Copyright 2021 James Marsh
Fly Fishing The Elk River West Virginia
The uppermost part of the Elk River in West Virginia is
a limestone spring creek that should be a top fly fishing
destination for any serious angler. It has some very
large wild rainbow trout and brown trout. Some of the
rainbows and browns are in the 20 inch category. It
also has a good population of native brook trout. Fly
fishing the Elk River is as good as fly fishing for trout
The only thing I don't like about this excellent trout
stream is the fact the locals want to imply you have to
use their services and that a guide is necessary.
There's absolutely nothing wrong with hiring a guide to
fish the Elk River. It is also absolutely not necessary to
use a guide. Elk River fishes no different from many
other fine limestone spring creeks across the nation. If
anything, its faster water sections make it much easier
to fish than most smooth flowing limestone spring
The stream has lots of shallow runs and riffles,
depending greatly on the water levels, and also some
very deep pools. Although it has the appearance of a
freestone stream, It is quite different.
The Elk River is formed in the Allegheny Mountains by
the confluence of Big Spring Fork and the Old Field
Fork, small streams located near Slatyfork, West
Virginia. The small stream flows above the ground for
several miles and then flows underground for over five
miles. The old riverbed above the underground water is
called the Dries.
The Elk River is called the Lady by the locals. From its
headwaters downstream for about four and a half miles
the Elk River is 'catch-and-release" only water. The
stream goes underground at the end of that section.
During the Spring, with high water levels, there is water
flowing through the normally dry creek bed.
Another "catch-and-release" section begins at some
large underground spring where the river flows back to
the surface and extends downstream to the Rose Run
Bridge. This section can be accessed from County
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Fly fishing the Elk River is great year-round
Spring provides good fly fishing
The water stays cool all summer and offers
some great fly fishing opportunities.
Elk River Hatches and Trout Flies:
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 Elk 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 aquatic insect populations of the Elk
River is quite different from most spring
creeks. The pH level is perfect but the bottom
composition limits the number and types of
species. Rather than being sandy like most
spring creeks, it is rocky.
The most common mayflies are the
Blue-winged Olives but they consist mostly of
very small sizes of four or five different
genera. Many are not the normal Baetis
species. Most aquatic insect books would call
the Small BWOs and Litltle BWOs. These
hatch from March though May and again from
September through November. Some even
hatch during the winter months but they are
American March Browns hatch in late April
and May. You will find them in the fast water
sections of the river. This is sparse and
sporadic, rarely concentrated but will produce
some fish is handled correctly.
Eastern Green Drakes hatch in June. They
are considered a top hatch by many but quite
frankly, we haven't found that many nymphs.
Some sections have plenty but overall it
doesn't compare to places like Penn Creek.
This isn't to say that it is not a good hatch,
but I do think it is overrated. The best part of
it is the spinner fall and that takes place after
the sun sets and into the night.
Elk River Fly Fishing Guide:
Some anglers consider the Elk one of the
best trout streams in the Eastern United
States. It has native brook trout, and plenty
of wild brown trout and wild rainbow trout.
In the headwaters of the Elk River, cobble
covers the stream bottom making it appear
under low water conditions to be a long riffle,
but there are pools that run deep as well.
Wild rainbow trout spawn in the tiny tributary
streams. As soon as you fish the Elk River
you will see that it is almost two different
streams. The first section, including water for
the first 31/2 miles downstream of the
junction of Old Field and Big Springs Fork,
runs through a canyon. There are no
streamside roads. An old railroad line
parallels the river, providing access. It is a
pretty good hike in and out of this part of the
At the end of what we will call section one,
the river sinks into underground caves and
returns to the surface about two miles
downstream. This is what we will call the
second section of the Elk. It's a two mile long
section of the river that falls off the limestone
ledge to form Whittaker Falls. A county road
parallels this section the entire length.
Both sections of the Elk River are managed
under artificial-lures-only, catch-and-release
regulations. All trout caught must be
Customers are always asking, where is the
best place to fish. That should be an
automatic. Naturally, and especially during
crowded times of the season, the more
difficult access part, or section one should
be the preference. That comes at a price. It
takes some time to hike in and out but the
fish are usually a little more cooperative.
The Elk is regarded by some as technical
water. By that I mean, it requires matching
the hatch during hatches and matching
about what is about to hatch at other times.
