Shenandoah National Park fly fishing is phenomenal. You have the option to pursue just about any freshwater fish you can imagine from inside the park.
Located in western Virginia, the 300 square mile park is located in the picturesque Shenandoah Valley and is loaded with mountains, forests, rivers, lakes, and freestone streams.
Table of Contents
- Fly Fishing Shenandoah National Park: Why Go?
- Species for the Shenandoah National Park Fly Fishing
- Best Spots for Fly Fishing the Shenandoah National Park
- Best Flies for the Shenandoah National Park
- Shenandoah National Park Fishing Season
- Shenandoah National Park Fishing Report
So, if fly fishing the Shenandoah park sounds intriguing to you then check out the article below. We’re going to go over where to fish, what kind of fish you’ll be targeting as well as some of the top flies.
Don’t miss our full guide to Fly Fishing in Virginia.
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Fly Fishing Shenandoah National Park: Why Go?
As a Virginian I am biased, but it is easily one of the prettiest spots to go visit in the country. It has beautiful valleys, mountains, towns, and there is some great fishing located in the Park.
If the idea of chasing Native trout sounds good to you then the Park is a great spot to do it. Native Brook Trout are abundant in mountain streams. Also, there are spring-fed rivers that hold brown and rainbow trout for year-round fishing.
Species for the Shenandoah National Park Fly Fishing
We spoke about the trout above, but there is also an abundance of smallmouth, and largemouth bass in the Shenandoah River. Same with Panfish, Crappie, Carp, and the state even stocks Muskie in the river. Below we’re going to cover them more in-depth.
The park is loaded with Brook Trout. There are streams with stockers that the state will allow you to retain during stocking months. Or there are streams full of colorful natives. Adams, Caddis, San Juan Worms, are great year-round. Beetles and ants are great for summer.
The Shenandoah River is a pretty good smallmouth fishery. It’s not as great as the New River, but it has a good number of fish. Streamers, crawfish, and poppers are great year round flies for these.
I put these two together because most streams that contain one will contain the other. Similar to brook trout there are stocked areas where you can retain them during certain times of the year. Nymphing is the most common way to catch them.
Best Spots for Fly Fishing the Shenandoah National Park
Below, we’re going to go over three different bodies of water for fly fishing in the Shenandoah National Park. Each is going to have its pros and cons and different fish located in them.
These will be in different parts of the park too. That way if you find yourself closer to the northern end you can utilize that portion instead of driving the full length to the opposite end.
There might not be a more famous Shenandoah National Park Trout fishing than the Rapidan River. It even has a fly named after Mr. Rapdian. This river has some of the best hatches in the entire state.
It’s only 75 miles from DC. Making it an easy spot to get to. The river is available through different parking areas along Skyline Drive. A short hike is all it takes to get to the river. Be wary of the weekend traffic, especially during peak seasons.
Located in the middle of the Park, the South River has a few different areas where you’re able to hop in and fish. The most popular section runs through downtown Waynesboro. Easily park your car and take a short walk to the river.
This spring-fed river allows you to catch brown and rainbow trout year-round. With the occasional Brookie slipping in. There is a lot of pressure on this river so technical and seasoned anglers are most successful here.
This might be the best fly fishing in Shenandoah National Park. The river can be accessed easily thanks to several marked trails off of Skyline Drive. Beware, there is a lot of hiking that needs to be done if you want to fish here.
For the people willing to make the hike you will be rewarded with some great Brook Trout Fishing. Natives and stockers are plentiful and on good days you could see a fish strike at almost every cast. Adams and hare ears work great.
Best Flies for the Shenandoah National Park
Below, we’re going to go over a few different flies that you should always have in your tackle box when fishing in the Shenandoah National Park. Check them out and see which one you like the best.
In early to late spring, it’s essential you have a Quill Gordon with you. Of course, sizes will always vary but a size 14-16 will get the most use.
You can use these on spring-fed or freestone streams to try and attract a bite from either Brook, Brow, or Rainbow. Look to see if the fish are rising first before attaching this fly.
Ideal for peak spring fishing. You can catch Brookies all day on Mr. Rapidan fly up and own the park. From March until May/June you’ll be able to use this fly with incredible success.
This is a great fly for attacking trout in those choppy mountain streams. It stays high on top of the water so you can easily see a bite and the fish can see it as well.
As long as there is consistent rain then there is no reason not to fish the park during the summer. Terrestrials like beetles, ants, and San Juan worms are all dangerous this time of the year.
If you see a lot of Beatles or other critters flying around then a dry fly will work well. After a rain try using a sinking ant or a san Juan Worm.
If you plan on chasing Smallmouth then a crawfish fly is something you need to have in your fly box. This can be used year-round and can be dragged across the bottom of hopped along in the current of the rivers.
You can use many different colors, but the most popular is usually either an olive green or brown. Other colors can work but it’s usually a specific condition that blue or other colors would work with success.
If you want to fish for trout in the winter in any of the spring-fed or tailwaters then a midge is going to be your breast butter. Get used to throwing light tippets and lighter flies during this time of the year.
If you love to fish and will brave the conditions then you can be rewarded with a good day of fishing. Large fish and quality numbers of fish can be caught in these streams and rivers during the coldest time of the year.
Shenandoah National Park Fishing Season
There is no closed or open season for trout in the state of Virginia. So, feel free to fish for Browns, Bows, or Brooks year-round. However, the best time of the year to fish for them will be in the spring followed by the fall.
The spring has an abundance of hatches across the state. Allowing you to catch rising fish that are hungry and looking to eat.
Shenandoah National Park Fishing Report
The Shenandoah River is a great spot to go after smallmouth. There is an abundance of solid fish that will eat all day. Summertime is popular for targeting them. Floating cicadas work well in the mornings and evenings with crawfish during midday.
The mountains stream best fishing is during the spring and can last all summer if the rain stays. Adams, Mr. Rapidan, and San Juan worms are my go-to flies. Plunge pools and riffles are the best spots for them.
Browns and Bows all vary. Streamers work great and can catch some big fish year-round. Terrestrials during the summer, midges during winter, and good selection BWO’s for spring during hatches.
The Shenandoah National Park is a great spot to hike, camp, visit, and most importantly fish. It is loaded with an abundance of species. Allowing anglers to truly pick their poison when they come here so they can target whatever species they want.
If you enjoy small stream fishing then you’re in luck because the Park has tons of them. If you like to go after big fish on big water then check out the larger rivers that run through the park. Smallmouth and Muskie are the main target species there.
Overall, the Shenandoah National Park is a great spot to fish. Bring your 7 weight and also your 3 weight. Each will allow you to go after all different types of fish in the park.