Fishing in Style
At Elk Springs Resort, fly fishing is the name of the game, but you can have a great stay without wetting a line.
"My husband Daron and I used to go out west so he could fly fish,” says Lisa Dale Dean. “Then one day in 2000 he found a brochure for Elk Springs in West Virginia. I was pregnant, and it seemed like a quiet setting where I could relax while he fished."
So the Deans set off for Elk Springs, a decision that would change their lives. The resort was little more than a fishing camp with a half-finished lodge, but the property bordered the Elk River, one of the top gold-medal trout streams in the East. Located on the edge of the vast Monongahela National Forest, it was remote and pristine—and less than a four-hour drive from their farm in Ashland, Kentucky. The couple fell in love with Elk Springs, but when they called to make another reservation they learned the resort was closed—and for sale. In March 2004, the Deans became the new owners.
Every year, the Deans make improvements, so the resort now has five well-appointed cabins, including two on an island that share a screened-in hot tub. Within the wood-paneled lodge are six spacious guest rooms with Wi-Fi, Jacuzzi tubs, refrigerators, and satellite TVs with DVD/VCR players. The main room has a big-screen TV, games, and movies. The new restaurant, Ellie May’s (named for the Dean’s 11-year-old daughter, an avid fly fisher), has a screened dining deck overlooking the river. Chef Jerry Strawderman oversees a menu ranging from burgers and sandwiches to fresh trout and steaks.
Elk Springs is a quiet place to relax, and guests often stay here after skiing at Snowshoe Mountain Resort, 30 minutes away. But the raison d’etre of the resort is trout—cagey rainbows, browns, and brooks ready to give any fisherman a run. Above Ellie May’s restaurant is the Orvis-endorsed Fly Shop that is one of the largest in the East. You can even order gear online (www.elkspringswv.com) and pick it up on arrival. Never fished for trout? Head guide Dave “Elkfisher” Breitmeier, a legend in these parts, is happy to share his secrets.
"Elk Springs is unique, because this stretch of the Elk River is a perfect environment for trout,” Lisa explains. “The river goes underground in Pocahontas County and travels six miles through limestone to our property, where it bubbles up to join two springs. It surfaces at 50 degrees in winter, when everything else is frozen and too cold for trout. In the summer, the water is 64 degrees, still good for trout when other waters are too warm. The limestone also provides natural filtration, so the water is at just the right pH level for trout to flourish."
As if that weren’t enough for a fisherman’s nirvana, the Elk Springs trout have a ready food supply, because insects that lay their eggs in water also love the river conditions. “There’s always a fly hatching here, year-round,” says Lisa. “Fly fishermen try to make artificial flies look and act like the real insect. Most have favorite hatches they like to fish."
In fishing jargon, “matching the hatch” is the game fly fishermen play, and Elk Springs is one of the only places on the East Coast where it’s “Game On” 12 months of the year. But here’s the catch: If you outsmart and land the fish of your dreams in the Elk, you ease the hook from his lip and let him swim away. This part of the river is designated catch-and-release by the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources. However, the resort has ponds occupied by some real whoppers, too. For a small fee you can keep your trophy catch—and even have Jerry cook it for your dinner.
Daron says, “This place is one of fly fishing’s greatest secrets. Why go anywhere else when you can have it all here in West Virginia?”
Elk Springs Resort, #14A Dry Branch Road, Monterville, WV 26282; 877.ELK.SPRINGS