Mossy Creek Public Section 2-7-2011

7 02 2011

My friend and co-worker Matt is having his first child at the beginning of March, so we wanted to get out and do some “last minute” fishing before the little one arrived. We decided we were going to hit the public stretch of Mossy Creek the 2nd-ish week of February and let the weather dictate which day. Unfortunately the best day hit on the day after the Superbowl, so that meant I was going to have watch my partying during the big game. I did and I was able to get up and meet Matt at 7am. We drive the 2 hours west of Richmond and park at the church on Mossy Creek Rd by about 9 am, no one else is here. While pulling ourselves together, Matt spots a bobcat or some wild animal and runs over to get a better look, but it scurries off. Strange start to the day. We get all geared up and head over to the stream.

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I have fished the private stretch of Mossy once and while this is still technically Mossy Creek, the public stretch looks MUCH different. It doesn’t feel as deep, the holes don’t seem as long, the undercuts are not quite as defined, it just looks more difficult to fish (not to mention all the pressure it gets). Matt immediately settles down into a spot right above the iron bridge and starts casting down towards the bridge. I imagine this area gets hit pretty hard, but it was worth a try. We’ve got 3 miles of public water to fish, might as well hit as much water as we can.

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We make our way upstream, trying to hit all the deep holes, runs, and logjams we can find. We’re both casting Kreelex flies, one in gold/copper and one in gold/silver but neither of us are even getting sniffs. We see a few trout but nothing is interested in our flies. I change over to a green bead head wooly bugger with rubber legs, but still not getting much.

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We make it to the first cattle crossing and cross over and continue to fish. Along this stretch, I notice a couple of risers, hitting who knows what on the surface. I don’t see a hatch but I spot one trout hit the surface in the same area about 10 times. I lose the kreelex streamer and tie on a BWO in size 18 hoping to get a hit. I throw my BWO above the sipping trout and let the fly drift down…nice cast it drifts right over where the trout was hitting the surface…but I get nothing. I continue to make another 15 or 20 casts with not even a sniff. I guess I spooked it with probably a sucky drag-laden drift. I pull up and start to tie back on a streamer when all of a sudden….SLURP! The same trout hits the surface again. Damn fish!

Matt had made his way around me and was fishing upstream when I hear a “Hey I got one!!!” Jubilation sets in as I realize we’ve finally got signs of trout life! I drop all my gear and run down to take a picture of what I hope is a 12″ brown. While it wasn’t the big whopper I was hoping for, we at least wiped the skunk off and Matt now has his first Mossy Creek trout landed.

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We noticed a couple of old timers have showed up and they’re making a bee line for the stream section above of us. We’ve fished about a half mile upstream from the iron bridge and know there’s a lot of Mossy below it, so we let the old timers take that section and we make our way back to the iron bridge. Along the way, we come back to an area we had previously fished and noticed that some cows had set up shop right by the creek bank. I snap a couple of pictures as it seems like a nice, photo op.

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While standing at looking at the cows, we notice that one of them is a bit “jittery”; it’s jumping up on its hind legs and seems to have a bit more “life” to it. As we’re walking away, this particular cow starts to follow us. At this point, Matt and I look at each other and ask aloud “Hey man do cows attack people?”, jokingly. We turn around and noticed that not only is the ornery cow following us, but the other 8 or 9 or so are now following as well. We pick up the pace. We propose the cow attack joke again, still giggling about the thought of it while we pick up our pace even more. We turn around to look and the cows have also picked up their pace, almost to a gallop. While I did grow up in the east end of Richmond, I’m not all that familiar with bovine behavior. I’m unsure if I should be afraid for my life, if I should run, or turn around and make myself as big as possible and make a lot of noise. At this point, hilarity has now turned to a little bit of fear. I ask Matt how fast he is, “Fast enough” he responds. I’m thinking I just need to be faster than him. We start to jog. I turn around to look and the cows are now in full gallop. Matt and I begin sprinting. I haven’t sprinted since 2008 or so, but I’m amazed and how quick I can become when forced to…all while in full fishing attire: waders, wading boots, backpack, net, rod, etc, etc. We sprint about 100 yards and start to walk again. I’m damn near out of breath. Turn around to look and the cows are still coming. Man these things are faster than you think! We start to sprint again…another 150 yards and this time put enough distance between us and the cows that they are no longer pursuing us. Matt and I are in stitches about the thought of attacking cows, but glad they’re no longer chasing us. Good opportunity to break for lunch.

After lunch we head down below the iron bridge and start making our way downstream. There’s a lot less to this story than the first, because we covered a lot of water and only spooked a few fish and didn’t catch anything. Well I did catch 2 large fallfish, but it should probably be left not discussed. The further we traveled from the iron bridge, the “worse” the water got. While there was a hole or two to fish, most of the water was flat with very little structure, nothing for a trout to use. The walk way eventually got so choked up with brush, we turned around and headed back. I’ll probably never fish this far downstream from the iron bridge, it seemed worthless.

