The hike begins near Charlottesville and brings you to the Shenandoah National Forest. The stream is full-flowing but surprisingly clear, considering the fact that nearly two inches of rain had poured down on Virginia the day before and turned many waters into muddy broth. The stream temperature is a cool 50 degrees F., not surprising, since the April night had brought back freezing temperatures to the region.
It’s a beautiful afternoon with blossoms on the ground and on the limbs of trees and bushes. You’re glad for another chance to cast for brook trout in these mountains far from home. The water pushes forcefully against your waders and you’re thankful for the cleats on your rubber soles as you step with care and head upstream.
The trail crosses the stream again and there you rest and study the pool. A Louisiana water-thrush pipes a shrill, sweet song from somewhere on the cliff. A long cast with a Hare’s-Ear nymph connects with a small brook trout, and you admire it briefly before returning it to the pool. Then you see it up ahead– a rise in the deep flow where the waters push against the wall of rock.
The fish rises again and again to what you’re certain is a mayfly. Your imitation is a floating pattern known as the Quill Gordon. You cast the fly repeatedly and find the problem– conflicting currents between you and the fish do not allow a decent float. The fly drags quickly and threatens to put the trout away for good.
You consider lengthening the leader to allow a better float, but you repeat a longer cast and drop the fly beside the rock. The trout rises and takes the fly, at last.
The struggle is a strong one on the three-weight rod but the fish arrives at hand. It will measure close to 12.5 inches along the rod, the largest brook trout of a year. The fish is a good one for this mountain stream that’s still recovering from floods occurring in the 1990s. An hour’s walk back down the mountain is an hour filled with peace.
Walt – a very nice healthy brook trout for sure. I will passing through that way in a few weeks picking up my daughter from college. One of these trips, I’ll have to build in some extra time to explore a little. Your last couple of posts have been intriguing since we usually travel down I-81 through PA and into VA
Mark, May would be a good time to explore off I-81 somewhere. Let me know if you have any questions or are in need of a tip or two.
A pretty stream Walt. A credible brookie too. I bet that it’s nice to see a little green. The flower resembles our Western Springbeauty.
Les, it was great to see a bit of green and blossom. That flower growing by the pretty stream isn’t clear in the photo, but yes, it’s pretty close to your spring beauty, in fact it’s our eastern version of the same plant.
Beautiful photos – I can well imagine the peace of it. It’s been many years since I’ve been in that area, but I loved Charlottesville, home of Mr Jefferson’s University. And the little flower is a Spring Beauty, isn’t it?
Thank you, Mary. Charlottesville, the site of Monticello and Jefferson’s University, is a fair sight at this time of the year. And yes, indeed, the spring beauty was flowering abundantly in the forest, along with bloodroot, trout lily, and hepatica, with trillium very close to blossoming.
Fine looking brook trout.
It’s a plus seeing some colorful flowers in the mix Walt.
The wildflowers were companionable and colorful throughout, Alan. Wish I had better pictures of them.
I remember that path along the river very well. Did you happen to make it up as far as the waterfall this time?
No I didn’t reach the waterfall, not enough time on this occasion. Reached the second trail crossing and then some distance beyond that. I was thankful that the stream was clear. A lot of other streams and rivers in the area were a torrent of brown water. I’m glad you had a chance to explore well upstream.
Beautiful Fontinalis, Walt, caught on some beautiful water!
Was one of those special moments, Bob, one of the two fishing highlights on this trip. So how’s the fishing out your way? I hope you’re getting out for some.
Great looking piece of water, and an even nicer brook trout!
Thanks Ryan! It was a fine spot and worthy of a hike to reach it.
Getting out some, Walt. Things are off to slow start here, seasonally. I’ve seen a few bugs, small caddis and stones – no mayflies or grannoms yet. Heck, the trout lilies haven’t even began to bloom yet. Things ought to pick up this week, though.
That’s pretty much my take on the home front, too, Bob. A slow start generally all the way around. Not surprising, but sure to get a boost the next few days. Will try to figure out my messy calendar, too.
I envy you for, what is to us, an early spring. That’s a wonderful brook trout and a very pretty pool.
Thank you Steve. It was nice to dip down into springtime from this colder region of home. It should be a preview of what we northerners will soon be seeing.