Virginia is for outdoor lovers–and never more so than in the fall. Leaf peepers rejoice in afternoon hikes that show the Commonwealth’s glorious fall colors to advantage. Many enjoy crisp, locally grown Virginia apples in either “original crunchy,” “hot and spiced,” or “hard” form. And of course many Virginians will head to their local streams to play tug of war with native brook trout. The Commonwealth is chock full of great trout fisheries like the Jackson, South Holston, Rapidan, and Rose Rivers and Mossy Creek–as well as a host of streams in Shenandoah National Park. Is it any wonder, then, that Virginia is the birthplace of the first fly fishing festival?  

For 20 years, the Virginia Fly Fishing & Wine Festival, the first event of its kind in the country, has introduced fly fishing to would-be anglers young and old from all walks of life. And never has our insistent, angry, plugged-in, stressed-out culture needed the quiet sport more. This year’s festival opens its doors on January 11-12, 2020, from 9AM-5PM.  

Credit West Virginia Fruit & Berry.

Held each year inside the Farm Bureau Building at the Meadow Event Park in Doswell, Virginia, this festival has become a must-do event for Mid-Atlantic fly anglers, who come out in droves to meet and learn from fly fishing guides, sporting lodges, outdoor artists, custom rod builders, fly tyers, specialty food vendors, and fly fishing outfitters from dream fishing locales like Pennsylvania, Montana, Colorado, Canada, Alaska, and the Bahamas.

Can’t cast? No problem: The festival offers a series of free and for-fee expert-taught fly casting classes for every skill level, including advanced casters and children. Got a Boy Scout? Perfect! He can earn his fly fishing merit badge through a class taught at the festival by BSA-certified instructors. 

Credit Alaska Bear Paw Lodge.

For those who love someone else who fishes, several of the Commonwealth’s best wineries will be at the Virginia Fly & Wine sampling their wares (for patrons 21 years and older). Brand new this year: Wineries from West Virginia and Oregon! In fact, the festival admission fee covers everything from wine tasting to free walkup casting classes. 

Because the Virginia Fly & Wine is passionate about getting veterans out on the water, the festival partners with Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing, a nationwide nonprofit dedicated to rehabilitating wounded service veterans through fly fishing and fly tying, regardless of their physical limitations. In addition, the festival works with Trout Unlimited Tri-State Conservation Camp, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, Casting for Recovery, and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.  

Credit Scott Hertzer.

Festival sponsors include Green Top, Temple Fork Outfitters, Gangler’s North Seal River Lodge Terroir Films, Norvise, Trout Unlimited, Harman’s North Fork Cabins, Reilly Rod Crafters, and many more.

“We eagerly welcome beginners into the sport,” says Festival Director Beau Beasley. At the same time, he adds, “We offer specialty classes that experienced anglers won’t find anywhere else.” New this year for foodies, “We’re adding a ‘Made in Virginia’ specialty food section and are proud to have wildlife Chef Wade Truong hosting a cooking demonstration on Saturday.”

Credit Matt Riley.

Female anglers should make plans to attend the festival’s Women Making Waves rally, held each day and sponsored by Take Me Fishing.org.

Exciting new classes include:

Advanced Fly Casting and Understanding Advanced Techniques with Master Certified Casting Instructor Mac Brown

Whiskey, Bourbon, & Bass Bugs with Lauren Riggleman of Silverback Distillery

Mayflies & Microbrews with entomologist Peter Stitcher

Fly Tying for Children and Getting Your Kids into Fly Fishing with Jess Westbrook, founder of The Mayfly Project

Admission to the festival includes free wine tastings for adults. 

Visit www.vaflyfishingfestival.org.