On the way back, more cows had surfaced again….this time around 30. Some where along the line we had determined my red backpack was the reason for the charging cattle, so Matt made me walk 50 yards in front of him as we passed the cows. Luckily none of them charged, so I didn’t need to sprint again.

We fished the section below the iron bridge again for another 45 mins before we left. I managed to make a once in a life time cast to an undercut and managed to coax out the largest fish seen of the day, 16″+ brown but he merely sniffed my fly and went back to his resting place. I then spent the next 15 minutes making cast after cast hoping to get him back out…but nothing. We call it a day around 4:30pm. 7+ hours on Mossy Creek and all we had to show for it was a 6″ brown and 2 giant creek chubs. That’s Mossy for you!

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Mossy Creek 6-27-2010

27 06 2010

Mossy friggin Creek. That’s right, I had an opportunity to fish Mossy Creek today and it didn’t disappoint. Anyone who’s remotely interested in trout fishing has heard of Mossy Creek. It’s arguably the top trout fishery in the state, known for big browns. If you’re unfamiliar with Mossy Creek, here’s a little light reading to get you up to date:

Virginia’s Top 5 Trout Streams
Snippet from Lefty Kreh’s Favorite Waters book (yeah THAT Lefty Kreh)

Rachel purchased a half day of guided trout fishing on Mossy for me for father’s day. What a great gift. I contacted Mossy Creek Fly Fishing to setup my appointment and it was determined I’d meet my guide and co-owner of the store, Brian Trow, at the Hardee’s in Bridgewater at 6:30am. It’s a 2 hour drive and I was so jacked up about this trip, I headed out at 4:15-ish am and got there about 6am. I spotted 2 ponds on my way into the town, one of which has no fishing posted and one that really looks like a water fountain with lots of lillies and muck. I had 30 mins to burn and had my froggin’ rod on my, so I decided to fish for a bit to waste some time. I minded the posted sign so hit the uglier, public of the two ponds. No bites, but this isn’t really why I drove out here.

I met up with Brian at Hardees and I was immediately surprised. I hadn’t checked out the guide page on Mossy Creek’s website, so I had no idea of Brian’s age. He’s a young guy, a few years younger than I….but make no mistake about it. Brian is a fantastic guide and really knows his stuff. He’s been fishing Mossy for 21 years and his knowledge of the water and of fly fishing in general is readily apparent once on the water. More on him later.

We hop in his truck and take a quick 5 minute ride to the private section of Mossy Creek. We get out and the creek is everything I thought it would be. Mossy is a beautiful, 15 foot wide clear water creek winding through farm pastures. There are tons of vegetation growing in deep pools and ample undercuts for big trout to hover under, waiting for the unsuspecting sculpin or insect to drift by. I snapped a few pictures:

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Brian wanted to check out my casting to see how much instruction I was going to need. As a surprise to me, Brian said everything looked pretty good with the exception of a lot of wrist action…something typical of folks who do a lot of brook trout fishing. This didn’t hurt my feelings seeing as I hadn’t casted a fly rod in close to 2 years and actually boosted my confidence quite a bit. I believe Brian’s words were, “Screw this, let’s get to fishing.” Right on!

Brian began by pointing out several Trico swarms and explaining how he uses them to determine when to throw dry flies. He also stated that nymphing was close to impossible and that the best fly for us would be streamers. We immediately get to work, with Brian explaining how to cast, where to cast, and how to manage my line around Mossy. I was down by the bank and fishing in no time. The morning starts off slow, we make several casts in an area and then walk down a few feet and cast some more. We continue this pattern, inching our way downstream. Brian changes out my fly several times; we’re working a white/copper streamer, a black bead head streamer, as well as a larger copper streamer all of which have names that escape me at this point. We continue working the undercut banks, vegetation, and deep pools with no fish moving at all. We see some risers in the creek, but no action around my fly.

Brian informs me that Mossy seems “slow” today, with noticeable disappointment in his voice. He also states I’m doing everything right; this is a much needed confidence boost as I have no idea if I’m doing things correctly. After an hour and a half or so with nothing to show, I get my first strike and bend of the rod. Brian immediately informs me it’s a fallfish, but at least I get to feel that familiar bend in the long rod again. It’s actually one of the larger fallfish I’ve seen. Brian removes it from the hook and returns it to the stream. We move on down the bank.

We continue to follow our pattern of swapping out flies, Brian identifying the angles and location to present my flies and how to let the current work my streamer into the best positions….followed by a “start stripping….strip…strip…strip”. As I have done the previous one and a half to two hours of the morning, I present my streamer to the inner side of some mid-stream vegetation and let the current bring the fly into the near side undercut. I start making longer, slower strips of the fly when I feel a familiar tug on the fly. I strip and lift the rod tip….fish on!!!! Brian immediately informs me I have a rainbow on line and he begins the instruction of getting the fish to the bank. We’ll land this one quickly so I can say I’ve caught my first Mossy Creek trout. I maneuver the rainbow to the bank and Brian scoops it up, all this was done in less than 30 seconds. Kick ass! My first Mossy Creek trout and certainly the biggest trout I’ve ever caught.

