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″

Geographical Oddity

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Have you ever clicked with something to the very being of your soul, something that you do not have share with anyone else? For some people it is hunting, some it is collecting comic books, others it is building or gardening. For me it has, and will continue to be, fly fishing. Without it, nothing in the world truly makes sense to me; it is my life.

When I first moved to the Roanoke Valley I was a bit concerned. If you looked at a map of the different places I fished when I was living in Blacksburg, you would notice a trend; they are all within a 30 minute drive of Blacksburg. However now that I live in Roanoke every one of those favorite streams are easily over an hour away.

Once I moved I decided that I would need new streams to fish close by, not knowing of any I began my research on Virginia’s Department of Game and Inland Fisheries stocking map. I had already been to Roaring Run (Roanoke’s alternative to Little Stoney Creek) several times when I lived in Blacksburg, I was certain there had to be good trout streams in the Roanoke Valley area. After my researching I noticed that Roanoke was a “geographical oddity,” exactly one hour away from even one stocked streamed, with the exception of Glade, Tinker, and of course the Roanoke River. Those three in particular I wanted nothing to do with. Now I am not trying to sound like a fishing snob, but the last thing I wanted to do was fish in an urban setting. Anytime I even considered urban fishing the hobbit in my head would start screaming, “I need mountains, Gandalf, Mountains….” Unfortunately without packing up my Jeep and being prepared for an hour drive, accessible mountain trout fishing like I loved in Blacksburg was not feasible.

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Realistically though, the Roanoke Valley (Roanoke/Salem) is one of the most enjoyable areas I have lived in; it has this vibe that the local government is trying its best to contend with places like Asheville and Richmond for the best land back area. The Roanoke Valley Government, along with several local businesses, is also making the Roanoke Valley into an Outdoors person’s mecca. I mean really, it is hard to beat the hiking, biking, and kayaking that you can do within a 30 minute radius of Roanoke. However hiking, biking, and kayaking just do not cut it for me; I need to feel more involved with nature, a feeling that only comes to me when I am able to fly fish deep in the mountains. Needless to say, during the summer months I was seriously bummed out living in Roanoke and took a lot of day trips out of town.

In my defense, the people that I had spoken with about fly fishing on the Roanoke River had not impressed me with the Roanoke’s ability to be a good trout stream. Add in the fact I felt that the Roanoke, Tinker, and Glade are a bit trashy and in an urban area, yeah there was no way I wanted to fish in the Roanoke Valley. Yes you can fish for carp, bass, and stripers (below Explorer Park going to Smith Mountain lake), but none of these fish was what I wanted to fish for during summer, I wanted trout. Again in my defense, I decided to fish for carp, bass, or pretty much anything else I would just go to the New River or to the James, essentially giving me an excuse to get out onto big water. To my surprise, after a late summer evening at the Salem Delayed Harvest Section, I found a love for the Roanoke River.

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Since this past summer was such a dry summer for the Roanoke Valley, the Roanoke River was extremely low. I was under the assumption that the Roanoke River would not have many hold over trout, much less wild trout because of the water levels and water temperatures. Man, I was wrong! My bad! There are a lot of nice places in Roanoke that the river will hold stocked rainbow and brook trout year round, and even though the State of Virginia no longer stocks brown trout, they can still be found year round throughout the river as well.

By no means am I an expert of the Roanoke River, and it will take me at least another year before I am confident to do a full “Stream” post for it. However I am very pleased with the trout fishing so far. I now love the idea of being able to drive to place before work, not far from the road, being able to fish it, and then go to work that afternoon. Although this doesn’t completely replace my urge to fish in the mountains, it does help the matter.

Other than the Roanoke has heavy foot pressure (the Greenway Park runs right next to it) and it being quite dirty in spots (the City is fighting this through local cleanups), the only issue I have is the fishing pressure in the Put and Take sections, which seems to fish out quickly. Currently there two Delayed Harvest sections and two Put and Take sections in Roanoke/Salem, this is not counting Tinker and Glade which is both Put and Take. I feel like these Put and Take sections are hurting Roanoke Valley’s broad plan to make the area more of an outdoors person destination when people go there to fish and there are no fish.

