If Johnny Cash or the Grateful Dead had sung about Big Run, well, maybe it wouldn’t have gone like that. But for lyrical amusement, it’s all I got for this stream in Shenandoah National Park, and the water level was just fine in late April.
First, need to rewind a few months…
In January, I had gone to a talk at the Somerset Fly Fishing Show by Colby Trow from the Mossy Creek Fly Shop in Harrisonburg, Virginia. The room had originally been scheduled for a guy from Iceland, who was going to talk about salmon fishing. However, he had to cancel and so Colby stepped in sort of last minute to do his Shenandoah Valley fishing talk. I was one of five people in attendance. It’s funny how the valley seems to evade people’s radar. When you think about it even a little, this area has tons of great fishing, from small mountain trout streams to well-known spring creeks to warm water fishing on the Shenandoah and James. Anyway, Colby covered several spots in the park and Big Run was one of them. Tales of fisheries biologists shocking fifteen-inch brook trout from one particular pool there put it on my list.
So the second to last weekend in April had me heading south to Lexington to watch my son play in an off-season college soccer tournament. I figured that was close enough to turn part of the weekend into a brook trout expedition to a new spot. I stopped at the Mossy Creek Fly Shop on the way, bought some flies and tippet and spoke to Colby. He pointed out where to park to hike down to Big Run, and remarked that not many people stop by the shop with reports from there, probably due to all the other good spots nearby.
That’s fine. Leave all the brook trout to me.
I thanked Colby and drove south to Lexington. After the day’s games, I headed back north and spent the night in Harrisonburg, which was a good place to 1) get a meal with a good beer and 2) jump to SNP in the morning.
Turns out the beer was more than good. Through the Google I got the top umpteen hits for “beer Harrisonburg VA.” When traveling, I’ve discovered that searching for good beer is the way to find not just good beer but also good food. Anyway, I landed at the Capital Ale House, which was great. Had a big chimichurri steak salad and a couple big beers — a local Brothers Brewing Admiral Imperial IPA, then a slightly less local Lickinghole Creek Vanilla Virginia Black Bear. Big salad, big beers… ready for Big Run.
Next day, I drove up to Skyline and headed south from Rt. 33. Parked at the Doyle’s River lot and headed downhill. I probably hiked way past where I needed to to start fishing but I wanted to explore the place. This was the first time I’ve ever been this far south in SNP. Since I live north of the park, my normal haunts are in the northern and middle sections. My PATC map of the park’s south district still looks crisp and shiny.
I found lots of fish, and they smashed bushy dry flies. For some reason I had terrible luck with a Mr. Rapidan as well as the parachute version, and a parachute Adams. The fly that worked was a big Royal Wulff, size 12. No big surprise, big fly… Big Run.
It was all coming together.
The hike downhill was long but easy. Therefore, the hike back out was going to be a bitch, so I decided to just keep fishing. I figured it was better to avoid hiking out as long as I could. Of course, that made no sense, but catching fish for way longer than I normally would was fine with me. That ended up making what would have been a slog back to the car much more pleasant.
So is Big Run worth it? I’d say yes. Not only is it a beautiful stream, but the numbers and sizes of fish I landed made it worthwhile. It’s not dramatically better than other streams I’ve fished in the park, but it’s one of the better streams there for sure. If you go, keep in mind that the only public access to this stream is from Skyline Drive or the trails in the park, so cutting out some effort by accessing it from below is not doable. But like many of the good streams in the park, that’s not unusual.
And I follow you Big Run when you called.