Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Will's First Trout! October 25, 2013

My friend Will was getting interested in fly fishing, getting geared up, taking lessons, and doing his research. As his personal Wizard of OZ, I deemed what he hadn't got, was a trip to catch his first trout. 

This post is dedicated to Will and his first fly-caught trout! 

Since Will is a backpacker and hiker extraordinaire, I though I would take him to the Laurel Fork on the VA/WV border. It's a nice 3.5 mile hike in, and pretty water to boot. We left on a Wednesday afternoon for the long drive to the Laurel.

In the pitch black of country roads over the mountains of the George Washington National Forest (Bullpasture, Jack, Back Creek, Lantz, and Middle Mountain), we started to notice something in the headlights.  What could that be?  Ash from a fire? Holy smokes!  That's snow.  But wait, it's only October 22!  This is the scene that awaited us when we made it to the campground at the trailhead.

Shouting many expletives, we pitched the tent hurriedly, fluffed the sleeping bags, made a quick run to the loo, and then hit the hay.  

We slept comfortably enough.  We got up to find a couple of inches of powder on the ground so we made quick work of getting a fire going to cook breakfast.

"Will, did you bring a cook set? No, didn't you bring yours?"  That's how we learned that we  would be making coffee water in the iron skillet!  It wasn't too bad.  As we sipped warm beverages, Will demonstrated his prowess with eggs and sausage in the skillet on an open fire.  Yum!

After breakfast, we got our gear assembled - anxious to get moving on our 3.5 mile hike down to the Laurel Fork.

With the snow, the trail was beautiful!

However, the wet snow on the ground stuck to the bottom of our boots making walking difficult - it was like we were walking on stilts!

We spied some trout in the tiny pools on the Locust Spring adjacent to the Locust Spring Run Trail which buoyed our spirits and gave us reason o anticipate the good fishing that awaited us down below.  Once we made it to the Laurel Fork, I coached Will in the arts of casting and nymphing in between flurries that persisted all day.  

The Fork was gorgeous blanketed in a fresh coat of snow.  

Needless to say, we had the river to ourselves.  Unfortunately, the gods were not smiling on Will.  There were a few takes, but no hookups.  That's the way it goes sometimes…

We hiked out before dark, broke down the gear, and celebrated a beautiful day on the river.

We drove from Bartow, WV and headed towards our next day's destination, the Upper Jackson River, and our campsite at Hidden Valley Recreation Area.  As we drove south, the snow cleared and we were blessed with this view on Route 640.

We must've seen 1,000 deer in the fields as we went south on Route 640 and then on Rt. 220.  We drove to Hot Springs and had Italian subs for dinner and lingered to imbibe many cups of hot coffee to warm up for another night in the cold.  

We picked our spot at Hidden Valley, paid our fee, pitched the Big Agnes, and hit the hay.  There were snow flurries again.

The next morning, we woke and Will got the jump on the fire, thoroughly cleaned out the skillet so we could make debris-free hot beverages, and then we had a second round of campfire eggs and sausage.

We had a nice chat with the campground host, broke camp and got to the business of trout fishing. 

The hike from Hidden Valley to the special regulation section above Muddy Run was only 1.5 miles, but we figured even that distance would be enough to discourage many anglers and that the trout there would be less harassed. 

(A note to self - work some blaze orange into the fishing ensemble.  There were lots of hunters (bow season) at the campgrounds and in the area.)

The hike in was easy (on no!) - through fields and on gravel paths all the way to the swinging bridge.  We must've seen at least 20 woolly bear caterpillars on the path!

The weather seemed as if it would be at least 10 degrees warmer than the day before - cool, but with sunny skies and pleasant conditions.  The stream at the swinging bridge was inviting!

We worked our way upstream - Will fishing a nymph and me swinging large streamers through the deeper holes in the river.  Within about 30 minutes, I heard some excitement down below, and sure enough, Will was into his first fish.  It was a beaut!  I hope he saved that prince nymph for a keepsake.

We continued to fish the rest of the day.  This section of the upper Jackson was gorgeous, with "I know there's got to be a big one in there"-water, and although the weather was warmer, we never did have much bug activity and no rising trout.  Will stayed with the nymphs and I kept swinging streamers through deep pockets, but with no success.  


No matter.  Will got his first fish - mission accomplished.  The scenery both days was spectacular, the company was great, the camping was good, what more could you as for.

We celebrated the fish back in the Hidden Valley parking with a little more Devils Backbone Striped Bass Pale Ale as we de-frocked, laid our gear to rest, and prepared for the next part of our journey.  We were meeting up with friends at the Devils Backbone Brewery for dinner and some bluegrass music before hiking for 2 days on the Appalachian Trail.  You can read about that part of the adventure (coming soon) at:

Now this is living!


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