Blue Ridge Buffer, Part 1

[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.

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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18 Responses to Blue Ridge Buffer, Part 1

  1. Brent says:

    From 15 feet away from your writing site, I say “Beautiful start to a new series, and I hope you enjoy your time in the mountains on what looks to be a pleasant week!”

  2. Bob Stanton says:

    So, in birding terminology, you’re a “partial migrator”, right?

  3. loydtruss says:

    Gorgeous images; the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Great Smoky Mountains offer the ultimate in small stream fishing for wild trout; looking forward to a report on your outing—thanks for sharing

  4. plaidcamper says:

    Seems like you’ve all kinds of strong reasons to roam south of your usual territory! I liked how you sought links once more between the mental/soulful and the physical/geographical. And we sure could use a lot more understanding on each side where wilderness and civilization meet…
    Looking forward to reading more of your Appalachian adventures! (I’ve spent a little time in that general Virginia/WV area – that narrows it down – and recall a memorable evening in a taproom drinking Appalachian ale with my brother. We spent the next day stumbling along the AT feeling very sorry for ourselves. Must have been a bad pint…I’m sure you’ll fare better!)

    • I’m glad that you appreciate those links as well, PC, and I know you’ve sought them in your own travels and meditations. I’m looking forward to developing some experience and ideas here. As for your memorable evening in the taproom, I sympathize, if even the AT had a hard time sorting you guys out. I’ve had some experience with the numerous wineries and breweries of this region, so I’m hoping to get the better of them while avoiding some of the negative. Anyway, thank you for the feedback, and enjoy your week!

  5. Walt – I am looking forward to hearing about your Blue Ridge adventures. I visited the SNP for the first time two springs ago and it has quickly become my favorite National Park. The ruggedness and beauty of the mountains and the brook trout that inhabit it’s mountain streams are something to be experienced!

  6. JZ says:

    “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”.
    So wonderfully put Walt! This should be at home with any fisherman that roams the edges of the backcountry in search of adventure and trout. Those soft spots not far from society and that do not require days of planning and exploration. These areas can connect people in a real way to the outdoors and provide the needed classroom for discovery, especially the young. Nice to hear the Blue Ridge Mountains provided you with the perfect backdrop to family and brook trout Walt. Meeting your wife Leighanne surely has put you on the right path my friend…

  7. Thanks for your thoughts, JZ. Those soft spots you mention are pretty well noticed in places like Shenandoah. Civilization benefits greatly by their presence, and while we enjoy them we should also take note of changes in their status, for nothing is assured without public support and concern. Anyway, always good to hear from you, and I’m hoping you and the fly rod get some pleasant exercise soon.

  8. I’m really looking forward to more Walt. I’ve never spent much time in that part of the country but know it to be one of the most scenic and the fishing ain’t bad either I hear.

  9. Anonymous says:

    HI Walt guess you heard I got the founders rod this year what weight line worked best on It?
    Thanks Dale

    • Dale, sorry I missed the spring meeting this year. Had an awful case of bronchitis. Glad that the Founders’ Rod is yours for the year. Although I used a 5-wt. line quite a bit, a 6-wt. seems to work better with it. Have fun!

  10. Bob says:

    This isn’t the first time your posts are eerily in tune with what I’m up to. Sorry I’m a little late replying, but I was in Charlottesville for a wedding, a UVA visit and some fishing a little south of where you are (were). I’m headed to the DC area next week ( Triangle/ Quantico) to visit my son, then I’m heading to the northern regions of the Park for some fishing with a life long friend and the guy that got me into fly fishing ( 45 years ago, and no, I’m not that old – we were 13 – 14 at the time!!!) from Albany. Other than smallmouth on the North & South Fork I haven’t really explored the area, especially mountain trout – any suggestions?

    • Great to hear from you again, Bob. Yeah it sounds as though our tracks and aspirations are running close to parallel again. Glad you’re getting out and about in this area in the beautiful springtime. I’m still in Charlottesville but only for another day or so. It’s been a good week of fishing in the Blue Ridge, with the streams in good flow but decreasing a bit each day. If some more rain comes soon, the waters should remain excellent. At the northern end, I found the White Oak Canyon interesting, although crowded with hikers. The Rapidan was good, with trout rising well to dry flies (as Rose should be). At the lower end, near Charlottesville, the middle section of the North Fork Moormans was productive, too. I hope you guys enjoy and do well!

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