Fly Fisher's Guide to Virginia

By David Hart

A revised 2nd edition. Comprehensive book on flyfishing in both Virginia & West Virginia. Covers lakes, streams, creeks, & rivers. 50+ maps, hatch charts, B&W photos, 2 pp color fly plates; 400+ pgs.


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This is the most comprehensive book to be printed on flyfishing in both Virginia and West Virginia. This book covers lakes, streams, creeks, and rivers. Includes detailed maps and hatch charts, along with all the essential information for traveling through the Virginias to fish these fine waters.

What a wonderful flyfishing guide— Flyfisher's Guide to Virginia — Including West Virginia's Best Flyfishing Waters," by David Hart (523 pages, soft cover, black/white photos and maps; $28.95, Wilderness Adventures Press Inc., 800/925-3339), might qualify for the longest book title honors this year, but Hart deserves an award just for all the tough research he did to complete this wonderful book.

Last year, when I reviewed Harry Murray's Virginia flyfishing book I believed that Murray's effort was the best anyone could hope to do. How wrong can a fellow be? Hart, a Northern Virginian who intimately studies his subjects before he takes to the computer keyboard, began by sectioning his state into five zones to simplify finding certain waters.

"This is a meat-and-potatoes book," Hart says. "You won't find lavish ingredients like gushing, flowery prose." With that, he sets the stage. He begins with Region 1, the tidal rivers and reservoirs of southeastern Virginia, where a flyrodder can tie into a bass, striper, bowfin, shad, sea trout or sunfish. Hart provides map after illuminating map to show the way from the Mattaponi and Pamunkey to the Chickahominy and James rivers, to name a few. You'll learn the names of big and small reservoirs, the regulations, the phone numbers of the people who manage them, how to fish there and the motels and tackle shops in the neighborhood.

You get the idea. This isn't just about trout. This is about flyrodding for anything that swims.

In the book's Region 2, Hart shows where, how and when to go after walleyes, bass, trout, fallfish — you name it — in central Virginia and the southwest Blue Ridge Highlands. Nothing is left to chance. Float trips are measured; fly selections given; accommodations listed; and maps provided, including the upper James, Tye, Appomattox, Staunton, Dan and Rockfish rivers, as well as stocked trout waters. The parade continues with other regional listings, the best mountain trout waters from the extreme southwestern parts on the Tennessee and North Carolina borders up to West Virginia, where that state's top trout and other fishing opportunities are also given. Heck, Hart even lists auto repair shops, and the tourism offices who want you to come and visit. A superb effort.

There is no shortage of fishing guide books for Virginia anglers, and most of them are pretty good. So when a copy of David Hart's new Flyfisher's Guide to Virginia made it into my hands, my first thought was, "What does this book have that the others don't?"

Quite a bit, actually.

Sure, most of the waters Hart covers have been written up before. However, Flyfisher's Guide to Virginia is by far the most exhaustive, informative reference ever published on fly fishing in Virginia. The book is more than 500 pages long, and includes 88 maps. And it doesn't even include saltwater fly fishing information.

For a freshwater fly angler - or a spin fishermen, for that matter - who can afford only a single guidebook for Virginia, this one should top the list. It's simply a great tool.

Hart breaks Virginia into five regions. The waters of Shenandoah National Park get their own section, as do some of the best waters in neighboring West Virginia.

Each region is further broken down into warmwater rivers, trout streams and stillwaters. Each regional section also includes a list of hub cities, along with a list of accommodations, camping areas and eateries.

Descriptions of Virginia's most popular freshwater game fish, as well as popular fly patterns, are included in the book as well.

The real meat of the guide is in the descriptions of the lakes, ponds and streams. Hart covers hundreds upon hundreds of them, from the largest reservoirs and rivers to some tiny trickles that many fishermen would never even consider trying.

Detailed, easy-to-read maps accompany descriptions of many of the larger waters. Descriptions of the waters themselves are short and to the point: where they are, available species, best flies, best tactics, best seasons.

Here's another thing I really like about this guide: Hart doesn't pretend to know it all. Throughout the guide he relies upon expert sources, including Roanoke guide and fly shop owner Blane Chocklett, Floyd County guide and guidebook author Mike Smith and Department of Game and Inland Fisheries biologists.

A full-time freelance writer, Hart has personally explored and fished many of the waters. His assessments are candid and honest. If he heard about supposedly great fishing in a particular trout stream but managed to catch only a couple of fish, he'll admit it.

Hart writes in an easy-to-read, conversational tone, and he isn't afraid to offer opinions. For example, he doesn't hide the fact that he's not crazy about the Game Department's habit of stocking trout in streams that are home to wild trout. Nor does he mince words about the littering habits of some members of the put-and-take crowd.

While I was on vacation, the mail brought one of the better fishing books of the year.

This one was especially welcome because it centered on Virginia (with some of West Virginia thrown in for good measure). Too, the book was researched and written by David Hart, a young outdoor writer from Northern Virginia who's known for doing his homework.

In this, his first book, Hart has covered just about every lake, river or creek in the state that holds fish. The result is "Flyfisher's Guide to Virginia - Including West Virginia's Best Fly Fishing Waters." (Softback, 540 pages with more than 80 river maps, $28.95, Wilderness Adventure Press)

Perhaps all of us do the following when we get a new book - especially a guidebook. We turn first to the places we know best. That way we can check to see if the author is blowing smoke or knows the subject.

I delayed reading about the James, Shenandoah, Potomac and New rivers. I put off reading about the trout streams in Shenandoah National Park or Chickahominy Lake and Buggs Island, though I have more than a passing acquaintance with all the above.

I went straight to South River, which runs through my hometown of Waynesboro. (Trust me. There are South Rivers all over the commonwealth.) To my delight, I found Hart had nailed my river. He'd even mentioned that it's among the few trout streams in Virginia that run through a downtown area. He'd also mentioned its limitations.

"If you can avoid paying attention to the surroundings, you might have a respectable day on the South River," he wrote. "Despite the fact that a huge Du Pont factory - the one responsible for contaminating the Shenandoah River with mercury - sits on the banks of the river next to the stocked section of water, the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries does a fine job of maintaining a decent, if artificial, trout fishery.

"The stream gets worked pretty hard, mostly by spin fishermen, but fly anglers may have the upper hand on lure-shy fish. To work the water thoroughly, you should wear chest waders. The South River is thick with chubs and a variety of other undesirable fish, so there's a good chance you'll catch more 'trash' fish than trout. But hey, be glad something wants your fly."

Couldn't have said it better myself.

Hart gives this kind of "I've-fished-it-and-here's-what-you'll-find" advice throughout "Flyfisher's Guide to Virginia." The good and the bad. The beauty and the beastly. The worthwhile and the worthless.

Hart includes 30 hatch charts, as well as travel accommodations such as motels, car rentals, garages, restaurants, fishing guides in certain areas and an extensive list of shops where you can buy fishing supplies.

If I could take only one Virginia fishing guide in my glove compartment, this would be the one.


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