Epic Day of Brook Trout Fishing

Man, did I catch 50 fish yesterday? I can’t claim that outright because I lost count. It was close, though. Could have doubled that if I’d been able to stick around longer.

Not that number of fish is the objective, but it shows that dry fly fishing is absolutely on fire right now. It’s certainly the best time of year to be after brook trout. They are reckless, launching themselves at naturals as well as imitations. Every fly I tried worked.

Shenandoah National Park. Go there now!IMG_3093_m

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Road Trip: Dry River, Skidmore Fork, Monongahela National Forest

This is from a mid-April trip…

Breaking camp on a frigid Friday morning, I heard a deafening roar about a second before the fighter plane appeared. It shot by directly overhead and startled the crap out of me. If that’s how suddenly a warplane can be on you before you hear it, I’m glad I’m not one of the enemies.

The Route

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People Say Fishing Can Be Boring

IMG_6863_mFishing can be boring, according to some. I certainly experienced what some people would point to as the quintessential boring afternoon of fishing while on a small stream in the Poconos last weekend. My wife and I were in Wilkes Barre for her umptyish high school reunion. I snuck away Saturday to what I was hoping would be an awesome spot, and it probably is sometimes.

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River Access in Virginia Threatened Again

Geez, is this really happening again? Local landowners have filed a lawsuit over access to John’s Creek near New Castle, Virginia. This was triggered by the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) re-evaluation of the navigability of fourteen waterways in the state in 2015, in response to… well, probably best to read the lawsuit story link above rather than relying on anything I could recount here.

This case is specifically about access to a waterway used by whitewater kayakers, but the interests of boaters and fisherman overlap quite a bit. These cases are now a few small steps from limiting all kinds of river access. Like the Jackson River and “Crown Grant” ruling a few years ago, this also goes back to property deeds granted under King George in the eighteenth century.

These are the waterways the VMRC ruled on last year — note that some of these are of interest if you’re a brook trout angler:

Johns Creek — Craig County

Barbours Creek — Craig County

Potts Creek — Craig and Alleghany counties

Blackwater River (North Fork)— Franklin County

Jennings Creek — Botetourt County

North Creek — Botetourt County

Colliers/Buffalo Creek — Rockbridge County

Irish Creek — Rockbridge County

Bullpasture River — Highland and Bath counties

Piney River — Amherst and Nelson counties

Passage Creek — Shenandoah and Warren counties

Cedar Creek — Shenandoah County

Gooney Run — Warren County

Wolf Creek — Tazewell and Bland counties

So what to do? Not sure right now. This is a breaking story, hopefully we will find out more soon.

Update: Haven’t seen anything yet, but more info will probably follow on the Virginia Rivers Defense Fund site.

Recommended Fishing Books

I’ve broken the resources page into two pages: websites and books. The websites page was the original “resources” page on the main menu. The books page is new, a list of books I own (with a couple exceptions) and highly recommend. It includes links to my Amazon affiliate account for each book which, given the traffic this site gets, may help me pay for a month or two of hosting over the course of a year, or a single lunch… if I’m lucky. Some of the books are no longer in print, though, but you can find them elsewhere if you look. Hope it’s helpful.

Big Things

Seen in places in Shenandoah National Park and elsewhere on the Blue Ridge this past month…

Big Fish – Don’t know what it is, but we’ve been catching lots of better-than-average-sized brook trout lately. Maybe it’s due to the past couple years of good rainfall.



Big Rock Piles – Don’t know what it is, but sometimes we find these stacks of rocks. Do they mark good fishing spots? In this case (and in the case of the ones in my neighbor’s yard… been meaning to ask her about those), I can say no. And some don’t like seeing these things in wild places… probably with good reason.


Big Critters – One of the two badass spiders we saw (dark fishing spider?).


Big Little Flowers – These (some kind of bloodroot?) look big when the camera is in macro mode anyway, eh?


More Big Fish – And fish can also look plenty big in macro mode, eh?




A Day Fishing Near the Blue Ridge Parkway

Head north on 29 from Lynchburg, then hang a left…

Hard to believe I’ve lived in Virginia for over twenty-five years and, until this past weekend, I had never been on the Blue Ridge Parkway. All over Skyline Drive, I-81 north-to-south, backroads from here to Warm Springs to Farmville to Galax to…? Yes indeed, I’ve been everywhere, man… but not to the BRP. It was a hole in the middle of the state that had never seen my wheels, boots, or fly rod.

