Since moving to Richmond, I haven't done nearly as much fishing as I ought to. I dearly miss the Smokies and the surrounding wilderness. I haven't made any flyfishing friends here as of yet, and with the rigors of starting a new job I desperately needed a break, so I decided to do a solo 3 day trip on one of the few long backpacking loops in the Shenandoah National Park. Most of the snow from Sandy was gone, and despite the recent cold there was a warming trend so I was hoping for good results, though November has never been kind to me fishing-wise.
Friday morning I left early, and had Skyline drive to myself, not even a ranger at the entrance station. However the wildlife was out in force. I stopped counting deer at 30.
I saw several turkey, and then guess who was waiting for me at the parking lot?
Here is a view from the overlook. I'm always amazed at how far a person can walk. I traversed the entire ridgeline, and the far side of the talus covered peaks on the far right, and then another third of all that again not in the photo. Thats only 9 miles, but looks like a lot more.
The hike itself was beautiful, with great views of the Shenandoah valley and Masanutten in the background.
After getting to the valley floor and setting up camp, I started hunting for brookies. I had read that the lower part of this particular drainage gets scoured out a lot, so there isn't good cover for fish or insects, and fihsing is marginal. With the ice cold water, barely warming temps, and poor habitat, I had the expected results. Two fingerling brookies.
It started getting dark at 4:30, and by 5pm it was pitch black. By 6 I was done with dinner, my fire was burned out, and I was freezing cold. I decided to head to bed early, but since the sky was clear, and I had a surprisingly good view of the sky since the trees were bare, I watched the stars, unaware that the Taurids meteor shower was occurring and saw several shooting stars before dozing off. By 2am I was awake freezing to death I thought. Luckily the sun was up by 6am, and so I go an early start on the day. I was packed, moving, and had the next camp setup by 9am. I started fishing again and for the next 2 hours caught over 30 fingerling brookies. Better than yesterday... I guess. Not quite satisfying, then at noon my luck changed. A 7incher raced from teh bottom of a 3ft deep pool to smash the dry. After examing the pool, I realized every fish of any size was stacked in this pool, and probably every deep pool like it.
So now I knew what to look for. Every pool with depth I fished I got some sort of action.
This one pool was just above my campsite. When I first fished it, The fish hit the dry, but didnt take all the way. I fished on upstream, and came back and fished it again. This time I hooked into it, but this time it writhed and roiled all over the top....and shook itself off. ARRRG!
I went back to camp, pumped water, gathered wood, and came back again. Cast to the same spot, far side of the current, above the deep part and the over the darker bottom. I got a hit on the dry, and this time brought her in. It was an 8 1/2 inch female, who dropped 4 or 5 yellow pearls in my hand. I released her quickly, and just for kicks, cast into the pool again. The dry quickly slipped under, a take on the dropper. I set the hook and the water went nuts! There were two good sized fish in here and this is the other one I lost earlier. again he is death rolling on the water's surface, my 3 wt had a nice bend in it. I get him to hand, and snap a picture of one of the longest brookies I've caught yet, a full 9 3/4 inches.
I figured I'd release him as well to keep the couple together. All the brookies were very skinny, I guess due to recently spawning.
When I was making the last casts, I noticed a big rusty brown bat chasing my fly through the air. Luckily I didn't catch him. After releasing the male, I noticed the bats would swoop down low to the water and skim flies off the water's surface. I watched the bats skim flies from the water until it was nearly dark.
Back at camp, I got a fire started and prepared dinner. I brought along a backpacking grill I made from bicycle spokes and two aluminum tubes. Super light weight, and takes up no room at all.
Works like a charm.
I slept much better that night, the temps were much higher. Stayed up late reading Emerson, and watching the meteors. Even caught a glimpse of a fireball.
The nect morning I figured my trip was awesome enough already, and decided to head home early and spend the rest of Sunday with the boys.
So if anyone is ever up VA way and wants to do some fishing let me know! Whether its brookies in Shenandoah, smallies on the James, or I hope to pick up some saltwater fishing next year being so close to VA beach and Chesapeake Bay.
One last pic, this one is for Nathan, as many poor trout as he as eaten, this is the spirit of all those flame seared trout that will haunt him one day.