Shenandoah Valley Virginia Fly Fishing Report and News From Mossy Creek Fly Shop.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from the Mossy Creek Staff and Guide Crew! We want to thank everyone for an incredible year and we look forward to serving you again in 2017!
The James and Shenandoah Rivers
The weather has been all over the map lately. Crazy might be the new norm this winter. We have experienced 20 degrees with sleet one day and 50 degrees with 30 mph winds the next. Temps this week have ranged from the teens to spring like. The low clear water through fall made for some tough fishing conditions and we finally have decent water flow and good color to the river. Overcast rainy days should always provide for a bit of action. We had some good activity mid week last week but the wind was a bit rough this past weekend. It would be nice to just have some stability for a few weeks so the fish can settle in to a normal winter pattern. We have had a few encounters with some nice bass while musky fishing. For the most there hasn’t been a soul on the entire South Fork Shenandoah. This is a great time of year to float in almost complete solitude and really learn where big winter fish hang out. It is fun discovering wintering lies for all sorts of species as well as being rewarded with some of the bigger fish of the year typically caught in the winter months.
We look forward to a few more months of musky fishing before we begin our prespawn bass fishing in late March and early April. For the winter and early season fishing, be sure to have plenty of large and heavy clawdads, tubes, crittermites, half and half’s, as well as CK baitfish in chartreuse, white, tan, olive, and orange sherbert. These are perfect flies for all water types, especially when bass begin to migrate and hold near spawning territory.
For winter musky fishing the best advice is to prospect the long deep holes and concentrate on the mid river structure as much as you do on the deadfalls and structure along the banks. Typically a big mid river ledge with a big overhang is a prime lie for a big predator. Add some woody stucture and a big deep trench nearby and you have the makings of a great musky hangout. Depending on water depth you fish, be sure to have a full sink(class V) and an intermediate line matched for your favorite 10 or 11 weight rod. These setups will allow you to effectively fish the entire water column around the structure. Big bass and catfish will hang out in similar areas, especially if a musk isn’t present. Have on hand some large, 4/0 sized clawdads with XL heavy lead eyes to get them down on the bottom. Not only do musky like this sort of fly, but big bass and catfish do as well. When you have crystal clear water clarity in the winter months you can see big bass from a long way away. They can be fun to target, so be sure you have a setup in the boat ready for an encounter!
For river smallmouth and largemouth, a 9′ 7 weight is an ideal ‘sweet spot’ fly rod. It is the most versatile rod in most smallmouth anglers opinion. That said, 6 weights are great for smaller topwater bugs and average sized streamers. They are also great for delicate presentations in low clear water and also for casting to big feeding carp. 8 weights are important for throwing big wind resistant flies and also turning over heavy lead eyed flies with ease. They are also useful casting long distances or dealing with windy days. Being properly rigged for different types of water you encounter on the river can make a huge difference in your success.
A throw back to a great summer carp. Big carp are found all over many of Virginia’s rivers. They are one of the more challenging fish to catch and also one of the most fun!!
Big schools of channel catfish can provide tons of fun in the winter. We have found schools of fish with hundreds of catfish to keep us busy some days.
For many anglers winter time is all about the toothy critters. Musky are certainly one of the more hard core fish to pursue on a fly rod. Here is one for the Shenandoah River taken on a fly.
Virginia’s freshwater bad ass. The smallmouth bass is reigning king on the fly rod in spring and summer.
Mountain Brook Trout Streams
Winter fishing can be fun but be responsible and try to stay out of the creek as much as you can to avoid precious brook trout eggs still developing on the stream bed.
