In the last 4 years, trout fishing had been pretty elusive for me. Besides the recent spring trip to the Big Horn River in Montana, I really haven't done much in that time. Yesterday was my last day of legitimate freedom, so I took the opportunity to head to the nearest trout stream I could find.
In order to bypass any issues with private stream ownership, I decided fishing in one of Virginia's parks would be best. Shenandoah NP is about 3.5hrs from Norfolk, Va which makes it just close enough to make it a solid day trip.
I woke up at 4:45am, ate a good breakfast, packed the cooler, coffee and car, and got on the road. I was on the trail sometime around 10. I really had no idea what to expect other than there were native brook trout, feisty invasive browns, and according to Owl Jones, either bears, snakes, or yellow jackets (possibly a combination of all three). Additionally, the hike required to get to the stream was described as "relatively easy" and at least "several miles." The several miles thing turned out to be true, but, I tell you what, I was EXHAUSTED by the end of the day. I think I walked 5-6 miles, crawled over countless boulders and logs, shimmied across many river beds, and easily finished the 1.5liters of water I brought along. If that is easy, you can keep the difficult ones.
Coincidentally, the storms that were supposed to hit, dissipated and my last free day turned out to be the summer solstice, the longest day of the year providing me with the most daylight. The summer solstice is also a free day in national parks. Who knew? Not me, I was ready to pay the $15 entry fee when the ranger gave me a map and a smile and waved me by.
I wore my waders as pants, which I'm glad I did. Between the nettle, gnats, and profuse sweating, I was constantly scratching, swatting, and wiping my arms, forehead, and neck. It sounds like I'm complaining, but I'm not. It was all worth it.
So how was the fishing? What does Neil Patrick Harris' character Barney Stinson on "How I Met Your Mother" say? Oh yeah. Legend... Wait for it.... DARY!!!
Those trout are so easily spooked, but if you can creep up, they will destroy the fly you present. I was able to catch 7 brookies throughout the day. Gorgeous little fellas. The largest was maybe 7-8 inches, which is a solid fish from what I hear. It really was like hunting and fishing combined. If I even snuck a peak in the wrong way, I was reprimanded with a scatter of trout like kids who just hit a ball through a neighbor's window.
I caught most of my fish on size 16-18 Griffith gnats. After a drought of fish, I finally got one to take a Parachute Adams tied by Owl Jones.
All in all, it was an amazing day. I had so much fun. I only saw 2 other hikers and was surrounded by pristine country.
Sitting down for lunch on the creek bed, I jotted down a few lines....
Blue Ridges, Cold Water
The air is thick and sweet like honey.
Lunch on these softened stones of the
Creek bed much older than its name
Shows me the summer solstice is a gift.
An opportunity to get up earlier,
stay out later,
and catch more trout.
The mountain brookie
Is a shy performer,
Quick to escape at first sign of audience.
I must be calm.
I must be quiet.
Another boulder in the bed.
Another mossy log leaning close by.
I wash my hands, arms, and face
In your coolness.
Refreshed, the hunt begins again.
Sweaty, clouded, and accomplished,
I will return home.