Virginia’s best trout streams, part one

by Paul on October 13, 2010

Central Virginia is fortunate to have some of the best and most varied trout fishing in the state. Those who live in Charlottesville, Richmond, or the D.C. area can fish these as a day trip – but you’ll want to stay longer!

Rapidan River, Shenandoah National Park, Madison County

This well known river is the site of Rapidan Camp, the first presidential fishing retreat, built by Herbert Hoover ca. 1930. It’s now inside Shenandoah National Park, and can be visited by curious hikers and trout fishers. One of the larger streams in the Park, the Rapidan can be reached from the Criglersville/Syria area of Madison County via an old, sparsely maintained road. It’s well worth the effort. Wild, native brook trout abound in scenery which few places on earth can rival. The Rapidan is also Virginia’s original “Special Regulations” stream. Fishing is catch-and -release only, using single hook artificial lures.

The Rapidan River in Shenandoah National Park

Mossy Creek, Bridgewater, Augusta County

Mossy Creek is not only a wonderful place to fish for trophy brown trout, it’s also a conservation success story and the result of a unique private/public partnership. The Shenandoah Valley’s unique limestone geology results in fertile farmland and unique features such as Natural Bridge and numerous caves and caverns. This same geology gives rise to strong springs and streams throughout the valley, most of which are the headwaters of the Shenandoah River. The limestone bedrock leads to alkaline, food-rich water, ideal for large trout. However, extensive agriculture and livestock grazing often damages these streams making them unsuitable for fish and fishing. In the case of Mossy Creek, a public/private partnership of landowners, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) and the non-profit conservation group Trout Unlimited teamed up to restore the stream and its banks. Brown trout fingerlings were stocked, and soon grew to impressive proportions. The result is a beautiful meadow stream, with good fishing all year ’round. The fishing in these nutrient-rich waters is tough, but rewarding. Special regulations apply. Since the Mossy Creek fishery is on private land, you must get a permission card (free) from the VDGIF office in Verona, either by mail or in person. It’s well worth it!

A large Mossy Creek brown trout. In spite of the picture, wading is not allowed in Mossy Creek. (I kind of fell in!)

Hopefully, this has whetted your appetite for our wonderful local trout fishing. I’ll explore some other great local streams in future installments. To learn more, and for specific map directions and details, I highly recommend these guidebooks, any of which should be available through your favorite bookseller:

Fly Fishing Virginia, a No-Nonsense Guide, by Beau Beasley
Flyfisher’s Guide to Virginia, by David Hart.
Trout Streams of Virginia, by Harry Slone
Trout Fishing in Shenandoah National Park, by Harry Murray.

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