Birthday on the Fly Part 2: Mossy Creek

In the afternoon, after a hearty lunch that included Chips Ahoy (so retro), we decided to hit a couple more bends on “Farm Creek” before taking the drive down I-81 to Mossy Creek. As the suburban sprawl of Harrisonburg quickly faded away into rolling farms, vineyards and pasture, I tried to hide my nervousness and anticipation. Mossy is one of the best spring creeks on the East Coast, and has a considerable reputation as being the hardest. Most of the guidebooks warn away the impatient or novice angler, and our guide reminded us that Lefy Kreh called it perhaps the second most challenging river he’s fished. Frankly, I was just hoping my bro and I could get a good shot. After such a memorable morning, we were doing just fine.

As we drove alongside the creek to park my heart broke a little when I saw how off-color the river was, but our guide, Jess, told us it meant we didn’t have to do the crawl to the bank. The banks were absolutely alive with crickets, hoppers and spiders. Some big brown spiders were even dashing across the creek, literally dancing on the water. Later, a huge splash indicated that not all of them made it to the other side. This BUG FACTORY and the constant cold water from the spring was reputed to make big trout…and it didn’t disappoint. We spread out and for the next two hours methodically cast streamers to the banks and into the pockets and channels between the weeds. With few riffles, I was intent on casting to anything that looked fishy–that is, any change or break in the monotony of the creek, an undercut, an overhang, a log, a patch of shadow, a seam or boulder. Finally I was rewarded with a very nice rainbow.

Later, just as as we were about to wrap-up, thinking it would have been his last cast, my brother hooked up with a very nice wild brown that came several feet of the bank to hit his Mossy Creek “special” rig. Huzzah!

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Birthday on the Fly Part 1: Farm Creek

This is Part 1 of an epic day of guided fly fishing that my brother and I enjoyed during the first full weekend of Autumn. We were celebrating both of our birthdays (just 20 days apart) on two of the most scenic creeks in the Shenandoah Valley. The first was entirely private water, crystal clear, incredibly handsome with gentle bends, steep banks and absolutely stacked with rainbow trout. The other was off-colored from a little rain, mysterious with undulating weeds and surrounded by pasture, a true spring creek that promised big browns for the very skillful. I’m not going to give up the name of the first creek where we did our morning’s fishing. Sorry but you know how it is. Lets just call it “Farm Creek.”

Mossy Creek Fly Fishing already provides you with detailed and useful information on their website, but on the water I was reminded that nothing beats one-on-one time and instruction. Our guide, Jess, was knowledgeable, patient and willing to let us fish our way when it was right, and providing advice when our way was wrong.

Starting before dawn, we were able to get to “Farm Creek” from DC in just under X hours. Within a few minutes of meeting Jess we were set up and casting streamers into pools about fifty yards from each other. After just four or five casts my brother hooked up with his biggest rainbow ever, and it wouldn’t be his largest of the day. On my third cast I had my largest rainbow to date as well, and what would be the biggest of my day. I glanced at upstream at my brother who was hooked up again…and then I looked up into the bluebird morning sky and whispered a prayer of thanks. If this was the only fish we caught all day, I would be a happy man.

Fortunately, we had a banner morning of fishing, slowly working our way upstream casting into pools and riffles. With spring creek like conditions, we had to do some crouching to fish the shallower glides, but it gave us some wonderful moments to observe fish behavior. The large rainbows would jockey for position in the holding lies, chasing out the smaller trout.

Jess remarked that he was worried that the cold front that passed through the night before would shut the fish down–it usually did. But in this case, it had really turned them on. Even as the sun climbed higher, the ‘bows remained active, feisty, darting in and out of the shadows. By the time we stopped for lunch, my hand was sore and my eyes were glazed over. I kept telling myself not to take a single minute for granted. And isn’t that what celebrating a birthday is all about, a time to live in the moment and give thanks for all that has come before and all that will come next?