A follow-up to Scouting New Brook Trout Streams from last fall…
On the last Sunday in February a couple weeks ago, about as balmy a day as many we had on Abaco last month, I drove south. After a week in the forties and thirties, a sunny, 65 degree day was certain to turn some brook trout on to dry fly fishing. So I went to a new place to see about it.
Shenandoah National Park on a weekend is always the same for the fly fisherman who wants to have some seclusion. You’re going to run into people, even in this pursuit that has relatively few participants. But that is something you can avoid if you’re willing to get away from the known places, the “sure things,” the spots that the internet is, unfortunately, making more popular every year.
There is a stream in the park that I’ve been eyeing for a few years. It doesn’t seem like much on the map, though, and I don’t know anyone who has fished it. It’s exactly the kind of place you’d pass up in favor of the “good spots” — the Rose, the Rapidan, the Conway, and all the rest. Time is always short — hell, life is short — so to maximize the enjoyment of driving to the park, hiking in, fishing for a few hours, then traveling back home, you want to make it worthwhile. Exploring new spots jeopardizes that kind of easy lifestyle. It’s not a sure thing. You’re going to find some gems if you do it regularly, but usually, you’re going to strike out.
Anyway, I couldn’t figure out how to access this particular SNP stream easily, so I parked at the nearest trailhead and hiked quite a ways. It was a beautiful day. At the very least, it would be one great hike.
So to shorten a long story a bit… I found some nice fish, but not that many. I put almost eight miles on the boots. It was a good day. Afterwards, I meandered around the back roads and actually did find what looked like some sketchy though probably legitimate parking right at the lower end of the park boundary where the stream exits. In other words, parking that might be two hundred yards from the nicest fish I caught. Hmmm…
A week and a half later, my wife and I followed up on this hazy parking situation. We found that you can park in that spot, and the fish were as close to the car as I had thought on the first trip. It was also about ten degrees warmer. In spots where I couldn’t buy a trout in February, we were now getting aggressive takes of our flies (large Adams and Patriots) in almost every little pool we tried. Ten degrees and into the low seventies, and the water temp was up from around forty-four on the first trip to fifty-one this time… that’s all it takes.
I have now found over a dozen good brook trout streams within easy reach of northern Virginia where I can park and catch fish with minimal hiking — a couple hundred yards or less. Reducing the hike to nearly nothing is not always my goal, though. In fact, for me, a killer hike to remote streams is a big part of the appeal that is brook trout fishing. But, yes, sometimes time feels very short, and I also just wanted to see if it was possible to find such places. These places are there, places where you can find native brook trout, and wild rainbow trout (yes, rainbows that have not been stocked in decades) within an hour and a half of the western border of Washington, DC. In fact, I know of a couple streams in Virginia that are just over an hour from DC (without traffic).
Anyway, I figured I’ve now found most of the brook trout streams that require little to no hiking within reasonable distance of northern Virginia, but there are still a few blue lines on maps I have marked to go look at. It satisfies some urge I have (maybe some dumb urge), that of the stifled explorer, or the guy who’s too busy with life to actually be an explorer. Whatever it is, I enjoy it. We are lucky to live in this area. There are lots of options to catch wild fish around here.
Weather conditions: First day – mostly sunny, winds SSW 8-20 mph, second day – mostly cloudy, winds SSW 6 to 15 mph
Air temp: First day – 64, second day – upper seventies
Water temp: First day – mid-40’s, second day – unknown
Insect activity: small mayflies, dark stoneflies
Flies used: Adams, Patriot