Shenandoah Streams Revisited

[In the previous post I reflected on the first three days of a recent visit to Shenandoah National Park. In this post I’ll summarize experiences of my subsequent and final days OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA of hiking and fishing in Virginia’s park.]

Day 4: Richard and I revisited the North Fork Moormans for a while. I fished several of my favorite pools inside the national park and did well casting a bead-head nymph. Of the half dozen trout that acknowledged my attempts, the largest hit the 11-inch mark, which is pretty hefty for a stream like this. The trout aren’t numerous, and the lack of little ones is disconcerting (where are the young-of-the-year?), but the native fish that said hello to me had size.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADay 5: Returned to the Rapidan today, an excellent visit.

The sky was overcast and hung with mist and light showers. While the air temperature climbed into the 70s, the river temperature nosed into the lower 50s.

I didn’t see another human till the afternoon, and then only a few hikers and one other fly-fisher. I fished the lower Rapidan inside the park, changing my approach from anOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA attempt to cover new ground to slowing down and simply enjoying whatever pools and riffles were in front of me.

Again, bloodroot flowers adorned the trail edges, and the shrill piercing notes of the tail-wagging Louisiana waterthrush accompanied my efforts along the stream.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe angling was slow at first– a brookie here and there, falling to a Hare’s Ear and Black Stonefly nymph, and then returning to the water unharmed. Around noon, however, I began to notice the first mayflies hatching, to be imitated with the Blue Quill and Quill Gordon dry fly patterns, and the fun began.

I wandered up the Staunton River, a Rapidan tributary, a wild and rocky stream that yielded a couple of tiny brook trout on a Rio Grande King (attractor pattern), but the Rapidan itself was where the catch was hot.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Fish rose eagerly to a Quill Gordon, size 14. My only question was, “Did the river hold any trout larger than, say, nine inches long?”

Experimenting with various river locales, I finally answered in the affirmative.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACasting from one precarious spot above some boulders into a deep and turbulent hole, I found the trout rising/slashing at the dry fly on cast after cast.

It wasn’t easy landing them above the rocks, where I had to work them through a watery chute, but I fooled several fish as good as any from the Moormans.

I felt pleasantly exhausted as I hiked out of the park in the evening, ready to battle the holiday traffic of urban Charlottesville.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

How good was the fishing in terms of numbers caught/released? If each wild brookie was an Easter egg, some youngsters might find a couple dozen of them hidden among the garden stones.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADay 6: I wasn’t going to surpass the previous day’s angling mark, so I was happy to hang up the rod, and hit the trail with friends and family. You know, going out to the southern breweries, wineries, and barbecue joints.

A perfect complement to spring days on the stream.





About rivertoprambles

Welcome to Rivertop Rambles. This is my blog about the headwaters country-far afield or close to home. I've been a fly-fisher, birder, and naturalist for most of my adult life. I've also written poetry and natural history books for thirty years. In Rambles I will mostly reflect on the backcountry of my Allegheny foothills in the northern tier of Pennsylvania and the southern tier of New York State. Sometimes I'll write about the wilderness in distant states, or of the wild places in the human soul. Other times I'll just reflect on the domestic life outdoors. In any case, I hope you enjoy. Let's ramble!
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16 Responses to Shenandoah Streams Revisited

  1. Brent says:

    I dare say you’re starting to appreciate your southern jaunts! Although I suppose you can’t help but appreciate time spent along those beautiful mountain streams…

  2. Bob Stanton says:

    The barbeque alone might worth the trip south! Glad you’re having a good time.

  3. Ross says:

    Walt, loved the posts on the Shenandoah trip. The pics of the streams, brookies and flowers make me yearn for spring to really get going here. Sounds like you and your family had a nice trip.

  4. Thanks, and glad you liked them, Ross. I’m reassured from all of this that spring, of comparable measure, will arrive here, too, after it takes its feeble time about it. The experience of a preview was enjoyable, for sure. Happy trails!

  5. Mark W says:

    Walt – Just want to echo Ross’ comment, it’s been fun reading about your adventures in the Shenandoah’s where spring is a lot further along than it is outside our doors. It’s been a pleasant reminder of what we will see in the coming weeks!

  6. LQN says:

    Nice Walt, glad you had a good times. Such a beautiful place, I need to visit soon.

  7. Walt
    All beautiful areas you were fishing there, yes the 11 inch trout was a prize; I notice your fly rod combo in one of the images, looks like any Orvis combo??? I may be wrong. Enjoyed the post!!

    • Bill,
      Yes, the Orvis combo– 7’Superfine (4-piece) with CFO reel– was actually won at a raffle and now comes in very handy in the backcountry. Glad you liked the post, and thanks, always, for commenting!

  8. Mike says:

    Hey Walt,

    The colors on those brookies and the report of those water and air temps have me wishing for a southern journey myself. Sounds like a perfect way to cap it off with the family, food, and drink!

  9. Mike,
    After a bad-ass winter such as we endured, a jaunt for southern brookies in the Appalachians, followed by the f/f/d, as you describe, is a sweet way to get back into nature with some sun and warmth. I’d recommend it to the ailing, and I thank you for the chance to say it here. Enjoy!

  10. Great photos, and the coloration on this fish is amazing! I love the details. Sounds like a wonderful handful of days! I simply cannot wait until things get warm enough around here (and my schedule is free enough) to do some fishing.

    • Mary Anne, Yes, sometimes the beauty is really in the details isn’t it, although one can say that here the framework of the national park itself is certainly remarkable in early spring. It’s great to hear from you, awaiting fishing weather in a state famous for dramatic beauty, and knowing you appreciate the details of nature’s way. I hope you get some time to fish Alaska soon.

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