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I’m now on top of the world. We move down the creek a bit and start making more casts. Again, following the same pattern of throwing to the inside of mid-stream vegetation and letting the current swing our streamer out into deep pools, we see a very large, dark object slowly trailing my streamer back up stream as I strip it. Brian gets excited and starts instructing me on what to do…unfortunately I’m out of pool to work with. I pull the line out of the water and Brian changes to the largest of the streamers I threw for the day, a copper looking streamer on a size 4 hook. The dark shadow was easily the biggest trout I’ve ever seen in person. Brain confirmed it was a brown and described it as “having broad shoulders”. I can only assume this is a good thing. We pound this pool a bit more, but we can’t get the brown to come back out. That’s the Mossy I’ve read about! We continue moving downstream, I get a hit and a miss and I also end up landing another slightly larger rainbow, using the same techniques we’ve been using all morning.

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We approach the last stretch of creek and of my trip; this stretch has lots of shade and is protected by lots of overhanging branches. Brian spots a trout under some over hang but there’s durn near no way for me to get a fly in there (at least in my eyes). Brian coaches me up to try and get a fly in what seems like a 2’x4′ rectangle between 2 trees, allowing the dry fly to drift over top the hovering trout. The far bank has water that has little to no movement at all and the near bank’s current is swift. After several hang ups and false casts, I’m finally able to get the fly in the vicinity of where it needs to be, but the near bank current drags the dry fly out of the strike zone. This is too difficult of a spot for me, but Brian continues the instruction and encouragement trying to get the perfect cast. I make a few more decent casts, but the fly just won’t stay in the strike zone. When we’re about done, Brian takes the rod and makes one false cast and puts the fly exactly where it needs to be and the fly magically floats overtop the hovering trout. While the trout doesn’t strike, I’m amazed at how Brian got the fly not only in the appropriate area, but made the fly stay put so it would not drag into the current (and on the first cast). He explains he performed a “pile cast”, something I’ve never heard of but he explained how you do it and what it does for you. Again, Brian is top notch and this little “let me see if I can get it” was just exemplary of the skill level he has.

We continue on towards the end of this stretch, signaling the end of my day. Brian states that there are always trout in this last pool, but they’re in a rather difficult place to reach. As has been customary the entire morning, Brian instructs how to get the fly in the area I need it to be. A few casts and I’m unsuccessful. Brian informs me to not be afraid to put it into the far side bank’s vegetation and let the fly fall in, something I’ve never really done on purpose while fly fishing. I perform as commanded and get the perfect cast. As the streamer swings under neath an overhang and into the giant pool, Brian tells me to start stripping the streamer. As the streamer comes out from under the overhang, what looks like a giant log with fins rolls out from under the tree and begins trailing my fly. Brian can hardly contain his excitement and yells “Oh man did you see that!??!!?”. It’s a massive trout, easily the biggest I’ve ever seen (again). I’m unsure of the size but I can tell it was sizable by how excited Brian is at this point. He tells me this fish is about the size of the previous 2 trout put together, probably around 25 inches and 6 pounds. Brian gets a big grin and explains that I need to do that impossibly difficult cast again to get it in the vicinity of the pig but he has all the confidence I can do it. I make a cast and it goes no where near where we need it. No worries, pick up and cast again. I get lucky and I put the fly where it needs to be. Again, I start stripping when commanded and again, out rolls the goliath and opens his mouth. I don’t feel anything but Brian screams “Oh man he had it in its mouth!!!!” Surely at this point the fish was lost, right? I know what cast to make and make a 3rd impossible cast, out rolls the beast again and this time I feel that familiar tug on the fly. I lift my rod up…FISH ON!!!! I catch Brian out the corner of my eye bolt in the opposite direction of me to drop his pack and get the landing net ready. I immediately feel a burn on my index finder that I use to hold the fly line against the rod…you don’t get that sensation chasing small brookies. Brian yells out “give him a little line”, so I attempt to ease a little line out to the giant trout that’s now thrashing his head on the surface. POP. Out pops the fly and it sails over top my head. I can sense the disappointment in Brian’s voice, but he confirms that I did everything right, sometimes the trout just wins. What a memorable fish. It’s a shame I didn’t land it but I’ll never forget that feeling, it’ll be what keeps me coming back to Mossy.

We hit one more small pool and while I missed a strike here, my day really ended at the previous pool. We talk about the big trout some more and I get a few pointers on how to keep the trout down if possible, but again Brian informs me I did everything right. We walk our way along the creek, making our way back to the truck. Brian does some more instructing and we talk about the day I’ve had. While I had a blast, he lets me know that this was a tough day and things are normally a bit “hotter”. I can’t imagine as this was everything I hoped it would be. I can’t wait to get back to Mossy Creek and fish again. I plan on hitting the public section but I can’t imagine trying to fish the creek without the impeccable instruction of a knowledgable guide. If you’re serious about trout fishing in Virginia, I highly recommend fishing Mossy Creek and giving Mossy Creek Fly Fishing a call. You’ll be very happy you did.

For all pics, check out my Picasa album for this trip.