It was our first visit to my father-in-law in Myrtle Beach, S.C., since the family lost his wife of over 40 years due to cancer. We made the best of things, though. A few beers and a whole lot of memories, and all was as it should have been.
From there, the second half of the vacation took place in Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. We rented a beautiful cabin in the mountains with all the amenities of home, plus a hot tub and fireplace. Better yet, the park is full of trout streams and there was plenty of time to fish.
Plenty Of Trout Streams
While Bonnie enjoyed her copy of "The Davinci Code," I was free to explore the park. What an amazing place! The park sits on top of a mountain range running from Waynesboro to Front Royal at the northern tip. A road runs along the mountain tops — aptly named Skyline Drive.
There are plenty of streams in Shenandoah N.P.
From Skyline Drive, the headwaters of a number of trout streams can be found. All of these streams are reached via hiking trails that can be used to drop down the slope to the water. From there, it is a matter of finding the best holes and pools, most of which will hold wild brook trout. Getting to the streams is part of the adventure!
The streams are managed for catch-and-release fishing, and are open year-round. Better yet, they are full of wild brook trout of all sizes! While the typical fish is from 6- to 8 inches long, some bigger specimens are found in the deeper holes. The fishing rules are pretty simple: buy a license and you can fish using flies or a single-hook lure. That’s it. A non-resident license is a bargain — only $16 for a five-day fishing license (always call ahead — 540-999-3500 — to check for any changes in the laws).
While it may sound like these trout are a pushover, it is far from the case. Careful wading and a planned approach are needed to put a fly down on the little pools of these mountain streams. Make a stealthy approach and a correct cast, and a trout will rise, but there is only one chance. Fail to set the hook and you have missed your chance on a nice fish because they are too spooky to fall for the same thing twice.
The author said he experienced some of the best brook trout fishing in his life in Shenandoah.
Not Always Easy
Almost every decent pool on these mountain streams produced a chance or two on a dry fly. The water temperature was 58 degrees during our trip — perfect for fly-fishing.
My fishing efforts on these streams produced some tough hiking and wading. Often, the hardest part of catching a fish was maneuvering into the right position to get a good cast off without snagging the fly on the brush. Negotiating all of the hang-ups was difficult. Sometimes all went well and a jewel-colored brookie was caught and released.
The difficulty of approaching the fish provided the challenge. These streams were very enjoyable to fish and gave me some of the best brook trout fishing I’ve had in a long time. It was probably the setting — fishing streams on the top of beautiful mountains in the springtime, with nothing but great views — that made it memorable.
One afternoon as I climbed back up the steep bank of the creek to the trail, a movement startled me. The hunter’s eye took over and I spotted a fawn-colored body standing 12 yards away through the thick brush. I managed to work my camera off my neck and snapped several photos of the five deer I stumbled into before they finally spotted me and ran off.
A typical brook trout caught in the park.
There are plenty of deer in the park, and they are pretty easy to approach and photograph from a vehicle, and also on foot — if you are lucky enough to encounter them.
If you ever find yourself in Virginia with some time on your hands, and a fly rod in your trunk, buy a license and give Shenandoah National Park a try. The spring trout fishing is awesome, and there are plenty of cabin rentals and nearby motels. It is hard to believe such a place exists, and within an hour’s drive of the highly populated areas of our nation’s Capitol!
For a fine selection of Fly Fishing gear, click here.