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Angler Spotlight: Meet Matt McGraw

By Molly Kirk

Photos by courtesy of Matt McGraw

Each month in the Fishing Notes from the Field email, we at the Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) are going to highlight one of our constituents and the role fishing plays in their life. Are you an avid angler who would like to be featured or know someone who would be great to feature? We’d love to hear from you! Just email social@dwr.virginia.gov and let us know!

Name: Matt McGraw

Hometown: Covington, Virginia

Occupation: Associate Vice President at Dabney S. Lancaster Community College. I also love to teach fly fishing at Dabney S. Lancaster Community College. I also regularly teach fly fishing workshops for schools, reunions, and, last year, at Camp Woods and Wildlife.

How did you get interested in fishing?

I grew up near Hinton, West Virginia. Hinton is where the New, Greenbrier, and Bluestone Rivers meet. Between those rivers, their tributaries, and local lakes, there was always fishable water nearby. My brothers taught me to fish and it was something we always enjoyed doing together. I consider myself an outdoorsman, but fly fishing is my favorite leisure-time activity.

I am working my way through the Master Angler Challenges—I am currently at Master Angler I, but I think I can achieve level II by the end of the summer. I am also a VWF Expert Angler in rainbow trout, brook trout, and sunfish and completed the Virginia Trout Slam Challenge this spring—all on a fly rod. In addition to fishing and tying flies, I love to travel the commonwealth in search of new waters. My favorite waters are the Jackson River, the James, the South Fork of the Holston, and Whitetop Laurel Creek.

What do you love about fishing?

I find fly fishing to be cathartic and healing. Some people sleep on problems or pray on them. I fish on them. There is a meditative effect to being in nature, in cool, clear, flowing water, and fishing that is cleansing. It’s also awesome to catch and release a native fish with an attitude.

Who was your fishing mentor?

My brothers, Jack and Stewart.

What’s been your most memorable day on the water?

A couple of years ago I was fishing the Special Regulation Section of the Jackson River near Hidden Valley in Bath County. It was a cool mid-October day. I hiked in early and the fishing was slow that morning, but turned on around 3:00. I stopped counting at 30 trout that day. That day I saw a black bear, an eagle, and at least a dozen whitetail deer. None of the fish were huge, but they were all beautiful. When I think of great days on the water, that one always comes to mind.

Another fun memory is when I traveled to Denmark for a research trip related to my real job last year. While there, I was in a small restaurant in Copenhagen called the CapHorn. It is a beautiful place right on the water. I noticed a Dane with an Orvis hat on. We kicked up a conversation, as fishermen do, and were talking about where we wanted to fish around the world.

His dream trip was to fish for smallmouth bass in the New and James rivers. When I told him that I live 10 minutes from the head of the James River, he was astonished. We had a great discussion and I left feeling refreshed and blessed that we have a world-class, year-round fishery in our back yard!

Are you an avid angler who would like to be featured or know someone who would be great to feature? We’d love to hear from you! Just email social@dwr.virginia.gov and let us know!

Fishing During the COVID-19 Outbreak

  • If you choose to fish during the pandemic it is essential that you follow CDC guidelines.
  • Purchase your fishing license online instead of in-person.
  • Fish alone or with family members or others that you live with and are isolating with during the Governor’s “stay at home” order.
  • Do not fish if you feel sick or think you might be sick.
  • Stay at home when you are sick, except to get medical care.
  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and water for 20 seconds or using alcohol-based sanitizer even while afield or afloat.
  • Do not share equipment with anyone, and wash your equipment when you’re done.
  • Stay at least 6 feet away from other anglers you encounter and try to avoid crowded access points.
  • Do not float in a raft, drift boat, john boat, or canoe with friends that you are not isolated with during the “stay at home” order.  If you choose to float please do so with individuals that you live with and are isolated with.
  • Try to fish near home as much as possible and avoid traveling long distances.
  • August 12, 2020