BY JOHN MCCASLIN
Anybody passing through Sperryville, Virginia can’t help but be drawn to the creative hand-painted “Trout Addiction” sign.
“Come Get Hooked, Guided Fishing Tours, Handicapped Welcome,” topped off with a spectacular brook trout everybody’s raving about. Kind of makes you want to go fishing. “It’s nothing fancy, it’s not even trying to be fancy,” insists Eddy Burke, the down-to-earth fishing guide whose home is behind the sign. “I want to be able to take kids and the elderly — maybe some wounded veterans — and have them catch trout.
Fishing guide Eddy Burke heads down the bank to a favorite fishing hole where the Robinson and Rose Rivers meet near Syria, Virginia.
“My goal was to always work with handicapped children, especially the ones from the city who’ve never had a chance to fish. If I can get them out to a trout pond, let them catch a fish, show them how to clean it and eat it, I think it will go a long a way. They might even get addicted like I am.”
Born and raised in Rappahannock County, his ancestors displaced by the creation of Shenandoah National Park, the 58-year-old Burke, a master plumber by trade, and his wife, Lisa, who commuted to Alexandria for her job, always talked about guiding fishing tours from their Main Street home.
“We were going to open last April,” Burke recalls. “I got the signs made up, got the gear together. And then [Lisa] got sick and I took it [the sign] down. By July she was so sick I had to quit work.”
“She passed on Christmas Eve,” he says. “Fifty-five years old and the love of my life. She wanted to do this. So I’m going to try to do it like she wanted to do it.”
Which means when he set out for Madison County one morning this week the back of his SUV was filled not only with fishing gear — casting and fly rods — but a picnic basket containing the most delectable smoked (by Burke himself) salmon this side of Kodiak.
Eddy Burke makes a point of stopping at Syria Mercantile for fishing flies
“I’m not a chef but I can cook,” he offers, adding “Lisa had ideas of packing everything from smoked fish to baked beans and coleslaw. But I’ll have a nice little lunch and some refreshments in the cooler, just the basics. A shore side lunch.”
And then there are the trout that can be consumed almost as quickly as they are caught.
“My preference is straight off the grill as hot as you can,” says Burke, “so we can do that. And I’ll have some smoked trout or salmon for lunch if we don’t catch much. But we’ll catch something. Some days it might be a little thin, but we’ll catch a few.”
As the weather warms, Burke looks forward to guiding locally this year on the Hughes, Robinson and Rose Rivers in Madison County, as well as the limestone streams surrounding Luray.
“Limestone only runs a certain streak,” he educates. “There’s no limestone on this side of the mountains, it’s on the other side. You can’t beat limestone; it’s premiere. That’s why there are springs over there in Luray you can sit a house in — millions of gallons of water flowing in and then dumping into the Hawksbill. There are rainbow [trout] in there by the hundreds.
“We have top-notch fishing right here in our backyard,” the guide points out. “And all the streams in Shenandoah National Park have native brook trout. I’ve got little four-foot rods for that.”
The Robinson River in Madison County is one of several local rivers and streams stocked by with trout.
For the more adventurous, Burke knows every trout-filled mountain lake from here to the southwestern corner of the state.
“If somebody wants to experience a true wilderness trip it can happen,” he says. “The high mountain lakes are incredible. I prefer them. That’s the cream of the crop. A trout stream is harder to fish if you’re not an experienced fisherman, but the lakes I can take the kids to . . .
“If you don’t spend a least a day or two and camp overnight it’s not worth a trip in there,” the guide adds. “Some lakes you have to hike four or five miles into, but it’s worth it. There’s no bells or whistles to bother you. You can camp, you can build your little fire, you can cook, the kids can play, the dogs can run, it’s just wide open.
“And you can always come back,” Burke will remind his clients. “You won’t need me after the first trip. When these kids leave a lake I want them to come back and do it again. Now they’ll know where to go.”
Book a “Trout Addiction” guided fishing tour by phoning 540-987-9129.