Last spring, I visited the put and take section of Passage Creek and, while it is a beautiful stretch of water, it is hammered to near extinction based on its location close to a number of population centers. I knew what I was getting into but felt obligated to return to Passage Creek and investigate the delayed harvest section near the fish hatchery – maybe it would be different. So, when I read that this stretch had been recently stocked as part of the fall program, I waited a few days for the fish to settle down and headed out.
The “parking area” is a wide spot on the road near the Passage Creek Bridge . I’m not sure, but I assume you cannot park on the fish hatchery grounds so that limits the space available to the pulloffs at the side of the road near the bridge. There is room for about four trucks there; I was the second one to pull in at around 8 AM on a Friday. Just as I was gearing up, an individual who must’ve been a stock truck volunteer drove up and asked me if I’d seen the stock truck leave. I told him it left a few minutes ago and then prodded for some advice on which direction to fish. He recommended I work my way upstream to the dam as there would be more water in that direction. Never one not to take advice, I crossed over the road and crawled down into the creek for my first anxious looks up and downstream.
Not much water! I wouldn’t call it a trickle but whatever the next noun or adjective is that describes an upgrade from that condition would match what I saw. The bones of the creek were sticking up and you could see more rocks than water. With that, I assumed my day would be spent fishing pocket water. I was totally surprised when I walked by the first “relatively” deeper spot about 20 yards up from the bridge. I saw a bunch of good-sized trout scatter in a desperate search for shelter in a puddle that offered up none. It’s the spot under the tree in the picture below. The fish were here! Time to get cautious! I began a slow, careful walk upstream throwing a BWO pattern at any spot that appeared to be deep from a downstream perspective. I have to admit that I did waste a lot of time carefully fishing flat water that was only inches deep but I would rather do that than spook another big pod of fish.
Sadly, that deep hole was the only one that I encountered until I got within sight of the small dam. Right below it, about 20 yards down from the spillway, there’s a nice deep spot – two or 3 feet – where the water breaks over the last set of rocks and crawls into the pool. I initially used terrestrial patterns and the BWO. No action on those. When I switched to streamers, I started to pick up some hits and caught two nice trout on a Patuxent Special. By that point in the day, other fishermen started to arrive.
There were two people who wandered down from the dam and one who came up from the fish hatchery jfollowing the same path as I used. We exchanged the normal pleasantries and, since I had been sitting on this particular hole for about a half an hour, I gave it up and headed up to take my shot at the dam.
The dam is pretty nice. It backs up a long pool that wraps around the corner. I gave it a few flips but just had the feeling that there wouldn’t be anything moving in this water given that two people had just finished whipping it. Sensing that the later it became, the more fishermen would show up, I decided to walk back to the truck and move to another spot. As I left the dam, I was surprised to discover an extremely overgrown roadbed that eventually runs right into the road near the fish hatchery. This must be how they stock this stretch of the river. A stock truck could run up that path and still not be all that far from the water, facilitating the stocking; especially if they had volunteers participating with them. You may want to use this as a path to move right to the dam and skip the other water.
When I got back down near the truck, I fished the tree hole for a least a half an hour, but those fish were wise to the ways of the thousands of fly fisherman who they had seen since being dumped into their little blop of water near the bridge. On my way out, I chatted with another fly fisherman and he recommended that I go try Hawksbill as they had just stocked it in the past week.
Bottom line: It’s really a shame that Passage Creek is located where it is. It’s such a nice, pretty stretch of water but it is doomed to always be crowded based on its proximity not only to Washington DC but also Winchester, Front Royal and Luray — all are within an easy drive. I imagine the beauty of the stream serves as an additional attractant to the area’s fishermen. I know I need to come back at some point and fish downstream from the hatchery to see if the character of the water changes. However I think I’ll wait until next spring when the water levels and the density of fish stocked are both higher. If you don’t mind fishing in a crowd, Passage Creek is an acceptable destination for you.
Getting There: From Front Royal, go west on Rt 55. Turn left onto Fort Valley Road (Rt 678). Follow it for a bit and turn left on Rt 619. There is a sign at the intersection of 678 and 619 that directs you to the hatchery. Follow 619 until you cross Passage Creek. Pull of on the hatchery side of the bridge. There is parking on the side of the road on both sides.
Google Local Coordinates: 38.948903,-78.296428
Secrets Revealed? No. This is a very public location that is documented in the following places:
Upstream from entry point. There was a pool under that leaning tree that was full of stockers
Looking downstream from the entry point
Generic shot – not much water
I was excited to see this pool until I discovered it was only inches deep
There were three other guys here the Friday I fished – I can’t imagine how busy this is on the weekends
The pool above the small dam.
Unless stated otherwise, this article was authored by Steve Moore