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03/03 - Destination File - Mossy Creek Trout

By: Harry Hoots III

One of Virginia's premiere limestone spring creek offers anglers outstanding trophy brown trout fly fishing year round
Nestled in the Northern corner of Virginia lies one of the state's most unique cold water, fly fishing treasures, Mossy Creek. Tucked away in the Allegheny Highlands, this spring creek offers anglers approximately three miles of outstanding public fly-fishing only water.

The identifying characteristic of Mossy, which makes it stand out from other trout streams in the state, is that it is limestone based. Fed by a large limestone spring near Mount Solon, the stream meanders its way slowly through private cow pastures and farm lands. Characterized by clear, aquatic vegetation filled waters, this 15-foot wide stream is reminiscent of the popular limestone spring creeks of central Pennsylvania.

Although Mossy creek is a quality trophy brown trout stream today, it was once a less than desirable fishing destination. The stream had suffered from the effects of the local cattle farms which surround it. During the mid-1970's, Trout Unlimited took notice of Mossy Creek's state and began a program to enhance the stream to its full potential. This joint program between land owners and TU included building fences to help keep livestock out of the stream and constructing wooden turnstiles to facilitate anglers crossing fences without harm.

The Rules

Mossy Creek is currently listed as a trophy trout stream with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF); thus it only requires a state fishing license and not an additional Virginia trout fishing license. Furthermore, a signed land owner permit is also required, and must be carried in the angler's possession while fishing. These permits can be obtained for free by sending a self addressed, stamped envelope to VDGIF, Verona Office, P.O. Box 996, Verona, VA, 24482.

Angling on Mossy Creek is restricted to fly-fishing only with a single hook, artificial fly. The creel limit is one fish greater than 20 inches per day. All fish measuring less than 20 inches must be released immediately without harm back into the water. No bait may be possessed on the water, and anglers are not allowed to wade while fishing. Anglers should read and adhere to these rules and all others printed on the back of the landowner permit.

The Gear

A good, all-around rod for fishing dry flys, nymphs, and streamers on this stream should consist of a four to six weight rod in the nine to 10 foot length paired with a sturdy reel loaded with plenty of backing. Longer rods are a must to get the casting distance and drift one needs to tempt Mossy's big brown trout into taking a fly. Jim Finn, owner of Mossy Creek Fly Shop, suggests another alternative by using one of the modern one weight rods when fishing dry fly hatches. Finn commented, "I fish a one weight because the line hitting the water doesn't hit much heavier than monofilament".

Leaders should be hefty enough to fight a trophy class fish, as well as long enough not to spook the fish. Anglers should also carry a long handled net since Mossy has a no wading rule, and landing fish can be difficult. Due to high grass and marshy banks, a pair of hip waders are a must when navigating the stream despite the no wading rule.

The Flys

Choosing flies for Mossy creek depends greatly on the time of year you plan on visiting the stream. Due to the cold water makeup of Mossy creek, predictable hatches come off throughout the year. Finn relayed that, "Trico's begin around Memorial Day and are done by Halloween, Sulfers happen from mid-spring through mid-summer, and small Blue Wing Olives come off just about all year round". Anglers fishing during these times of year should prepared to match the hatch with size 14 to 24 flys.

The summer and early fall months at Mossy are when grasshopper, and cricket patterns are a must have. Surrounded by open, grassy fields, the stream offers prime opportunities to cast imitation terrestrials amongst the real McCoys. Larger hopper and cricket patterns, especially parachute variations in sizes six to 12 in the 3X length, work well and are easy to view.

Other good bets at Mossy are streamer patterns. "The biggest baits in Mossy are sculpins and crawfish", explained Finn. Mimicking these baits is a good way to catch some of Mossy's larger trout. Muddler Minnows, Woolley Buggers, and Crawfish patterns in sizes four to 12 are good choices to fish the deeper pools and channels.

Nymphs can be tough to fish at Mossy due to the plentiful grasses of this limestone stream. When fishing them, focus on open channels, and deeper pools. Productive patterns include small pheasant tails, prince nymphs, and brassies.

The Techniques

A majority of Mossy's fish range from eight to 15 inches, but the potential to catch fish exceeding 20 inches is definitely there. Anglers should practice up on their dry fly drifts before heading to Mossy. The large grass beds, and no-wading rule make drift quite difficult in places, however, with a longer rod the stream is open to back casts. When fishing Mossy, anglers should look for rising fish on the surface and try to match the hatch. If surface action isn't happening, try probing the deeper pools, undercut banks, and channels with streamers, wet flys, or nymphs.

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