Copyright 2013 James Marsh
Fly Fishing Guide for the Cranberry River West Virginia
This fine trout fishery is due mainly to the addition of limestone by the DNR. Limestone
drums are responsible for the recovery of the Cranberry River. Miles of water is now treated
with limestone to increase the pH level in order to provide water that is more suitable for
aquatic insects and the trout. At one time the river contained so much acid that warm water
species couldn't survive there.
There are sixteen miles of backcountry river including the North and South Forks of the
Cranberry River. There are overnight shelters along the river for anglers to spend the night.
Many use bicycles to get into the backcountry. No vehicles are allowed in this area. As
mentioned, most of the trout in the headwater tributary streams are brook trout. Most of the
time they will take generic and attractor flies. You do not have to get very sophisticated to
catch them. The North and South Forks and the Dogway Fork are the best areas for the
brook trout. The Dogwood Fork is designated "Fly Fishing Only".
The other sections of the backcountry has some rainbows but mostly brown trout. The
gradient of the river is steeper in the canyon section. There is some heavy pocket water in
the middle sections of the stream. The lower section of the stream has lots of long riffles
and pools. The gradient is much lower and the water runs slower. There are not many runs.
Boulders and rocks of all sizes are scattered throughout the river creating lots of pockets of
all sizes. The lower section is also much wider but the makeup is about the same. There are
some pools where the water is smooth and the trout are very spooky, but for the most part
the stream is broken up with riffles.
The best way to fish the river is in an upstream direction. Usually, shorter accurate cast are
more productive than long cast. Long presentations get easily caught up in conflicting
currents. You want to try to keep as much fly line out of the water as possible. Focus on the
current seams where most of the food would be likely be drifting. When the water is low like
it is in the images shown, it is much more difficult to fish. The low water situation takes
longer presentations using longer, lighter leaders that normal or high water conditions
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