Game Plan for Summer 2017

Oh the changing of the seasons, I cannot explain to you how eager I have been for summer weather. To hell with Fall, Winter, and Spring! This past trout season has been one of my worst; from very crowded streams, to piss poor stocking by the VDGIF, and snapping the tip off of my Recon rod, I am very ready for warm water fishing. I haven’t given up on trout altogether, but there is some remarkable feeling about being out on a kayak in the middle of the river, fishing for various fish, that I have been missing since last Fall.


Luckily here in the Roanoke Valley the capability for kayak fishing and warm water fishing is outstanding. Not only do we have the Roanoke River right in our back yard, but we also have the New River, the James River, Smith Mountain Lake, Claytor Lake, Carvins Cove, and several large streams within a reasonable driving range, that hold a large variety of warm water fish. I am stoked to say the least.

This summer I am dedicating my time to knocking out as many warm water “Trophy-sized fish” as I can in order to get my Master Angler award from the state of Virginia. If you have never checked out this program that the state of Virginia is offering you should, it seems like an exceptional way to get Virginian’s fishermen, which are in a set selection of fish, to fish for other species around the state. The only rule that I am imposing on myself for this goal is that I can only achieve this award by using fly fishing gear only. Sorry spin fishermen I will never go back to the dark side of fishing again.


After studying the criteria for Virginia’s “Trophy-sized fish” I came to the realization that several levels of the Master Angler Award can definitely be achieved by a fisherman here in the Roanoke Valley with very little travel involved. The only exception will probably be trout; more than likely a person will have to travel to a spring creek or a mountain river (Jackson River or North River) in order to find a large trout during the summer months.


So here are my ideas (feel free to correct me if I am wrong or if I am missing anything):

Smallmouth Bass: New River or the James River

Largemouth Bass: Local Ponds, Claytor Lake, and Smith Mountain Lake

Striped Bass: Smith Mountain Lake and Roanoke River

Hybrid Striped Bass: Claytor Lake

Rock Bass: New River, the James River, Smith Mountain Lake, and Claytor Lake

White Bass: Smith Mountain Lake

Chain Pickerel: Pandapas Pond and maybe Carvins Cove (I will need to research Carvins Cove more)

Crappie: the New River and the James River

Musky: New River or the James River (this I will have to watch because of water temps, I don’t want to kill them)

Sunfish: Any stream or river around Roanoke

Carp: Any river or lake around Roanoke

Walleye: the New River, the James River, the Staunton River (the Staunton River is 1 hour 40 mins away from Roanoke)

Brook Trout: holed up, big brookies stocked in the Roanoke River. Also any state fee fishing area (i.e. Crooked Creek or Wilson Creek)

Brown Trout: Mossy Creek and the North River in Harrisburg. Any river that might have hold overs in it, and also any state fee fishing area (i.e. Crooked Creek or Wilson Creek)

Rainbow Trout: Mossy Creek and any stream/river that might have hold overs. Also any state fee fishing area (i.e. Crooked Creek or Wilson Creek).

Hopefully by the end of the Summer I will have achieved at least one level, maybe even two. Even if I do not achieve any levels this summer, I am going to fun, challenge myself, and better my current knowledge as a fisherman here in Virginia and I implore each of my readers to do the same this summer. If you do not currently live here in Virginia check your current state’s programs, hopefully they will have something similar to this program.


Master Angler Program

Trophy Fish Size Chart



In short, Luck’s always to blame.

Six months ago I almost ruined my entire ’16-’17 trout season. On a late summer day last year I asked one of my buddies to go fishing with me on one of our off days, both of us were looking for a nice end of the summer trophy fish. He mentioned Mossy Creek and the New River, while I suggested the Jackson River and the James River. All four of these places have citation fish caught each year out of them, however the problem that we were both stumbling over was that the odds of us both catching a trophy sized fish, on the same day, out of the same body of water was just damn near impossible unless we travelled outside the state of Virginia.

