JC and I left Hampton Roads mid-afternoon and the Corona Virus traffic was mercifully light. After one short detour, and a tour of the metropolis of West Augusta, we made it to the Ramsey's Draft parking lot.
We surveyed potential camp sites and selected one by the river, JC in his MSR single and me in my trusty Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2.
We enjoyed a Swartzbier while we poked around the river and then returned to the campsite to cook dinner - couscous with tuna and salmon.
After dinner, we pierced the inky darkness with a drive bak to West Augusta to get wifi and text Will our gameplan for the next day's fishing and coordinate on a rendezvous spot. We texted him we would hike about 2.5 miles up to Jerry's run and fish around there 'til he arrived. We returned to Ramsey's Draft and admired the stars, made sure the fire coals were managed, and let the rush of the stream put us to sleep.
We woke the next morning, made a quick breakfast, broke camp, donned our gear and hit the trail.
As we hiked, we kept the river on our right. Missing an orange stripe on a tree to mark a preferred stream crossing, we continued on through a canyon of poison ivy, stepping gingerly to avoid the scourge.
On our way to Jerry's Run, we lost count of the stream crossings, but there were many. Not difficult to ford, but slippery nonetheless.
Along the way. we admired the rock seeps, wild geraniums, trilliums, and other wildflowers that bloomed among the poison ivy.
Once we got above Fish Hollow, the poison ivy became less prevalent.By and by, in about an hour, we made it to Jerry's Run.
As the map indicates, there is a campsite with a large fire ring on the right side of the trail.
Big fire ring, but only enough open space for a few tents. Plus the site was ringed with dead trees so, if you stay here, pray you don't hear a thump in the night!
Enough hiking, time to hit the stream! I fished up from Jerry's Run, while JC headed down. The water level was lower, but the promise hinted at the stream crossings was fulfilled as I waded upstream in search of deeper pools.
Being that it was shallow, I swapped out my tungsten bead head pheasant tail for a brass bead version and was rewarded almost immediately with Virginia's state fish - a beautiful native brook trout.
You gotta love the colors on these fish! I continued upstream picking fish out of the pools as I went.
With JC's daughter's pink playmobile walkie talkie I heard Will over his more powerful Motorola version making headway up the trail to Jerry's Run. Will had driven up from Richmond and then speed-hiked in anticipation to meet us at Jerry's Run. JC met him at the trail crossing with me just above, but I couldn't tear myself away from the stream. I kept fishing, around that bend, up to that tree, one more pool.... Will and JC went back to fishing. All morning long, we had the stream and its beautiful pools to ourselves.
With the water shallow, the fish were super spooky and if you scared one at the tail of the pool, he would bolt to tell his cousins at the head and spoilt he pool. Luckily, there were plenty to choose from. Finally turning back to work my way downstream, I stopped for a little water and a snack before hop-scotching below JC and Will. Over the radio, Will confirmed that he was doing well and had switched over to a parachute Adams. For some reason, I couldn't hail JC, even when I walked right past him on the stream. Damn playmobile radios!
I found a spot on the trail with a dry creek bed and used that to work my way to the stream. On the way, I crossed this little wetland hidden in the woods.
I started off still fishing the pheasant tail with success.
But after seeing some bugs in the air and my first legitimate rise, I joined Will and switched over to a size 16 parachute Adams. The Brookies crushed it! And like Will, I caught my largest Brookies on the dry.
I continued upstream as the rendezvous time neared. There were just too many beautiful pools to ply and so little time. Surprisingly, there were plenty of fish in the runs too - perhaps where you would not expect them with the water being shallow. It was just good fishing all around.
As the afternoon turned late, I spied this little fellow sunning on a rock and he let me take his picture.
I'm no expert, and even though it was May, I believe this is a March Brown mayfly. The pheasant tail nymph is a reasonable approximation for the March Brown nymph so maybe that's why it worked so well. Doesn't explain the parachute Adams though, with its grey body. Go figure. Those two flies are the workhorses of any Shenandoah fly box. They just work and work.
at 4:30 Will and I headed to the rendezvous point to meet JC. JC finished off the day with a beautiful Brookie caught on a caddis fly. Pretty work!
Back at the parking lot, we passed around the Smartmouth Alter Egos and kept our social distance as we recapped the day. My back hurt, I was sore, but I wouldn't have changed a thing. The previous evening's stream-side campout was salve for my soul and spending days with friends on the river are the stuff memories are made of. These days will carry me through the COVID-19 pandemic to the other side. Thanks for keeping the George Washington National Forest open.