Easter weekend happened. It came and went with a lot of small activities packed into two and a half days. I met my brother and cousin for some afternoon tennis in Culpeper after working the seven to three-thirty shift in Fredericksburg. We of course, found our way to a well respected watering hole post tennis which most people refer to as “b-dubs” where we drank, caught up and snacked before heading home. I call my parents’ house home. Forest Gump followed on TV with an eventual bedtime somewhere around midnight. I woke around eight for another round of tennis with the same group before we headed to Easter dinner with my dad’s side of the family. After stuffing my face with far too much food, and feeling a little sleep deprived, we headed home before taking the short trip over to my Cousins’ parents for another night of drinking and cat fishing down at the pond house. Between myself, my two brothers, and two cousins I believe we wrangled in five to seven cat fish in the range of one to two feet in length (possible exaggeration; makes stories better). Again, bedtime came far too late in the evening.
The following morning was Easter Sunday and that meant ‘Sunrise Service”. Luckily, or by the wrath or satin — however you want to look at it — the church my parents attend is in the process of building a mega-church on the property just a short walk through the woods from home. This is where the service took place, which at the very least made for a little more convenience. I made a deal with my mother a day earlier that if I attended Sunrise service I could skip out on the rest of the religious meetings and fish until Easter dinner, which took place at two in the afternoon. This was a deal I could not refuse as I recently gained new knowledge about the magical world of dry fly fishing from the legend himself, Harry Murray of Murray’s Fly Shop in Edinburg, Va. A few weeks back I attended a demonstration he gave at the Heritage Festival at Graves Mountain Lodge. The festival leaned more towards kids, but I wasn’t going to miss Old Harry spread the gospel of fly fishing in the mountain streams of the Shenandoah National Park. The deal had to be struck with my mother because all the brothers missed Easter last year in favor of visiting a friend in Philadelphia and attending a Flyers versus Caps game. The brothers and I lack religious conviction.
Anyhow, let’s get back on track. After a very groggy service with a quite pretty sunrise I found myself parked at the base of Old Rag ready to hike up the Nicholson Hollow Trail and fish for some beautiful mountain brook trout. I caught one the previous fall on a fishing trip to the South Branch of the Penobscot River in Maine (this would have been another great journal entry), but that catch was more dumb luck than skill. This time I came prepared with knowledge, a nice day, a new rod, and a craving for taming the wild beast that some call the brook trout!
After about a one mile hike through private property I began my fishing. I tried to keep in mind all the things Mr. Murray told me. However, I’m new to fly fishing and therefore, not very good at it, and two, I was way too eager. I fished a number of holes without any action. Finally, I slowed down and approached the river with a little more focus. I wasn’t quite in the zone or one with the river because, like I said, I’m new to this stuff. But, I was focused. I came across a couple of nice holes that allowed me some great cover while I presented my Mr. Rapidan Dry Fly #14 designed by none other than, Harry Murray. I told you this guy was a legend! I saw the fish take the fly off the top of the water. The battle followed.
I was so excited that a fish took the fly that at first I neglected to realize that my position made it almost impossible to land the fish. A large tree that fell across the stream, a three foot waterfall, and a deep pool which I could not wade through all stood between me and my tiny little friend at the end of my line. How? How am I going to get this fish? I frantically went over what I thought to be every possible scenario in my mind. Before I knew it, the fish came down the waterfall and into the pool I stood in. Only one problem: my line ran over the down tree and I couldn’t get close enough to the fish in the deep pool. I had only one option, or so I thought. I had to reel the fish back up the waterfall, over the tree, and back into the pool where I stood. I knew the little bugger would come off, but I had to try. Who would have thought, it worked. I had him, or her. Gender didn’t matter. I had the most beautiful fish in my own two wet hands (always wet your hands before handling a trout, or most fish for that matter). I grabbed my camera and snapped a couple photos all the while making sure I kept him in the water for as long as possible (trout die quick when taken out of water, like less than 30 seconds quick). He was perfect. I’m going to go ahead and say it was a male. I released him and sat in a complete state of euphoria. I read about these fish all winter, caught stocked trout, and tried to gain enough knowledge about the “real trout” before I took the plunge. In my heightened state of happiness I forget to release him back into the pool I caught him in. You should always try to do this in case it is spawning. A rookie mistake. Yet, the day was mine. I caught a brook trout on a dry fly. All my reading and hard work paid off.
I fished a few more holes and had a few more good hits, but didn’t land any more fish. It didn’t matter. I caught one and one seemed enough for the day. Sleep deprived, hungry, a little sick, dehydrated, and happier than if I had sense. It turned out to be a day I’ll never forget; a good day.