The water levels are dropping from muddy and raging to fishable on all the rivers around here. Even the Shenandoah is clearing up, finally. I stopped by Passage Creek last weekend and it was wild. I even saw two whitewater kayakers putting in at Rt. 55, downstream of where the fish are stocked, but they could have easily run the sections upstream. Looks like they just stocked Passage Creek this week, so might be worth checking out.
Close enough to summertime for me — throwing micro poppers at bluegills on a quiet pond near home.
I brought my seven weight rod tonight looking for a shot at some of the catfish, bass or big crappie that prowl this water. I saw a couple catfish but had no takes with a bead head grizzly woolly bugger then a black rubber legged bugger. Broke out the poppers, though, and I ended up getting a mess of bluegills once the sun went down. They hit the black micro popper, over and over and over.
A seven weight rod for bluegill, like I’m some sort of fishing terrorist. Like a howitzer for shooting squirrels. Like a — doesn’t matter. Just makes you grin.
Cedar Run in Shenandoah National Park is a tough stream in the section above the falls. It is very steep, boulder-strewn pocket water with the thing fish love and anglers hate — tight cover. There are definitely brook trout here but presenting a fly to them is a major challenge.
Cedar Run, Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
Humid, 80 degrees, mostly cloudy.
Mid-50’s temperature, medium high flow.
Steep, rocky, muddy from recent rains; tight cover.
3.5 miles, 3100 feet elevation change round trip.
Winston WT 7 foot 3 weight, double taper line, 9 foot leader, Mr. Rapidan size 16 and an Irresistible size 12.
Poor. Three brook trout hooked, one landed (about six inches).
Best Part of the Trip
Barbless hooks pull out of fingers easily.
Millipedes crawling around everywhere.
I feel like I was over-gunned pitching dries with a seven foot three weight on Cedar Run. A six foot or even shorter two weight (or lighter) is probably ideal for this stream. I was bow and arrow casting into a lot of the tight spots. When you’re casting like that, the stream is kicking your butt. I think had shots for fish in places I could not cast to — logs and low foliage all over this stream — but a lot of those places were difficult even for unconventional casting. On the other hand, there are quite a few deep pools. I could have tried nymphing some of them but many had very visible and sandy bottoms and were right next to the heavily used trail. I did fish a few deeper pools (with no luck) but the ones near the trail I passed by with my dry fly rigged up.
For some reason, whether due to natural barriers or thin water, there is always a line on every stream above which you find no fish. You usually realize you’ve found this line after you’re well past it, because you stop catching anything. Sometimes you never find the line, maybe because it’s getting dark, or you started too far downstream and you eventually have to head home. I have gone pretty far up many streams and not found this line when I expected to, and that’s a pretty cool discovery. But it’s always there, and if you keep going you will cross it and the action will cease. There should be a name for this place where the fish stop living. Maybe there already is, but this seems easy — the “fish line.” Like the tree line in alpine environments, fish are not found above it. Unlike the tree line, fish could still live above the fish line if they were put there and given the chance. Sometimes you find the fish line and it comes much earlier than you expect. You might think you’ve just run into some poor pools, so you keep trying the next one and the next. At some point, you grudgingly realize it’s not you. It’s the fish line. Your casting hasn’t fallen apart and no other flies are going to work. You’ve reached the line. You’re done.
I found the fish line on Cedar Run earlier than I expected. In between the falls where the trail crosses the river and the line, I managed to hook three fish, losing two — a single fish away from a skunking. There is always one fish that cooperates on days like today, and these are the worst days for me in this park if you measure them by the numbers. The only times I’ve come here and caught nothing were in both cases (I’m pretty sure) because there were no fish. The first time, on Indian Run, I am convinced I was above the fish line which was probably outside the park boundary on private property. Had to be the case. The other time, on Overall Run, I still think it was because there are no fish in that stream. I will race down to either of those streams if I find I was mistaken. For now, I’m convinced.
