Shenandoah mountains of Virginia/Catoctin mountains of Maryland

Trout fishing outside of NJ
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martalus
Posts: 92
Joined: Tue Apr 24, 2018 2:39 pm

Shenandoah mountains of Virginia/Catoctin mountains of Maryland

Post by martalus » Fri Oct 18, 2019 2:16 pm

After 10 years overseas, I recently moved back to the States for work and am now based in DC. In the search for trout places in the area, last month I tried the Catoctin mountains near Thurmont Marlyand (about an hour north of DC, south of Gettysburg PA). The Little Hunting creek was supposed to have wild brook trout in the headwaters above a reservoir and a decent tail-water type fishery with wild browns below it. The water at the headwaters was very low and I managed one tiny brookie and some chubs after a lot of bushwhacking-probably not worth the effort but still nice to out. I scouted out the brown trout water below the reserovoir-it was much nicer looking-several miles of medium gradient stream about 20-30 feet wide on public land with lots of boulders, glides, plunge pools and riffles-since its less than an hour from my house in far NW DC, I will definitely check it out again-the guy at the Orvis store in Bethesda says it holds lots of 8-14 inch wild browns and the occasional brookie. I didn't have time to fish it as I was hoping to catch smallies in the Potomac later that day (that didnt pan out, I caught a bunch of sunfish and then slipped and fell in the drink, ruining my brand new cell phone.

This past Monday I made the 2 hour trek to the Shenadoah mountains in the hopes of finding some real brook trout. They are around a 100 streams with wild brookies in the Shenandoah national park with some better than others. I settled on the Hughes river near Nethers as I had fished it briefly ten years ago on a hike and the guy from Murrays fly shop said it has water even in dry years like this one. I left the house at 6 am and got to the Old rag parking lot by 8 and then hiked up along the stream into the National Park. The water was very low and clear but I did find a handful of decent pools like this one.
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I was hoping for some simple brookie fishing with just a royal coachman dry but fish did not seem interested in any dries or terrestrials. In the lower water, I guessed that I either was spooking fish and/or they were hunkered down hiding at the bottom of pools. As soon as I switched to beadheaded hares ear, I started to get some strikes. I was not using an indicator or weight and the flows were very slow if at all so I would just cast into the deepest pools, let it sink down for a while and every once in a while give it twitch or lift which seemed to illicit strikes. I ended up hooking several nice ones in the 6-8 inch range and then got a wonderful 12 inch male, one of the largest wild brookies I have caught. I hoped to get more but as I hiked further up the mountain, the stream got skinnier and I was spooking a lot of trout as I approached pools. Finally, all these copperheads came out to sun themselves on rocks and I called it a day. I have never seen so many snakes in my life! Still a nice day and I hope to hit the region again in early spring with better flows. I also hope to hit the Rapidian which is a larger stream in the area which is supposed to hold some of the biggest wild brookies in the east coast (some in the 14-17 inch range), although the stream sees more pressure than the other small streams. Has anyone here ever fished the Rapidan or anywhere in the region?

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the royal coachman
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Joined: Fri Apr 20, 2018 5:47 am
Location: Hackettstown NJ

Re: Shenandoah mountains of Virginia/Catoctin mountains of Maryland

Post by the royal coachman » Fri Oct 18, 2019 7:05 pm

Welcome back to the states!. I haven't fished the Shenandoah streams in decades but to be honest, there is no place I'd rather be at the beginning of May than fishing for Brookies in a SNP stream! Fall can be tough, depending on the weather and water.
I fish because the voices in my head tell me to.

rollcast
Posts: 21
Joined: Mon Sep 17, 2018 3:21 pm

Re: Shenandoah mountains of Virginia/Catoctin mountains of Maryland

Post by rollcast » Sat Oct 19, 2019 10:12 am

I was thinking the same as I read this excellent report. Fishing the same areas in the spring would be an absolute blast! I used to vacation in Vermont, and springtime fishing was SO MUCH better than the autumn.
the royal coachman wrote:
Fri Oct 18, 2019 7:05 pm
Welcome back to the states!. I haven't fished the Shenandoah streams in decades but to be honest, there is no place I'd rather be at the beginning of May than fishing for Brookies in a SNP stream! Fall can be tough, depending on the weather and water.

martalus
Posts: 92
Joined: Tue Apr 24, 2018 2:39 pm

Re: Shenandoah mountains of Virginia/Catoctin mountains of Maryland

Post by martalus » Mon Oct 21, 2019 8:56 am

I will definitely check out some of the streams again in spring if not before. After a 2 month dry spell, rains have come back just in time for the spawn. Its amazing that the brookies have been able to hold out in so many watersheds, at elevations as low as 800-1000 feet (as opposed to just the far upper reaches of streams-the ridge here is 3,500-4000 feet and streams start just below that.). A few streams have some browns at their lower reaches but they don't seem to be able to dislodge the brookies like they have done in many NJ streams. Further south in Georgia, NC, and extreme SW VA, rainbows seem to be the ones competing with brookies, but for now brookies still rule the nearly 100 streams/trickles of the Shenandoah NP.

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