I could probably end this review right here by directing your attention to the picture on the right.
What? Want more?
River Valley Farm (formerly called River Bend Farm) sits on 2 miles of the North River near Bridgewater, Virginia. Of that, 1 mile (of the 2 total miles) was available for fishing on the day I visited as a result of the conditions. Following the easy directions from Mossy Creek Fly Fishing, I crossed the bridge that marked the upper boundary of the fishable stretch, turned left onto the rough dirt track and drove all the way to the end to begin my great day. Before I get into that, I need to set the baseline.
River Valley is a catch and release, barbless fishery. A key aspect that increases the attractiveness of this water is that the owner limits access on any particular day to single groups of three or more. Individual anglers could be booked with one to two other fishermen. Immediately, this establishes strong controls on the pressure the fish experience. Even if you go by yourself, you share 2 miles of river with 2 other guys. Couple this with the fact that that pressure is spread over 2 miles of fishable water under normal conditions, targeting fish who are not overly spooky or skitterish. That’s not to say that you don’t have to be careful as you wade your way up the river, but these fish may not be totally educated on what’s available from the Orvis catalog – which makes this a perfect place for a guy like myself. I’ve been in some places where the fish are so smart that they can tell you the page in the catalog or the URL where you can pick up a particular fly. This is not that type of place.
I fished here on November 10th and was cautioned that the river was “not in great shape” – in fact, we were there when it was at the “worst possible condition”. I guess that’s in the eye of the professional beholder because I did not see anything wrong with what stretched out in front of me as I crawled out of the truck at 7:30 in the morning. The river is generally wide and reasonably deep. In most places, it came up to my knees but also ranged to waist deep and above in the deeper holes. I’m sure that in the spring both width and depth improves. If there was any negative associated with the low water conditions, it was that the shallow water allows algae/snot to grow on the bottom. This made fishing nymphs difficult as they would rapidly accumulate crud bumping along the bottom. As a result of that, I stuck with streamers and dry flies for the entire day. I did not notice any decline in my catch rate as a result of that – in fact, that “handicap” may have improved my luck.
Within 15 minutes of starting, I pulled my first beast out of the cold water. 15 minutes later, I duplicated the feat. There are big fish here, they are active and full of fight. As I worked my way up the river, I continued to pick up fish with astonishing regularity – missing far more with my panicked hooksets than I landed. Once the sun started to warm the water, the trout were more interested in surface action than the streamers (woolly bugger and Patuxent Special) I was throwing at them. They would slam into terrestrials, Adams, and BWOs with absolute abandon. Hooking any of these guys resulted in a fight of several minutes to bring them to hand on the light tippet I was using.
In mid-afternoon, a hatch exploded over the water and we could see fish rising all around us. I stood back and watched for a bit as small brown bugs flew haphazardly and randomly over the water. Whenever one would hit the water, he would instantly be swept into the current and, within a few feet, into the mouth of a waiting trout. After matching the hatch, my catch rate improved and was only limited by how many casts I could make (ok… clearly a little bit of hyperbole here… after all, when would that statement not be true? If you don’t cast, you don’t catch). But, the experience was absolutely spectacular!
Once the hatch ended, the action fell off but I continued to fish to maximize my time on such a nice body of water. Along about 4:30, I was walking back to the truck when I heard a strangled cry from my fishing buddy, Jim. Believing he was in trouble, I ran over to where he was fishing and stopped dead in my tracks at the sight of the monster trout he had just landed. This was the biggest guy I had seen all day. Jim was in a desperate panic to both get a picture and get this guy back into the water. I whipped out my camera, grabbed a shot and we watched it swam away with no ill effects.
Re-energized, I moved about 50 yards downstream and began to fish my way back up. Jim decided to end on a high note, so he headed back to the car to pack up. I continued to fish my way upstream and just as I heard his car door slam shut and the engine kick on, I tied into the Loch Ness monster of the North River. Yelling frantically, I tried to get him to stop so he would be in position to admire this massive fish and take the requisite picture. Unfortunately, he was already bumping down the trail; leaving me to fight this monster unsupervised.
I caught the monster on a Patuxent Special using 5X tippet. This was the biggest trout I had ever caught my life and I was not about to lose him. Seconds stretched into what seemed like minutes as I gently worked him closer and closer to me. Finally, I was able to slip him into the net and instantly transitioned into my well-rehearsed quick picture drill. Within 30 seconds, I snapped the required picture and gently eased him back into the river. Now that was the perfect end to a great day! Using math and extrapolating from the length of my finger in the picture, this trout was the least 26 or 27 inches long and probably weighed close to 7 1/2 pounds.
Bottom line: The rod fee to fish in 2008 was $60. In my mind, given the fantastic experience I had, this is a deal that is almost too good to be true. Given the cost, I certainly can’t come back here very often, but I will be back and strongly recommend it to anyone who needs to turn whatever dim memories they may have of catching large trout into a realized reality.
Finally, if this experience was based on “worst possible conditions”, imagine what it would be like under normal times!
View back up to the bridge from the bottom of the property
Upstream from the southern entry point.
Typical River Valley trout
This is not remote. There are a few houses on the opposite side of the river
The river is fairly wide and was easy to wade when I was here
Another view of the river – even the shallow places held fish
Another view of the river
I was not the only guy to strike gold – Jim caught and released this hog as well.
Unless stated otherwise, this article was authored by Steve Moore