Locals call it “The Lady,” because it’s so fertile. The river starts at Slatyfork, where Big Spring Run and Old Field Fork join, then goes underground for six miles before popping back out at Elk Springs in the form of three cold springs, and heads west toward Charleston. Head for the 4.6-mile stretch from the headwaters to the dries, where the river heads underground. This upper stretch, known as the Slatyfork section, is narrow, rocky, and shallow, but has plenty of cover to keep the river cool in the summer. It’s catch and release, and a stellar wild trout fishery. Expect to find naturally reproducing brown, rainbow, and brook.
“The Upper Elk has the largest naturalized population of trout in West Virginia,” guidebook author Beau Beasley says. “It’s catch and release, so you’re not going to find as many conventional anglers in the area because they have to let the fish go.”Since the fish populations have been naturalized, they’re more wary than what you’ll find in stocked West Virginia streams, so bring your A-game.
Access: From Slatyfork, take County Route 219-12 north for 0.5 miles to a trailhead servicing the catch and release section of the Elk. Follow the former rail line along the river.