The weather is looking mild this coming week. Some anglers enjoyed some mountain brook trout fishing after the last few rain storms. Fishing was good with the improved water flow but it looks like streams will get low again with another 10 days with no rain in the forecast. Trout fishing will be more productive on the spring creeks and tail waters over the next few weeks. For those looking to brave the cold weather, you will need to be stealthy when you make your approach to runs and holes up in the mountains. Low clear water will make the brook trout skittish and without the leaf cover available in spring and early summer, you will want to stay low, move slow, and dress in drab or camo clothing to improve your odds. Light lines in 2-3 weight are ideal anytime you are fishing for brook trout. We prefer a longer 8′-8’6″ 3 weight for better reach, line control, roll casting, and mending. When water temps are in the 30’s brook trout metabolism slows meaning they don’t expend a lot of energy to eat. They will move for a slightly larger than average meal to maximize caloric intake. Try fishing a streamer, like a golden retriever in root beer or gold in a size 10 under a strike indicator. Fish the fly upstream and ensure that it is getting deep near the bottom. Cast to the upper reaches of the pool and let it drift back to you. We catch some of our biggest brook trout of the year using this tactic. Multi nymph rigs work great as well. Try a jigged nymph with a tungsten bead as your anchor fly and then about 16″ above it tie a blood knot leaving a 6″ tag. Tie on a smaller size 16 fly like a pheasant tail, small black stone, or prince nymph. The jigged fly rides hook point up and will not snag bottom as much as a traditional nymph. Fish will take the deep heavy nymph or sometimes if it gets refused they will see the smaller nymph and take it. This rig can be fished with or without a small indicator. Sighter material is great if you plan on high sticking these rigs. Enjoy the winter season and we will see you out in the mountains again in a few months.
Water levels are low but deep sheltered spots like this always hold brook trout and are easy to fish without spooking fish.
Get Geared Up
We have had some excellent fishing for big brown trout recently. Water levels improved on the spring creeks and the big fish were much easier to approach with big streamers.
The spring creeks still have good water flow from the rainfall received over the last few weeks. There is still a little hint of color keeping the fish from being spooky. Dry fly action continues most afternoons with blue winged olive mayflies and small midges. We are fishing streamers most days and then taking advantage of rising fish as those opportunities arise. Reports have been good from guides and local anglers on Beaver Creek, Mossy Creek, Spring Run, Buffalo Creek, Smith Creek at Susie Q Farm, and the upper South River. Unfortunately it doesn’t look like we will be getting any more precipitation in the next 10 days so prepare for technical fishing again as water levels continue to drop. Dry fly fishing with bwo parachutes and comparaduns in size 16-18 with emerger or midge droppers has been effective. Cdc olive emergers, rainbow warriors, zebra midges, and peacock soft hackles in size 18 and 20 have been great for picky fish. We have also done well with black caddis in size 16 with tungsten size 18-20 nymphs fished about 20″ off the back of the dry. Streamer fishing has been good with flies like the sparkle minnow, slump buster, clawdad, crittermite, and near nuff sculpin fished deep. Golden retrievers are working well fished with a split shot under an indicator dead drifted and then swung through runs and holes. Target any overcast days as the fishing is much better in low light. Bwo hatches are best on the darker days with no wind. Be on the look out for rainy days in the future as the streamer fishing can turn on immediately. Some of the largest trout have been caught on rainy days when warm fronts have approached.
An absolute beast of a brown trout heading back to the mossy depths!
A rainbow trout crossing a sandbar on his way back home. He sipped the wrong midge this afternoon!
Susie Q Farm has been producing some monster fish. It has been a great year out on Smith Creek.
Some days just produce better than others. This day many of the big browns were on the hunt!
Nothing like hooking up on a big trout on light line and a fiberglass rod.
Do big brown trout haunt your dreams? Our guides know where they live and the tricks to get them to eat.
We don’t let the cold weather bother us a bit as the trout don’t seem to mind it at all!
Managed Trout Water
Another BEAST of a rainbow trout from Spring Run.
Rain is no longer in our forecast so we don’t expect any improvement to our streamflow in the coming week but the temperatures look awesome. It will feel like spring this week and fishing will be comfortable with temperatures in the upper 40’s and low 50’s! Enjoy the weather this holiday week! VDGIF has been busy over the past month stocking your favorite freestone streams and lakes. Sugar Hollow Reservoir, Mint Springs, Pedlar River, Elkhorn Lake, Braley Pond, Sherando Lake, North River DH, South River DH, Spring Run, South River SRA, Douthat, Jackson River at Hidden Valley and Poor Farm, Back Creek DH, Bullpasture, Cowpasture, Hardware River DH, Rose River, Hughes River, Robinson River, Tye River, Hawksbill Creek, Maury River, Silver Lake, Hone Quarry, Briery Branch, Stony Creek, Mill Creek, and Passage Creek DH should keep you busy if you are in our area! Stock up on crystal buggers, golden retrievers, kreelex, slump busters, and a variety of attractor nymph patterns in size 12-16 for these VA managed streams. Don’t forget your strike indicators and split shot! Enjoy the fall fishing season!!!