I did hook a good sized brookie in one pool on Cedar Run. Hooked him twice, in fact, but failed to get him. I know he was much bigger than normal because of the tug on the 3 weight rod. That may have been the best and the worst part of the day. I gave the pool a rest and returned but he was not having any of it. And that was the last fish I tangled with all day. He was at the fish line.
One thing I was not expecting was the huge amount of millipedes. Supposedly nocturnal, the North American millipede (narceus americanus) was crawling all over every dead tree trunk and rock. They were everywhere! In one spot I had pulled myself up by grabbing onto a large dead log and had forgotten that best practice of hiking and climbing — look at what you’re pawing before you grab it. Gladly I did not mash one of these guys, who can secrete some junk that can irritate your skin and cause temporary discoloration at the affected spot. Not as bad as I had thought before I got home and read about them — I was thinking it could have been certain death by their highly venomous mandibles. Not to worry, that is quite untrue.
If I get back to Cedar Run I will try from the bottom. When the water comes down that could be the better end of this stream. In the meantime, there are lots of other places and I think better streams in the park. But if you want a challenge and don’t mind demonstrating some fly fishing to the many hikers who use the trail, Cedar Run is worth checking out.
The Savage River has a great population of wild brook and brown trout, possibly some of the best populations of both in the entire state. This includes fly fishing only and artificial lures only sections of the Trophy Trout Management Area. Stocking of hatchery trout in the Savage River tailwater was discontinued “after 1990.” So if you go, you might actually want to hit the real thing after you’ve fished the reservoir.
“A 2.3 mile section of the South Fork Powell River in the Town of Big Stone Gap and a 0.75 mile section of the Middle Fork Holston River in Chilhowie have been added to this very popular program. Included in the program are those waters that are posted as “Stocked Trout Waters” and are stocked with catchable-sized trout from October through May each year. Designated stocked trout waters are listed by the Director of the Department in the annual Trout Stocking Plan published in the “2011 Freshwater Fishing in Virginia” regulations pamphlet on pages 20 – 21.
This modification to the trout stocking plan will be effective with the formal posting of regulations on the new streams. “We are very excited about this great opportunity for anglers in Wise and Smyth Counties,” stated Bill Kittrell, Regional Aquatic Manager in the Department’s Marion Regional Office. “It has taken a considerable amount of work on the part of both the Town officials as well as Department staff to bring this about,” Kittrell explained. Officials from both the Town of Big Stone Gap and the Town of Chilhowie have presented the Department with formal resolutions supporting the concept. “In both cases, the Towns own large tracts of land adjacent to the streams, and access for the public is excellent,” Kittrell continued. These waters will only be considered designated stocked trout waters from October 1 through June 15, and a trout license will be required to fish in addition to the regular fishing license. A trout license is not required from June 16 through September 30. Trout angling hours on designated stocked trout waters are from 5:00 a.m. until one hour after sunset.”
NEW — In our quest for total world domination, the Brook Trout Fishing Guide is now posting Maryland’s trout stocking information each week. In addition to Virginia’s trout stocking info, this brings the total number of states we cover to… two. At this rate, we will cover every state that stocks fish (including Hawaii even though only on Kauai can you find trout) and become your one-stop resource for stocker fishing in about twenty five years. Thanks for being, uh, VERY patient.
I often drive past Happy Creek in Front Royal on my way to fish in Shenandoah National Park. Right in the middle of town, looks like it would be a great place to take a kid fishing. I would guess this is most definitely put-and-take, and take all. Let’s see, it was stocked on May 10… might be too late.
Business meetings, those time sucking depressions on my calendar, the black holes of a productive and joyful life. Presumed to be a necessity of IT consulting, sometimes they are only bearable if they are close to some fishable water…
I’ve recently found myself in Maryland working for a client and just last week realized there might be some fishing opportunities near their offices. Knowing this last meeting was really going to, uh, “present some challenges” as the corporate doodie heads like to say, I scoured the map for water and saw that a 45 minute drive would put me in the middle of good trout streams and near what could be some brook trout habitat. The next step was going to be more challenging than the meeting, but so much better — finding out if there were fish.
