All this work at home during COVID with no escape, begged for some R&R in the mountains. JC and Will were game so we arranged a quick trip to the George Washington National Forest for some trout fishing.
We made a quick stop at the South River Fly Shop in Waynesboro so JC could get some waders and boots to up his wet wading tenkara game. Here is the happy camper!
We left on a Thursday afternoon and made an early dinner stop at our regular watering hole - Blue Mountain Brewery. I was good and had a salad along with my Kolsch.
With rain in the forecast and all the extra fly fishing gear, we opted for a drive up campsite rather than backpacking in somewhere. Hone Quarry campground fit the bill.
Hone Quarry is very basic - no water, no electric, but it does have a pit toilet and the $5/night fee is unbeatable. There were only a couple other campers so we pretty much had our choice of campsites. We picked a nice high, level one next to the stream. With more rain forecast and the threat of flash floods, we wanted to make sure the site wouldn't flood or pond water.
The picturesque Briery Branch flowed behind our campsite, providing white noise for a great night's sleep.
JC and I woke up Friday morning, cooked a simple breakfast of oatmeal and coffee and headed north and west to meet Will at the Skidmore Fork parking lot. Even though Will came separately from Richmond, we arrived within seconds of each other. We suited up and started hiking to the Switzer Dam. On the way, JC spotted this newt...
Arrival at the dam. The meadow was full of butterflies!
The fishing in the pool below the dam bottom release was good and it was hard to leave, but eventually we did, but not before catching many brookies on parachute Adams, and yellow stimulators.
We moved downstream and split up, each of us deploying at one of the stream crossings and working upstream so as not to risk fishing water that had already been disturbed. The water in the Skidmore was good and the fish were cooperative. It's a beautiful little stretch of water.
It started to rain in the early afternoon, but not too bad. I spied this one little trib with a waterfall and figured a trout would be living there. I was right!
While my trout finding radar seemed to be on point, this was one of the most gratifying catches of the trip.
I moved along, and continued to catch beautiful brookies on the yellow stimulator.
After losing both Stimulators, I switched to a hand-tied Henryville Special with a little yellow foam post for visibility. That worked too.
The rain steadily increased, and even though we had intended to fish the Dry River for a few hours, we were thinking about our campsite, cooking and eating in the rain, and that was not too appealing so we called it a day and headed for the comfort of Harrisonburg for food and dryness. We stopped at the Mossy Creek Fly Fishing store, aka the "Candy Store" and restocked on yellow stimulators, ants, and beetles, I got some crosscut rabbit for steelhead flies, and we got some intel from Brian on the next day's fishing. Stopping in at Mossy is always a good time. Afterwards, we had some wood-fired pizza and ale.
Returning to the campsite, we were pleased to find that the front had shifted, sparing our campsite and we were able to get a fire going with the aid of a Duraflame's pyrotechnics. We talked story until 9:30 then retired for the night. Unfortunately, I blew out my Big Agnes sleeping pad (warranty TBD). JC came to the rescue with a spare foam pad on which to rest my old bones.
The next day, on Brian's advice, we headed south and west to the North River. Pretty stream!
Like the previous day, we split up on different sections of the river. Will shook off his troubles from the day before and resumed his penchant for catching the largest, fattest Brookies.
The river was full of caterpillars, and giant, beautiful butterflies. Here's one of the smaller, but no less beautiful ones...
We all had good luck on the North River. In the fast, rain-infused creeks, the yellow stimulator, and it's other-colored cousins as flies were lost, produced all day long. Love my Taylor reel and G Loomis NRX rod!
In some of the deeper pools, I tried streamers, and nymphs, but got no love. It seemed like a dry fly day and we were NOT complaining. In this deep, long pool, little brookies were rising everywhere. I landed a bunch.
I meet up with JC as he covered this deep pool with his Patagonia/TFO tenkara rod. He pulled many fish out of this pool. He begged me to try streamers to get down, but again, no takes.
JC's beautiful pool... aka, the hornet's nest pool.
I was fascinated by the rocks in the stream and wished I knew more about the geology of this area. I kept coming across these dark black rocks with a streak of white crystal in them.
They must be tough, because I hunted for a small, broken-off piece, but could not find one. I liked the fascinating rocks, the massive butterflies everywhere, and the fact that the bug life was healthy and on display. Crossing this rotting tree-fall, a giant millipede was just chilling - perhaps having munched on some tasty mushroom.
One of his caterpillar buddies...
The forecasted rain stayed away, we caught many, many Brookies and had a great day. Feeling fully satisfied, we called it an early afternoon in anticipation of the drive home to Richmond and Hampton Roads.
JC and I said our goodbyes and parted ways with Will on the back roads around Churchville and we navigated to Starbucks in Staunton to juice up before the 3+ hour drive home. Fully caffeinated, we enjoyed good conversation until we made it to JC's house. I threw my wet waders, and camping gear into the Outback and was home in 30.
Thanks for a great trip guys. Can't wait to do it again!