Whitetop Laurel in Washington County, Virginia is one of state’s largest and most beautiful wild trout streams. Approximately seven miles are stocked trout waters located on both private and public lands with an additional five miles of special regulation waters flowing through the Mount Rogers National Recreational Area. Within the special regulation sections, anglers have the opportunity to catch brook, brown, and rainbow trout while enjoying the scenic mountain atmosphere.
The special regulation sections are fully accessible recreation facilities with wildlife viewing platforms and streamside wheelchair accessibility making Whitetop Laurel available to all anglers.
Maps & Directions
From I-81 south take exit 29 (Glade Spring) to 91 east towards Damascus, in Damascus take 58 east. Whitetop Laurel flows along 58 east, where it can be accessed easily. Signs to the parking areas and the Virginia Creeper Trail are along 58 east. Sections of Whitetop Laurel that are not adjacent to 58 east are easily accessed from the Virginia Creeper Trail. Parking areas have maps and trail information on display.
While fishing the put-and-take waters is generally reliable only during the stocking season (October through June 15), the special regulation areas offer excellent fishing opportunities throughout the year.
While most anglers who fish the special regulation waters use fly fishing gear, spinning tackle can also be very effective. Ultra-light gear in conjunction with small jigs and single-hook spinners can catch trout in all seasons and water conditions.
During the winter cold-water period, the best flies imitate the nymphs which dominate the trout’s diet as this time of year. Whitetop Laurel has an excellent forage base, and patterns including everything from tiny caddis larvae to giant black stonefly nymphs are effective. During late winter, as spring approaches, a few warm, sunny days in succession may prompt blue-wing olive mayfly hatches, offering anglers occasional spurts of dry-fly action.
The activity levels of trout and trout anglers both increase greatly with the arrival of spring. All the standard fly fishing tactics are applicable as insect hatches swing into action. In high-flow conditions, a bulky streamer or flashy spinner can produce impressive results.
The long days of summer bring low, clear flows, and anglers must adjust accordingly to be successful. Keeping a low profile and making long, quiet help prevent spooking the trout, which often readily take imitations of terrestrial insects if no other hatch is occurring.
As waters cool in fall, trout everywhere begin feeding heavily, and those in Whitetop Laurel are no exception. Autumn also offers the best chance to tangle with one of the stream’s trophy brown trout as they prepare to spawn. Large streamers such as muddler minnows, wooly buggers, and woolhead sculpins are the best choices for the fly angler seeking a big brown. However, the best advice for an angler considering a trip to Whitetop Laurel is simply go for it. Even on the rare day when the trout refuse to cooperate, the experience of being on one of Virginia’s most beautiful streams makes any trip worthwhile.
Within the special regulation sections of Whitetop Laurel the stream is managed as catch and release, in addition to a single hook artificial lure only regulation. A freshwater fishing license and National Forest Permit is needed to fish the two special regulation sections.
Within the stocked portions of the stream there is a seven-inch size limit, a six fish per day creel and a trout license required from October 1, through June 15 in addition to the statewide freshwater fishing license. A National Forest Permit is required on some sections of the stocked portion of stream.
Facilities, Amenities, and Nearby Attractions
The special regulation sections of Whitetop Laurel have parking areas, restroom facilities, and information postings provided by the U. S. Forest Service at the top portion of the upper special regulation area and the ending portion of the lower area. Both parking areas are can be accessed from route 58. The upper special regulation section also has handicap fishing platforms.
The town of Damascus, Virginia is located a near Whitetop Laurel offers different locations to dine and purchase needed items. Camping is also allowed in the national forest sections of Whitetop Laurel.
There are no facilities offered on the stocked portions of Whitetop Laurel and limited roadside parking available on route 58.
For more information on Whitetop Laurel, please contact:
Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources
1796 Highway Sixteen
Marion, VA 23454
For information about the Town of Damascus, please contact:
The Town of Damascus
P.O. Box 56
Damascus, VA 24236