Where: Rose River Farm, outside Syria Virginia.
When: Saturday, April 18, 2009 – all day
Water Temperature: Estimate 42-50 °F
Permits: $85 per person, plus VA fishing permit
Catch: 17 jumbo rainbows 18″-24″ (plus a dozen that broke off my line)
Access: Excellent – hip waders are useful
Well, I am now officially spoiled. It will be a little harder to go in search of crafty 8″ native brook trout after a full day of catching the enormous stocked rainbow trout at Rose River Farm!
For $85 per person, you can book a trip to Rose River Farm. I booked my spot online through the Albemarle Angler a couple months ago. While there is no guide or instructor included in the price, it gets you a full day (sunrise to sundown) of fishing on a mile-stretch of extremely well stocked waters and a guarantee that there will be at most 3 other people fishing that day. There has clearly been a lot of work put into this water, which is a mile of perfectly formed pools, riffles, ledges and deep pockets set amidst a very scenic farm setting. Although I normally reserve my “green smiley” scenery rating for wilderness areas, this place was so quiet and relaxing that I had to give it a top score.
I got to the farm first thing in the morning where I was met by a friend, and the two of us started fishing by about 7AM. I wanted to make sure we were there early before the day warmed up and the fish stopped feeding…but as it turns out they never stopped feeding all day long, so next time I may sleep in for another hour!
There was no sign of the other two fishermen when we got there, so we decided to head all the way to the downstream border of the property and start working our way up towards the gazebo in the middle. We actually wound up on that half of the river for the entire day, and never really bumped into the other two, who stayed on the portion upstream of the gazebo all day.
There were nice pools every two hundred feet or so, and the river was around 15 to 20 feet wide for the most part. While most of the river was a couple feet deep (and wadeable without going over the tops of my hip waders) there were plenty of deeper pockets where literally dozens of large rainbow trout were hanging out.
These fish were not easily spooked at all; there was no need to approach the river on hands and knees. In fact, we could basically pass different flies over the trout until we found what they were looking for. After finding the magic fly for that particular pool (usually some form of woolly bugger on this day, with the occasional fish caught on a blue quill dry), we could generally catch 4 or 5 trout before they became wary and it was time to move on.
What the trout lacked in smarts, they more than made up for in fight. Most of the fish we caught were between 16″ and 24″ and put up amazing fights. Several of them jumped a couple feet in the air while we fought them in, and all of them bent my little 3-weight rod all the way to the water. I probably lost more fish than I caught when they snapped my leader/tippet right off. Once I switched from a 5x tippet to a 4x tippet I solved that problem.
Believe it or not, by 4:00 we had satisfied our craving for catching giant rainbow trout and decided to call it a day. The other two anglers were doing the same, and reported they had just as much luck as we did, but the magic fly for them had been a purple-colored copper-head nymph. While I was tempted to stay longer to see what kind of feeding frenzy dusk brought on, I had a 2-hour drive ahead of me and a pretty good sunburn developing.
This place was amazing. While $85 may seem like a lot for a day of fishing, it is a whole lot cheaper than flying out West, which is probably one of your only other options for catching fish like this. The only other place in the DC area I’ve been to with fish this size was The Greenbrier, but that comes with a several hundred dollar a night hotel charge, and while the fish there were just as large, they didn’t put up the same fight as the rainbows here at Rose River Farm.
I am already trying to figure out what day to book when they reopen in the fall (Closed June 15 -mid-September ), and will probably make this a twice-a-year trip from now on.
I have not included exact directions to Rose River Farm. I’m assuming that if they wanted this information on the internet they would have put it on their own web page. With a little web searching you can find its location (near Syria, VA), or you can book a trip and they will email you directions. If you have ever fished the Hughes, Whiteoak Canyon or Rose River from the lower boundary of Shenandoah you have probably driven right past it.
The Rose River Farm official web site
Switchfisher’s Trip Report