Holmes Run isn't the Madison or the Battenkill, Big Spring or Codorus. However this small stream, tucked right in the middle of a maze of strip malls, apartment complexes and single family homes, is a gem for the urban angler looking for a quick trout fix. There aren't many places inside the Beltway in Northern Virginia where you can be on the water in 20 minutes and have a trout on the end of your line. Holmes is stocked by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and is managed as a catch and release, fly fishing only, area during the Spring then becomes a put and take fishery--the water becomes much too warm during the summer to support trout in any numbers although you will find holdovers in deep pools and runs. However even during the catch and release season, poaching is a big problem and you'll sometimes see folks swinging nightcrawlers and treble hooks.

EQUIPMENT: You should use 3 or 4-weight rods with floating line. These are stocked fish so they're not that picky and around this time of year you want to use anything that's subsurface and buggy looking in size 16-18.

DIRECTIONS: Holmes Run Stream Valley Park is located on Columbia Pike (244) amid apartments, residential housing and strip malls. As you drive on 244 towards Leesburg Pike (Rt. 7) the road will slope downhill. To your right you will see a large apartment complex and on your left will be the face of the Lake Barcroft Dam. You will cross a bridge with a covered pedestrian walkway. At this point slow down and get in the right lane. The road will slope uphill. To your right is a small, paved road that looks like a bike path. This is the entrance. It's a sudden right turn so make sure the car on your tail knows you're turning. Park and follow the path to Holmes Run.

December 25, 2007
On a clear and cool Christmas morning Jin and Kate fished one of the many trout-stocked pools at Holmes Run. The water was running about 42 degrees and very low, with little flow coming off the Lake Barcroft dam. Fishing was good, but a little slow and Jin's best fish of the day was a nine inch rainbow.

December 24, 2007
It was an unusually warm Christmas Eve day so Jin and I decided to fish the lower section of Holmes Run to see if we could raise some trout. It rained the previous day and the water level at Holmes was up, but not quite back to the normal water flow for this time of year. Water temperature was 42 degrees.

We started at a pool where we hooked a few a couple of weeks ago and saw a few fish but they were nervous and spooked so we moved further upstream and began nymphing a deep pool. Using 5X and 6X tippets we tied on indicators and used weighted nymphs to get down deep fast. We could see the fish holding off a large rock and it was deep here so we had five feet of leader hanging under the indicator. Flow in this area was minimal so it was cast and watch for subtle takes as the nymph moved past the rock.

Jin quickly had four hookups but each time you could see the trout on the line but it would pull free after a short fight. On his fifth hookup he landed a nice trout and proceeded to hook several more on a size 16 soft hackle wet fly. I was using flies in size 18--olive soft hackle, pheasant tail with and without bead--and having no luck although I hooked and lost four. After Jin hooked a few more we left fish to find fish further upriver.

At a deep bend in the Run I cast into a deep pool after switching up to a size 16 olive soft hackle nymph. On my second cast I had a decent fish. We continued to fish this area before calling it a day.

We noticed that all the fish we landed today were all hooked on the upper lip. I also noticed that since the improvements to the pathway that runs along Holmes Run, there is more graffiti appearing on the rock face along the stream. Each time I fish at Holmes I see more spray paint art added to blank rocks. What has been a relatively untouched area due to an undeveloped trail (narrow dirt path) has now become more accessible to everyone--good or bad. The paved path and stream crossings make the Run a wonderful place for a walk or bike with family and friends but it also allows those who have nothing else better to do to an easy access to deface nature and spoil the view for everyone.

November 24, 2007
It was a cool, crisp Saturday afternoon and Jin and I decided to hit Holmes Run to test ourselves against farm trout that were recently put into very low-running stream water.

Did I mention that the water was low? Spots that are normally calf to knee deep will barely cover your ankles. Flow is almost non-existant. Jin fished a pool the previous day and pounded some trout but when we returned to fish it again there were no takers although we could see fish swimming about below a fallen tree branch. We moved further upstream and fished a big pool. The water was low. Jin pulled a fish out on his second cast and another on his fourth. He gave me a fly that was working for him then tried something else.

