It was one of those rare, warm December days which demanded that I get outside — particularly since the Basswife’s twin sister was coming to visit; an event that provides an automatic kitchen pass. My intent was to go back and fish the North River Gorge since it was stocked a few days earlier. As I stared at the map, I could not get motivated for the 3 hour drive from Northern Virginia that the Gorge would demand. Naturally, my eyes started to slide up the Area 1 trout map in search of places that were closer. I had not been back to Little Stony Creek since 2006 when I was a spin guy. Knowing now that small water trout streams are easier to fish with fly gear, I decided to drive out and give it a shot.
As you can see from my ratings to the right, this location gets mixed reviews. I would’ve rated this as red overall if this trip had occurred during the summer. I did not see any fish nor any evidence of fish. Likewise, I did not see evidence of any other anglers. I know there are fish here and attribute my lack of success to the late season.
This location is easy to find. It is a short drive north from Columbia Furnace to reach the start point. The dirt road leading to the medium-sized parking area is compatible with flatland cars; no 4×4 needed. I pulled into the parking lot at 0800 and was surprised to see three other cars there ahead of me. I had a brief moment of panic and then remembered that we were still in hunting season and the chances of these people also being here to fish the small water that was Little Stony Creek was remote. I did put on my blaze orange hat and vest before I ventured down the well marked trail. I’d rather spook a fish or two than NOT spook a hunter! The map shows the path I followed. I walked down the trail about three quarters of a mile before I cut east to bushwhack over to the creek. It was tough going through the undergrowth and I was glad I had my garden shears with me to clip my way through.
I stepped down the low bank and stood on the edge of the creek and did my usual visual recon up and downstream. It looked as I expected. The creek had plenty of water in it — nothing to distinguish it from any of the streams you would see in the Blue Ridge watershed. The bottom was totally rocky, no sand, and there were numerous boulders providing a scenic backdrop to the creek. One thing you need to be aware of if you fish brookie water during this time of year is to avoid stepping in gravel as a result of the spawn. If you fish at this time of the year, you need to resolve to rock hop and stay out of the water. The stream bed was wide enough to make this easy although I cast an anxious glance at all of the trees that grew over the creek that would make fly casting problematic. I brought my short rod with me in anticipation of a close fight and started to assemble it.
Back at the truck, I put the bottom two and the top two pieces of my four piece rod together to carry them to the stream. With rising panic, I looked at the top section and realized that the tip was missing. It must’ve fallen off in the brush as I fought my way to the stream. Frustrated that I had just walked three quarters of a mile and might be unable to fish, I started to backtrack using the breadcrumbs on my Garmin GPS. The angels in heaven must have been looking out for me because I found the missing tip about 30 yards back. With a small prayer of gratitude, I returned to the creek and decided to rig a size 16 green weenie. I did not see any bugs flying around, so I assumed I would have to stay under the surface. I decided not to go with nymphs because I’m just not good enough to fish those in small water.
The next challenge was to find a pool big enough to fish. I walked upstream and discovered pools with the right characteristics are few and far between. In the track shown on the map, I only found five or six places big enough to merit flipping the fly. Now, I’ve never caught a trout between December 1 and February 28 and today was not going to break that trend. This ended up being more of a reconnaissance than a fishing expedition with the first discovery being that this is very tough walking.
While I entered the creek where the banks widened out, they become high, steep and close as you move north. You will crawl around trees and over rocks to move upstream. While it’s easy to get out of the bed since there are plenty of foot and handholds, you are definitely channeled into the stream bed with no easy and quick way to move from spot to spot. If you decide to hike in here, there are two improved campsites that I ran across on the west side of the stream bed close to the parking lot.
Bottom line: While this was a pretty spot, I’ll have to trust Harry Murray when he says that Little Stony Creek is “an excellent wild brook trout stream“. He points out that the Little Stony season is from March through November and I was clearly outside of that window. Additionally, the fact that I was wearing blaze orange made it pretty difficult to sneak up on anything. If the fish are skittish here, as all brook trout are, that may be the key reason I had no success. Based on Harry’s recommendation, if you like pursuing little brookies, this may be a good spot for you when it warms up.
Getting There: Head north out of Columbia Furnace on Rt 675. Turn right on Johnstown Road (Rt 608) which comes up pretty quick as you will be distracted looking at the water on Big Stony Creek which runs next to Rt 675. Follow Johnstown Road for a little over 2 miles and then turn left to stay on Johnstown. Follow it for another 3+ miles to get to the creek. The parking area is obvious on the left side of the road right after you go across the bridge across the creek.
Google Local Coordinates: 38.937548,-78.645759
Looking upstream from southern point (entry)
There were a few nice pools like this one
Most of the stretch looked like this
Shallow pools was the rule of the day
The deepest one I found
But… the scenery is nice
Unless stated otherwise, this article was authored by Steve Moore