Good Things Come To Those Who Bait

I don’t ever make New Year’s resolutions, and 2020 would be no different. Goals and ambitions do come about cyclically, usually during West Virginia’s “grey season”, the time between fall and winter. This year I wanted to learn to do something different. Get out of my comfort zone. On the same token I wanted “something” to be relaxing and simple in character.

After the conversation of exploring secluded hollows and canyons of West Virginia by orienteering, it dawned upon me. I want to catch native brook trout (only to be released) and explore the habitat needed for them to naturally flourish. This spring was spent doling over maps and purchasing fishing gear. For $95.00 I got a collapsible pole, reel, bait, and accessories. Not a bad price for entry!

Eager fishermen and women hoping I will disclose the native brook trout stream gems I have found will be disappointed. It’s not going to happen. I am now part of the club, and guess what the first rule is…Shhh. The adventure, research, and time spent in conversation made the reward of catching a native brook trout all that more special. And this is the point of my blog. Fishing has taught me a lot about myself, life, and how remarkable Tucker County and our mountain region is.

Yes, I will speak of fine locations on our many rivers that flow freely from high up in the Appalachian Mountains. The Cheat River watershed has no dams, a trait unique to the United States. Cold water year round is ideal for both native and stocked trout. Larger rivers such as the Shavers Fork and Dry Fork River have an impressive bass population with the warmer water.

The author finds native streams are not much wider than a fishing pole.

First pro move. Navigate sections of the Cheat River by canoe or kayak. Need a rental or have your own boat? It doesn’t matter. Blackwater Outdoor Adventures offer shuttles up river and a slew of rental options. For those that do own their own boat, there is a handicap accessible canoe and kayak launch on the Blackwater River in the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge. This is an area you will find both stocked and native fish.

What about that native brook trout teaser we began with? Red Run is a catch and release only stream coming off of Canaan Backcountry and is accessible from Canaan Loop Road (Forest Rd. 13). As I started fishing these native streams, the desire to be a future fly fishermen and reality met. Heavily wooded stream banks and tight ravines guarantee a long life for the spin rod as fly fishing skills are worked on. Navigating these wild places also reinforced the convenience of a five foot rod that breaks down and fits nicely on a backpack.

Fishing trout in Otter Creek, West Virginia
Fishing trout on Horseshoe Run, West Virginia
Fishing trout on Horseshoe Run, West Virginia

In addition to Red Run, two other publicized Tucker County native brook trout locations are Otter Creek and Red Creek. Otter Creek is located in Otter Creek Wilderness Area, not far from the town of Parsons, West Virginia. Red Creek runs through the heart of Dolly Sods Wilderness, begin at the Red Creek trail head in Lanesville, WV and start hiking up stream. Every year search and rescue find themselves in each of these wilderness areas looking for lost hikers and extracting injured adventurers. Do your research and come prepared for a true wilderness experience.

Ultimately, it’s about the journey. Not the catch. Which brings me to a personal opinion. I always release these prized fish and de-barb my hooks. It’s not about me, it’s about leaving something for the next person to experience the exhilaration and beauty of native trout. Have you ever seen the joy catching your first fish as a child? Priceless. The West Virginia Department of Natural Resources stock millions of trout each year that fit nicely in your frying pan. And don’t forget your fishing license, I have seen resource officers in the middle of nowhere.

Happy fishing our mountain streams and rivers. The rewards are many and experience legendary.