I tied on the fly Jin gave me and continued to cast. Jin caught another fish. And another. He gave me the fly that was working for him then tied on something else. I tied on the new fly Jin gave me and continued to cast. Jin switched to something else. I continued to cast. Jin caught another fish. After I laid out a cast Jin asked me if I had a larger piece of split shot, so I put my rod under my arm and pulled out the container of shot (Note: you can guess where this is going, can't you?) and proceeded to pull a few out for him. As I have both hands full, Jin spots a take on my strike indicator--twice. We fish for awhile more. Jin catches another fish.

The sun was going down fast so we decide to hit another pool on the way back to the car. Jin spots the fish and I cast. I miss three then finally hook and land one just as it's getting too dark to fish. Finally.

November 23, 2007
A report from Jin
I convinced Kate to take a walk with me down to Holmes Run so I could fish and she could take pictures with my camera.
We found a pool close to the parking lot and I tied on a size 16 bead head nymph and immediately got into some trout. i hooked eight but only landed one!

May 19, 2007
A giant oak crashes across the stream. Burning construction equipment and an arson investigation. Wary trout. All in a few hours fishing at Holmes Run.

As Jin and I were walking up the path to our first fishing hole we heard a loud crack and looked up in time to see a giant oak tree come crashing down across the stream about fifty yards in front of us. We continued to walk upstream and decided to fish near the rock I mentioned in my previous report. As we moved up the trail we heard a few loud 'pops' that sounded like firecrackers or gunshots.

We had our eyes on the stream but as we were gearing up to fish Jin looked over towards the trail and saw flames. I looked over at the spot and saw the same thing then went up the embankment and saw that an earthmover being used on the Holmes Run trail improvement project was on fire. I called 91l, but the operator had difficulty locating Holmes Run Stream Valley Park or Glen Echo Park on the map. By this time the machine was fully enveloped in flames and the fire was spreading.

The fire department and police finally showed up and quickly had the fire out. We stuck around to give statements to the police and fire investigators as we fished the far ends of the deep pool, then moved on upstream to fish at the fourth crossing.

There were lots of trout holding in this area but they were very wary. We tried various nymphs and even a few dries. Water clarity was good and you could sight-cast to the trout. I hooked a few sunfish and Jin finally landed a trout on an olive bugger but by then it was time for us to leave.
On the way out we decided to fish a hole near the lower end of Holmes Run. Since I had fished here the previous day I defered to Jin. I stayed on the bank and called out trout placement to Jin as he cast from the stream. You could see the trout circle and make a run at the fly and on his last cast he hooked a decent fish that came charging out from under a rock.

May 18, 2007
I fished from mid-morning to early afternoon. The weather was overcast and cold with sporadic drizzle. I parked at Upper Holmes Run (Barcroft Dam) and walked the new path to see how far it went and to check on how far construction has progressed since last week.

There are five stream crossings before you arrive at the end, which is the swimming pool complex at Glen Echo Park on Chambliss Street. The path is very wide and they are now in the process of cleaning up major construction debris and seeding the fill areas of the path. The path is still gravel and dirt, but I suspect that a hot asphalt coating will soon be laid down.

I fished the lower end and worked my way back upstream. As I fished a pool below a high embankment, I heard loud machine noises and rocks began landing around me. Very large rocks. I backed up against the embankment and began shouting but whoever was throwing the rocks couldn't hear me over the sound of construction equipment. After a few minutes the engines shut off and I shouted loudly that I was fishing below. I made my way up to the path and saw one of the workers about to chuck a large rock into the stream. He was surprised to see me and I told him to watch out when he throws rocks because people fish down there.

