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?

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Connecticut Slam

I had the pleasure of visiting nearby NE Connecticut (Stafford Springs) for a long weekend. My wife and her friends were hitting estate sales before the spring Brimfield show and so I had the perfect excuse to sneak away for days of fishing. We stayed at Angelina’s Innkeepers Inn in Stafford Springs. Our second visit with her–was delightful. Angelina makes a mean “hooligan’s pancake” (a Finnish pancake called “pannukakku”) and her stories are endless. She’s a treasure trove of info on antiquing and “picking” the area. Sadly, she sold the place and we’ll miss her hospitality next fall when we come up for the next Brimfield.

In my exploration of the area, and from tips from CT Fish Talk forums, I decided upon the nearby Nipmuck State Forest area and two lakes: Bigelow Hollow and Mashapaug. Both are called ponds, but at a combined 60+acres I’d say they qualify as lakes. Both are stocked with trout (Rainbow, Brown) and Mashapaug holds Walleye.

Since I was shore fishing, I targeted trout and bass. My goal was a brown trout especially. A slam (rainbow, brown, and bass)…a grand slam (add Walleye) was out of reach as these are found deep and targeted at night. Armed with some intel from JT’s Fly Shop in Union, I hit both lakes over three days. The results were excellent, with a nice variety of fish each day (rainbow, brown, LM, perch, pumpkinseed, crappie).

I actually caught and released about twenty ‘bows over the course of the weekend in vary lengths. I found them taking powerbait, and worms in deep coves and on flats too. There is no minimum size for trout in CT and a limit of 5 per day. So when I finally got into the bigger ones–13″ or more, I kept a limit. We grilled them up for dinner!

The next day at Mashapaug, I hiked several coves until settling on fishing a point on Rock Island with a 30′ flat running into a drop off. My guess was the trout were in the deeper part off the cove and that they may occasionally forage the flat–they did not disappoint me! I watched two browns swim in and just as I was casting out got a backlash! I pulled my secondary rod with a superworm on it but a couple of nibbles and the trout spit it. I retied and cast a texas-rigged crawler and BAM the trout nailed it, put up a good fight, tail-walked a bit and I got it in. My first brown trout! It came in at about 20″, my guess, 4-5 lbs. I was catch-and-release that day so he got to go back in the drink–maybe he’ll become a trophy brown some day.

I ended the trip on the third day with more rainbows, perch and a 10″ largemouth bass. I can’t wait to go back in the fall and fish for the browns again though.