I spent the last weekend in the Seneca Creek backcountry, fly fishing for native brook trout and rainbow trout. This area is part of the Monongahela National Forest, an enormous stretch of wild mountains that includes Spruce Knob (West Virginia’s Highest Mountain), Seneca Rocks, and the Dolly Sods Wilderness. This is some of the most beautiful country in the eastern United States, full of rugged, ancient mountains and lush forests. Best of all, the creeks here have native trout, with Seneca boasting wild reproducing rainbow and brook trout that are the prettiest I’ve ever seen.
With dog and girlfriend in tow, we drove the four hours from Washington D.C. to the trailhead for Seneca Creek. With 30lb packs on our backs (and a 5lb pack on the dog) we headed into the woods, walking along the trail for 3 miles to reach our camp site.
The creek traces the trail, winding along and sometimes crossing it. Several times during the hike, we crossed tributaries of the stream itself, making for wet feet. Along the stream, midges were hatching, and crayfish were scattered along the bottom.
Arriving at our camp site on the edge of the creek, we set up our tent, arranged our gear, and I broke out my 3 wt. I had hiked in with my waders and boots, and immediately started fishing in front of our tent. A heavy rain had occurred several hours before, and the water levels were up. Small tan stoneflies were hatching, with small midges and a few larger mayflies.
I was immediately rewarded with three fish using a small stonefly dry pattern – a brook trout and a couple of rainbow trout from 3″ to 9″. I used a 6X, 9′ leader, but the fish were so aggressive it likely wasn’t needed.
I spent the next couple hours hiking downstream, hitting pools, glides, and tail-outs. The tiny stonefly pattern I was using took 10 fish before it started to come apart, and I switched to a small oliver beadhead woolly bugger looking for bigger fish. I cast this through deeper pools, and was surprised at how aggressive the smaller fish were, chasing the pattern to within an arm’s reach. I caught many more trout, including a larger foot long rainbow that put up a good fight on the 3 wt.
I walked back to camp satisfied, and ate a dinner of southwestern masa cooked on a propane burner. The area was so wet from the earlier rain we weren’t able to get a fire going, and I was happy I had brought a tiny lamp along to light the campsite. The night was clear, cold, and damp, and the sky blanketed with brilliant stars. We went to sleep as the temperature continued plummetting into the low 40’s, pulling our sleeping bags tight around us.
We woke the next morning to see the dog shivering from the cold night. We invited her onto our sleeping bags, an invite she happily accepted. After the dog had warmed up, we cooked breakfast, and I rigged my gear for another few hours of fishing.
I worked my way downstream again, hitting many of the same large pools. They continued to yield beautiful wild rainbows and brookies. I had switched to a small beetle pattern, and the fish attacked it aggressively.
I continued further downstream to new sections of the creek, hiking deep into the canyon hewn by the creek. The water here was likely rarely fished, the plunge pools extremely deep, and the brookies and rainbows continued to feed aggressively as the sun climbed higher into the sky.
As the clock struck noon, I scrambled out of the canyon and headed back to camp. It was time to pack up, and hike the three miles back to the car.
We arrived back in Washington D.C. that night, and after eating an entire extra-large pizza, we (happily) crashed.