Game Plan for Summer 2017

Oh the changing of the seasons, I cannot explain to you how eager I have been for summer weather. To hell with Fall, Winter, and Spring! This past trout season has been one of my worst; from very crowded streams, to piss poor stocking by the VDGIF, and snapping the tip off of my Recon rod, I am very ready for warm water fishing. I haven’t given up on trout altogether, but there is some remarkable feeling about being out on a kayak in the middle of the river, fishing for various fish, that I have been missing since last Fall.

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Luckily here in the Roanoke Valley the capability for kayak fishing and warm water fishing is outstanding. Not only do we have the Roanoke River right in our back yard, but we also have the New River, the James River, Smith Mountain Lake, Claytor Lake, Carvins Cove, and several large streams within a reasonable driving range, that hold a large variety of warm water fish. I am stoked to say the least.

This summer I am dedicating my time to knocking out as many warm water “Trophy-sized fish” as I can in order to get my Master Angler award from the state of Virginia. If you have never checked out this program that the state of Virginia is offering you should, it seems like an exceptional way to get Virginian’s fishermen, which are in a set selection of fish, to fish for other species around the state. The only rule that I am imposing on myself for this goal is that I can only achieve this award by using fly fishing gear only. Sorry spin fishermen I will never go back to the dark side of fishing again.

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After studying the criteria for Virginia’s “Trophy-sized fish” I came to the realization that several levels of the Master Angler Award can definitely be achieved by a fisherman here in the Roanoke Valley with very little travel involved. The only exception will probably be trout; more than likely a person will have to travel to a spring creek or a mountain river (Jackson River or North River) in order to find a large trout during the summer months.

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So here are my ideas (feel free to correct me if I am wrong or if I am missing anything):

Smallmouth Bass: New River or the James River

Largemouth Bass: Local Ponds, Claytor Lake, and Smith Mountain Lake

Striped Bass: Smith Mountain Lake and Roanoke River

Hybrid Striped Bass: Claytor Lake

Rock Bass: New River, the James River, Smith Mountain Lake, and Claytor Lake

White Bass: Smith Mountain Lake

Chain Pickerel: Pandapas Pond and maybe Carvins Cove (I will need to research Carvins Cove more)

Crappie: the New River and the James River

Musky: New River or the James River (this I will have to watch because of water temps, I don’t want to kill them)

Sunfish: Any stream or river around Roanoke

Carp: Any river or lake around Roanoke

Walleye: the New River, the James River, the Staunton River (the Staunton River is 1 hour 40 mins away from Roanoke)

Brook Trout: holed up, big brookies stocked in the Roanoke River. Also any state fee fishing area (i.e. Crooked Creek or Wilson Creek)

Brown Trout: Mossy Creek and the North River in Harrisburg. Any river that might have hold overs in it, and also any state fee fishing area (i.e. Crooked Creek or Wilson Creek)

Rainbow Trout: Mossy Creek and any stream/river that might have hold overs. Also any state fee fishing area (i.e. Crooked Creek or Wilson Creek).

Hopefully by the end of the Summer I will have achieved at least one level, maybe even two. Even if I do not achieve any levels this summer, I am going to fun, challenge myself, and better my current knowledge as a fisherman here in Virginia and I implore each of my readers to do the same this summer. If you do not currently live here in Virginia check your current state’s programs, hopefully they will have something similar to this program.

 

Master Angler Program

Trophy Fish Size Chart

 

 

In short, Luck’s always to blame.

Six months ago I almost ruined my entire ’16-’17 trout season. On a late summer day last year I asked one of my buddies to go fishing with me on one of our off days, both of us were looking for a nice end of the summer trophy fish. He mentioned Mossy Creek and the New River, while I suggested the Jackson River and the James River. All four of these places have citation fish caught each year out of them, however the problem that we were both stumbling over was that the odds of us both catching a trophy sized fish, on the same day, out of the same body of water was just damn near impossible unless we travelled outside the state of Virginia.

Over the past four years I attribute catching a lot of my citation trout on being vigilant to watching the stocking reports and putting myself in the right situation to catch a citation, but realistically I attribute my citations to being lucky. Hell I know my citation smallmouth bass was without doubt luck because it was the only fish I caught that whole day. So trying to figure out a place that both my buddy and I could be in the right situation, to have the right conditions, and to have luck smile on us at the same time was definitely a quandary. Luckily I had heard of one place that would provide us with such a chance; Cedar Springs Fish Farm.

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Smallmouth Bass Citation New River

I had heard about Cedar Springs from several different people I work with and from several fishing guides that I knew in the area. There general consensus was that Cedar Springs was just an amazing place to fish. I know a lot of people frown upon fishing farm fisheries, but sometimes as a fisherman you just need to have that one day to be able to catch a monster fish and farm fisheries provide you with that chance. Also some days you just want it to be more about the trip, to enjoy the surroundings and just relax without being crowded.  Simply put Cedar Springs Fish Farm provides all of this.

