Monday, May 20, 2013

A quiet morning on the Lynnhaven River, VA

Paddled out to a favorite spot before work at 0-dark-hundred. The river was quiet, the water was glass, and the wildlife were my choir. Baitfish were abundant and the predators crashed through them from time to time. It's nice to be the only human around at times.

A quiet morning on the Lynnhaven from Coastal Explorer on Vimeo.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Floating the Shenandoah River for Smallmouth Bass May 18, 2013

Floating the Shenandoah River for Smallmouth Bass from Coastal Explorer on Vimeo.

Ramsey's Draft Wilderness, GWNF, May 15, 2013

Day two of my Plan B instead of fishing in NY's Catskills.

The night before I met up with fellow Bill Wills Southeastern VA Chapter of TU member John Crosby and his lovely wife Karen.  We had a nice long breakfast, solved a few world problems, and then got our act together to fish.

First we stopped at the South River Fly shop in Waynesboro to get the skinny.  Owner Kevin Little is a very nice guy and I highly recommend if you're in the area that you stop in for a good deal on 3wt. Echo rods, some key flies (restocked my stimulator arsenal) and the best intel.  After consulting with the experts, and discussing the sad state of high water conditions, we decided to go back to the George Washington National Forest, and fish the Ramsey's Draft Wilderness Area.  David Nash (   had fished that stream the week before and had done well so we were off!

We dinked around so we didn't get to the stream until afternoon.  

We agreed to follow the same strategy of moving upstream for a distance in the hopes of finding less-pressured water.  We walked for about 45 minutes, got off the trail somehow (following the steam bank) and started our fishing moving upstream as we went.  The first section we fished looked like this.

 John nymphing.

I spied this blowdown and decided to try my luck casting up and underneath the downed trees.  

Perseverance was rewarded with what turned out to be the biggest brookie of the day.  He took the stimulator.

Casting to the head of this pool from the upstream side, I landed an errant cast into the debris, so as I scootched out the log to retrieve my fly, I spotted a snake (water snake?) slithering up and along the upper log.  I quickly retrieved the fly, and then got a 6th sense feeling and looked to my left to spot another sibling.  Yikes!  I made hast to amscraa!

 On another errant cast, I was retrieving the fly from a snag-bush and noticed this casing.  What monster hatched out of this inch and a half shell!

I lost track of John, but on I went upstream fishing riffle and pool until my heart's content.  Scenes like this drew me ever upward.

There were small black caddis flies flitting around so I tied on a size 14, but I couldn't even see the damned thing.  Old eyes suck!  The wind was blowing in gusts, so, not being an expert in terrestrial flies or fishing, I decided to put on an ant, but I was afraid I wouldn't be able to see the black ants either, so I put on a beetle with a poof of chartreuse on it.  No hits, so I went back to the black ant.  I still couldn't see it but set the hook on any surface activity and got a few small brookies this way.     


 Not having seen John in a while, I started back down the trail at 6 pm.  This time it was easy to follow and, calling his name all the way, made my way downstream taking pictures along the way. 

 I found this interesting rack wall with water dripping down its face.  The leaky faucet gave it a cool covering of mosses and plants.


 More snakes on the path.  This one a harmless garter snake.

May apples in bloom along the trail....

Wild geraniums aka "cranesbill".  In this frame, a little bit of pleasure and pain!

The trail was flanked with flowers everywhere you looked!

When I got back to the parking lot, thankfully, I found John - fishing while he waited for me.  Here he is plying one last run.

We steered the car west and made our way around the traffic piling up at the Blue Ridge intersection on Rt. 64.  John's backroad knowledge beats Siri or GPS any day!

I threw my stuff in the back of the car and left Charlottesville at about 8:30 pm.  I hit road construction about every 10 miles heading east on route 64, but at least the traffic was moving late on a weekday night.  Got home to my loved ones just after midnight and hit the pillow like a rock, but couldn't help dream of VA's terrific trout streams, the hospitality of good friends, and the blessings of the day.   

Friday, May 17, 2013

Skidmore Fork, George Washington National Forest, VA - May 14, 2013

I was supposed to head off to NY for the Bill Wills Southeastern VA Chapter of TU annual trip, but many unfortunate forces conspired to scuttle the trip and since I had the time off, I decided on a pretty good Plan B.

I would trout fish in VA for a couple of days, spend a day in the salt, and then cap it off with a float for smallmouth bass.  More on those trips later.  This post deals with the trout fishing.

On Tuesday, I left Virginia Beach, not terribly early, at around 7 am and pointed the car west on I64.  Even though I hit lane closures crossing the Shenandoahs, I made it to Mossy Creek Fly Shop in Harrisonburg around 11:30.  I was told all the rivers were swollen, fast, and muddy.  However, the shop advised me to try the Skidmore Fork, a small tailwater flowing out of a dam in the George Washington National Forest - spitting distance from the WVA border.  

Heading west on Route 33 from Harrisonburg, you pass through the hamlet of Rawley Springs and continue as 33 parallels the Dry River,  The parking lot for Skidmore Fork is at the base of Middle Mountain.  IF you start heading up the mountain, carefully turn around (trucks take the hairpin turns in the middle of the road!) and turn into the parking lot on the right at the bottom of the hill.  

I had read that the fishing improved the farther upstream you went.  However, I also misunderstood that the river section was about 9 miles.  Because of that, I promised myself I would walk at least an hour upstream, without looking at the water, before starting to fish.  

OK, I cheated and looked at the river right from the start.  I just wanted to gauge the conditions - water level, speed, clarity.  When I saw this scene,  I was PSYCHED!

The trail was wide and easy!

Some "trail art".  

Perhaps because it wasn't too garish and you had to be paying attention to see it, I wasn't offended by this graffiti.  After 45 minutes of steady walking, I entered into a clearing and saw the unmistakable footprint of a major earthen dam!  Perhaps the 9 miles I got in my head includes the dammed lake and the upstream portion of the Skidmore Fork.

And at the far left hand corner of the dam was the outlet channel.  The weir groaned and belched slugs of water that came in waves.  But the pulses of water quickly dissipated; healthy sized brookies were rising everywhere.  

Using a #16 parachute Adams, I had my my pick of fish.  Their colors were spectacular, with brilliant patches of orange and white epaulets.

Just look at that tail!

Having caught enough fish in the first hour to last a day, I moved on to the more challenging fast water down below the dam outfall channel.  It was rushing pretty good and I worked my way down to find creases in the flow where the water slowed down a bit.  

Some of the brookies were average size for a small mountain stream...

Some of the little guys still had their par marks - so cool!

You can see, I was using a small stimulator for the fast water and it worked well.  Even if their colors were muted, some of the fish were quite nice sized!

That guy was in this section...

My 6X tippet went "blink" as I lost a monster in this pocket - DAMN!  

After that, I clipped down the leader and started fishing a streamer that my TU buddy Bill Campbell taught me to tie at a meeting.  I caught a few fish on that too.  I mean, check out this scenery - breathtaking!  I'm sure you could do very well just fishing streamers from the dam down to the parking lot.

I left the stream at around 5 pm since my evening accomodations were not yet set and there was the potential that I may have had to find a campsite.  I headed back east and south and the setting sun over the Blue Ridge Mountains was the perfect capper to an excellent day on a new VA stream.  Peace!