Anglers beat a path to out-of-the-way trout hatchery
The Elk Springs Trout Hatchery is a one-of-a-kind haven for fly-fishing enthusiasts. The hatchery features good food, comfortable lodging, a well-stocked bait shop, fly-fishing and fly-tying classes and guided tours on either public or private waters.
Sean Weir, manager at Elk Springs, said he does a little bit of everything at the hatchery. Weir said the operation is getting bigger every year, and this year has been especially hectic. Weir said it could be because the hatchery was featured recently on the Outdoor Channel's “Fly Rod Chronicles,” hosted by Curtis Fleming.
“We put out 71 guides in June. It's been crazy. With the TV show and all, it's been great, but now, some days, you have to reserve a rock out there to find a place to fish,” laughed Weir. “That's the other side of it.”
Weir said the resort is family friendly and attracts fly-fishermen of all ages and skill levels. He said he's also noticed an upswing in women fishing at the hatchery.
“You see a lot more women fishing, there's a lot more taking it up now,” said Weir. “Twenty five years ago you didn't see any.”
Weir attributes the hatchery's success to the secluded area where it sits.
“Location is everything. These springs, all the water is coming out from underground springs. There's two other spring heads up above here,” Weir said, indicating the clear streams. “The Elk River starts in the pool right here. The river runs underground on the Dry Branch, but there's water in there maybe seven or eight months out of the year.”
Weir said the water temperature remains fairly constant throughout the year because of the underground springs, and it allows guests a prime spot to fish year-round.
“The springs pretty much stay the same temperature all year,” explained Weir. “It'll go down to maybe fifty degrees in the wintertime, in the summer sometimes it'll get up to fifty-eight or fifty nine degrees.”
Guests might even recognize some of the other folks staying at the lodge — football legend John Riggins visited recently, and country star Craig Morgan shot a segment for his show, “All Access Outdoors,” at Elk Springs recently.
The posh, country lodging features luxuriously appointed rooms and cabins, furnished and decorated with various themes. Two of the cabins and a secluded outdoor hot tub are nestled on a small island between the Lower Elk River and the springs.
As many as 80 guests or so can relax at the resort, and according to Weir, the lodge is being rented out more and more often for weddings.
“This year they've been having a lot of weddings. They'll rent out the entire lodge or book the whole place, and we have a catering service for those,” he said.
Weir said the menu at the restaurant is great, and focuses on trout, but Elk Springs might be the only place around where you can catch your own dinner.
“Trout's definitely the specialty,” said Weir. “And they've got rods down there, you can walk out and you can catch your own trout — a lot of people get a kick out of that.”
According to Weir, there isn't a concern about mercury contamination because the hatchery is too high up elevation-wise for it to settle, and there's nothing above them anyhow.
A separate outbuilding next to the restaurant houses Elk Springs' hatchery operation. They raise rainbow and brown trout year-round in large tanks inside the building, and eventually transfer them to outdoor reservoirs.
“We take the eggs and they go into here to hatch,” Weir said pointing to the large plastic trays. “Then they go into different tanks for different stages of development. To get 'em to two inches takes about two months, then to get them to four inches is five or six months, then to get 'em to an eight inch, catchable size, takes about ten months. Then from here they go outside.”
According to Weir, the hatchery stocks different streams and rivers in the area, they sell their fish to local restaurants, and they even stock privately owned ponds.
Weir said Elk Springs attracts fly fishermen from all over the country.
“We just had a couple people up from Florida. We get a lot of people from Connecticut, Indiana, Illinois. Our main customer base so far has been D.C. and Virginia though.We get lots of families, a lot of return business,” he continued.
Weir said the Potomac Highland Wounded Warriors visited recently, for the third time this year.
Elk Springs Hatchery is also in the final stages of building a bathhouse for its new campground — complete with camping areas and RV hook ups.
The resort is open every day of the year, and anyone interested in visiting the Elk Springs Trout Hatchery can call 304-339-2359, or visit www.elkspringshatchery.com