Investigative fishing, otherwise known as “let’s go take a look,” sometimes rewards with great moments — beautiful places, lots of fish or discoveries that are worthwhile. I did some investigative fishing this past weekend, in fact, at Indian Run in Shenandoah National Park. But it was not one of those days to remember, other than to remember not to go there again.
I have recently become interested in finding the northern-most streams in the park that hold brook trout, more out of curiosity than anything else. It is well known that the southern half of the park’s northern district, the bulk of the central district and a good bit of the southern district have great brook trout streams. But the closer you get to Front Royal and that very developed area at the park’s northern end, the more it seems the streams just peter out. Various maps show some promising blue lines and today I decided to cross one off the list. Even after hiking all the way down from Skyline Drive to the park boundary and back I still think Indian Run could have some populations of trout (if anyone knows for sure I’d love to hear about it). As I worked my way down the mountain this little brook gradually became a little deeper and a little wider. It was just starting to look fishable when I stepped on an orange blaze on the rocks, which was under the “Boundary” signage you’re familiar with if you go tromping around the park much. Oh well. If this stream does have fish it’s likely they are in the lower section outside of the park on private land.
Hiking down along Indian Run is not a pleasant trip. The main thing is that there is no trail. Not horrible this time of the year, but you would not like hiking down there when it’s warmer and overgrown. Even in February it’s a chore. It’s steep and rocky, and in many places it’s a gorge that narrows with steep slopes on both sides. Quite a workout coming back up, too, and quite a bit of undergrowth that’s difficult even in the winter.
So I got that out of the way. There are a bunch of other places I have marked to explore, but that will be it for a while.. The next several trips are going to be to where I know the fish are. But on a warm day in February, might as well gamble a little, eh?
One thing that always fascinates me in this park are the springs that feed these streams. There is so much water coming out of the ground that keeps these streams flowing uninterrupted all year, every year. Indian Run is a typical Shenandoah Park stream in that regard. At the top of the Blue Ridge, it’s literally nothing. Then you find Indian Run Spring, which is just a puddle. Then there is another puddle, then more. As you hike down the mountain, it is just a dry stream bed, but you can hear the water underneath it. Then it percolates out of the rocks into the miniature gorge, and more and more water bubbles up until it’s a real river. It all makes you wonder what’s going on underneath the mountain, and whether it’s going to keep seeping up from the ground forever or if it will eventually all just shut off. It’s one of those things you can’t take for granted or turn your back on. What if these springs all just dried up? Well, that would be the end of fishing in the park, no doubt. As scientific as geologists and foresters are, ground water is still a mysterious thing.
So, until next time when I’m back to catching fish, get out there and have fun.