With a base elevation above 2,500 feet, The Republic of Floyd offers the perfect habitat for year round fly fishing.
You see, trout have to live in water that is generally below 70 degrees, and our high plateau elevation supports a great number of endemic fishing populations.
Floyd’s aquifers and mountains provide clean cool water, with the gradient to produce rich oxygen and the trees, and meadows to provide cover, spawning beds, and most of all bugs (which us anglers in our infinite wisdom have renamed “flies”) for their food source.
As a long time angler, I think fly fishing is one of the misunderstood sports in the world. Fly fishing is quite simply a cross between conservation, the art of angling and the natural songs of the water. A “fly” is a just handmade imitation of what a trout eats.
Floyd trout are active all year long. They feed 24 hours a day, 365 days a year – and their diet is mainly the small larvae that are born along the banks and under the rocks in the stream bed.
To make this part extra easy (are you paying attention Orvis?)… there are 3 flies that catch 90% of the trout… a prince nymph, a hare’s ear nymph , and a pheasant tail nymph.
Fly casting is like your signature on a letter you write to your Creator… it is really an individual thing… intuitive to learn in five minutes and its goal just softly deliver the fly..
So, there you have it… Not so hard huh?
As far as gear, it is not how much you spend on your gear, but how you use it.
One of my favorite rods is an Eagle Claw I bought for $19.99 in a Floyd hardware store.
If you are starting out, go on the internet, and get the cheapest thing you can get – because a trout only cares about your fly, certainly not the brand name of your gear.
While most people respect the art and poetry of fly casting, trout eat flies based as much on presentation as fly selection… so another hint: cast upstream, fish water at least a foot deep, go slow, and enjoy your self.
It is this Zen of fly fishing is what appeals to me most: the mystery, the cycle, the seasons of life are what grabs me – a world where all things are bound by bugs, water, trees, fields and fish.
Fly fishing shows that we really are all connected… how perfect the balance of life is… how that little bug is really a critical piece of the cycle of life… how beautiful a fish is, and how precious it is to be able to catch a trout with a barbless hook, and gently release him back into his world, which you are just visiting.
One of my favorite things to do in Floyd when I am fly fishing is walk the banks to be present in the moment.
As an angler, you learn the relation of the seasons to the hatches of insects, the length of days, the movement of shadows, the wind, the temperature changes, and the fact that while nature is timeless, your time in it is not.
In the late summer, I love walking the tall grass and seeing squads of grasshoppers shoot away underfoot, reflected in the golden light of an ever shortening day.
In early spring, I notice the birds chirping and diving across the water to pluck the iridescent green drake flies out of the air, knowing this gigantic mayfly has once again hatched in our mountain waterways.
In the dead of winter, the solace of fly fishing is what I like the best.
I have always made a point to fish on December 21st for this reason… knowing tomorrow will be a smidgeon longer, and relishing the drive home through Indian Valley, seeing Christmas lights welcome me back to a warm farm house, and loving family.
In the winter, I will just fish for maybe an hour…almost just to check in with the trout, to bundle up, throw a few flies and call it a day.
On a cold winter’s day, there is something exhilarating about just being outside… it is hard to explain but is reassuring to know that when everything else is dormant, the water is alive with midges, stoneflies, ants and beetles with the mid day hatch of the beautiful blue winged olive mayfly.
In Floyd, we are blessed with an abundance of natural riches, beyond belief.
The Commonwealth of Virginia stocks Goose Creek, The Little River, Howell Creek, Burke’s Fork , Mira Fork, Rush Fork with rainbows and brown trout – but there are myriads of mountain and farm streams everywhere with wild brook trout.
The Floyd angling protocol is simple… wherever you fly fish, you leave the water in better shape than when you got there… If there is trash, you pick it up. If you meet someone on the water, you are friendly, and give them the right of way, since there is so much water to fish.
If you see a creek you want to fish, and you do not have permission to fish it, you leave a note, and say, “If it would be possible, I would like to fly fish on your stream sometime, and I promise to always carry a trash bag with me, and never harvest a fish under any circumstances.”
I make a copy of my driver’s license and leave it with the owner, if I am given permission, and I never take another angler there without permission, and any guest of mine understands they are to never return unless they have the owner’s consent.
Our sport is defined by humility to our water and to each other, and I love fly fishing in Floyd for this season.
It is a sad fact that our culture has changed… and that our streams are not as pristine as they once were, but in Floyd, we stand for something different.
Chances are, if you tell another Floyd County brother or sister you are an angler, they will recommend a choice spot for inspection. Here we can celebrate our past, and know that our future is dependent on how we treat each other, our land, and our water… and our beloved trout.
If you want to discover the best of Floyd County Fly Fishing – the coolest angler I know here is Mike Smith–
He is an author of several great fly fishing books, and is famous in our sport, because of his ability to teach, laugh and love. His Company, Greasy Creek Outfitters is 540.789.7811. Mike knows Floyd’s waters like the back of his hand, and if you are lucky, he may just show you some of his special places, known for the monster trout he protects in our beloved sport of fly fishing.
If you are unsure as to how to proceed, here is your answer…. All you have to do is go to your daughter or son, and ask them if they would like to go a walk, and the rest will take care of itself!
Richard Formato is an angler from the Indian Valley section of Floyd. He is a former member of TEAM USA, a former back to back winner of the Project Healing Waters 2 fly Tournament, former Captain of TEAM USA Midwest. He is a gubernatorial appointee, and Member of the Board of Conservation and Recreation, and a Member of the Board of Trustees of the Shenandoah National Park. He has been featured on the TV Show Familiar Waters numerous times on the Outdoor Channel, and is in his second year at The Harvard Business School.
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FLOYD VIRGINIA publication
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This story was published in Floyd Magazine Fall/Winter 2010 ~Senior Editor Dee Wallace