Virginia's Top 5 Trout Streams

Mossy Creek

Mossy Creek is a limestone creek with more placid waters than the tumbling mountain freestone streams. The Mossy has more in common with the spring creeks of south central Pennsylvania than its sister Virginia streams.

Mossy Creek flows near both the Washington National Forest and the Shenandoah National Park at the south end of the Shenandoah Valley flowing north in a meandering, carefree manner. This tough little spring creek isn't for everybody. Anglers will often go fishless on this narrow spring creek since the brown trout thriving in the fertile waters are educated and wary.

Even though all of the river is private, three miles of Mossy are open to the public, with other quality water available through clubs and other private means. Access to the river is through designated access areas, and parking areas are available.

Fishermen will not miss the similarities to central Pennsylvania streams, where gentle flowing flat water moves slowly past grassy pastureland. And because of the green salad of aquatic plants combined with the tall grasses along the bank and the narrowness of the creek, keeping your line and fly out of harm's way and in front of the fish is a challenge.

You can't wade here. Like an English chalkstream, anglers must remain on the bank. Keep a low profile and move stealthily. You can't fish nymphs here. The aquatic vegetation will attach to any subsurface fly and ruin your presentation. If you're good with stripping streamers and have plenty of patience with removing the weeds, you can do well.

Match the Hatch, or Else

You can't fish blindly here. These browns are too selective to take careless offerings. They need to be in the mood to rise to your offerings and they are particular about size, shape and pattern. Be prepared to imitate the various stages of each hatch.

Mossy Creek holds big brown trout (and some rainbows) that rise selectively to mayfly hatches including Blue Winged Olives, Sulphur, Trico and Hexagenia. The Trico is the most prolific hatch on the Mossy, with the Sulphur right behind it in importance. Terrestrials work well in the late summer and early fall.

The brown trout residents rarely reach gargantuan sizes. Most are in the twelve- to 20-inch range with the rare lunker in the mid-20s. The temperature remains constant all year long and so does the quality of the fishing.

The long flat slow-moving water forces anglers to be careful with picking up line after a cast, forces them to cast more delicately, forces them to place the fly exactly where they meant to place it.

Mossy Creek Practicalities

Species: Finnicky brown trout lie in wait in this flat limestone stream. You might catch a rare rainbow trout now and again.

Gear: Since the Mossy is less than 20 feet wide in most places, you'll need to use your most delicate rod. For me, that's a 3-weight. You'll have plenty of open room for backcasts, so a 4- or 5-weight will work as well, especially if you need to lay out a long, precise cast. And the trout are heavy fighters, tough on a lightweight rod. If it sounds like a Catch-22, that's because it is. You need a rod with finesse to drop flies on difficult lies, but enough muscle to handle big fish.

Flies: Trico (#20-#24), Blue Winged Olive (#18-#24), Ginger Quill (#14-#18), Patriot (#12-#18), Yellow Humpy (#12-#16), Elk Hair Caddis (in black especially, #16-#18), Golden Drake (#10-#12), Yellow Drake (#10-#12), Adams (#12-#20), Light Cahill (#14-#16), Sulphur (#14-#16), Hexagenia (#8-#12), Beetle, Cricket, Hoppers (several patterns work here), ants, Muddler Minnow (#8-#12), Woolly Bugger (#6-#10) and other streamers.

Fly shops: Mossy Creek Fly Shop, Bridgewater, (540) 828-0033; Blue Ridge Angler, Harrisonburg, (540) 547-3474.

Regulations: Mossy Creek is open year-round, and is subject to special regulations. Anglers are required to register for a free permit to fish on the stream since it is on private land, use only single-hook, artificial flies, fly fishing only, and observe a creel limit of one trout per day. Please release all the fish you catch. Check the regulations for other restrictions.

Directions: From Harrisonburg, travel south on I-81, then take Route 257 to Bridgewater. Take a left on Route 42, then west on Route 747.

Suggested reading: Virginia Fishing Guide, by Bob Gooch (University of Virginia Press); Virginia Trout Streams, by Harry Slone (Backcountry Publications).

State agencies: Virginia Commission of Game and Inland Fisheries, P.O. Box 11104, 4010 Broad Street, Richmond, VA 23230, (804) 367-1000; Virginia Division of Tourism, 1021 E. Cary St., Richmond , 23219, (804) 786-4484; 1-800-VISIT VA.

Published: 30 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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