[All photos in Part 1 are recent takes from a grey and partly frozen landscape in the north country. Rainbow trout from Allegheny River. Stay tuned for brighter and more southerly perspectives as this series progresses.]
As the new fishing season opens like the blossoms on the hills and valleys close to home, I prepare for another fly-fishing visit to the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, and reflect on how I went to that area in the first place.
Back in the late 1970s I lived for four years in northern Virginia, along the Shenandoah River at the base of the Blue Ridge. I didn’t fly-fish at the time but I got to know the mountains rather intimately through my frequent visits to the nearby Appalachian Trail. I didn’t have any family connections in northern Virginia, but through my work in a private school I met my wife-to-be, and she had family roots throughout this area that I would soon become familiar with.
I shifted back to upstate New York, and when my son grew up and eventually moved south to Arlington and the Washington, D.C. environs, my visits to the region increased dramatically. In 2012, I started to fly-fish the mountain streams of Shenandoah National Park, as well as the limestone waters of the southern district. The Blue Ridge Mountains and the trout streams of Virginia began to form a back-drop to my family and personal history.
As a northerner from upstate New York, I look back to my origin as a Blue Ridge angler and see it as if with an autumn migration of birds. In the mind’s eye, swallows migrate southward, not away from their existence or as if escaping their summer homes, but toward a place their bodies know when winter grips the north country. My motive was to get myself acquainted with a more southerly home for native brook trout, and to do that in the context of enjoying an extended family life near the Blue Ridge of Virginia. I was moving from a known place to the heart of something new, at least from the angling perspective.
In my case, the Blue Ridge is a northern angler’s buffer zone. A place where the old and new blend together and interact like voices of friendly neighbors. It’s a place where wilderness and civilization can exchange understanding glances with each other. I like to think that anyone can dig out a special place like this, a buffer zone of body and spirit where meaningful communication and peace are fished for and successfully landed.