As I made my way upstream I fished several deep pools and pulled out fish. There are still some very large trout in Holmes but they seem to be very wary. If they hit the fly and you don't get a good hook set, they are reluctant to hit the same fly again. Switching out to something else usually entices them to strike again. The key flies are a size 16 BH pheasant tail flashback, pheasant tail flashback (no bead) or a size 8 BH wooly bugger in black stripped slowly (cast and allow to sink before begining to strip). In some pools the fish would only hit if there was movement to the fly...slow strip on the wooly or twitching the nymphs on the drift.

I can see future problems for Holmes Run when this new pathway is complete. Graffiti has already appeared on a slate hill face that was not there last week. Huge orange letters spelled out 'CraZ' and reflected onto the water while I fished. Is this what we can expect once the new walkway is complete? Will the rock faces of Holmes become a canvas for every juvenile tagger in the area?

May 12, 2007
A report from Jin
I walked down to the fourth stream crossing and fished up stream. There were a lot of fish below the usual pools that have produced fish in the past.

I found a number of pools and pockets with trout and managed to pull out a couple of fish from each pool using a size 16 BH pheasant tail.

The water temperature was 70 degrees and this means the fish will not last for much longer. I did find one spring that empties into the stream and hopefully this will provide a little bit of cover for the fish as the water warms.

May 11, 2007
After reading Jin's report from the previous day I was anxious to hit Holmes Run. I arrived around 10am and decided to head downstream.

There's a lot of trail construction going on at Holmes and I think when it's done it will change the way people utilize this resource. They're putting in wide, paved pathways that can sustain car traffic as well as people. The points where the trail crosses Holmes have either been bulldozed smooth or huge concrete spillways installed. Now you can easily walk across all points along Holmes Run in water that's only ankle deep.

I walked down the new path and crossed Holmes four times before turning around and fishing back upstream. Jin joined me later and we fished the normal runs and riffles along upper Holmes. We stayed for three hours and caught a ton of fish, which were all released. All the action was subsurface, using nymphs. We also spotted a couple of largemouth bass cruising the shallows, gobbling down baby sunfish.

May 10, 2007
A report from Jin
I arrived at the upper end of Holmes Run around 9am and started fishing below the first crossing. I tied on a size 16 beadhead pheasant tail and pulled a couple of rainbows just below the riffles, dead drifting the nymph and occasionally twitching the fly to attract fish.

Moving further down the deep pool I managed to pull-out about eight fish that were tight to the bank or under cover. I kept fishing further down the stream hitting all the likely spots.

I found this nice brownie in a deep pocket. In fact, I found couple more decent sized fish holding in deep pockets below riffles. I tried fishing below the second crossing but trucks crossing the stream had muddied the water so I worked back up the stream, pulling out more fish in all the deep holes.

I tied on a woolly bugger and stripped it through the big elbow pool below the parking lot. I don't remember how many I caught but enough to retire my fly. I lost track of how many fish but it was over 15 and less than 25.

May 5, 2007
It was a cool and overcast morning when Alyssa and I met Jin at the second crossing for some urban trout fishing.

The Virginia Fish and Game had just stocked the stream on Monday with 500 pounds of trout. Earlier in the day I bumped into one of the people who was with the stocking crew and he said they dropped fish from the face of the dam to a point further than they normally stock thanks to improvements to the Holmes Run trail.
We rigged up with nymphs, shot and indicators. These are stocked fish so they weren't real picky about what you tossed at them, just as long as it looked tasty and you gave it some motion during the drift. I used a beadhead nymph, copper john, hare's ear and a black something-or-other all in sizes #16-#20.
Jin and I pounded the trout at the deep pool just up from the second crossing then worked our way back upstream to fish the long run. There was a big pod of trout holding just under the low hanging branches of a tree that hung over the stream. It was a tricky cast but if you could skip the fly and indicator under the branches you caught a trout. Jin pulled four fish out in as many casts.
Alyssa came along to see what this fishing thing was all about but wound up shooting photos with my camera. All the photos from this expedition were shot by her except for the one with her in it.

She was a good sport and respected the fish. I was reminded many times not to bring the fish out of the water until she was ready to take the picture then she insisted on releasing it.