"West Virginia Natives" by Dylan Roy a fly fishing narrative of West Virginia's backcountry mountains, creeks, and streams.
When talking about native brooke trout, the quaint mountain streams of the West Virginia mountains are often one of the first places to be brought up. Fly anglers from all over the nation make thier way here to chase the elusive species. The native brookies are found within the thousands of small streams between the hills, hollers, and mountains of the great state; most being barely wide enough to spit across. While they lack in size, the vast numbers of the little guys within some of these mountain streams is nothing short of astounding.
Before West Virginia became a haven for natural resources, the species thrived in practically every small waterway that held water year round. However, ever since the state became recognized for it's coal and timber potential in the late 1800's, thousand's of these thriving streams became sterile of the fragile species. As both industries grew and grew, the brookes containing the native trout grew fewer and fewer. Coal mining rose the acid levels of the small streams while timbering eliminated much of the streams' natural cover; resulting in a rise in water temperatures due to more of an exposure to direct sun light. These issues were ignored for several years; nearly driving the brookies out of the state. However, the formation of state and national parks and forests provided a safe haven for the fragile species. This, paired with Trout Unlimited's efforts of liming the streams and other resrtoration attempts, have assured a spot for the brooke trout within the state's ecosystem- at least for now.
There's something mesmerizing about this tiny fish, as in all trout. However, that mesmerization of the native brook trout is stronger than any other catch I've found yet. An experienced angler, when at the right place under the right conditions, can catch 70 or 80 of them within the span of an afternoon. They're not finicky by any means; striking almost anything they can fit in their mouths (as long as it's decently presented). However, there is a great amount of stealth involved when targeting them; more so than other species under other conditions. It's important to wear a color of clothing that clashes with the surrounding environment and move slowly and low to the ground; otherwise, they'll dart before you even get a fly wet. Their notion to dart at the slightest ripple and desire for a very well presented fly are the only things that keep the angler from catching one on every cast. The average catch, for most streams, is probably between 3-4 inches with a "trophy" being somewhere in the 8 inch range.
All of this makes you wonder: "What's so good about catching these things?". Honestly, if anybody truly wanted to catch a bunch of 2-3 inch fish, they wouldn't have to look much farther than they're closest creek. I don't know of many people who don't have an abundant source of bluegill or small bass within a few miles of their own home. So, what drives people to travel hours from home to fish tiny streams, creeks, and brookes in West Virgina, of all places? Well, the only explanation I have is the one of a kind experience you get out of doing it.
In doing this, you'll get to experience a number of sights and ventures that are unique only to this great state. In my opinion, it's worth coming here just for the drive through; even if you don't get out of the car, you'll experience some scenery that's downright gorgeous, and that's coming from somebody that's lived there his whole life. Driving miles down an old gravel road in the Monongahela National Forest, only to find a small stream to hike along for another 10 miles, provides an uncommon bond between you and the surrounding nature; one making it seem as if you're traveling uncharted ground. I've traveled, hiked, and fished some fairly remote places (in today's standards), and haven't found any place else that provides such a surreal feeling. This feeling, and the gratitude of catching and releasing a small, fragile piece of West Virginia's most natural and one of a kind species, is what it's all about.
Like I said, it's a one of a kind thing that can't be experienced elsewhere; you just won't understand until you try it. I know experienced guides and normal fisherman alike who spend the vast majority of their time on big water, chasing 24 inch browns and rainbows. While everyone can agree pursuing the larger fish is about as much fun someone can have, many agree that some of their favorite adventures have been spent in the bottom of a steep holler, dodging the rattlesnakes, battling the treacherous terrain, and hiking miles away from any one-way gravel road, all in the name of catching a few 2-3 inch brookies. That, I guess, is my best explanation to why myself and other anglers find enjoyment in pursuing the tiny species of trout that call the cold mountain brookes of West Virginia its home. Click the links on the left to see some of our favorite places to fish.