01/04/09

Destinations:
Since this is the last day of the holidays, most of you will probably be staying home or visiting
friends and family. I doubt that many of you will be traveling to and fishing the Smokies although I
hope you do.  January and the first part of February is probably the coldest time of the year and
you will have to pick out the better days to expect much success fishing the freestone streams.
By the end of February, everyone will be doing their best to force the bugs to hatch and the trout to
respond even though they will probably have to wait a few more days to see any surface action.
That considered, I thought I would write about some fishing trips we have made to various other
destinations. Don't expect these articles to win any awards, just tell you about some things I
hope you will find interesting and a few that I look back on with a gleam in my eye.

Fly Fishing the Rapidan River - Part One

Angie and I first read about the fine brook trout fishing in the Rapidan River about
eight years ago. We were starting on our quest to fish all of Trout Unlimited's,
America's Best 100 Trout Streams. At the time we fished the Rapidan River, we had
fished about thirty of the streams. By the way, we have now fished eighty-six of
them. After fishing the first dozen or so streams, we had figured out that not all the
top 100 streams were great trout streams. They were what local Trout Unlimited
organizations voted to be the top 100 streams. If you live in X state, you are not
going to nominate or vote for a stream hundreds of miles away in Y state. Most
likely, you would vote for your local stream. For that reason, the top 100 streams
were spread out just about everywhere any form of trout fishing existed.Just for
example, Hazel Creek was not included, even though it is a far better trout stream
than some that are listed. I am not criticizing the way it was done. I am just pointed
out that we found some of streams were obviously not great trout streams.

When we first decided to fish the Rapidan River, which lies in the Shennandoah
National Park, we were skeptical that it may be one that would not rank with those
we considered good streams. We felt that way because in the book, the author put
a big emphases on the fact that Camp Hoover was located on the stream. That
posed a question in our minds. We wondered if there were any fish there or they
just wanted to highlight the fact that a Presidential retreat was located on a trout
stream. We were not expecting very much. We had read about their big brook trout
but having fished many of the fine brook trout streams in Great Smoky Mountains
National Park, we wondered what the Rapidan would have to offer that we hadn't
already experienced.

I thought that we were not going to find the river. We located the point it exited the
park as was to warm for trout to exist but we kept getting turned around trying to
drive in to the lower and middle sections of the stream. They are small, country
roads that for the most part are unmarked. My GPS was left at home. After asking a
gentleman sitting on his front porch, we finally found the way. He told us that we
would do much better fishing the stream in front of his house. He said they didn't
stock the Rapidan in the park and it was no good.

There is an unpaved road that follows along part of the stream. The old
Presidential Retreat is located near the top part of the stream. I think I read where it
is still available for use by congressman. Naturally, you can't just drive up to the
front door. You can hike down to the river from the Skyline Parkway. That part
didn't seem so bad. It was hiking back up the mountain that turned us off.

It was a beautiful October day when we first arrived at the stream. The fall colors
were at their peak. The stream is very steep at the point we started fishing. It was
about the size of Little River near Elkmont at that point. It is quite different, however.
As mentioned, It falls off the mountain on a very steep decline. It has some rather
large, deep pools with short waterfalls in between them. The upper and middle
sections of the river has few riffles. It consist mainly of pools and water falls.

For the first couple of hours, we fished only two of the pools - the first pool we
stopped at and the pool just above it. Tomorrow I will let you know the reason for
fishing such a small area of the stream even though there were no other anglers
present.

Copyright 2008 James Marsh