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Sometimes you stumble upon fishing gems in the most accidental ways. I was actually going on a whitetail deer hunt last November when, as an afterthought, I threw in a fly rod and box of Woolly Buggers and assorted nymphs. The person in charge of the hunt mentioned there also was a large lake on the property that happened to be full of good-sized rainbow trout. While I did take an excellent Virginia buck, it turned out the weather was more suitable to fishing than deer hunting, with temperatures in the 60s. And the fishing was every bit as impressive as the whitetail hunting.

Where is this gem? It’s located in the middle of 2,600 acres of wilderness forest at the crest of Salt Pond Mountain in Giles County about an hour’s drive southwest of Roanoke. The resort is called Mountain Lake, and though its reputation is more established among vacationers and those planning lavish weddings or honeymoons than sportsmen, it’s gradually drawing serious interest from anglers. If you’ve seen the movie Dirty Dancing, you know what Mountain Lake looks like. It was filmed there. (It’s still available in video stores if you want an advanced look at the facilities. Don’t let the lady of the house see the film, though, unless you plan to take her.)

This is a lavish resort with a staff of three top-of-the-line executive chefs and accommodations that match the fishing. Right in front of the resort lie 55 crystal clear acres of water – one of only two natural lakes in the state of Virginia – called Mountain Lake. It was formed when a rock slide dammed the north end of the valley. Fed by underground springs, the water temperature rarely rises above 72 degrees, and that has allowed the resort to stock Kamloops rainbow trout that grow fat and sassy and take flies willingly, almost eagerly.

The property where the lodge is located is managed as a wilderness conservancy that encourages recreation in harmony with the natural habitat. That definitely includes fishing. There are bass and panfish in the lake, but rainbow trout are the stars. Several thousand are stocked each year, and they hold over well, growing into beautifully colored fish that run in the 14 to 18-inch class by their second year. Fish up to five pounds have been caught, and there are likely larger ones present. The lake is over 100 feet deep in spots, but the trout are mostly found along the shoreline near bars, points, shoals and drop-offs. They strike dries readily from spring through fall, and I even saw some fish rising in mid-November during the deer season.

During spring and summer you can fish all day here, and there are activities for other family members as well, such as tennis, hiking, mountain biking, horse-drawn carriage rides, archery and massages, plus lavish meals. If the fish bite as well in the spring or summer as they did in November, a good angler should have no trouble catching and releasing 30 to 50 trout a day, perhaps more, in the half to three-pound range. You also can keep a few if you want. Boat usage is free with the room charge, while an electric motor is $10. Guide fee is $55 for a half-day, $95 for a full day, but you aren’t required to use a guide. If you opt for a guide, he also can take you to some nearby native and stocked trout streams for variety.

Room rates here vary from $100 to $195 per day during the off season and $140 to $230 in July and August. Prices include hotel accommodations, fishing, breakfast and dinner. A lakeside four-bedroom cottage with three and a half baths goes for up to $650. For more information and a brochure, write to Mountain Lake Resort. Enjoy!

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