Loudoun County, Virginia, October 16, 2009
It was cold. It was raining. I went fishing.

I had a few free hours to kill but I couldn't stray too far from home so I decided to fish at a few ponds at
Claude Moore Park in Loudoun County.

Claude Moore Park covers over 300 acres in one of Virginia's fastest growing counties and sits just a few miles off Route 28, just before the Route 7 interchange. As you dirve into the park you'll pass a major indoor sports complex and several baseball, softball, soccer and football fields. Take a left turn to the farm museum and park towards the back of the lot. There's a paved trail that leads to the ponds (follow the trail until you hit another trail on your right, follow it to the pond) which are seasonally stocked with bass, trout, catfish and panfish by the
Virginia Department of Inland Fisheries and fishing here is strictly regulated.

There are two ponds seperated by an earthen dam with clearly marked trails and several fishing platforms scattered along the perimeter The larger pond has several small islands in the middle populated by a flock of geese while the smaller pond is birdless and very shallow. If you have kids an want to have a family picnic while fishing, then go for the small pond. There's lots of open space with benches, tables, pavilions and a small fishing pier with open bank space that provides clear, tree-free casting. One detail that night put you off when you look at the smaller pond is the shallow water. But there are fish here and some are fairly large. You just have to use your common fishing sense to figure out where you need to set up. There are many spots to fish from, which is evident from the numerous trails that snake down to the water. Pick a spot but pick wisely. However fishing is not allowed on the dam that seperates both ponds.
Fishing was slow and cold. The air temperature was 42 degrees and when the wiind blew it felt ten degrees colder than that. But the bite picked up around 11am and although the fish weren't very large, on a 3-weight rod it was loads of fun. Most of the panfish and bass were holding in fairly shallow water, maybe 10 to 20 feet off the bank in about 4 to 6 feet of water.

It might seem obvious but
fishing cover produces fish. The natural choices were blow-downs and tree branches laying in the water but you'd be surprised how many fish are be hanging around an old sunken soda can on a cold day in October. And cover doesn't necessarily mean 'large'. The bottom of these ponds are smooth and anything sticking up should be fished thoroughly.

After fishing for two hours I was just too cold so I called it a day and it turned out to be the right decision. As I was pulling out of the parking lot for home the sky opened up and a miserable day turned really ugly.

EQUIPMENT: I used a 3-weight rod and floating line. Due to the rain the water was heavily stained so I used a short, heavy leader and fairly heavy 1X tippet to toss a size 12 black bead-head woolly bugger. Cast the fly and let it sit for a few minutes or more before slow stripping back to shore.

DIRECTIONS: Route 28 North. Take the exit for West Church Road (Route 625). Turn left onto Cascades Parkway (Route 637). Turn right on Loudoun Park Lane. The road makes a funny bend to the right and takes you directly to the entrance of the park and the sports complex. Go past the sports complex and turn left into the Loudoun Heritage Farm Museum parking lot. The trail to the ponds is directly opposite from the museum. Follow this nature trail around 60-yards and take the first right turn off the trail and follow it to the ponds. *

Another option to get to the ponds, which I did not take, is to bypass the right turn on Loudoun Park Lane and take the right turn at Vestals Gap Road, which brings you to the park visitor's center and puts you closer to the smaller pond.

*NOTE: there is an unofficial shortcut--drive to the far end of the parking lot. There are some sheds and farm equipment parked there. The ponds are right next to the museum but screened from view by shrubs and trees. You have to bushwhack to get to them and it's very muddy.