Fish Blue Ridge


The Blue Ridge Highlands: The Best Freshwater Fishing in Virginia?

Virginia DWR stocking trout
Rural Retreat Lake and Trout Pond
Find a Local Outfitter

Welcome to the Blue Ridge Highlands of Virginia

This Southwest Virginia region surrounds the famous peaks of Mount Rogers National Recreation Area, with some of the best and most diverse freshwater fishing in the state. New to fishing, not to worry, this four-county area has plenty of options for anglers young and old, experienced and just testing the waters. You’ll find stocked ponds, float trips, and cold-water wading opportunities galore. And the famed South Holston tailwater in Tennesee is just a short drive away.

Fly Fishing Along the Virginia Creeper Trail

For superb fly-fishing, take Whitetop Laurel near Damascus, VA for example – 10 miles of first class pools and pocketwater known for rainbows and browns with a few brookies mixed in.  An old railroad bed, the Virginia Creeper Trail, follws its route and has been converted to a hiking, biking, and horse trail. If you listen carefully, you might hear the ghost of a steam engine chuffing as it pulled a Norfolk & Western freight train up the mountain grade. Bring your bike to access sections of the stream that seldom see anglers. Easily reached on US 58, the half-mile below Creek Junction is perfect for wheelchair users. 

Although Damascus gets a lot of attention for its trails, one of its best-kept secrets is its abundant fishing access. Whitetop Laurel, Tennessee Laurel, and Beaverdam Creek all converge in town, then join the South Fork of the Holston River just downstream. These streams drain from Mount Rogers National Recreation Area and Cherokee National Forest, offering a wide range of fishing options, from the roadside to remote.

Trophy Smallmouth on the North Fork of the Holston River

If you’re hankering for smallmouth in the three to five pound class, the North Fork of the Holston at Saltville may be to your liking. A long-ago environmental tragedy has ironically paved the way for ecotourism in this former company town. From 1950 to 1972, Olin Chemical discharged mercury into the river, which at the time was not illegal.  The resulting decades of catch-and-release only fishing means that the river offers anglers the best opportunity in Virginia to connect with a three-pound plus smallmouth. Float it in a kayak and cast poppers under the trees or wade the riffles swinging big streamers.  

Tucked in the mountains of Southwest Virginia, Saltville can claim to be one of the historically significant communities in the nation. The inland saline marsh of Saltville possesses one of the most essential ingredients of worldwide history: salt. Since the 1780s, salt has been continuously produced in the town. Industry capitalized on salt products, and created the first fully infra-structured “company town.” Beautifully situated in a valley of the Appalachian Mountains, Saltville is also the perfect base camp to explore the fishing in the Clinch Mountain Wildlife Management Area.

Must sees include The Museum of the Middle Appalachians, The Historical Salt Park and the Palmer Grist Mill.

Southwest Virginia’s Secret Fishing Spot: Hidden Valley Lake

Not far along Interestate 81, you’ll come to Hidden Valley Lake, outside Abingdon. This 61-acre Department-owned impoundment is in the Hidden Valley Wildlife Management Area in Washington County. Hidden Valley Lake supports self-sustaining populations of largemouth bass, bluegill, redbreast sunfish, and black crappie. Channel catfish and northern pike are stocked. This pristine, high-elevation lake is just as popular for hikers, rock climbers, and wildlife photographers! 

Nearby Abingdon, Virginia is a charming small town in the picturesque Blue Ridge Mountains. This quaint community offers a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of life. Abingdon is known for its beautiful outdoor recreation opportunities, particularly fishing. The nearby South Holston River is a world-renowned destination for fly fishing, with plenty of trout and other fish species to catch. Visitors can also explore the town’s historic downtown, home to many local shops, restaurants, and cultural attractions. Whether you’re a fishing enthusiast or simply seeking a peaceful natural escape, Abingdon is the perfect destination.

Rural Retreat Lake is a Top Destination for Family Vacations

Families have plenty of opportunities to share the joy of fishing with young children, at places like Rural Retreat Lake and Trout Pond near Wytheville.  The lake has a boat ramp, ample shoreline fishing, picnic shelters, campgrounds, and a concession that sells food, bait, and tackle. Plus the Wythe County Parks and Recreation Department operates a swimming pool adjacent to the lake! 

For visitors not wishing to camp, the nearby town of Wytheville offers plenty of lodging – and more family fun.  Premier outdoor experiences surround you in every direction with hiking trails weaving through the mountains while fishermen and kayakers float the nearby creeks and rivers.

The charming downtown is home to craft breweries, specialty shopping, galleries, antiques, and live entertainment. With a variety of lodging at every price point, more than 70 restaurants, a multitude of attractions and a generous helping of Southern charm, you’ll discover why Wytheville is a family-favorite destination.

Find Fly-Fishing Paradise in the Freestone Streams of Mount Rogers

Looking for an undiscovered gem in a spectacular mountain setting? Head to Fox Creek in Grayson County. This freestone valley stream flows along Rd. 603 and joins Rt. 16 just north of Troutdale. The Appalachian Trail crosses this stream at Fox Creek Horse Camp, a great place to set up camp, explore the wilderness of Mount Rogers National Recreation Area, and fry up a fresh trout over your campfire. 

Grayson County is the ultimate destination for outdoor adventure, including the two highest peaks in Virginia, Mt. Rogers and Whitetop Mountain, as well as the second oldest river in the world, the New.  Two state parks, the New River Trail and Grayson Highlands, call Grayson County home. You’ll also find creeks, rivers, and streams around every bend that are full of colossal fish, rock bluffs and boulders that will challenge even the most experienced rock climbers, and a river through the middle of the county that will have you itching to kick back and relax on its banks.

Return to Home