I planned to start doing shotgun trips up to the mountains - leave Friday after work, camp out, demob., fish Sat. and come home Sat. night to minimize time away from family. This was the first of (hopefully) many trips.
From the list, I chose the North River for the first new foray. Colby said the upper section had good brookie water and the special regulation water below the Elkhorn Dam could hold some larger rainbows.
According to plan, I left a few hours early on Friday to avoid at least some of the traffic crossing the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel, and hit the gas after the construction zone on Rt. 64.
I met Neil in Stanton, and we checked out Redbeard Brewing Co for some grub before heading to our campsite. Their brown ale was decent and the food truck food was good, but overly expensive for the portions (a "truth" for all truck food?).
We wound our way along country roads until the pavement dissolved into dirt track in the George Washington National Forest. The road was pretty well graded and that's good, because few people, besides us, slowed down from highway speeds! Making dust clouds is cool I guess!
We had our pick of streamside sites on the dirt road that paralleled the stream above the lake. Lots of space, big fire rings, and free - you can't beat that! It was busy for April, but the weather forecast was awesome so that brought a lot of car campers out.
After setting up the tents, we had some daylight left, so we got our gear and checked out the stream section in our backyard. I caught a nice rainbow in a pool just below the site. It took a small olive "slumpbuster" streamer and I caught two other fish further downstream in similar pools. I did see some rises right at dusk, but didn't feel like re-rigging for drys with so little time; besides, I was ahead of the game.
Neil an I talked story for a while and discussed our strategy for the next day, fish and explore basically, and turned in around 10.
We got up the next morning around 6:30, made oatmeal and coffee, and broke camp. We drove up to the third bridge and Neil fished upstream while I fished down. Here's a map, but I don't think it shows the bridge crossings properly. The Lake on the left is Elkhorn, the one on the right is Stanton.
We hopped from pool to pool. This is what the river looked like....
I was having pretty good luck with a bead head prince nymph. My first fish was a dink, but drop dead gorgeous. I love the little guys with the par marks!
Caught a few more as I moved downstream...
We rendezvoused at 11:00 to recap our experiences. Neil had also caught some nice fish on streamers. We decided to move downstream to the next bridge and this time hopscotch our way upstream to try to avoid water that was around occupied campsites and/or that may have already been worked.
I caught a few fish before we met up at 12:30 for lunch. After a brief respite, we decided to drive down to Elkhorn Lake and walk over the dam to the Special Regulation/Delayed Harvest section. Once at the bottom release pool, our plan was to have me hike to Stanton Lake at the bottom of the section and fish up while Neil fished down until we met up.
We met another angler at the dam release who told us about a pool where a bunch of the larger stocked fish were hanging out. We made a beeline there, but there was a group of 6 or 7 people occupying the pool who had camped nearby the night before. We just kept walking and executed the plan.
Rather than taking 45 minutes to get to Stanton Lake, I was there in only another 15 minutes. Maybe I was hurrying because I wanted to fish!
Once there, I was greeted by pretty water...
and a swimming snake (opposite bank, no pic)...
...and this freaky big ass bug!
I think it's some kind of giant leaf hopper. As I got closer, he flinched a little, so I snapped a quick picture and let him be.
With the missing and clipped fins, I'm guessing this is one of the rainbow stockers.
I made it back to the rendezvous point around 5:30, found Neil, and we made plans to stop at one of our favorite watering holes to cap off the day - Blue Mountain Brewery. We had a nice meal and a pint as we watched the sun sink behind the Shenandoah Mountains. It was a great day following the road to new waters...