Updated: Sep 17, 2022
Rolling almost silently through the Shenandoah Valley farmlands of Augusta County is Virginia's most famous trout stream, Mossy Creek. This is a traditional limestone spring creek like many that dot the valley floor along the Appalachian Mountain chain. Mossy Creek starts from a huge spring in nearby Mt. Solon to the west. It starts a solid 5-6' flow through farm fields and backyards. All along it's way it picks up more water from other small springs and becomes wider and bolder. Banks and runs start to form and solid vegetation provide both cover and aquatic bugs for fish.
Brown trout inhabit these waters, and some can get quite large after a while. The water stays a consistent 50-60 degrees year round, providing perfect growing conditions for fish. The state has also stocked fingerling or above sized trout since the late 1970's to grow out in the stream. Special regulations on size and a fly fishing only area is also imposed. The result is a fishery full of good sized fish with a chance to catch a trophy.
A landowner's permission pass is required to fish here, which is free and can be printed out from the DWR website: license.gooutdoorsvirginia.com/Licensing/CustomerLookup.aspx
Around 3 miles of stream are accessible, but you cannot wade at all so be prepared to walk. I always find the fishing better the further I get away from the parking spots as well. I always bring water, something to eat, and triple check that I have everything I need to avoid a trip back to the car.
Fly fishing here can be quite challenging, even for experienced anglers. Deep cut banks and vegetation make presentations very technical, and the smooth stretches of water require quiet, accurate casts. There are plenty of scrub pines and bushes to catch and nick up your 6x tippet and make casting difficult. As popular as this stream is, these fish have seen a lot of flies. Patience, line management, and tackle maintenance are imperative for success. The last thing you want is to finally hook up a nice brown, only to have your line snap because you didn't retie after a casting knot.
There are a few ways you can better your chances of success. You'll have to hire me to get them all, but I always like people to do well and have a good experience when they visit the area so some free advice:
Browns, especially larger ones, are active ambush fish. When the water gets up on Mossy, discolored, but not flooding brown, you can fish big, and I mean big! streamers and really be surprised. Zonkers and articulated flies in dark colors seem to stand out well.
In the Summer throughout the Fall the farmlands hold a lot of terrestials. Ants, beetles, and grasshopper patterns equal a lot of protein for smaller browns. I often use a hopper/dropper rig as well as an ant if I spot individual fish so windy days are good. Lastly BWO's and Tricos hatch regularly. These are very small and not for the visually challenged to fish with. Size 18 and 20's on 7x tippet, but there is usually an hour or so in the morning and in the evening pretty much around the year when it is warm enough.
I strongly recommend that everyone give Mossy Creek a shot. You will more than likely come away humbled, but that's okay. There are a few good breweries and wineries in the area to drown your sorrows after drowning some flies. It takes a while to get the gist of the stream and it's intricacies. Even after two decades I have both unproductive days and great days, but I always feel like my casting and presentation need to be tight. It's a challenge I don't often get with any other stream in the area, and catching a nice brown out of there is always something to appreciate.