If fly-fishing’s your thing, the area’s rivers and streams are perfect for it. Some have even been called the best for fly-fishing in the state. Here’s what you need to know:
1. Have the right stuff. That means a rod and reel, line, leader, tippet and flies. Consider a fly-fishing vest with big pockets, waders, a fly box, sunscreen, bug repellant, and a pair of forceps to remove the hooks.
2. Don’t forget a hat – it keeps your face in the shade, but also keeps the flyline and hook from hitting you in the face.
3. Find the fish. Fish have three basic needs: Food, cover and a resting place. Look for pyramid-shaped rocks – the water flows on both sides, with a calm area in front. In the warmer weather, look for cool, shady spots. In cooler weather, look for places where the sun has warmed the water.
4. Flying bugs are a good sign. So are those sitting on the water. Trout like to eat bugs.
5. Trout hear better than you do. So when you approach a river, especially near slow and quiet water, don’t run or make a huge racket. The fish will hear you coming (really!) and dart for cover.
6. Trout see color well, so bright colors not found in their natural habitat will scare them away. Make sure your clothing and fishing hat blends into the sky or background. If you can, stand with the sun behind you, but not so it casts a shadow on the trout you’re trying to catch.
7. When you go after a trout, try and approach it from the rear. Trout have a blind spot behind them. Fish face upstream because that’s where their food comes from.
8. While wading will get you to the fish, pay attention. Check out the area first and make sure that if you do topple over, there’s somewhere where you can get up safely. If you do fall, get into a sitting position with your feet downstream and your head up, and try and angle for the shore.
9. Practice. And consider a guide. Natural Retreats at Virginia Hot Springs offers half-day and full-day guided trips. The Homestead has Orvis-trained guides (through Alleghany Activities, 540-839-7760) available for lessons and clinics. They also offer float fishing, a unique form of fly fishing where anglers float down the river with a guide while fishing.
10. Why fish? In the words of Jerry Dennis in his book The River Home: “… fishing makes us alert, pulls us out of our thoughts, and engages us in something bigger than ourselves. … Anglers are people who want to get beneath the surface of things. Fishing is simply a way to open our hearts to the world.”