My wife and I decided to work off the turkey and pie the day after our Thanksgiving feast and go for a hike. The woods around here were crawling with hunters, so we headed to Shenandoah National Park. Neither of us had ever been to Jeremy’s Run so we figured we’d hike the trail there. Besides getting some exercise, I wanted to photograph spawning brook trout. Nothing like fishing, but this would also be something new. I normally don’t come out here this time of year and have never seen spawning brookies. I didn’t know if I would have much chance to see any. When you’re fishing, these guys are usually well hidden until they hit your fly. Without a fly rod, well, it didn’t seem so likely to me.
I just ran across this item on the Northern Virginia Chapter of Trout Unlimited. Kirk Smith, a PhD student from George Mason University, spoke to the TU chapter on November 4th about his efforts to reintroduce brook trout into area streams. This guy is doing some really exciting and groundbreaking research to restore local streams to support brook trout.
I would love to be hiking around Shenandoah National Park right now catching brook trout. Any other time of the year I would regularly be getting out there. However, as you may know, brook trout spawn in the fall, typically from late September through December. Everyone who fishes for them hopefully realizes that it is best to leave them alone for a few months until after the spawn.
I don’t want to say that the Royal Wulff is the only fly you need to catch brook trout on mountain streams in the eastern United States. It’s not. Some say other flies work better in certain situations and on certain streams. There are those who claim terrestrials are the only way in mid-summer. When hatches occur many insist matching the hatch is a must. When waters are raging nymphing could be your best bet. And so on. No doubt these are all valid views at various times.
Wild trout are spooky. Everyone who fishes for them learns this, but sometimes the degree to which you have to be sneaky is much greater than you’d think. In certain conditions, especially in late summer when the water is low and clear, it is absolutely NOT crazy to have to crawl (on hands and knees and maybe on your belly) up to the spot where you’ll cast in order to avoid scattering the fish in that pool.
Shenandoah National Park is will be 75 years old in 2011 and the National Park Service is planning a series of events commemorating the dedication of the park in 1936. The establishment of the park was a great achievement, especially during the Great Depression. Now, the narrow strip of the Blue Ridge that makes up the park faces considerable challenges:
Generations later, the challenges continue as the park services try to protect the land in the face of invasive species, eroding air quality and urban sprawl. [National Park Superintendent Nancy] Bogle said, “We’ve got to work with our adjacent communities and the people that care about this place to help protect it for the future.”
For you and me, “invasive species” means rainbow trout. Rainbows stocked by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries have established themselves in the lower reaches of many park streams. They out compete the native brook trout in most cases. We’ll have more on this in a subsequent post so stay tuned.