The Southerner's Handbook

How to Find a Brook Trout Hole

Bring your flies, a pole, and a map

Illustration: Clint Hansen

Tom Sadler, a guide for the Mossy Creek Fly Fishing shop in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, is a brook trout junkie. His mantra when it comes to finding the best fishing for these precious jewels of the southeastern Appalachians is a simple one: “Instead of fighting the crowds, fight the underbrush.”

Before a brookie jaunt, Sadler sits down with his most handy tool: a DeLorme map. (“I like maps better than a GPS,” he says. “GPS devices have batteries, and those can fail.”)

On the map, Sadler goes straight to a well-known brook trout stream, such as, say, Virginia’s Rapidan River. “Then I look for the feeder streams, those thin blue lines, and see where they go,” he says. One can also look for these lines in nearly every national or state-owned property in the Southeastern mountains. “If you find streams that are in or near the headwaters of a river, chances are they will have brook trout.”

And if they do, these unpressured fish are apt to take any reasonable offerings. “Pheasant tail nymphs, Royal Wulffs, or any of your go-to flies should work,” Sadler says. But he cautions that the intrepid brookie angler has to manage expectations. “Don’t forget that when chasing brook trout, half the fun is finding them.”