 

Cedar Springs Fish Farm, which is nestled just outside of the small town of Rural Retreat, VA (near Wytheville) is a wonderfully large farm, running through the farm’s interior is Cripple Creek; a medium sized freestone creek with large, deep holes. Although the State of Virginia feels that the minimum stocking size of a trout should be 7 inches, Cedar Springs doesn’t feel this is adequate, they do not stock anything below 15 inches.  Add in the fact that Cedar Springs only allows 6 anglers on the farm per day, you end up having all of the right conditions to potentially have a perfect day.

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Potts Creek Rainbow – Damn near citation

What I found to be truly special about Cedar Springs is that you still have to fish it like any other creek. It is not easy fishing, you have to work for every fish you put to net; from targeting a big fish, to casting your line so it doesn’t spook the fish, to proper drift management.  You will have to use all of your skills to catch a fish at Cedar Springs.

Not only did my buddy and I catch several trophy trout that day, but also my buddy’s dad, who was a late addition to our party, also caught several trophy rainbow trout.  In the end it was one of those days that all three of us will remember and be able to look back and smile on.  However like I said at the very beginning, that day almost ruined my trout season for this year. The very last rainbow trout I caught that day was a monster; just looking at this fish a person will realize it truly was a fish of a life time. Unfortunately no one in our party had enough sense to bring a measuring tape on our trip. I had to wait until I got back to Roanoke to measure it. Honestly that drive back from Cedar Springs to Roanoke was euphoria mixed with gut wrenching dread. I could not get over the fact of how huge that rainbow was, I dreaded learning how big it actually was, knowing that catching a fish like it again in any of Virginia’s streams was going to be hard accomplishment. My personal best for a rainbow trout is 24 inches, I caught that fish during the ’15-’16 season out of Big Stony Creek in Giles County. Fortunately after I measured the Cedar Springs monster rainbow I was completely euphoric, it only measured in at the minimum citation limit of 22 inches – my trout season was safe, and with a little luck, there was still hope of finding a fish in Virginia’s streams that could equal it without it coming from a fishery.

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Cedar Springs, Cripple Creek Monster 22″ Citation

 

Side Note:

I just wanted to relay something that I only became aware of over the past week. I knew that the state of Virginia awards certificates for each citation an angler catches, what I did not know is that the State of Virginia also keeps up with every citation and upon catching 5 citations of different species of fish (ex. rainbow trout, brown trout, brook trout, smallmouth bass, and musky) the state will award that angler a Master Angler award (which is a certificate and badge). There are four different levels, each with its separate requirements. Personally I think this is a very cool thing that the state of Virginia does, because it forces anglers to get out after other species that normally they wouldn’t even consider fishing for.

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Roanoke River Brook Trout – Damn near citation
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Big Stony Creek, Giles County Rainbow Trout Citation 24″

Toms Creek

Stream Category: B

Gear:

  • Dry Flies: BWO, Adams, Pheasant Tail, Attractors, and Terrestrials (Hoppers)
  • Nymphs : Zebra, Pheasant Tail, Prince, Hares Ear, Blood Worms and Soft Hackles
  • Streamers: Minnow Patterns, Wooly Buggers, and Leach Patterns
  • Rod: 7’-10’
  • Waders: Yes
  • Net: Yes
  • Polarized fishing sunglasses

Casting: Back, Side, and Roll

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About:

Toms Creek is an interesting freestone stream that flows through the heart of Blacksburg to the New River at Whitethorne. Unlike most of the mountain streams that you will find in the New River Valley area this stream flows through farmland resembling more of a spring fed stream. Because a majority of the land that Toms Creek flows through is private property the state of Virginia only stocks the tail end sections; stocking starts just north of the where Toms Creek joins with Poverty Creek going to its end at the New River. While I feel at home fishing the narrow mountain sections of Toms Creek fishing the areas that flow through the farm fields are what makes Toms Creek so enjoyable. There is nothing in this world that brings me more adrenaline than those seconds right after a large trout smashes a hopper, those seconds are what keeps this sport so addictive.

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My usual plan of attack for Toms Creek is to start at Whitethorne and work my way towards the Poverty Creek Junction.   I will throw hoppers, streamers, and dry flies until it starts becoming more mountainous, and then I will switch to strictly nymphs. When the stream gets murky, account of rainfall, switch to flashy nymphs with hot spots and blood worms to produce trout.

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Additional Notes and Precautions:

This stream is very popular for local spin fishermen, be prepared to have deal with the stream being crowded. However during the fall you can combat this pretty easily by going fishing on a Saturday when there is a home football game at Virginia Tech. Stick only to the areas that have the Virginia Stocked Trout signs unless you have permission from the land owners. There is one section that you can fish that has gated access, make sure you close the gate behind you because there are cattle in this area.

 

Directions from Blacksburg, VA:

 

Take Prices Fork Rd heading west towards Radford. Turn Right on to State Rte. 652, McCoy Road. Follow this road for 3.5 miles and turn right on to Mt. Zion Road. Toms Creek will be you cross over at the first bridge you come to. To get to the Poverty Creek Junction area follow Mt. Zion Rd 2.1 miles and turn left on to Poverty Creek Rd. Follow this road until you go over a bridge that goes over Toms Creek (there is a parking area just beyond this bridge).