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Not that I do not want every fisherman to get their monies worth out of their trout fishing stamp, I think the benefits of Roanoke becoming a very strong fishery to compete with those in Western North Carolina and Tennessee out weights losing the Put and Take sections. Instead I would suggest two sections of Delayed Harvest and two sections of Catch and Release only, leave Tinker and Glade as Put and Take though. Roanoke Valley fishermen would still be able to take fish from the area within regulation, but it would also help the area grow its wild trout population and inspire tourism. This also prompts me to say, I would love to see Southwestern Virginia come up with its own trout trail like Western North Carolina has, with the Roanoke Valley serving as its heart.

I will always remember the first time I went to the South Holston River in Bristol, Tn, it was awe inspiring to see wild brown and rainbow trout by the hundreds hitting little sulfurs all around me, all I could think was that if I lived at the South Holston I would never go anywhere else. Now imagine that being the Roanoke River. Although I think that the Roanoke River cannot ever be as great as the South Holston, because of South Holston’s dam and rich/clean water supply, I do think the Roanoke has a lot of promise and has the potential of becoming a top notch fishery in Virginia.

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Virginia, especially Southwestern Virginia (I am a tad biased), is one of the most beautiful states on the east coast. We have everything from skiing, to breweries, plus beauty of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Literally everyone should want to come to Virginia to vacation. Although our larger species fish (smallmouth, bass, and musky) do bring in fishermen, our lack of trout streams just make it easier for trout fishermen to bypass Virginia altogether. So how do we go about changing this attitude? Well I think transforming the Roanoke River and other streams into excellent fisheries is a good initial start. I also think that the State of Virginia should work with current landowners to open up streams that have been closed to the public before, also providing help through the use of fingerlings to beef up wild trout populations. Finally I think Virginia needs to have at least one Delayed Harvest Stream, one Catch and Release Stream, and one Put and Take Stream in each county that trout stockings occur. It is the only way to be fair to every fisherman, in state and out of state, and to make sure that the monies spent on Virginia Trout fishing are being well used and preserving fishing in the State of Virginia.

Mill Creek – Giles County, VA

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Stream Category: Special Regulation

Wild Trout: Brook and Rainbow

Gear:

· Dry Flies: Adams, BWO, Caddis, Stimulators, Terrestrials
· Nymphs : Pheasant Tail, Hares Ear, Prince, and Soft Hackles
· Streamers: None
· Rod: 7’
· Waders: Chaps and Hip
· Net: None
· Polarized fishing sunglasses

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Casting:

With a shorter rod you will be able to make any cast that you need to make on this stream.

About:

Located minutes away from down town Narrows, VA, Mill Creek is the quintessential Virginian mountain stream with its large splash pools, rhododendrons, and boulder sized freestones. With its healthy population of native brook and wild rainbow trout, this technical stream is a nice alternative to Little Stony Creek. However do not anticipate any real size to these trout; they tend to be palm size or smaller.

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Once you arrive at the parking area you can start fly fishing, the main hiking trail follows Mill Creek from the parking area to Mill Creek Falls. I always take a 7’ 5 weight rod, equipped with a long leader just in case I want to go from a dry fly to a nymph. However I would not recommend using a multi nymph rig or even a dry and dropper, stick to rather one nymph or one dry fly

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Half of a mile up the creek from the parking area is a dam that has created a small pond. This particular spot often produces fish when the rest of the stream does not. Not only are the trout very forgiving here but there is very little overhead foliage to deal with; making this area a fantastic place for those learning to fly fish. Multi nymph and dry/dropper rigs can be used at this spot. In fact this is the only place I have ever hooked dual fish on a multi nymph rig.

Additional Notes and Precautions:

Weather is a huge factor when fishing Mill Creek. During the summer months expect the stream to have very low water and during the winter months expect heavy snow and ice. Ultimately fall and spring are the best times of the year to fish Mill Creek.

