[I’ve been away for a while, unfortunately, living in the land of no computers, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, of course, but I’ve missed being able to communicate with friends and fellow bloggers. I’m back now, tentatively, and have a lot of catching up to do. If all goes well, expect a flurry of posting as I try to come to speed. As always, thanks for your support.]
En route south, we stopped at Big Spring Run near Newville, Pennsylvania. I had fished the run about a year ago but this was Chester’s introduction to the stream made famous by the likes of the Letort Regulars and then by the fish hatchery that almost killed the water by releasing effluents not so many years ago.
It was midday at Big Spring, and the hot humid air registered close to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. These were not the best conditions for casting in the limpid waters of the resurgent “Ditch”– one of the most difficult and challenging trout streams in America.
I gave myself two hours to cast for wild brook trout (they can grow to 18 inches in length here) and for massive rainbows with a long tapered leader. I could only hope to meet the minimum expectation.
A robin flew across the stream from nowhere and somehow caught the tiny fly in its feathers. I knew better than to set the hook, and recalled an April day when a muskrat intercepted a drifting fly. On each account, the animal released the fly after drawing out a quantity of line. Believe me, I don’t do these things on purpose. It’s just that, if you fish enough and put in the time, odd hook-ups do occur occasionally. Sometimes I even catch a trout or two.
I saw any number of large scud eaters cruising through the watercress and maze of submerged logs. Given the heat and the bright light of early afternoon (not to mention my lack of expertise on southern Pennsylvania limestoners), I was lucky to catch a small wild rainbow on this Fly Fishing Only stream.
I was told that a secret to possible success here is to cast a tiny #28 dry fly on a 7X or 8X tippet, but Chester and I weren’t feeling up to it at that point. I mean, conditions were miserable enough without considering the anguish of losing a five-pound grass trout on a gossamer thin line.
More favorable was an evening hike into Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park with friends and family. Chester came along for some casting on the lower Rapidan River, one of my favorites in the Old Dominion.
The river had warmed to 62 degrees and had a strong flow from the recent rains. The trout seemed lethargic and less than hungry, but I caught several nice brookies and even some redside dace that rose to a Light Cahill dry. Obviously the bloom was off the springtime feed in the Blue Ridge Mountains, but the wild roses on the forest edge were sweetly scented and lent an excellent air to the songs of thrush and warbler.
The next morning I was fishing on the Moormans west of Charlottesville. The river trail into the national park was crowded with holiday walkers and joggers but, luckily enough, the anglers were few and far between.
I fished familiar pools and runs with both a dry fly and a nymph and did pretty well. The trouting was slower than on northern waters at this time of year, but the ancient mountains seemed as beautiful as ever.
Chester was comfortable here. He had been crafted thoroughly by human hands not far from this location. While we were walking back to the car, I heard two joggers approaching from behind. “Careful,” said one guy to the other. “There’s a fishing pole ahead.”
Last year, when he was really young, Chester might have shuddered at hearing himself described as a “pole” instead of a fly rod, but the more mature stick didn’t even flinch. He and I just stepped aside comfortably on the trail and let the joggers pass.