Poverty Creek

Stream Category: C (JFN)

Gear:

  • Dry Flies: BWO, Adams, Pheasant Tail, and Attractors
  • Nymphs : Zebra, Pheasant Tail, Callibaetis, Prince, Hares Ear, and Soft Hackles
  • Rod: 7’
  • Waders: Chaps or Hip
  • Net: Yes
  • Polarized fishing sunglasses

Casting: Back, Side, and Roll

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About:

If this stream would hold a good and constant water level year round it would contend with Little Stony Creek (Giles County) as being one of the prettiest streams in the New River Valley. Sadly it doesn’t. Poverty Creek which flows down the westward valley between Brush and Sinking Creek Mountain from Pandapas Pond to Toms Creek is a stream that is dependent on the overflow water from Pandapas Pond.

During the summer and early fall the water level is so minimum that it makes Poverty Creek unfishable for trout. However during later winter and early spring Poverty Creek perks back up making it a good fly fishing destination if you don’t want to deal with the crowds hiking Little Stony Creek.

There are several different ways to get to Poverty Creek; you can park at Pandapas Pond and follow Poverty Creek trail which is right beside the stream or you can take the Forest Service Road 708 that is just past Pandapas Pond before you get to Giles County. I prefer using the Forest Service Road; starting at the Virginia Trout Stocking sign just below the second mile marker and fishing up the trail going towards Pandapas Pond. When fishing this stream make sure you are using lighter nymphs or dry flies, heavy nymphs will snag constantly on fallen tree limbs and rocks.  Personally I use small soft hackles, zebra midges, and callibaetis nymphs for this stream.

Additional Notes and Precautions:

This stream is a part of the Poverty Creek Trail System, expect to see hikers and runners on these trails throughout the year. If you are going to use the Forest Service Road 708 during the winter I suggest you travel in an all-wheel drive or 4-wheel drive vehicle, this road can be pretty treacherous. Also because you will be in the Jefferson National Forest during hunting season I suggest you always wear some type of blaze orange or bright colored clothing just in case of hunters.

 

Directions from Blacksburg, VA:

 

Pandapas Pond Entrance: Take US-460 West towards Pembroke. Then turn left onto Forest Service Rd 808 (entrance to Pandapas Pond). The first Parking area will be on your left as you turn onto this road and the second parking area will be the area where the road dead ends. Poverty Creek will be located on the west side of Pandapas Pond and you will see a Virginia State Stocking Sign here.

Forest Service Road 708: Take US-460 West towards Pembroke. Then turn left onto Forest Service Rd 708. Follow this road until you see the Virginia State Stocking sign on your left located roughly 2.1 miles from your initial turnoff.

Craig Creek

Stream Category: B

Wild Trout: Brook

Gear:

· Dry Flies: Adams, BWO, Caddis, Stimulators, Royal Wullf, and Terrestrials (Hoppers for the Fall)
· Nymphs : Zebra Midge, Pheasant Tail, Hares Ear, Prince, and Soft Hackles
· Streamers: Wooly Buggers
· Rod: 7’-9’
· Waders: Hip
· Net: Yes
· Polarized fishing sunglasses

Casting: Back Casting should not be a problem if using a smaller rod, however if youre using a larger rod expect to have to roll cast.

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About:

When Craig Creek is stocked this stream is extremely popular for both spin and fly fishermen. Located 20 minutes away from Blacksburg, Craig Creek is a traditional freestone mountain creek in the Jefferson National Forest, lying in the valley between Brush Mountain and Sinking Creek Mountain. Unfortunately this stream suffers from one big issue; low water.

For years this stream has been on the State of Virginia’s NSF list and has just recently been removed. Because of the water levels there are very few holdovers that survive the summer months, plan on coming here only a stocking. Don’t expect to find big splash pools or fast moving water on Craig Creek either, what you are going to find is clear large flats followed by shallow riffles.

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Dry fly fishermen will need to find an attractor fly that the stocked fish are keying up on that day, I like using Royal Wullfs and Yellow Stimulators on this stream. Hoppers can be used during the fall when you are in the Caldwell Fields area. When nymphing stick to single nymphs or non-weighted multi nymph rigs, I honestly prefer using a Caddis/Dropper combination, but when strictly nymphing I will use a zebra midge as my top nymph and a jig soft hackle or a small bead head prince as my second nymph. Do not use large suspension devices such as thingamabobbers; instead try yarn strike indicators or a small ball of biostrike. There are a few deep holes that make streamers a good choice; you will find these holes on Craig Creek located along the roots of tree banks and near fallen logs.

Additional Notes and Precautions:

Because of Craig Creek’s distance from Blacksburg expect a high turnout in the number of anglers fishing here after a stocking. There are numerous pull off points and parking areas along Craig Creek Road, just make sure you pull completely off the road because it is only a single lane dirt road. Also remember that you will be in the National Forest during hunting season, wearing some type of blaze orange is very wise choice.

Directions from Blacksburg, VA:

Take US-460 West towards Pandapas Pond. Turn right onto Craig Creek Rd (VA-621), follow road for 8 miles till you see the first state stocking sign.