Oh Shenandoah


We had a dichotomy of water for much of this year, too much in the West and too little in the East.  We endured record runoff in California which produced record flows in the streams.  As we came to the East, the concerns changed to not enough water.  This was true as we went Creek Stompin’ in WV and again as we fished in Shenandoah National Park.

The one Virginia river on the TU list is the Rapidan River just outside Charlottesville, VA.  Normally, we fish with a guide the first day we’re in an area, but since we left West Virginia a day early, we made it to Cville a day early and decided to fish the Rapidan on our own before fishing it the next day with a guide.

We stopped into Albemarle Anglers to check in and get some intel and flies to fish the Rapidan.  There is actually a fly called the “Mr. Rapidan” which has bright yellow posts on top and a dark colored body.  After getting some dries and droppers, we setup the SaraLinda in our campground and plotted our first day on the Rapidan.

Before heading to the river, we took a drive up to Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park hoping to catch some views of the area.  As it turned out, the mountains were shrouded in fog and mist.  We could barely see the road in front of us, let alone any views of the Shenandoah Valley and surroundings.  We thought about hiking a couple of miles to visit the Hoover Rapidan Camp in the park where Herbert Hoover would come to escape the heat in Washington DC and fish the Rapidan River.  After having lunch at the Big Meadows cafe, instead of hiking to Hoover Camp, we headed back down to fish the Rapidan from the valley upstream.

We drove out Graves Road to its end, parked the Subaru and began hiking upstream on the Rapidan trail.  The river was on our right as we hiked up the mountain in the most oppressing humidity we’d experienced in years.  We were soaking wet from me sweating and Barb perspiring.   The fly shop had indicated we should hike about a mile before fishing so we’d get to some less pressured water.  Because of the Hoover Rapidan Camp, more people come to fish the Rapidan for its historical significance.

We found a few good holes, caught a few small fish and decided to head back, knowing we’d be fishing the Rapidan again the next day with our guide, Carson Oldham, of Albemarle Anglers.   Little did we know at that time what was to come the next day.

Carson met us at our campground, which was on the way to the river and off we went.  He’d forewarned us that the drive was up and over a mountain on a fire road to get to the upper stretches of the Rapidan.  When we hit the gravel portion of the road, Carson noted how rutted the road was on the side.  As we continued up the steep, gravel road, the ruts became much more pronounced, turning into large crevices in the road.  We were having to travel about 3mph to avoid bottoming out the car but the road kept getting worse and worse.  Carson was committed to getting us to the Rapidan’s upper reaches but we kept telling him it wasn’t worth busting the undercarriage of his car.  He finally agreed with us, especially given we still had 10 more miles to go and at 3mph, well…. you can do the math on how long it would take us to just get to the river to fish…. and we knew we’d likely have to drive back out in a pouring rain.  We still don’t know why the road was so torn up.  Carson told us its normally a great road.

So… what to do.  Plan B took us to the Hazel River in Shenandoah NP and more creek stomping.  We had a great time fishing with Carson on the Hazel, hiking upstream over rocks and boulders, fishing small holes for beautiful brook trout.  It rained all day on us, but didn’t deter us from making it a full day fishing on the Hazel.

Carson told us there are even better brook trout streams in the area, so we’ll definitely be coming back to Virginia and Shenandoah National Park.