Many anglers don't think of matching
aquatic insects unless they are hatching.
That's a huge mistake. Trout can see the
nymphs and larvae under the water many
times better than a insect on the surface.
That goes for the flies as well.
Trout in the Elk River will concentrate on
eating whatever the most plentiful and
available trout food is at the time. Often,
this will dictate where they are within the
stream, meaning the shallow riffles, deep
runs, pockets, slow water of the pool
Call it whatever you like but if you want to
increase your odds of success on the Elk
River, you should be matching the naturals
and using imitations that are as realistic as
The Sulphurs are the next most plentiful
species of mayfly. The can blanket the
water and air in the better areas of the
stream. You will find them in the moderate
flows, not so much the fast water. They
hatch in late May and June.
The Elk has plenty of Little Winter
Stoneflies. These range in hook sizes from
an 18 to a 16. Nymph imitations are by far
more effective but the adults will fool a few
trout on warm nice days.
Little Yellow Stoneflies are very plentiful.
Many anglers call these Yellow Sallies.
They range from a hook size 16 to 18 and
hatch in May and June.
Little Green Stoneflies are also plentiful.
These are a hook size 16 and hatch in
June and July.
Caddisflies are plentiful all Spring,
Summer and Fall. Most of them are
net-spinning caddis commonly called
Cinnamon Sedges. Various species of
these start hatching in April and last
through October. That doesn't mean they
are always present. They hatch off and on
depending on the 6 to 8 different species.
There are plenty of Green Sedges and
imitations of the larvae called Rock Worms
work well all year long. They hatch in June
and early July.
You will also find some Great Autumn
Brown Sedges. These hatch in October
There are plenty of sculpin and some
baitfish. Dace minnows are common.
Streamers are often the best flies to use,
especially during pre and post brown trout
Fall is a great time to fish the Elk River
and many anglers favorite time.
Fly fishing the river remains good all
winter, even when the banks are fairly
deep with snow.
Elk River Fishing Report - 01/17/2021
The stream is a little below normal level. There are several insects hatching and our
customers have been sending in good reports when the levels are okay.
7 Day Weather Forecast: (click the box below to see more detailed weather information).
Recommended Trout Flies:
Blue-winged Olives, size 18/16, nymphs, emergers, duns and spinners
Brown Sculpin, White Belly Sculpin & articulated streamers, size 6/4
Aquatic Worms, size 12, pink, red, and others.
Winter Stoneflies, size 16/18, nymphs and adults
Midges: Blood (Red), sizes 20/22, larva, pupa and adults
Midges: Cream, size 20/22, larva, pupa and adults
Midges: Light Green, size 20/22, larva, pupa and adults
Strategies, Techniques and Tips:
The Brown Sculpin, White Belly Sculpin & articulated streamers are great streamers to
use anytime of the year.
Various species of Blue-winged olives are bi-brooded and are hatching mostly on
cloudy, overcast days.
Scuds and/or sowbugs will work great at this time.
Winter stoneflies are hatching.
Aquatic worms are working.
We still think the best strategy is to fish a tandem Midge rig under a small strike
indicator with the midge lava as the bottom fly and the midge pupa as the top fly. Fish
the adult midge only when you observe trout feeding on the surface.
Elk River Fishing Report Updated
(Bottom Of Page)
Recommended Tackle & Gear
4, 5 or 6 weight
Dry fly: 9 &12 ft., 5 or 6X, Nymphing:
71/2 ft., 3 or 4X, Streamers 0-2X
Dry fly: 5 or 6X, Nymphing: 3 or 4X,
Best Fly Rods:
Perfect Fly Supreme Four, Superb Five
or Ultimate Six
For 4/5/6 fly line
Fly Floatants and Misc Items:
Floatants, KISS Strike Indicators
Tools & Accessories:
Nippers, forceps, retractors, etc.
Below images provided by TJ Fisher,
owner of the fisherman's paradise
that is for sale. See details below:
Fisherman's Paradise For Sale:
8 acres located on the Elk River, 1/2
miles from Elk River Lodge. It includes
a 4 BR/2bath cabin. This property
borders the Monongahela National
Forest and includes a section of the
Elk River with springs, all for the low
price of $469,000.00. Click Here for
much more information.
Above images provided by T.J. Fisher,
owner of property.
|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.
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