Flowing down from the mountains into the foothills of southern Virginia and Piedmont North Carolina, the Dan River’s offers a wide variety of fishing for beginning and experienced anglers alike. No matter the season, the Dan makes for a tremendous fishing experience.
In the river’s upper reaches, high in the eastern slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Patrick County, one can fly fish for native brook trout. With fall’s colder temperatures arriving, trout fishing is just beginning to heat up.
Four counties to the east, it flows into 50,000-acre John H. Kerr Reservoir (Buggs Island Lake), where striped bass might be caught. In between is a river that evolves as it flows east, with a myriad of opportunities for catching catfish, large- and smallmouth bass, sunfish, and much more.
Regulations on fishing vary by state and species. There are two special regulation sections that require a free permit issued by the City of Danville, as well as catch-and-release and trophy trout sections.
The Upper Dan River
For trout, stick to the upper reaches of the Dan, as it cascades out of Patrick County.
Virginia’s wildlife agency, the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, provides detailed information on the Upper Dan River on its website.
The river begins north of U.S. 58, near Meadows of Dan. In its uppermost reaches, you may find native brook trout in what’s classified by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries as “wild trout waters.” The section of river around U.S.58 is a put-and-take stocked trout section.
From there, the river flows through Danville’s Pinnacles Hydroelectric Project. This section of the river is renowned for its rugged character, as it flows through a gorge that is home to first-class rainbow and brown trout fishing that continues for six miles to Townes Reservoir. The next stretch of the Dan River, between Townes Dam and Pinnacles Powerhouse, is catch-and-release only. Below the dam, find put-and-take trout fishing in the Kibler Valley stretch of the river.
After the river flows under Virginia 103 into North Carolina, the quality of trout fishing wanes, but anglers will find other fish, including catfish, largemouth bass, and sunfish. This section of river can be accessed at U. S. Highway 29 (Memorial Drive) at Dan River Park on the south side of the river. Boats launched here can go upstream, but are blocked from downstream by a series of dams within Danville’s city limits. There is some bank fishing for catfish, bass and sunfish in the city stretch of the river.
Anglers may start finding striped bass just east of Danville, just before the river flows into North Carolina. Although the upper reaches of the Dan in Virginia may be waded, the stretch from Danville east is better navigated with a canoe or johnboat.
The lower Dan River
North Carolina’s Hanging Rock State Park provides a great launch for watercraft. Other access points include Lindsey Bridge, N.C. 704, Settles Bridge, and Eden WRC Access in Rockingham County, as well as Milton WRC Access in Caswell County. There is some bank fishing in these areas, but they primarily serve as canoe and boat launches.
Due to a reciprocal agreement, anglers can fish in North Carolina and Virginia from the Brantley Steam Plant Dam downstream to and throughout J. H. Kerr Reservoir.
The DGIF maintains access ramps at South Boston, Hyco and Staunton River State Park, as well as at an undeveloped access area at Aarons Creek. The flow here is slow enough that anglers often begin and end at the same access point, rather than floating down.
Most fishing on the lower Dan is aimed at migratory fish—walleye, white perch, white bass and striped bass in J. H. Kerr Reservoir (Buggs Island Lake), and flathead and blue catfish.
More info on fishing the Dan
- Visit NC’s guide to the North Carolina stretch of the Dan River
- Information and regulations from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries
- Piedmont Streams Fishing Guide of North Carolina