From its cold, steep headwaters to its warm, flat mouth in Hinton, the Greenbrier River is one of the most charming rivers in West Virginia. At more than 150 miles long, it has great rural scenery, rich history, and excellent fishing. It has West Virginia’s state fossil (Megalonyx jeffersonii, aka the Giant Sloth) and state gemstone (chalcedony), and is also home to the rare West Virginia spring salamander. The Greenbrier was a Native American warpath and had a big role in the development of region’s early timber industry. Today, it offers some of the best recreation opportunities in the state, including very productive fishing spots.
What Makes It Great
While some folks fish for bass in the colder waters above Marlinton, the most popular warm- water fishing is downstream, where the river is flat with deep pools and Class I-II whitewater. Canoe and kayak trips are very popular on the Greenbrier, from short day paddles to long trips with several nights of camping. Downstream from Marlinton, Watoga State Park has campgrounds along the river. Most smallmouth fishing in this section is from a canoe, kayak, or float tube. You can also wade the river there from the Greenbrier River Trail, a 78-mile rail-to-trail that follows the river from Cass to Caldwell.
Pursuing and fighting these tenacious fish is an excellent year-round pastime. Light-weight fly fishing equipment lends itself particularly well to smallmouth in general, especially on the Greenbrier. If you don’t have a fly rod, a light spinning rod is a great second choice.
The most effective techniques for smallmouth in the Greenbrier vary with the season, water level, and fishing craft. When the water is warm and the fish are active, flies like poppers and dragonflies can get a strike on almost every cast. The fishing slows down in the late summer, when the water gets too low to float. The Greenbrier is also a great spot to reel in rock bass and catfish.
Who is Going to Love It
The smallmouth fishing in the Greenbrier is world-class. On a typical fishing day, you’ll see expert fly fishers tossing hand-tied flies from guided rafts, novices wading with push-button casting rods, and everyone in between. If you like to wade, you’ll find plenty of access points in and along the Greenbrier River Trail. If you prefer to float, the river has great paddling on one of the longest undammed rivers in the east. However you fish in the Greenbrier, you’ll find beautiful scenery, plenty of wildlife, and hard-fighting smallmouth around each bend.
For more information about paddling the Greenbrier, check out “A Canoeing & Kayaking Guide to West Virginia,” published by Menasha Ridge Press. It has details about put-ins, take-outs, river levels and gauges, and more. Novice paddlers should take special care near Talcott, near Bacon Falls and the Lindsey Slide. Both of these rapids are for expert paddlers only.
You’ll need a valid WV fishing license to fish on the Greenbrier.