Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Big Run Farewell, May 2015

It's sad, but true; my good friend David is leaving VA to head back to his native streams in Minnesota and Wisconsin.  So it was with great urgency that we fish one last time in the bosom of the Shenandoah.  We chose Big Run for some sweet, blue line brookies.  After a successful Bill Wills SE VA TU "Trout in the Classroom" release of fingerling brookies in the South River (Waynesboro), I shanghaied Logan, had a relaxing dinner at Blue Mountain Brewery, and we met David and Robert at the Rockfish Gap entrance station to the Shenandoah National Park. 

Like other "hike in" streams in the mountains, fishing Big Run requires a commitment.  The downhill to the stream is easy enough, but time-consuming.  The hike out after a day's fishing - that's another story!

We camped overnight Saturday, rose early and made a quickie, just-add-water breakfast, and hit the Big Run Loop Trail at 7:30 am.  We wore light hikers and packed in waders and boots to make all the hike more bearable.

And so the trail begins…

We kept a good pace on the descent, making note of all the blooming flowers on the way.  They were diminutive, but pretty.

The white petals on a dogwood tree are technically sepals, not  "flowers".  The flower is the yellow/green explosion in the center of the white sepals.

One of the many feeder streams entering Big Run.  Every addition made the run bigger, wider, and deeper.

More flowers….

 We're suckers for blue line fishing.  Trickle of a stream - we'll fish it!  But this time we heeded the advice of of the folks from the South River Fly Shop and we agreed to bypass some earlier water and press on to the lower section of the stream along the Big Run Portal Trail.  It was hard to pass up promising water, but we had faith…

We switched from hiking shoes to waders and wading boots and started licking our chops.  I stayed with Logan for a bit, but it didn't take long before he got the hang of approaching pools from below and fishing his way up to the heads of the pools.  He had his first fish in short order.  For safety, we made plans to all rendezvous for lunch and so we could compare notes.

I didn't see a whole lot of rises, none actually, so even though I saw one huge brown mayfly and one big yellow bug, I decided to fish a bead-head pheasant-tailed nymph.  It was a good choice.

Here is the first of my fish that day...

And the fish were cooperative….

I took five fish up against this bank; two of the brookies were 10-11 inches.  Here's Robert seeing if the brookies would come for a dry fly take.

The brookies were loving the pheasant-tailed nymph, and I was happy to give them a little exercise.

Here's Logan laying out a nice line with his new kit.

We hop-scotched our way downstream, section by section fishing our way upstream.  Unconventional?  Perhaps, but effective nonetheless.  The fish were treating us nice. 

Below the confluence of the Big Run and Rocky Mtn. Run, the stream just got prettier and prettier…. 

Pretty, pretty pools.  I don't know about the other guys, but in the slower water, I was catching some pretty big chubs and a few dace.  So I tended to pass up those sections as I made my way NW.

More flowers….

Below the confluence there was a fairly long flat staircase section of the stream.  It was pretty, but did not appear to offer any holding water so I moved on. 

After lunch I enjoyed a steady pick of fish.  I had left the Scott 3 wt. in the car and instead focused my attention on my Tenkara USA "Rhodo" rod.  I had used it sporadically over the past year, but on this day, it really proved its metal and I'm not sure I'll ever go back to a rod and reel in the Shenandoah.  The Tenkara is perfect for these brookie streams!  Thanks to David for getting me hooked!

At lunch we had agreed to stop fishing at 4 pm so we could hike the ~4 miles back up the Big Run Portal and Big Run Loop Trails before dusk - the last ~2 miles would be a steady and torturous uphill climb after an early rise, hike down, and full day of fishing.  The fishing was fairly closed in making casting a technical affair.  To fish this stream, an angler needs to cast over, in-between, and through bushes, tree branches, and tall weeds.  

I broke off my nymph on some outstretched obstruction or other and lost a fair amount of tippet to boot.  It was getting late, past 4 :), so, like the saltwater fly fishing heretic that I am, I loop-to-looped a section of 5X to the snapped leader's end and put my faith in a parachute Adams to round out the day on dries.

I got to this picturesque pool and knew this was the place!  I picked up one fish, but the rise and take made me forsake my 4 pm promise and I had to have another.  Thankfully, I didn't have long to wait!  

I telescoped the Tenkara USA Rhodo down and joined David, Logan, and Robert for the long climb out.  After a couple of fords, we switched out of our waders and boots, and back into day-hikers.  Sweet relief!  Up we climbed, and climbed, and climbed.  We took breaks, snacked, and drank what water we had left - knowing that we had a sixer of Blue Mountain Brewery Kolsch-151 in the cooler in the car as a reward.

We were happy to see the rock walls lining the Blue Ridge Parkway - that's when we knew our uphill ordeal was over.  We had a nice little celebration in the parking lot recounting the day's events.  Then we beat it back to Charlottesville for some Mexican food before the ride back to Hampton Roads.  Logan and I traded "my favorite band" stories to pass the time.  

I pitched Logan and his stuff out at around 10:30 pm  and made my way home savoring the memories - great scenery, great water, great fishing, great friends!  What a combination! 

I'm looking forward to the movie version of our trip on the "My Leaky Waders" Vimeo website.

David we will miss you.  Come back to VA and the Shenandoah - looking forward to fishing with you and JR!