Over the past four years I attribute catching a lot of my citation trout on being vigilant to watching the stocking reports and putting myself in the right situation to catch a citation, but realistically I attribute my citations to being lucky. Hell I know my citation smallmouth bass was without doubt luck because it was the only fish I caught that whole day. So trying to figure out a place that both my buddy and I could be in the right situation, to have the right conditions, and to have luck smile on us at the same time was definitely a quandary. Luckily I had heard of one place that would provide us with such a chance; Cedar Springs Fish Farm.

Smallmouth Bass Citation New River

I had heard about Cedar Springs from several different people I work with and from several fishing guides that I knew in the area. There general consensus was that Cedar Springs was just an amazing place to fish. I know a lot of people frown upon fishing farm fisheries, but sometimes as a fisherman you just need to have that one day to be able to catch a monster fish and farm fisheries provide you with that chance. Also some days you just want it to be more about the trip, to enjoy the surroundings and just relax without being crowded.  Simply put Cedar Springs Fish Farm provides all of this.


Cedar Springs Fish Farm, which is nestled just outside of the small town of Rural Retreat, VA (near Wytheville) is a wonderfully large farm, running through the farm’s interior is Cripple Creek; a medium sized freestone creek with large, deep holes. Although the State of Virginia feels that the minimum stocking size of a trout should be 7 inches, Cedar Springs doesn’t feel this is adequate, they do not stock anything below 15 inches.  Add in the fact that Cedar Springs only allows 6 anglers on the farm per day, you end up having all of the right conditions to potentially have a perfect day.

Potts Creek Rainbow – Damn near citation

What I found to be truly special about Cedar Springs is that you still have to fish it like any other creek. It is not easy fishing, you have to work for every fish you put to net; from targeting a big fish, to casting your line so it doesn’t spook the fish, to proper drift management.  You will have to use all of your skills to catch a fish at Cedar Springs.

Not only did my buddy and I catch several trophy trout that day, but also my buddy’s dad, who was a late addition to our party, also caught several trophy rainbow trout.  In the end it was one of those days that all three of us will remember and be able to look back and smile on.  However like I said at the very beginning, that day almost ruined my trout season for this year. The very last rainbow trout I caught that day was a monster; just looking at this fish a person will realize it truly was a fish of a life time. Unfortunately no one in our party had enough sense to bring a measuring tape on our trip. I had to wait until I got back to Roanoke to measure it. Honestly that drive back from Cedar Springs to Roanoke was euphoria mixed with gut wrenching dread. I could not get over the fact of how huge that rainbow was, I dreaded learning how big it actually was, knowing that catching a fish like it again in any of Virginia’s streams was going to be hard accomplishment. My personal best for a rainbow trout is 24 inches, I caught that fish during the ’15-’16 season out of Big Stony Creek in Giles County. Fortunately after I measured the Cedar Springs monster rainbow I was completely euphoric, it only measured in at the minimum citation limit of 22 inches – my trout season was safe, and with a little luck, there was still hope of finding a fish in Virginia’s streams that could equal it without it coming from a fishery.

Cedar Springs, Cripple Creek Monster 22″ Citation


Side Note:

I just wanted to relay something that I only became aware of over the past week. I knew that the state of Virginia awards certificates for each citation an angler catches, what I did not know is that the State of Virginia also keeps up with every citation and upon catching 5 citations of different species of fish (ex. rainbow trout, brown trout, brook trout, smallmouth bass, and musky) the state will award that angler a Master Angler award (which is a certificate and badge). There are four different levels, each with its separate requirements. Personally I think this is a very cool thing that the state of Virginia does, because it forces anglers to get out after other species that normally they wouldn’t even consider fishing for.

