April 27, 2017
I had been driving an hour and a half and finally saw the river. A friend of mine told me about this place a while back, and insisted I should fish it. I continued to drive until I got to stretch of stream I felt beckoned to me.
I threw the car in park, and suited up as quick as I could. After all, hearing the sound of rushing water gush down a valley is better than the chiming of a dinner bell to me. I grabbed a rod some hate and some love, and slipped down to the small stream with the Rhodo in hand.
I emerged from the freshly budded bushes next to a deep pool. The river was nearly double the size my friend told me it should be. As I looked, I observed some of the bushes consistently slapping the water and concluded the river must be up a fair amount more than normal. I looked around and saw blades of grass submerged from the banks of the stream. By my calculations the stream was probably 8 in. to a foot higher than normal. I figured this would mean some of the bigger fish would be out ready to play, and that I would need to be a little more cautious with my wading and moving in the river.
I slipped my head back through the bushes and walked back into the woods a little ways. I then emerged several feet below the pool to have a better shot at some fish. I threw my fly into every likely holding spot and nothing.
I continued this relentless game for nearly two hours. After I exhausted a "fishy" spot I methodically moved upstream to the next spot that caught my eye.
Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.
As I turned my head at a new pool a yellow sign protruding from a gnarly, moss-covered, tree caught my eye, "Posted No Trespassing. No Hunting. No Fishing. Violators Will Be Prosecuted."
This was baffling. I was confident I was on public land, my friend who gave me the lead told me it was public land, but in front of my face I was gazing at my day-ender. I quickly got out of the stream and walked down a small trail that parallels the river on the other bank back to my car.
I must confess, I don't have the most confidence in myself when it comes to trespassing. Firstly, because it's illegal, and second, because when out in the middle of the woods, and there is no one around I don't want to stumble upon an old moonshine shack surrounded by toothless hillbillies with shotguns. This is Virginia after all, you never know...
I walked back to my car defeated.
It took nearly 2 hours to drive to this place. I saw zero fish, and all my time and effort was wasted due to a yellow sign. Was this place public or private property anyway. I got in my car, and looked again at my map. Did I really come out here just to drive back home?
I got back out of my car and decided to drive a little lower downstream where I knew there were no signs, and I got out to fish again. I put on a huge fly, a giant foam March Brown, and started fishing again.
I found a monstrous, raging, deep pool, nearly three times larger than the one I first started at, and casted my Monster Bug. For a small stream this section didn't seem very small..After the third cast I saw a flash of gold emerge from the depths and launch out of the water after my imitation. The brown trout lunged out of the water and came crashing down a foot or so away. It was like Shamu at SeaWorld, but this time it was free (and a little more exciting)!
Every other time this has happened to me the fish wouldn't get hooked, but not this time!
The brown crashed and thrashed through the water leaping several times continuing his Shamu imitation. After his dazzling display was finished I quickly brought him to hand. A healthy foot long wild brown trout stared at me angrily as I took the fake fly out of his lip. Before I could even gently place him back in the water he jumped from my hand and took off for the comforts of the deep.
This was the spark of hope I needed to continue on.
I kept fishing and started fooling more and more fish. It was like a light switch had flipped. Brook trout after brook trout began to fall prey to the fly. And I continued fishing all the way back up to the "No Trespassing" sign again. I caught numerous fish, and had my hope restored.
I don't know what brought about the change. Was the fly pattern now big enough for the fish to see it, did the water temperature go up a little bit, did the sun come up just right? I still have no clue. In fact, I have never seen a more drastic change in one day than this.
I returned home later that day and immediately talked to my friend. I told him about the slow start, but solid fishing afterward, and tried to figure out my confusion with the private property. He told me the no trespassing signs were from one landowner whose property butts up against the river.
Apparently, if I had gone upstream just several feet on that little trail that parallels the river I would have seen the public land sign proclaiming the name of the river, and that I, as well as all of my fellow Americans, own this land.
I'll be back.