[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 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.
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 an 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.
The 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.
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.
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.
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.
Day 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.