Glade Creek is arguably the best all-around trout stream in the southern part of West Virginia
On The Fly Freshwater
Article and featured photo by Jimmy Jacobs
One might expect that the northerly position of West Virginia, along with its mountainous terrain would make it a wonderland of trout water. While the state does have some blue ribbon cold waters like the Elk and upper Cranberry rivers, they are situated in the central to northeastern parts of West Virginia.
Down in the south of the Mountain State the majority of the waters are seasonally stocked on a put-and-take basis. From July to September these waters don’t offer much to fly casters looking for trout.
On the other hand, there are a few stretches of water that are open year-round and provide some action under catch-and-release rules. One of the best of these is Glade Creek in Raleigh County.
The creek starts at the junction of Oak and Farley creeks, just a bit northeast of the town of Ghent in the southern reaches of the county. From there it meanders northward, passing through Glade Creek Reservoir. As the stream exits the lake, it first becomes of interest to trout anglers. From that structure downstream to the boundary of the Resort at Glade Springs, the creek is stocked twice each month from February to April, once in May and twice in October.
A couple of miles downstream Glade Creek exits the resort property and again has a stretch of stocked water. Just south of Interstate 64, the creek enters the New River National Park and Preserve. At the end of County Road 111-33 at the stream’s junction with Pinch Creek, the upper trailhead of the Glade Creek Trail marks that boundary.
As you walk down the trail, the stocked area of the creek continues to the first foot bridge over the stream. Through here the trail is easily traversed, as it follows the path of a long abandoned narrow gauge railroad line. Beside the pathway, Glade Creek tumbles along a rocky course of pocket water.
All told, the Glade Creek Trail runs for 5.6 miles along the stream. From the bridge mentioned earlier, it is 3.3 miles to its confluence with the New River. This lower part of Glade is not stocked and is open under the catch-and-release regulations. Along the stream the steep hillsides of Redden Ridge on the west and Polls Plateau to the east hem in the flow. It was the opportunity to challenge this water that brought the On The Fly South crew to the stream.
For our adventure, we chose to approach the creek from the lower trailhead at Glade Creek Campground. After a long drive over a narrow dirt track, we reached the parking lot and geared up. It was already June and from past experiences on West Virginia trout waters in the warmer months. We expected to encounter low water. To our surprise the creek had a substantial flow rushing over the rocky strata of its bed.
First off, we brushed up on the West Virginia catch-and-release rules that apply on Glade Creek. Only artificial flies and lures are legal. If the lure has treble hooks, those must be barbless. Any fly or lure with a single hook can have a barb. And, of course, all trout caught must be immediately released.
Once we entered the stream the wading was pretty difficult at first. The current was swift and even felt boots did not hold well on the rocks. The surface of the stones reminded me of wading on the slippery formations in the Piedmont areas farther south. where the warmer water and more fertility make for difficult footing. It also became quickly apparent that the fish were not interested in our dry fly and nymph presentations. We were beginning to wonder if there were actually any trout in the stream.
Working upstream the terrain began to change a bit. The stream spread out, alternating between mild riffles and long, slower runs, but still no fish. Associate Editor Polly Dean, having noticed a lot of crawfish in the creek and suggested maybe we should be looking for smallmouth bass, instead of trout. Following that hunch, I tied on a Wooly Bugger in a burnt orange color pattern.
It took but a couple of casts to confirm that the fish in Glade Creek were looking for something resembling the crawdads. But the first strike was followed by a 14-inch rainbow trout leaping twice as it tried to escape down the creek. That pretty much confirmed the old adage about matching the hatch, even if it isn’t composed of bugs.
The pattern that followed was tossing the Bugger into deeper runs where the trout were hugging the bottom. No doubt, they were down there gorging on the abundant crawfish.
For more details and directions to Glade Creek, click here for the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources Interactive Fishing Map.