Blue Ridge Workout

1. The fly rod that was new for me this past summer wanted a good workout near the OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAplace where it was made. That is, the 7’6″ five-weight wanted to go fishing somewhere in the state of Virginia near the shop where it was built lovingly by hand, from elements such as tapered bamboo strips and nickel silver ferrules, with meticulous craftsmanship and artful design.

“Okay,” I said to Chester, the fly rod, “I think I know the place for you. A Blue Ridge mountain stream with lots of pretty brook trout in it.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHe was fine with that, and so our first VA outing came on Thanksgiving Day at the North Fork Noname River (pronounced No-Nahm-e, from …ancient Powhatan, methinks). It was a nice outing, with my son along for the hike into Shenandoah National Park, but fishing time was limited since we had family plans for later in the day.

I was entertained briefly by the sweet and intricate trilling of a winter wren that fluttered among the streamside boulders; later, we all watched a group of chickadees and a brown creeper pecking away at insects in the trees beside the trail.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The North Fork isn’t a secret stretch of water by any means, but it’s a park stream still attempting to recover from a devastating flood in 1996. Its native trout were nearly wiped out from that flood, but are slowly coming back to a point where the fishing (with additional park permit) is starting to shine. The brookies don’t need any more attention than they’re getting, but these mountain fish are wild and, for the most part, healthy.

The holiday outing was a slow one. Chester had a fine time, laying out long delicate casts with a beadhead nymph, with minimal grumbling whenever I wrapped the tapered leader around the tips of overhanging branches. He and I went out alone on the second day. We changed our use of wet flies, and the fishing was dramatically improved.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

2. By the time I got to the park at mid-morning, there were 15 vehicles already at the space reserved for hikers and anglers. I’d have to get used to the crowd. Chester and I chuckled at the sight. It was Black Friday, and we wondered why all these nature lovers weren’t out shopping for televisions, iPads and underwear.

At the end of our day, we would find more than twice that many vehicles lining the roadway at our access point. It was that kind of a weekend, and the weather was November beautiful, with an air temperature in the 60s.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAlbemarle Anglers had its guiding service parked by the river. I saw the five guided anglers upstream as I passed them heading into the mountains at about the two-mile mark. You pretty much had to climb that far to get a wilderness experience, at least on this busy weekend.

Big Branch Run flowed in from the west, dropping down from Skyline Drive, more than several miles away. I made a pleasant side trip, climbing to its cascade and 40-foot waterfall and plunge pool.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

3. What a difference a day made! The third morning was overcast and warm and the water temperature registered a cool 48 degrees. There were far fewer vehicles at the parking lot. I would see only one or two anglers all day, and even the hikers were few and far between.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Hiking well into the back country, Chester and I decided that the day and the occasion demanded dry fly fishing. I tied on a floating Stimulator, and we stayed with it for the next four hours.

Yeah, the fishing was good. There’s a wild stretch of the Noname where I dropped down from the trail and found great pocket water, pools and riffles with excellent gravel beds, and plenty of hungry, colorful trout. There were times when I thought this section of the river looked and felt as remote and wild as any stretch of the Rapidan, the North Fork’s famous sister to the north.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Chester and I had quite a fishing workout over a three-day period. When I wasn’t involved with family activities centering on our holiday visit to the city, the fly rod and I had plenty of exercise hiking the river trail and climbing over boulders that lined the stream. On our final outing, we caught and released so many brook trout with a dry fly that we really got to know each other well.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

If I’m not careful, I may start referring to this bamboo instrument as… Chet.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


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 Blue Ridge Workout

  1. Brent says:

    Great post! I’m glad the Wade brothers were able to get you and Chester all the way up to the waterfall, when my sneakers limited me to the third ford.

  2. plaidcamper says:

    Hiking, fishing, beautiful scenery, company when you wanted it, and no malls? Old underwear and no widescreen television seems a bargain price to pay! Enjoyed this, and once again, those late fall/early winter woods look perfect for a leg stretching hike – probably wouldn’t even feel like a workout…
    Thanks Walt!

    • Yes, trekking along in old underwear and with only widescreen nature to watch as the miles slipped by… I liked it, and I’m glad you enjoyed the late November reflections, too, Plaid. Thanks for helping all my workouts seem a little easier….

  3. Les Kish says:

    Walt, that Chester is one hell of an accomplished angler, good fishing buddy too. It’s still nice to be able to hike on dry ground and float a dry this late in the year. Me? I’ll be taking the old snowshoes out for a spin today. Best regards……

    • It’s been a treat, Les, especially at this time of year, to get out there with a bud and feel like you’re really getting somewhere. Thanks for the preview, with regard to the snowshoes. Hope you had a good outing in the white stuff today. I know it won’t be long before it’s here, too.

  4. Bob Stanton says:

    Beautiful trouts all, though I think you have to call ’em “specks” down there. Not that it matters any to…Chet.

    • Bob, I didn’t know that the southern brooks are called “specks,” although it makes some sense that they would be. Chet just says, “Huh?” We thank you for the compliment, and pass it on to the trout in question.

  5. Walt
    What a great post, makes me wish I had been there with you. The brook trout always seem more colorful in the high mountain streams. Glad you were able to make it into the Shenandoah Park. I have been there only once, not to fish but to observe its beauty from the mountain tops. I hope to get to fish in the park next summer on our trip up the east coast. Owning a bamboo fly rod would be the icing on the cake for any fly fisherman, can you share the link to the builder of Chester? Thanks for sharing

    • Thank you, Bill. Those mountain brooks are pretty fish, for certain, especially in the fall. I hope you get into the park again next year with the fly rod. A nice bamboo rod is sweet icing for the cake, indeed. If you google Chester Fly Rods, you’ll get the web site of maker Brian Kleinchester, who builds great fly rods in Virginia. You can find out lots of pertinent info there.

  6. Doug says:

    Very nice in deed Walt. The places you fished, your outings, And Chet. Had it been a guitar I would have had to refer to it as Mr. Atkins. Anyway, looks like you had yourself a nice little vacation. Thanks for sharing. Was pleasant to read and view. The perfect feeling.

    • A nice connection there, Doug, between the instruments important for getting on these days. The fly rod and guitar. Sure. The pen, when it’s mightier than the sword, and so on. Hope you had nice holiday break with the family and, as always, thanks for the words.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I always enjoy reading about your rambles. Nice pics and sense of humor.
    Everyone else said it all.

  8. Mark W says:

    Sounds like a great trip to some gorgeous country. I can’t think of a better way to spend a November day that fishing dries to willing brook trout!

    • It was special, Mark, and I know you can picture the country from first hand experience. Thanks for the comment, and I hope you’re still finding some good fly fishing in this late hour of the season.

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