Mill Creek is also known for its excellent hiking and mountain bike trails so expect parking to be an issue, especially on the weekends.

Directions from Blacksburg, VA to Mill Creek (28.9 mi):

Take US 460 West towards Pearisburg, VA. Turn left onto Thomas Drive just after the last Pearisburg exit (which is just before the New River Bridge at Celanese). Go straight through the four way stop on to VA 100 North. Stay on this road for 3.4 miles then turn left onto Northview Street in Narrows. This road will continue all the way to the parking area. Note: do not take the right onto Poplar Street, it will look like the road is ending but it does not till you reach the parking area.

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Little Stony Creek – Giles County, Virgina

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Stream Category: Special Regulation Water

Wild Trout: Brook and Rainbow Trout

Gear:

· Dry Flies: Adams, Pheasant Tail, Stimulators, Elk Hair Caddis, and small Terrestrials
· Nymphs : Pheasant tail, Hares Ear, Prince, Zebra Midges, Callibaetis, CCG Eggs, and Soft Hackles
· Streamers: I personally don’t use streamers on this stream
· Rod: Shorter rods such as 7’ rods work extremely well
· Waders: Hip waders will work for the whole stream, very few areas will get above your hips
· Net: No net will be needed unless it is just your preference
· Polarized fishing sunglasses

Casting:

As long as you have a shorter rod you can do about any cast on Little Stony, just be mindful of the rhododendrons.

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About:

Little Stony Creek is one of the best native brook trout streams in Virginia. Conversely the fishing is not what makes Little Stony Creek so popular with people. Little Stony Creek is the stream that feeds the 200’ Cascades waterfalls which has been featured on CNN as one of the nation’s top waterfalls. There are two main trails leading from Cascades Parking lot to the falls. The left hand rail going to the falls is the easier route though it leads you away from the stream, while the right hand trail that never leaves the stream is much harder (especially while wearing waders). It is a good idea to decide before you head up the trail what type of trout you are going to fish for. If you are only going to fish for rainbows then you can start fishing as soon as you get to the parking area. The rainbows tend to be located between the parking areas up to the second trail bridge. While the brook trout fishing starts just before the second trail bridge going all the way up to the Cascades. Generally when I fish Little Stony Creek for brookies I will hike the left hand side until I am able to see the second trail bridge and that is when I make my own trail to the stream to start fishing. (Note: start looking for the bridge as soon as you come up to the first mile marker and for the small connector trail that is sometimes overgrown.)

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By nature I am a nymph fly fisherman, I love tying them and I love fishing them. But this stream makes me enjoy dry fly fishing; there are really deep splash pools along with long flats that never disappoint when throwing a dry fly. You can use suspension devices and multi nymph rigs; however the best way to produce fish on this stream is to use a dry fly with a dropper. I personally like using soft hackles or a black callibaetis nymphs. Another good fly to use is a Clear Cure Goo style egg, I know it seems like cheating but they work well.

There are really only a few cons to this stream; there are enormous amounts of tourists that visit the Cascades which in turn fills up the parking area and during the summertime the stream runs really low when there has been a shortage of rain. Really, if you are able to deal with an often crowded trail you’ll love this stream.

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Additional Notes and Precautions:

There is a $3 fee to park in the parking lot and you should always pay it unless you like getting a $75 ticket. You can also get a Seasonal Day Use Pass from the Ranger station in Blacksburg for $30, which will allow you to park without paying the daily fee. The parking can quickly fill up throughout each day, particularly on Saturdays and Sundays. Yet there is now a seven day-a-week shuttle service that is located in Pembroke (I have never had to use this service so I do not know if they charge for this service).

Make sure you also check the weather before you decide to go to Little Stony Creek, severe thunderstorms can pop up in this area without much warning and during the winter time snow storms can leave you stranded in a matter of minutes. Furthermore, if you live several hours away check the weather periodically during the upcoming week of your trip to keep an eye out for long periods of heavy rain, this stream is subject being blow out.

Astonishingly there is cell phone service almost all of the way up to the Cascades in case you were to have an emergency.

