Early April came, and I again set off on a solo trip into Shenandoah, brook trout redemption on my mind. This time I headed to the Old Rag parking lot, donned my waders, and walked the couple miles into the park and up the trail to the Hughes River. No more goofing around with the Conway.
Two things struck me: One, the trail, and river, were crowded. I counted a dozen fly fishermen coming and going, which meant the pressure the Hughes experiences is probably quite high (not helped by honest blog posts by amateurs like myself). Second, not much was hatching, despite the warm and overcast conditions. I saw the occasional stonefly and midges, but not much else for the three hours I fished.
That said, my size 16 parachute adams and 10′ 6X leader worked just fine, and I caught a number of nice brook trout to 10″ long. I had many more whack the fly, but the fish were small, and the fly barbless. The highlight: On my first cast to the first pool, a 10″ brookie hit the fly and carried it into the air, looking like a tiny, colorful great white (maybe Old Rag Sportsmen’s Club had a point with their shark sign). After several blankings over the winter, I felt my confidence returning which eat subsequent cast.
Many of the fish were feeding at the slower edges of runs, or in still pocket-water. The rains had filled the river, and the current and water levels were high but fishable. Creeping along the river bed and taking short 20′ casts into the tail-outs of each new pool or run yielded aggressive takes. The boulders in the Hughes, and the white water from waterfalls and current seams let me hide my position from the fish and get very close to each new lie. I love this sort of fishing, as each new pool or run presents a new technical challenge to solve.
I left the river around 3:30 in the afternoon, as storm clouds began to roll in. Back at the parking lot for Old Rag, the day hikers were just beginning to depart, and after drinking a full bottle of water, so did I.