By Chris Shaffer | 04/24/2014

Southwest Virginia is littered with private trout streams. Being from California, I’ve always associated these pay-to-fish waters with high end fly anglers. Let’s face it, out West that’s who rents them, and that clientele is one of the few that can afford it. In addition, normally these types of opportunity are barbless hook and fly only and always catch and release.

Meanwhile, Virginians buck that trend. Their pay-to-fish waters are reasonably priced (in line with an out of state license, day permit and trout stamp, actually) and many are catch-and-keep fisheries, meaning these fish are raised to be kept. And, while a few anglers look down on these opportunities, their popularity is increasing and it’s not as easy to catch fish here as you might think.

Consider Cedar Springs Sportsman’s Lodge, the place we fished last Thursday. Having targeted another Southwest Virginia stream in the morning, we didn’t start fishing here until 3pm. The lodge has two-miles of Cripple Creek and permits 25 anglers per day (and is sold out every Friday-Sunday through summer already). On average, 350 pounds of rainbow, brook, brown and golden trout are stocked each morning at 7am so anglers can see that trout are actually being stocked.

The fish tend to average two-to-three pounds, with some as large as 10. Therefore, if you take a three-pound average, roughly 116 trout are stocked each morning. Divide that by the number of anglers (25) that fish each day and 4.6 trout are stocked per angler. However, keep in mind, those trout are dispersed over two miles. Consider that when the state stocks streams they often put 500-1,000 pounds of half-pound trout in local streams, which means 1,000-2,000 fish.

Examine the above figures and it can be determined that it’s easier to catch trout in state-stocked streams. Catching trout in these private waters isn’t easy. Meanwhile, the chance at hooking better quality, larger and trophy fish makes it attractive. And, for those who believe this is cheating and not real fishing, come try your luck here. When we arrived in the parking area at 2pm and talked to other anglers (who had been here since 7am) most had yet to catch a fish, others had one or two (limit is six). They bigger trout are smart and the clear water can cast spells on anglers.

We weren’t here for a fun fishing trip. We came to Cedar Springs Sportsman’s Lodge and beautiful Crippled Creek near Rural Retreat in Southwest Virginia to film Pautzke Outdoors and prove Pautzke FireBait caught big trout. We, and many of you, know it does. If it didn’t we wouldn’t produce. However, if people don’t see it with their own eyes they continue to believe that only Power Bait works. Power Bait works great. So does FireBait.

To film our show and do a fair assessment I called Jim Hilton, longtime owner of Cedar Springs and asked him if we could have one hole to ourselves from 3pm to an hour after sunset. He agreed. And, in the video (coming shortly) you’ll watch Mr. Hilton drive up and stock the trout minutes before we were to start fishing (he released about 15 total). He also watched us bait our hooks with FireBait and catch these trout with it, while many other anglers that day struggled to get any bites.

Personally, I didn’t know Cedar Springs Trout Farm raised trout are large as they did and it didn’t take long to realize we didn’t come with the right gear. My size 10 and 12 single salmon egg hooks and two-pound test were no test for rainbows to 10 pounds, brooks to five and browns to seven (we hooked, but didn’t catch any of the goldens). Actually, I didn’t catch a fish, partially because I was filming and also due to the fact that I was broken off five times in the first hour (Hilton was shocked FireBait worked so well).

Fortunately, my friends Richard Weekley (who caught a personal best six-pound brown) and Greg Payne (who caught a personal best 10-pound rainbow) had four and six pound test on their rods and while they were broke off many times, they did manage to catch many trout, all but one on FireBait. We ran an experiment and fished Gold Label Pautzke salmon eggs and got bit instantly. Gold Label (our glitter Premium eggs) is the hottest egg in the Southeast right now and we had to try it!

While there’s endless colors of FireBait, we focused on some of our favorites: Feed Pellet Brown, Rainbow, Chartreuse Garlic, Garlic Salmon Egg, Peach Garlic and Atomic Garlic, and caught fish on every color. Ironically, a few of the fish Weekley and Payne caught had my broken off hooks in their mouth, proof that the scent of FireBait induces feeding.

This trip to remote, Southwest Virginia proved FireBait belongs in everyone’s tackle box, along with their other favorite Pautzke salmon eggs and dough bait. And, if you aren’t a believer ask the other 22 people how many trout they caught that day after 12 hours of fishing (we fished for five). Many scratched or caught one or two. Hilton himself told us he can tell how well the trout are going to bite each day and was concerned we might struggle a little. You’ll shortly see we didn’t.

Editor’s Note: Pautzke FireBait is available in Southwest Virginia and East Tennessee Walmart stores. Chris Shaffer is the Director of Operations at Pautzke Bait and recommends eating a Pecan Twist and drinking a sweet tea from Bojangles in nearby Wytheville before coming to the stream. We did. Cedar Springs Sportsman’s Lodge can be reached at 276-686-4505.