1. I love Monday mornings in the Blue Ridge, especially before the hikers, dogs and fishermen start to activate the paths inside Shenandoah National Park. The sun is out; the temperatures are headed for the 70s; Louisiana water-thrushes are at song; the violets and geraniums add their shades of pink and purple to the edges of the trail.
I love casting there in solitude, although at times like this I wouldn’t mind the company of a kindred spirit with whom the fun of catching brook trout can be shared. Before long, I pause at a favorite pool and see a nice trout rising to the surface at the base of a cliff.
I start by casting the April greys– a Blue Quill and a Quill Gordon– but get nothing other than refusals. When I finally see a bit of hatch activity, I switch to a Little Black Stone, a wet fly, and am not surprised when the brook trout nails it on the first or second cast.
It’s good to climb the mountains, following the clear, full-flowing river, and fishing in a buffer zone between two seasons. Winter is gone except in recent memory, and spring is here like a long-awaited friend who hasn’t seen you in a while and isn’t sure about where you’ve been or what you’re scheming to do, but who accepts your offer of a beer and a comfortable place to sit.
I love fishing this mountain river near Charlottesville, but to really enjoy it I’ve got to do some serious walking to escape the crowd that also loves the river and finds it readily at the bottom of the Blue Ridge. Although the biggest trout seem to inhabit the lowest mile above the stocked waters, the density of fish seems to increase significantly the closer you get to the headwaters.
2. I love Tuesday mornings in the Blue Ridge, especially when my expectations get deflated and my sarcasm balloons. There is no Plan B for the day, which is a good thing, in my estimation. My wife and I cruise the Skyline Drive inside the park and stop at the headwaters of the river I’ve been fishing occasionally for about five years. The temperature is close to 80 degrees and rising. The stream is too small to bother with (and too difficult to reach given the steep rocky slope). We hike down for a mile and a half before discouragement overtakes us. Husband and wife, wedded in bronchitis (I’m overcoming it but she’s getting hammered), decide to turn around and make the tough climb back to the summit.
Without a Plan B, we’re actually free and able to do whatever the hell we want. We drive down the mountain and hit the Blue Mountain Brewery for tasty fish tacos and some of the best craft beer in Virginia. After enjoying this health spa in the sun, and with the hazy mountains for a back-drop, we head back toward Charlottesville. Leighanne sets me free inside the park to fish the lower river for a couple of hours.
I love it when I’m able to gravitate back toward fishing and manage to salvage a bit of my angling prospects. I catch six or seven brook trout, none of them very large but, as always, pleasurable in their company. The highlight of the evening is a couple of “holy crap” moments where a fish is on and the fly line has been artfully wrapped around an overhanging branch or a log stuck in fast water.
With a beer buzz and a brook trout bouncing in the surge of river, hanging on for dear life till my hand arrives to free it, fun has overtaken me, but I hate the moment, too. My waist-high waders make a poor choice of tearing just above an ankle. The waters come in to get me. It’s all too familiar. The waders aren’t even one year old. I’ll never order waders from that company again. Ah well. Leaks be damned; tomorrow I’ll hit another mountain stream. Plan B does not exist.