Roanoke River Brook Trout – Damn near citation
Big Stony Creek, Giles County Rainbow Trout Citation 24″

Potts Creek


Stream Category: A

Wild Fish: Rainbow, Brown, Smallmouth Bass, and Bluegill


  • Dry Flies: Pheasant Tail, Sulfur, Adams, Royal Wullf, Green Drake, Terrestrials, and Attractors
  • Nymphs : Pheasant Tail, Hares Ear, Soft Hackles, Prince, Zebra, Green Drake, and Tellico
  • Streamers: Wooly Buggers, Muddler Minnow,  and Leech Patterns
  • Rod: 7’-9’
  • Waders: Yes
  • Net: Yes
  • Polarized fishing sunglasses

Casting: Roll, Side, and Back



If you are looking for a remote spot to fish, miles away from anything or anyone, then Potts Creek is the place to go. Located in Craig County, Virginia near the town of Paint Bank, Potts Creek is a bit bipolar when you talk about its characteristic’s. Within the four mile stretch of stocked water this stream goes from a meandering field stream to a rocky freestone mountain stream. Needless to say when you fish Potts Creek you need to have a plan of attack.

The easiest way to approach fishing at Potts Creek is to break the stream down into two sections; the Butch Fields Section and the Steel Bridge Section. By doing this you can eliminate certain elements, such as parking and posted land, that could hinder your day fishing at Potts Creek and it will also help you when it comes to planning what to bring.


The Butch Fields Section is a fairly wide area that can be best describe as a field stream. The water here is slow moving and often not that deep hitting just below the knees. In fact in this area the deepest water you will find will be located along the banks of the stream where trees have fallen or where the stream has washed away the roots of a tree. When fishing this area bring a small fly rod, dry flies, non-weighted nymphs, and a few streamers. Do not use a large suspension device in this area, instead use a large terrestrial or attractor fly combined with a smaller nymph dropper or a yarn strike indicator and a small nymph. Pay close attention to any surface activity and make sure you hit the deep holes with some streamer action.


The Steel Bridge Section of Potts Creek is a typical mountain stream area and it is my favorite section of Potts Creeks. From the day use parking area you will find a small trail that leads to the creek, once at the creek you will find a hole that is easily 5’-6’ deep and 20 yards long. The water here moves very slowly but it holds monstrous trout, honestly you could easily spend your entire day just fishing this one hole and have great day fishing. However if you continue fishing down the stream from this hole you will find areas that are just as prime as this one. Just below this hole is an area that is nothing but a slate rock riffle/rapids area that holds trout in almost every deep rapid. And on below here the stream settles back down into a freestone mountain stream with flat deep areas. If you don’t feel like walking down the slate riffles you can always fish the area near the parking lot and then walk thru the campground to get to the freestone area. For all of these sections I use my 9’ rod, dry flies, and nymphs. If the fish are not hitting top water dry flies I stick to a multi (weighted) nymph rig and a suspension device. The size of the suspension device will be dictated by how deep you need to get your nymph, but really you could use a small thingamabobber throughout the whole section and be fine.


Additional Notes and Precautions:

This area is located in the Jefferson National Forrest and because of its seclusion one must keep in mind back country safety issues. There is little to no cell phone service here, I would highly recommend telling a friend or a relative that you are going here and a general time you will be back. Likewise make sure you bring plenty of water, some non-perishable food, and a med kit in case of an emergency (the closest hospital is over an hour away). Lastly, I suggest bringing bear mace because you will be in area that bears are known to be in.

Additionally here are a few places of interest you can stop by in Paint Bank if you have enough time; the General Store, the State Fish Hatchery, and the Buffalo Farms on VA-600.



From Main Street Blacksburg:

Turn on to E Roanoke St; make slight left onto Owens St, Turn Right on Harding Ave/VA-785. Continue to follow VA-785N for 13.1 miles. Turn left onto State Rte. 697 then turn right onto VA-624. Follow VA-624 for 4.5 miles. Turn left onto VA-311 N and follow it for 28.3 miles until you get to Paint Bank. Potts Creek will be the stream you pass over. Turn right on to VA-18 N and you can start fishing from here.

From I81 in Roanoke:

Take exit 141 for VA-419 toward VA-311 N/Salem/New Castle. Turn left on to VA-419 N, then turn right onto VA-311 N. Follow VA-311 N for 35.6 miles until you get to Paint Bank. Potts Creek will be the stream you pass over. Turn right on to VA-18 N and you can start fishing from here.