For anyone who may not be very familiar with the Commonwealth, Virginia is a big state. For example, a drive from Arlington to the far southwest corner of the territory will consume more than six valuable hours of your life if you zoom down there in one uninterrupted shot, and it’s closer to seven hours if you obey the laws while driving. It was almost understandable that I had just not gotten to the BRP yet.

This weekend, I finally got there. My wife and I headed back home from Lynchburg Saturday morning after visiting our son and his girlfriend at college the night before. I had bookmarked a spot some time ago that was on the way home, so we drove away that morning, north on Route 29, then left… and headed for the Blue Ridge. Specifically, the Tye River. Nice place…


It didn’t get out of the fifties while we were there. The sun shone for a little while early in the afternoon. My wife caught a nice one right away, then it slowed down, but only briefly. Bugs started hatching. Some dark mayflies (see photo above), then some medium tan guys right around a size fourteen. We pitched some Adams and Patriots, and I’ll admit my creativity seems stifled since it’s been the same selection for us on every outing this winter and spring. But it works.

Probably the most fun was the last pool we tried. Fish were rising recklessly, launching themselves out of the water at what looked like Quill Gordons. For a while I couldn’t buy a hookup. After my brain-dead loss of two flies in the same tree in two casts (a common theme in my life — lose a fly in a tree, tie on a replacement, then put it in the same tree on the next cast), I finally started catching some fish in this spot. I ended up with four out of that pool, as I just sat on a rock on the side of the water and winged some “long” casts upstream. This was some very atypical small stream fishing. It’s not often I make a cast further than about ten feet on these little creeks, so sending a cast three times further and mending some line felt like good times on a bigger river.

Done for the day, we headed to the top of the mountain, got on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and headed north. Beautiful drive, and a great day of fishing. And still, so many other places to check out.


Weather conditions: mostly cloudy, winds S 10 mph

Air temp: mid-fifties

Water temp: unknown

Insect activity: see photo, medium sized tan mayflies hatching

Flies used: Adams, Patriot

Fishing New Brook Trout Streams

SNP Brook Trout

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…

IMG_6615A 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

Overall Run Revisited

IMG_6570Five years ago I fished Overall Run, and I didn’t catch a damn thing. To this day, it is the only time I’ve been skunked in Shenandoah National Park on a stream that has brook trout within the park boundary.

That experience was a bottomless cesspool of wrong.

At the time, I wondered if the stream was actually empty. Why do I now know that this stream has fish? For two reasons I’ve learned since that day I fished it. The first is that there is research one can fairly easily find that describes fish surveys done on this stream. The second is from a Trout Unlimited meeting I attended a few years ago. The speaker, Paul Kearney, who used to own the now defunct Thornton River Fly Shop in Sperryville, Virginia, and now runs the Trout Unlimited Tri-State Conservation and Fish Camp, gave a talk about his long experience fishing the park. He mentioned Overall Run. But troublingly, he described an incident years earlier (I may not recall all the details correctly…) in which there was an accidental release of some chemicals that were stored at a site near Matthews Arm. Overall Run was contaminated and the trout were impacted. My working assumption, then, was that the stream was compromised still, and that that was the reason I had no luck there.

IMG_6591So Overall Run might have fish, but maybe they were not doing well — maybe they were on the decline, or on the rebound, or who knows what. Whatever the situation, I had already vowed never to waste any effort there again.

Well… time heals the smack of the skunk. Either that, or I was a fool, but last week I returned to Overall Run. It turns out this is a beautiful stream, and though I would not rate it among the best places I’ve fished in the park, it has some appeal along with its drawbacks.

Among the drawbacks is the relatively easy access. You can get there from Route 340 very quickly. The main parking area at one of the trailheads is littered pretty badly, and I suspect it’s due to this. Another issue is the proximity of the trail to the stream, which runs along quite a stretch of it. It’s definitely not the secluded experience of many other streams in the park.

IMG_6592Anyway, my afternoon there was just OK. I caught a few fish and they were normal sized SNP brookies, but they were few. The water temps didn’t get out of the forties, and along with my stubborn adherence to the dry fly when stalking brook trout, my limited success may be explainable. But really, I was stoked to return there and find fish after failing five years earlier. That’s a long time to hold a grudge. I curse the place no longer.



Weather conditions: mostly sunny, winds SSW 5 mph, gusting to 25 mph

Air temp: upper sixties

Water temp: fifty-five

Insect activity: some very small mayflies

Flies used: Adams, Patriot

February Fish

Got some of these:



And one of these:

Bar Jack

And several of these:

SNP Brook Trout

Not a bad month.