100 Best: Cranberry River
Location: Central West Virginia
Type of stream: Freestone
Angling methods: Fly, Spin
Species: Brook, Brown, Rainbows
Season: Year ‘round
Supporting Services: Richwood
Short take: A fly fishin’ mountain bikin’ paradise
Handicapped Access: Yes
Closest TU Chapter: Kanawha
Taken all together, the Cranberry’s North, South, and Dogway Forks provide more than 40 miles of top notch trout fishing. And most of the river and its forks are shadowed by abandoned railroad grades turned into hiking and biking trails. Many anglers ride mountain bikes on gated forest service roads to reach more isolated stretches of the river. Some anglers walk. Many hike to camp in stream-side Adirondack shelters, available on a first-come-first served basis.
The Cranberry’s headwaters are brook trout country. All three forks are characterized by steep gradients, plunge pools, and occasional short flats. Of the three, Dogway Fork is the best. Restricted to catch and release fly fishing only, this six-mile long stream boasts one of the finest populations of wild brook trout in the East.. Time your trip for May or June. You’ll find some green drakes coming off then and the woods are bright with blooming mountain laurel and, later, rhododendron.
Artificial tackle only, catch and release regulations apply to the Cranberry from the junction of the North and South Forks about 4.3 miles downstream to the low water bridge at the mouth of Dogway Fork. The first quarter mile of the North Fork, up to the liming station, is also governed by the same regs. A third section of the Cranberry—from Woodbine Picnic Area down to Camp Splinter is similarly restricted. Handicapped access is to be found at Woodbine Picnic area.