Mossy Creek (Home To The Biggest Brown Trout In Virginia)


by Robert Ceran

You drive your vehicle into the little parking space that runs beside the road and spend a few moments admiring the calm and transparent river as it makes its way downstream in a winding path.

You are about to reach the point where you will see a little but well-known bridge. It is nearly as well-known as the creek itself, having been photographed and painted so frequently by fishermen as well as artists.

Mossy creek in virginia

You prepare your fly rod, certain that you won’t have many successful casts on this day despite your best efforts. You could get lucky and catch a large trout today, but it’s unlikely.

It’s best to take this information in stride, though, because you are aware that you are going to be fishing in the Old Dominion’s most challenging and well-known trout stream: Mossy Creek in Augusta County, Virginia.

Mossy Creek: the most famous trout stream in Virginia

Without a doubt, Mossy Creek is the most well-known spring creek in Virginia, and with good reason.

This lovely stretch of trout water, which is almost seven miles long and drains into the North River, is home to some of the biggest brown trout that can be found anywhere in the entire Mid-Atlantic region.

Photo of fly fisherman fishing in Mossy Creek

How huge, you ask? Try anything between five and seven pounds. Because the brown trout in this river are so large, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) will not stock the Mossy with any fish that are less than seven inches long.

This is because trout of a smaller size are easy prey for the huge brown trout that make this river their home.

A restoration success story

However, the presence of large trout in Mossy Creek is only part of the narrative.

In the 1970s, Urbie Nash of the Shenandoah Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited and Larry Mohn, a biologist with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, approached the landowners of Mossy Creek with a proposal for a unique three-way cooperative agreement: Streamside landowners would allow anglers access to their private property, Trout Unlimited would work to improve the habitat of Mossy Creek, which at the time had been completely destroyed by roving cattle.

What ensued was the most successful collaborative effort the state has ever made to promote public trout fishing; the restoration of a stream that would have been lost otherwise; and an example for what can happen when people work together.

Renewed Mossy Creek conservation efforts in 2005

Late in September of 2005, Urbie Nash’s TU Chapter and Larry Mohn showed up in support of Mossy Creek once more.

This time, they did so at the request of a young man, Seth Sprouse, who had not yet been born when the environmentalists had made their initial attempt to save the stream. 

Sprouse had observed the deterioration of the old fence crossings that had been put in place by the creek’s early advocates.

When it came time for Sprouse to design the project that would earn him his Eagle Scout Badge, he was well aware of what was required of him.

He got in touch with a person affiliated with the Shenandoah Valley branch of TU, who then got in touch with Dominion Virginia Power.

On September 21, 2005, Sprouse, members of Shenandoah Valley TU, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF), and more than three dozen employees from Dominion Virginia Power showed up to replace the dilapidated fence crossings with new crossings that were paid for by the power company.

Among other things, this was done to make fishing easier and safer for elderly anglers.

Final remarks

What sets Mossy apart from other creeks in the state is that there is no other stream in the state that has the volume and quality of water that Mossy has and yet it still stays available to the public.

If you want to fish in the area of Mossy Creek that is open to the public, you will need to get a special permit from the landowners and the VDGIF.

Send an envelope that is pre-addressed and postage paid to the Verona Office of the VDGIF at Post Office Box 996 in Verona, Virginia 24482. The permit, which is valid for one year and is free of charge.

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