Two Spring-Fed Creeks In West Virginia

Two Spring-Fed Creeks In West Virginia

Editor's Note: West Virginia contains just a handful of fly-fishing-only streams. Among these are Second Creek and Milligan Creek, a pair of spring-fed

  • By: Jeff Cupp
Editor's Note: West Virginia contains just a handful of fly-fishing-only streams. Among these are Second Creek and Milligan Creek, a pair of spring-fed streams in Greenbrier County. Our Birmingham, Alabama-based angling writer wrote this report for us after spending a day on the two creeks: Second Creek, a tributary of the Greenbriar River, is one of the Southeast's largest spring-fed creeks. (Owing to its gravel bottom, many anglers would not view Second as a traditional spring creek.) In any case, it rivals some of Pennsylvania's spring creeks in size and has the added distinction of being a fly-fishing only stream with a mile-and-a-half of public access, all of it on private property.It also produces abundant hatches of mayflies, caddisflies and stoneflies. Second Creek is an old stomping ground of mine, which I visited regularly while living in the area and pursuing a less satisfying career. It's known for its large brown trout, though once a year the state stocks just about every flavor of trout imaginable, on a put and grow basis. Second Creek has no natural reproduction, due to miles and miles of upstream pasture inhabited by cows. This creek runs hot and cold, and my angling days there have ranged from 40 trout falling for a size 16 beetle, to a single fish hitting a bead head. My most recent visit was a middling day, with lots of patterns contributing a fish or two, but nothing with any consistency. The scorecard ran as follows: The largest downstream pool in the creek, the Sycamore (or "Cow Pasture" pool) almost always yields some fish, and I have often fished there alongside my old nemeses, the cows, despite the barbed wire (wader hazard) and cow pies (wading boot hazard) that are ever present. Be that as it may, my wife, M. J. caught a brookie in the tail of the pool with a Woolly Bugger. I caught a nice rainbow above the weed beds with a damsel nymph, M. J. caught a brown out from under a tree with a size 16 Letort Cricket, and another with a damsel nymph from the "Misery" pool that lies just above the cow pasture. By afternoon the creek was beginning to fill up with people, as the state installed new signs on US 219 to direct people to the stream. Formerly, directions to Second Creek involved complicated formulas about going two miles down the one lane paved road and turning left at the white house with the maple tree in the yard. Now a sign that says "catch and release," and illustrated with a befuddled looking cartoon fish staring at a bare hook, points the way. I discussed this turn of events with my friend Oak Myers, chief guide of Cranberry Wilderness Outfitters, just up the road in Richwood. "They might as well say 'poach here,'" I complained. "No doubt," Oak said. "Bring your spinning rod next time." Sure enough, we ran into one spin fisherman before we left Second Creek for our final destination. I'll go back during a weekday this fall, when the big browns are on the move. Five miles outside of our motel in Lewisburg lay our last spring creek, Milligan Creek, a totally unknown quantity to me. It was said by state officials to have the most colorful brown trout in the state, as it weed beds were full of scuds and other crustaceans. Unfortunately another thunderstorm was sending down lightning bolts into the catch-and-release area on Milligan. We waited a short while, and then decided to try another part of the creek a few miles away, near an especially scenic covered bridge. After all of the nymph fishing of the day before, we were ready for some dryfly action. We parked by the bridge, waded downstream, and surprisingly found the creek to be full of dumb-as-a-stick hatchery rainbows. Our brief hour of fishing resulted in numbers of fish that bordered on the obscene. Back at the bridge, we decided we wanted something finer than cookie-cutter rainbows. We wanted brown trout, by George. My wife, M. J. cast one of her magical caddisflies upstream, and bingo, landed a brightly colored little brown. Only one problem prevented our fishing further upstream-a single strand of barbed wire that marked the lower limits of a cow pasture. Just above that wire however, was a beautiful slow-water spring creek pool, choked with weedbeds. M. J. caught another little brown in the fast water below the pool, and I glanced upstream just in time to see fish beginning to rise. Whether or not we transgressed and fished the private property above the wire is a matter for recollection, and my memory of the matter grows particularly dim. Our confrontation with "the poacher within us" was brief, however, as a huge herd of expensive pedigreed cows moved in to spoil the day. We beat a hasty retreat, having little stomach to tangle with any animals more valuable than our new SUV. While changing out of our waders, we could do little but wonder-how many more potentially blue ribbon spring creeks are flowing through West Virginia cow pastures? I'm going to put the network on the job right away. Down below us, the cows ruminated. Thunder rumbled in the distance. Safe behind a single strand of barbed wire, the spring creek trout began to rise with abandon. For guided fishing on Second Creek, as well as on any of a number of private spring creeks in the same area, contact Demian Wiles of First Light Outfitters; 304-647-2011, or Oak Myers, of Cranberry Wilderness Outfitters; 304-846-6805.