty. From the looks of the forecast, it is unlikely
to be down to wadeable levels this week.
05/09/16 The stream level is just now getting
back down to where it can be safely wader in
places. Lots of hatches are taking place.
05/16/16 The stream is high, 296 cfs at 3.53
ft..Normal is at 160 cfs. It can be fished but not
safely waded most places, it is falling.
05/30/16 The stream level is finally back to
near a normal level and the stream in good
condition. Green Sedge (caddisflies) are
hatching. A few Light cahills and Amer. March
Browns are hatching as well.
06/06/16 The flows at at 473 cfs at 4.87 ft. It is
falling out and should be back to wading levels
soon. Otherwise, conditions are very good.
06/20/16 The water has been high again but
back down to a good level. Fish upstream from
the big parking lot, as far as you want to go.
06/27/16 The stream is flowing at 350 cfs at
3.66 ft..That is an okay level but high enough
to be tough wading in places, otherwise,
conditions are good.
07/04/16 Stream levels are down to 97 cfs at
2.71 ft, which is low; however, there is a flood
watch for today and rain for the next few days.
07/18/16 The high water is gone and the levels
back down in good shape. It is terrestrial time.
Ants, beetles and grass hoppers.
08/01/16 The stream levels are a little below
normal but there is rain in the forecast. Tricos
have started to hatch.
08/15/16 The stream levels have been high but
is back down near a normal level. Fish early
mornings and the last three hours of the day.
08/22/16 Stream levels are very high but falling.
You will have to check them.
08/29/16 Stream levels are back up high again
but falling. They should get back in good
shape fast. Terrestrials, caddis and Tricos.
09/12/16 Stream levels are very low, running
5.7 cfs at 1.84 ft. There isn't much chance of
rain until this coming weekend.
10/03/16 The stream level is back down to a
normal level and wading possible. There are
Mahogany duns, BWO, slate drakes and
some other insects hatching. Good conditions.
10/10/16 The stream has been high again but
falling and getting near normal. It should be in
good shape very soon.
10/17/16 The stream is higher than normal
(normal is low) but in good shape with lots of
11/07/16 The stream level are down in good
shape near normal, the water cooler and the
trout feeding good. Blue-winged olives are
hatching. Conditions are good for a change.
11/14/16 Stream levels have been a little high
the past few days but back down to normal
levels. Conditions are good with trout being
caught in good numbers.
11/28/16 The stream level is very low but there
is rain forecast Monday through Friday.
Blue-winged olives and Midges are hatching.
The Brown Sculpin is catching the larger fish.
12/19/16 The river is up high right now, too high
to wade, but it will fall back down fast. There isn't
any rain until maybe Thursday and by tomorrow
it should be low enough to fish. Ues midges,
creams and reds, fished in tandem.
01/02/16The stream levels are currently high,
flowing at 621 cfs at 4.36 ft. Wait until it drops
a little. Midges, creams, reds, and Winter SF.
01/09/17 The stream is at a normal level but
the water cold. It will start to warm up today
and should be in good shape very soon.