The Greenbrier

The Greenbrier is 173 miles of pristine, crystal clear river. It is one of the longest free flowing rivers in the world that is not dammed. I believe the name comes from the beautiful green hue the water seems to retain in the deeper pools or maybe it is named for that very plant that lines the banks along this West Virginia hot spot. I prefer to think it is the former. The Greenbrier may be overshadowed by the New River in the minds of people around the country, but most West Virginia natives are well aware of its outstanding potential. Floating the Greenbrier whether it be by raft, kayak, canoe, or even float tube can possibly be one of the most scenic and breathtaking rivers that any human could partake in their lifetime. Maybe it’s the giant boulders or rock bluffs that line the rivers edge before and after Barger Springs. Maybe it is the almost endless rock ledges that can be seen clearly in 15 feet of water. Maybe it is the shallow riffles that turn into deep pools that provide prime habitat for the occasionally elusive smallmouth bass, that so graciously inhabit this majestic river. Whatever the reason may be, people who have enjoyed the sheer bliss of this river continue to come back year after year.

The Greenbrier starts in the northern part of the state around the Durbin area of Pocahontas County. It begins as smaller more shallow river and is actually stocked with trout in the early parts of the year along its beginning. The Greenbrier usually runs colder due to the fact of its origin in the high mountains. Many cold feeder creeks like Second and Muddy also join the Greenbrier along the way until it converges with the New River in Hinton. Trout have been known to be caught in areas tens of miles away from where the DNR regularly stocks, some as far down as Alderson. 

Although Trout are a draw for some anglers, many anglers are drawn to the numbers of the most abundant game fish that swims there. The Smallmouth Bass is a fierce competitor for any angler and that is why anglers love them. Bronze-backs as many fisherman call them, are the main reason individuals come searching this wonderful river. This is for a good reason, the river is packed full of smallmouth bass. It has all the attributes that the smallmouth love. Rich structure, bountiful forage, and substantial spawning environments. There will be times in the late spring and early summer when anglers can come in contact with many of these aggressive predators. It isn’t uncommon that anglers can expect to catch 20, 30, or even 50 in a day. Granted the majority of the smallmouth will be in the 10-15 inch range, but that doesn’t mean the Greenbrier doesn’t hold trophy smallmouth. Year after year big smallmouth will taken by fisherman along the majority of its stretches. Many in the 20 plus inch range. 

The bulk of fisherman will float the river in order to access the best spots. Floats included; Caldwell to Ronceverte (6 miles), Fort Springs to Alderson (6 miles), Barger Springs to Willowwood (7 miles). All floats and information about them can be found on the www.wvdnr.gov website. All the spots mentioned are public access areas that can support bank fisherman as well. I recommend setting up a float trip to capture the true essence of what this river is.

The best baits to try in order to entice smallmouth bass vary depending on the time of year. Most artificial baits will work year round, but the tube jig and senko are the most consistent. In the summer top water baits like poppers and buzz baits work exceptionally well. The Greenbrier smallmouth specifically love to nail baits on the surface, and it can be one of the most exciting ways the catch them. The water gets extremely clear in the summer so get on the water early and stay late, because the bigger fish can get finicky. Dusk and Dawn will be your best chance at catching the Greenbrier GIANTS! 

Catfish, Musky, and Rock Bass also dwell in this alluring river, so opportunities for these anglers are also possible. Just like any other river the Greenbrier should be respected for its power along with its attractiveness. The river rises quickly after rains and can become dangerous to any novice or expert. The river also has many large rocks that expose themselves when the water is low, many of them in the fast flowing areas of the river. Be cautious around these rocks, because they will easily capsize any vessel that may contact them in the wrong manner. I recommend the use of a Personal Floatation Device in or around the water. 

If you’ve never experienced this magnificent river for yourself then this is the time. Bring your family on a leisurely bike ride along the greenbrier river trail that runs alongside the river. Bring a picnic lunch and a fishing pole. Plan a float trip, bring the rod and reels, chase those smallmouth, and most importantly enjoy the scenery. I promise you’ll find your own reason for loving the river of green. 

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