Monday, June 20, 2011

Bug Chuck'n on the Susie Q

In honor of Father's Day I'd thought I would post some pics on one of the best gifts my wife ever gave... a guided fishing trip though Mossy Creek Fly Fishing back in 2007.  Before the birth of our daughter my wife surprised me with a gift certificate for a full day guided outing with one of the best outfitters on the East Coast. After arranging the date in late August, the guys at Mossy Creek decided that their private stretch of water on Smith Creek, a one mile stream called "The Susie Q," would offer the best chance for some trout fishing.

Dawn breaks on the Susie Q (photo courtesy of Mossy Creek Fly Fishing)
The Susie Q portion of Smith Creek is a mile long, limestone bottomed stream that is fed by several underground springs.  The water is mostly shallow with several riffles and pools that meanders through local farm pastures.  The underground springs that feed the creek help the Susie Q maintain a constant temperature throughout the year which makes it an ideal trout stream.  The stream is private and fish-able only by appointment through Mossy Creek Fly Fishing (both guided and unguided trips are available).  If you go by yourself there is a $70.00 all day fee per angler.

The management of the stream is overseen by Mossy Creek and local landowners.  It is a gorgeous trout habitat that supports very large brown and rainbow trout.  It lies in the heart of the Northern Shenandoah Valley and is surrounded by farmland so the scenery adds to the whole experience.  There are all kinds of aquatic bug hatches in the warmer months and it is an awesome stream to chuck beetle and grasshopper patterns late in the summer.

The Susie Q lies on Smith Creek about a mile south of Lacey Springs, VA.  To get from DC to the water is about a 2 hour drive. (Photo courtesy of Google Maps)
My guide for the day was Curt, a student at the local college (James Madison University).  If there is such a thing as reincarnation I wanna come back as this guy.  College student by day, fly tying bum after class and trout guide on weekends.  Aside from being an expert fly angler Curt was a very patient and knowledgeable teacher.  I lost more than a fair share of his flies to snags and tree limbs but he was OK with it. I learned a lot through his teaching and we had a blast yucking it up between bites.
My guide Curt showing off a nice rainbow that was parked under a willow tree slurping on beetles.
As for rods Curt provided two for me to use.  One was rigged for top water action with floating 5 wt line, 5x tippet and a black Crowe beetle.  The other was the same rod type and line but was rigged for getting lower in the water column with a slip shot weight and a streamer.  We would actually be trying several flies throughout the course of the day but the Crowe beetle and various streamers like the golden retriever seemed to get the best results.  The water was stained due to an evening rain storm but that only added to the fishing as trout are weary in low water and hot August heat.  A little rain can trigger the feeding as a lot of bugs fall into the water or are dredged from the stream bed.  It can really be hit or miss but fortunately for this trip it was all hits. 

Regarding the the Crowe beetle fly that we used, its a custom pattern developed by the owners and operators of Mossy Creek, Colby and Brian Trow.  These guys grew up in the area and are die hard fisherman.  They have experience going after all kinds of trout plus bass and musky.  These guys are constantly guiding people on great water and are also well known for their custom tied flies.  One of their best bugs, the Crowe beetle, is a trout slayer that also does a number on small mouth bass.  Its made mostly of black deer hair on a black hook.  There are over 200+ beetle species in Virginia alone and they are a major diet for fish, especially trout.  The Crowe beetle is a fat little guy that makes a unique sound when slapped on the water - for fish its like a dinner bell.    These guys never seem to have enough in the store because they sell out so fast.
A brown trout that devoured a Crowe beetle. 
What makes Mossy Creek stand out is that they are very professional but also very laid back.  Some fly shops are good on the water but then try and sell you everything in the shop after you shelled out big bucks for the trip.  These guys stand out by providing excellent guide services but also make everyone welcome in the store.  It truly is a hang out spot for fish-heads and newbies alike.  They even have free open houses throughout the year to show off new gear and raffle away tackle.  During these open houses they welcome folks to hang out around the shop, drink a few cold ones and enjoy local BBQ.  They also give free clinics on fly casting and tying flies.  I attended a tying clinic this past winter on tying flies with deer hair - below is one of the bass flies they showed us how to tie. 
This is a Trow custom frog pattern.  It is made from dyed deer hair that is spun onto the hook and trimmed with a razor.  This bad boy takes a pro several hours to make - amazing!

If you would like to visit the guys at Mossy Creek or book one of the guided trips check out their website and Facebook page.  They also have several You Tube videos on fishing trip highlights and tie flying. 
Mossy Creek Fly Fishing
1790-92 East Market Street
Harrisonburg, VA 22801  
Phone: 540.434.2444
Fax: 540.434.2555

As the day was getting warmer so was the bite.
Another nice sized rainbow trout.  The fish on this stream can get about 4 times bigger by the end of the summer.
Yep... is starting to get about 98 degrees with 80 percent humidity at this point.  Gotta love August in VA!
Good release.
A look at Curt's dry fly arsenal.
Trying to be graceful and look cool.... and failing.  Almost fell in trying to net this guy.
A nice rainbow trout.
A pretty bend in the stream.  The foliage on the banks will get to about 4 feet tall by the end of the summer.  Perfect bug habitat for hungry fish.  These guys did a great job turning this farm stream into a trout creek!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

ROADTRIP ! ! ! !

We were fortunate to be able to stay at a friend of the family's cabin in Timberline Resort in Canaan Valley, West Virginia a few weeks back.  This place has been a favorite summer time destination for several years as it is a major fishing location that gets little to no pressure from other weekend warriors.  What made it an even better trip was the weather.  Three straight days of sunny, 80 degree temps with zero humidity.  I was also fortunate to be able to take my brother and some buddies to enjoy the fishing, local hiking trails and the cabin.

Below are some of the photos from the 2011 Kachung Invitational Fishing Tourney.  It was a close race but I was able to pull out the skills to kick butt... that is until a newbie caught a 10 lb monster bass.  The problem was that he was on the other side of the lake alone with no camera so without tangible proof it doesn't count.  :)  I love making up rules as I go along.

For lures we used Zoom brush hogs and baby brush hogs in watermelon candy and watermelon seed colors using red EWG worms hooks in sizes 2/0 & 3/0.  I like red hooks when using creature baits like the brush hog because I believe it looks like a blood trail.  I tend to get better strikes with them as the fish think the lure is wounded and easy prey.  Rods were all medium spinners with 6lb test monofilament line.  For better presentation we used YUM bait attractant.  This is good when you are using sunscreen as the attractant will help mask any unnatural oils from your fingers that might make its way on the lure when rigging.

Here are the different types of brush hogs we used.  They do not mimic anything specific in nature - they are more of a cross between a lizard, frog and crawfish.  For some reason the fish love them and tore them up so much we almost ran out.
This is the baby brush hog.  Notice the wear and tear - this was my last one out of a pack of 12.
Red EWG worm hooks (size 3/0).  The fish hit so hard and frequently they stripped the red paint off the hooks.
My brother catching the first fish of the trip.
My first catch of the trip.  Notice the jealous look coming from my brother.
Boom!  This guy fought for 8 minutes and even rammed me underwater.  He was not happy!
My brother with a yellow perch.
My school buddy 'The General' showing off one of his many fish.  
The General's brother Zack.  He had a great trip but learned quickly to wear a hat when you spend 8+ hours a day on the water!
Captain Kenny showing off.  He caught the monster 10lb bass and discovered the awesome fishing spot across the lake.
My brother tearing up the yellow perch.  Lots of fish in those grass beds.
Timberline Ski Resort in the background.