Gerald Almy: The 25 best National Parks for fly fishing

Gerald Almy

It’s no secret that our country has a wealth of natural treasures in its national parks. For the outdoorsman or woman who likes to fish, hike or camp, there’s a wide range of national parks to choose from within a reasonable driving distance. Our own local Shenandoah National Park is a prime example.

For the angler, national parks are a particularly rich treasure. Two top fly fishing writers – Terry and Wendy Gunn – recognized this and have written an excellent book on the topic called “25 Best National Parks to Fly Fish.”

Helping them with this massive project were several equally respected authors who were especially knowledgeable about a particular park. For Shenandoah National Park, that could be no one other than Harry Murray, retired pharmacist and owner of Murray’s Fly Shop in Edinburg.

Murray has written about the Shenandoah Park for years. He has guided anglers on it, taught fly fishing courses on it, and taken many spectacular photos of the park’s beautiful streams. He has written countless articles about it and several books and also created a number of fly patterns designed specifically for the park’s streams, such as the terrific Mr. Rapidan fly.

Murray’s chapter in this fine book published on high-quality paper includes details on tackle, flies, leaders and profiles of several specific streams. He also includes information on campgrounds and lodges in the park where you can stay overnight and dine at fine restaurants. There’s also helpful information on dining and lodging near the park but outside its boundaries. Even hospitals are listed in case you need urgent care from a mishap on a stream.

This book contains a lot more than Murray’s great chapter on Shenandoah National Park, though. As the title promises, 24 other parks are included. I count myself grateful to have fished a number of these, including Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Everglades National Park in Florida, Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, and perhaps my favorite of all, Yellowstone National Park.

That section is my second most favorite part of this book. Recognizing how important Yellowstone is to American fly fishing, the authors devote five separate sections to this world-famous location, including an introduction and chapters on the West, South, East and North regions of the park.

One of my fondest adventures in life focused on this location. I was 18 and had some time off before I would begin college. My passion for angling was strong, and I had read and dreamed about fishing “out West.” So I knew what I had to do.

With a few hundred bucks saved up, I serviced the old olive green pickup camper and headed to Yellowstone. Two and a half days later after 12-14 hours behind the wheel per day, I pulled into a campground on Slough Creek in the northern section of Yellowstone Park and began my adventure.

Friendly park visitors in the campgrounds and fellow anglers kept loneliness at bay on the solo journey and I enjoyed fishing non-stop for about a week before the funds ran low. Saving enough for gas home and a few fast-food burgers, I reluctantly headed back.

Since then my wife, daughter and I have made the trip back several times, though we have taken the easy route of flying out and renting a car. And because of the protection national parks receive, the fishing has been every bit as good on these return visits over the years. One time we had the added unique experience of being in the park during the famous “Yellowstone Fires.” It was a sad event to witness, but in the long run helped the park’s ecology.

But enough rambling. I definitely recommend buying this book if you want to explore our national park treasures for fishing, or just for hiking and camping. The information is every bit as useful in either case.

Copies can be purchased at Murray’s Fly Shop in Edinburg, or by mail from the shop at info@murraysflyshop.com, or 984-4212. Murray has even promised that he will personally inscribe his chapter for anyone who would like him to.

Note: Get ready for doves. The early season opens Sept. 3. Early resident Canada goose hunting runs from Sept. 1-25.

Finally, the 77th Western Regional Championship and State Championship Virginia Big Game Contest will be held at the Augusta Expo Center in Fishersville Sept. 23-25.

Award-winning outdoors writer Gerald Almy is a Maurertown resident.