At over 11,000 acres, Big Run is the largest drainage in Shenandoah National Park.
It is one of the few west slope streams that does not have bottom access due to private property. It is located south of the Swift Run Gap access from the Big Run Overlook. There are multiple trails that lead down to the stream, but the Big Run Trail is the best one. The difficulty of access makes Big Run one of the most remote streams in the park; the hike down from Skyline Drive will take over an hour, and that will only get you to the top of the fishable water on the creek. How much further down you would like to hike and fish is up to you, but there are a couple of miles until you reach private property. Allow for at least two hours to hike back up at the end of the day. The vertical drop from your vehicle to the fishery is over 1,500 feet, so only hearty anglers should attempt to fish Big Run in a day.
Local Guide Tip: Big Run is rarely fished in the morning or the evenings due to its access. It is a great place to do an overnight trip and fish un-pressured waters during an evening hatch.
Like the other west slope streams, Big Run suffers under low water conditions. It is best fished in the spring and early summer, or after large summer thunderstorms. You will find more wildlife in this drainage than anywhere in the park. Expect to see deer, black bear, bobcats, or rattlesnakes. If you are fishing in the summer be careful heading off the path because nettle grows everywhere along Big Run. If you aren’t a fan of wildlife, head in to Big Run in the winter and you won’t see much wildlife or many people. It is larger than the other west slope streams, and there are large “community pools” that can hold hundreds of trout under low water. Due to good habitat and low pressure, it is one of the best streams in the park to find a 12”+ brook trout! Standard attractor dries like Royal Wulffs, Stimulators, and Mr. Rapidans work great all spring and summer. Nymphs like Pheasant Tails, Hares Ears, and Copper Johns will work well fished on the bottom in the deeper pools, or in the colder months. Small streamers like Golden Retrievers, Kreelex, or Crystal Buggers can produce larger fish, especially under higher water conditions.
Big Run is one of our favorite brook trout streams. It is recommended that you fish with a buddy. Also check in at the ranger station as you enter the park and let the ranger know where you are headed. The trail is well marked and well maintained. The water is beautiful and full of fish that don’t see a lot of flies!