For years, I have been fishing the Quantico Marine Corps base. In that time, I diligently worked through each of the fishable bodies of water that are listed in the base regulations. The one remaining place I had yet to visit was Cedar Run.
Part of the challenge of getting to Cedar Run is working your way to one of the access points on the Marine Corps base. So, I was excited when I saw that the VDGIF announced it had acquired the Merrimack property north of the base and it turned it into a Wildlife Management Area. The southern border of the management area is Cedar Run. This provided an access point from the north that was much closer to my home than trying to go all the way down to Quantico.
Approaching from the north, you eventually reach the intersection with a sign that announces management area. Follow the arrow pointing to the left to get down to Cedar Run. Although the map shows two parking areas within striking distance of the stream, there is actually only one since the other area, by the Stone House, is behind a locked gate. As I looked at the map of the kiosk, I laid in my plan of attack. I would follow the nice road down to the Stone House and then cut over to the creek from there under the assumption that the creek flowed from north to south. That would allow me to fish upstream back to the truck and have both a good day and obtain a good perspective on this body of water.
Without further ado, I headed towards the Stone House and walked around the lower perimeter looking for a good avenue of attack that would lead to the creek. It turns out that there is an improved trail, the Bluebird trail, that leads toward the creek in a wandering sort of way. I followed it over some wooden planks over a marshy area that transitioned onto a narrow trail surrounded by nettles. Even though I was wearing long trousers, they were the light ripstop nylon fabric I use when I wet wade, the stinging nettle easily penetrated the lightweight fabric. I had to get out my wading staff and beat the nettles back as I proceeded down the path. Therefore, do not come here if you are wearing shorts or you will have a very painful experience.
The Bluebird trail meanders here and there to meet the needs of nature lovers and is not a direct path to the river. You need to be alert for a window through the underbrush where you can see Cedar Run and use it to leave the trail. Your other choice is to shoot an azimuth and just trust that gets you to the water. However, blundering cross country will lead you through the dense stinging nettle, so I recommend you stay alert for an opening and follow the trail. Another option is that the trail eventually runs next to a moist creek bed and you could follow that directly down to Cedar Run if you don’t mind walking through mud. Once I spotted a break in the vegetation, I cut over to the stream.
Cedar Run looks like any central Maryland trout stream. It’s got steep banks, tightly overhanging vegetation, and a languid flow that moves over a bottom it’s a mix of sand and cobble. But this was different from Maryland. The bottom was not smooth. Instead it was like the face of the moon carved out with pockmarks; each of which sheltered much deeper water than the still surface would indicate. It’s as if someone came through with a steam shovel and dug out random holes throughout the entire course of the stream bed.
As it turns out, that’s a good thing. The deep holes provide habitat and holding locations for the smallmouth. Once I figured this out, I would only cast where I believed the water was the deepest. I picked up as many sunfish as I cared to catch, along with decent numbers of 8 to 10 inch smallmouth bass. In fact, it’s amazing to look at the pictures and realize that are that there is a population of smallies in terrain that is this minimal. After all, there’s not much water here and what is there moves at a lazy pace from south to north (I ended up having to fish downstream). I walked back towards my truck, heading downstream, and targeted all the sunken structure at the creek’s edge as well is in the shady areas. In all, it amounted to a good afternoon with plenty of action on a 4wt fly rod.
Bottom Line: While not a tourist destination, if you need a smallie fix on a gentle stream and don’t want to drive all the way to the Rappahannock or the Upper Potomac, you may want to check out Cedar Run in the Merrimack Farms Wildlife Management Area.
Getting There: From I-95, take exit 152B north on Rt 234. Turn left at Bristow road followed by another left on Aden Road. Turn left at Fleetwood Drive. Follow it to at T intersection where you will see the signs that point you towards different parts of the WMA. Go left and follow the road to the parking area.
You do need to be aware of you are as you fish. Once you cross into the Quantico Marine Corps Base, you need a special license.
Google Local Coordinates: 38.62485,-77.532663
Secrets Revealed? No. This is a very public location that is documented on the Virginia VDGIF site
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Date Fished: 5/30/2010
Unless stated otherwise, this article was authored by Steve Moore