I scooted out of the meeting (the worst I’ve had in years) and drove up I-270 to the Catoctin Mountains, near Thurmont, Maryland. There are in fact brook trout up there, and nice ones. The Maryland DNR seems to keep this a little bit under the radar, but some reading and a little exploring pays off. The DNR claims “20 native trout streams” in the Catoctin Mountains. If that actually means twenty brook trout streams, that’s amazing. My hunch is that this means twenty wild trout streams — a different thing — but I could be wrong and maybe there really are twenty different native brook trout streams in the area. However, that would rival the number of native trout streams in Shenandoah National Park (30+), which is a much bigger area and a much healthier brook trout habitat. It is hard to believe the Catoctin Mountain area comes that close.
Anyway, I found one of those places, a headwaters section of a known stocked stream in the Catoctin Mountains with public access. The fish in the photos was caught on a small Royal Wulff. A very small Royal Wulff. I had tied it with too much hackle and too much wing, and I ended up trimming it down a couple weeks prior on one of my recent brook trout outings. It ended up as a micro Wulff by the time I’d finished. So… I was crawling up the edge of this stream in Maryland on hands and knees and at this particular pool this fish was jumping after small mayflies on the water. It broke the surface three times before I first cast to him. And I first cast to him successfully after pulling my fly out of the same tree twice in two backcasts. Not sure why I often don’t remember the tree is there after the first backcast gets snagged. Between the time you pull the branch down (or climb the tree, and get the fly, untangle the line wrapped around the branch and re-sharpen the hook) and the time you cast again, you forget that — hey — there is a tree back there and you’ve got to make some adjustments. But I sorted that out and got him on the third or fourth drift. Very cool! I suspected it was a brook trout when he first splashed. He certainly was. I hooked and lost a much bigger one just upstream. I know, sounds like a fish story, but it’s fact. Those were the only two I caught or hooked in my short hour on this stream.
You can poke around and find this water easily enough. I’m not under the illusion that this blog gets so much traffic that simply publishing the name of a stream is going to overwhelm it with people tromping around and mishandling these little native fish, but it is of some concern. If a half dozen people pulled up and accessed this particular stream it would be overwhelming — it is that small. But if the DNR website is correct and this is one of, well, let’s say one of “a bunch” of streams that are probably very similar, then at the very least there are a few others in that area. If the Maryland DNR wants to keep some of the pressure off these streams, I understand and sorry if that miffs any of you, but again I’ll say this if you want to catch brook trout in this area — just drive around. You’ll find some.
Earlier in the week I headed to another stream that I had seen mentioned somewhere. I think it is likely there are brook trout in it but I caught none. I did see some small fish and they could have been young of the year brookies, but I’ll need to go back there to investigate a little more. There may be at least a couple other spots that look good nearby and probably once held brook trout. Another meeting will be another excuse to try this spot again.
On both of the trips this week I was also able to fish Big Hunting Creek, in Cunningham Falls State Park. I managed to hook two brown trout on a Kaufman’s Stimulator on the first outing (the first fish spit the hook and the second broke me off around the log he was hiding under), and yesterday I was even more thoroughly skunked. I did meet one other fisherman who said he had hooked a rainbow but lost it and he’d seen a 20″ rainbow in a pool but it did not rise or seem interested when he tried to entice it. He was fishing a double nymph rig with a Copper John and some sort of caddis pupa under a Thingamabobber, which he said was roughly recommended to him by the guys at Hunting Creek Outfitters. Big Hunting Creek is a beautiful stream. A little crowded but I think heading up here in some crappy weather would not only keep the angling pressure low but make for much better fishing than a bluebird day like yesterday.