Fall Brookies in Shenandoah National Park 10/2015

Same idea here as the last post; just a different setting and different fish. Numerous photos from a multitude of fishing trips over to Shenandoah National Park. Again, they should  be in chronological order. Within the past couple of weeks I fished the Rose River, the Thorton River, and the Rapidan River in that order. I used size 14 and 16 brown elk hair caddis, size 14 and 16 Mr. radpidan dry flies, and size 16 pheasant tail nymphs. Through fishing these waters over the past couple of years I’ve come to a realization. You need very few fly options. Keep in mind though, you better have the right flies or you ain’t catchin’ nothin’.

This is a quick release of a brookie landed on the Rose River. The conditions were very pleasant that morning. I left from Fredericksburg around 6, met up with a gentleman, named John, and we were on the water by 8 AM. John is an older gentleman who recently retired and moved down here from Central New Jersey. While about 50 years separates us in age, fly fishing allows us to have something in common. Which, is pretty cool if you ask me.

John, loved the Rose and this beautiful Fall morning. by 10 AM it warmed up to about 70 degrees with some sunshine. This combination of warm weather and direct sunlight made for some great, Fall top-water action. I didn’t take any photos of John, but he loved his first encounter with the Virginia Mountains and this flowing body of water. It’s cool to see someone fish these parts for the first time and encounter their faces glowing with admiration of the seclusion, beauty, and clean water these locations have to offer.

Pictured below was my first catch of the day. This little guy went for the pheasant tail. I drifted the fly about 16 inches below the surface beside a fallen tree that made a nice deep pocket and provided cover from aerial predators. As you can see in the photo, my hands are nice and wet. #keepemwet Additionally, I only kept him out of the water for about 5 seconds to avoid damaging him from long term oxygen deprivation. This makes for no the best picture quality at times. Hence the fuzzy photo.

3 inch little brook trout. First fish of the day on the Rose River with John.

Below is a Rosyside Dace. These guys are all over SNP streams. When brookies can’t survive in a specific section of a stream, these little guys thrive. They also are cohabitants with brookies in some streams. Read up on ’em, “they real cool”.

I picked him up with an elk hair caddis on the Thorton river. An easy access point for this stream is directly beside Highway 211 just after you enter SNP from the East, near Sperryville, VA. The parking area to your left where the Buck Hollow Trail begins is a good place to start. Be warned though, this stream has tight cover, and is quite small. I have yet to encounter a brookie on it. However, I have not yet, journeyed too far up it.

Little -or rather for this species, a large-Rosyside Dace. For their size, they go after some pretty large flies.

Pictured below is a portion of the road, with some lovely fall colors, that runs beside the Rapidan River near Hoover’ Rapidan Camp. If you want to make the journey to this stream, then take note of the following. THE ROAD IS ROUGH! If you don’t have 4WD and a nice bit of ground clearance I wouldn’t recommend it. That being said, there is a reason this is known as one of the best brook trout streams in the state. It fishes very well.

Why, what lovely leaves you have…

Nothing needs to be said for the following photo. Simply, an obligatory selfie. However, this is a good spot to talk a little about Fall brook trout fishing. The brook trout spawn in the Fall and a lot of people see this as one of the only times – this time and during warm summer months when water temps are high and stream levels are low – to leave the brookies to their peace. A member of one of the Facebook fly fishing groups I am a part of wrote a very nice article about this. Read it. I highly recommend it. Once you do so, you may understand why I fish during this time. As long as you’re properly educated AND know how to execute that education on the stream, I see no foul with hitting these streams in the Fall. There are lots of good discussions about this topic. Fine them, read them, and see what you think.

#Selfietime I fished from here up for about 100 yards and landed about 30 fish. Some were a nice healthy 7 or 8 inches, and I avoided the brookies nesting on their redds.

You simply can’t beat the colors on these beauties. How do you tell the difference between the males and females? Good questions. This article gives a little info about it, specifically in the last paragraph. This article give a little more detail. Additionally, the article mentioned in the previous paragraph holds a good bit of info too. The gist: males change color more so than females and they develop a kype (hooked snout on lower jaw). Males don’t have eggs so their bodies remain narrower. So, if I had to guess, I would say the brookie pictured below is a male.

Healthy looking male (I think). Again, #keepemwet and always use safe catch and release techniques

Also, you can see the white tips of the fins pretty well in these photos. This is another distinct characteristic of the Fall brookies (need to fact check this, but my memories believes it to be true for some reason).

This might be the same fish as pictured above, but another angle never hurt anyone.

So, my catch and release tactics generally go something like this: I hook the fish (hopefully), I land it a quickly and smoothly as possible (avoid raising the entire fish out of the water or dragging it on rocks). I net him, set my rod down, wet my hands, and remove the hook either with my fingers or a pair of forceps. Although, I probably should invest in one of these. A few people I’ve recently discussed this subject with recommended them. So, they’re on the wishlist… Next, I place the fish back in the net, grab the iPhone in its LifeProof case, gently handle the fish while I carefully avoid squeezing the body or damaging its fins, then a snap a number of photos as fast as I can and send the little guys on their way. If all goes smooth this process takes as little as 15 seconds. If I skip the photo – which I do more often then not – it takes as little as 5 seconds. Occasionally a hook gives me trouble while removing  it #pinchyourbarbs or some other step obnoxiously demands more time, but overall I make it as quick as possible and YOU SHOULD TOO!

Attempted to get the action shot with the Orvis reel and Redington rod in the background. Missed the logos but you get the idea. I would rather miss the brand names and return the fish ASAP

The guy below is from the Rapidan as well. I liked the coloration of him compared to his bigger fellow species displayed above.

A little smaller than the others pictured, but I liked how his still present vertical stripes showed through. When this fish gets little older, the vertical light/dark stripe pattern will fade to an all dark shade

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