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Directions from Blacksburg, VA:

Take US 460 from Blacksburg to Pembroke. Turn right on VA 623, Cascade Drive. This road will take you to the Cascades parking area.

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Dismal Creek – Giles County

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Stream Category: B

Wild Trout: Brook Trout

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Gear:

· Dry Flies: Adams, BWO, Caddis, Stimulators, Terrestrials
· Nymphs : Pheasant Tails, Hares Ear, Prince, Zebra, Copper Johns, and Soft Hackles
· Streamers: Wooly Bugger
· Rod: 7’ and 9’
· Waders: Hip or Chest
· Net: Yes
· Polarized fishing sunglasses

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Casting:

Back and side casts shouldn’t be an issue as long as you are using a 7’ rod, also I recommend using roll casts for the Dismal Creek falls section when using heavy multi nymph rigs.

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About:

While not easily accessible, Dismal Creek provides fly fisherman with yearlong opportunities for both native and stocked trout. Located on the border of Giles and Bland Counties in the Jefferson National Forest this stream is primarily known for its scenic falls. It is not uncommon to see people hiking and camping here due to its close proximity to the Appalachian Trail.

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Dismal Creek has three stocked areas of water; however you can continue fishing on up the stream for native brook trout. The first section, which begins at the End of State Maintenance sign to Dismal Creek falls, is probably the hardest and most overlooked section of stream. This is due to the fact that there are limited options of access areas to the stream. Passed the E.O.S.M. sign the road will begin to snake up the mountain side leaving the stream entirely, leaving only two options: park at the bottom of the mountain or park at the falls. Since starting to fly fish the stream I have only once fished this entire area once and it took all day. While this section does have pocket water for dry flies, I prefer using a multi nymph rig with a jig nymph for the bottom fly.

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Up next is Dismal Creek falls which is the most popular area of the entire stream for fishermen. When fishing this area you will need to be prepared to fish deep even during the summer months. Normally using a 9’ rod I setup a rig consisting of three weighted nymphs one foot apart and a suspension device two to three feet above the last nymph. Don’t be afraid to put on a larger suspension device, because of the falls the surface turbulence doesn’t seem to play a factor while fishing. Roll cast directly into the falls and let the nymphs dead drift through this deep area for best results.

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The final section, which is above the falls to the camping area on Lion’s Den road, is a dry fly fisherman’s dream come to true with its long slow moving flats. It’s really hard to imagine this section being here after seeing the other faster moving parts of Dismal Creek. Just make sure you bring a 7’ rod and some patience for this area, you will get hung up by the rhododendrons.

There are some cons to Dismal Creek though. Unlike the other streams in Giles County, you cannot simply get off of US 460 and be there in a matter of minutes. Ultimately there are no simple ways to get to Dismal Creek, on average it takes over an hour to get to there from any major town or city. The other cons are the elbow to elbow spin fishermen that show up right after a stocking and the tourists that love to swim at the falls.

Additional Notes and Precautions:

Because of Dismal Creek’s seclusion one must keep in mind back country safety issues. There is no cell phone service here, I would highly recommend telling a friend or a relative that you are going here and a general time you will be back. Likewise make sure you bring plenty of water, some non-perishable food, and a med kit in case of an emergency (the closest hospital is forty minutes away). Also suggest wearing some type of bright orange clothing for the hunters in the area. Lastly, if you have a concealed permit to carry I would suggest you do so, this area is known for to have bears, bobcats, and rattlesnakes.

Directions from Bland, Blacksburg, and Dublin, VA:

From Bland, go east on VA 42 about 13.5 miles. Go left (north) on VA 606 for 1 mile and turn right onto VA 201 just past store.

From Blacksburg, go west on US 460 to Pearisburg and take the second exit onto VA 100. Stay on VA 100 for 10 miles. Turn right on VA 42. After 10 miles, turn right on VA 606 and follow directions above.

From Dublin, go north on VA 100 until you get to VA 42 and turn left. Follow directions for Blacksburg from here.