In his book, Flyfisher’s Guide to Virginia, David Hart points out that Big Marys Creek is a good alternative to the St. Mary’s river if St. Mary’s is crowded. Following his clear directions, I turned onto FR 104 and headed into the wood. After paralleling the creek for a short distance, the road quickly turns to run along the ridge line. In short order, you can’t see Big Marys Creek, but you can hear it. In fact, you will become more than a little nervous at the precipitous drop to your right as you continue to drive farther into the woods on the dirt road leading up to the Blue Ridge.
While I’m not averse to hiking, I was not motivated to do mountain climbing. Therefore, I continued up the road until I could see the creek again. I pulled over, geared up and walked down the more gradual hill for a short distance to eventually join the creek.
It’s a good-looking body of water. In early April, there was plenty of flow across the boulder strewn rocky bottom. In fact, it looks good in both directions– putting me in a quandary of making that critical call — “fish up or downstream?” I looked downstream and, in the distance, I could see where the creek pitched down a steep grade and entered into the narrow valley that created the obstacle protecting the creek from an attack from the road. Therefore, I began to walk downstream; noting the pools that I would fish on the way back up. The farther and farther down I walked, the better it got. But, it was tough bushwhacking next to the creek. I eventually noticed an overgrown road to the right about midway up the ridge line between the creek and the road. I scrambled up to it and used it as the faster avenue of approach to get downstream. All the while, I kept an eye on the water to see where I should fish.
Rounding a sharp cliff, I encountered an old campsite and realized that there must be an easier way to get here. In fact, as I looked downstream, it was clear that this was the premium section of Big Mary Creek. Jumping ahead to the end of the story, there is a trail leading from a turnout on the road that is an easy walk to get to this spot.
I had tied on a mosquito pattern given that there was an “hatch” in progress and figured if they were buzzing around my eyes as thickly as they were then perhaps the fish were feeding on them as well. When they didn’t work out, I tied on a small Adams. I tried flipping it out into the water but could not see it with the glare of the rising sun. Rather than tie on a small piece of orange yarn indicator, I decided to switch to nymphs. In short order, I picked up a few tiny brookies. While they were as beautiful as they were small. One was about 3 inches and the other 4. I was plumbing the depths, such as they were, to get them.
Satisfied that I found a good new stream that was not totally inaccessible since it is reachable via short walk from the dirt road, I decided to call it a day here and move up to fish St. Mary’s River.
Bottom Line: Big Marys Creek is a keeper. The next time I come here, I will park where I can walk down to that improved campsite and expend the energy climbing down the mountain on the trail that moves east. It appears that the trail goes a significant distance and then drops down to the creek where you can fish all the good pools that are created by the rapid drop in elevation.
Getting There: Get off of I-81 at exit 205 and head east towards Steele’s Tavern on Rt 606. At the intersection with US-11, turn left and then right again on VA-56. Follow VA-56 until it turns left at the junction with Rt 608. Continue straight onto Rt 608 and follow it to FS 104. When FS 104 forks, take the left fork to get to the upper section of the creek.
Google Local Coordinates: 37.875726,-79.210138
Secrets Revealed? No. This is a very public location that is documented in the following places:
Date Fished: 4/7/2010
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Upstream from where I hit the creek
Downstream from my start point… the drop off in the distance called me in that direction
The creek quick become scenic with nice pools as it dropped down the valley
A little crawling involved to get to some spots
Typical elevation drop
The trail / road leaving to continue downstream
Picture perfect setting
Upstream from the start point, the water starts to get skinny.
Unless stated otherwise, this article was authored by Steve Moore