A Harpers Ferry couple offers world-class fishing trips and world-class accommodations.
When you’re fly fishing with Bryan Kelly, a day on the water isn’t about who can catch the most fish. “Fly fishing is more of the total experience,” he says. “If you want to have a relaxing, enjoyable day on the water and see beautiful scenery, fly fishing will take you to some of the most beautiful places in the world.”
That’s certainly true at White Fly Outfitters and The Angler’s Inn, the Harpers Ferry fishing guide and B&B businesses Kelly runs with his wife, Debbi. In the early 1990s, both worked in commercial printing but were looking to make a change. She wanted to operate a bed and breakfast. He wanted to lead guided fishing trips. “I thought it was a match made in heaven,” he says.
As the couple searched the East Coast for a location to plant their businesses, they kept coming back to the edge of West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle. “You come to the confluence where the two rivers come together and the mountains fold over each other,” Kelly says. “There’s mountains of green and mountains of blue and beautiful blue skies with puffy clouds and bald eagles flying over.”
They opened The Angler’s Inn on July 4, 1996, in a Victorian home, built circa 1875 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Surrounded by Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, the home had only one bedroom available for rent at first but has since grown to feature four guestrooms. Each morning, Debbi Kelly prepares a three-course, scratch-made breakfast. “It’s top-shelf,” her husband says.
Located a short drive across town, White Fly Outfitters offers its own kind of top-shelf service. Kelly, a former competitive bass fisherman, fell in love with fly fishing as a kid, and the passion has taken him around the globe. But fishing in the Shenandoah River changed everything for him. “I just got in the water one afternoon and I walked around and I was fly casting. It was beautiful. The plant life was great, the aquatic life was fantastic, and when I catch my first fish, I’m thinking, ‘It’s going to be a trout because you’re in big, fast-moving water.’”
But it wasn’t a trout. He’d landed a smallmouth bass. “Smallmouth are, pound-for-pound, the best-fighting freshwater fish in America,” he says. “I thought ‘Oh man, smallmouth are awesome to catch. I’ve got to figure out this river more.’”
He figured it out. White Fly Outfitters now offers everything from gear and step-by-step programs for beginners to full-day guided fishing trips on the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers, and has attracted anglers from around the world, including fly fishers from Japan, Ireland, England, and Australia.