Fly Fishing the Rapidan River Headwaters


Last weekend Michael and I stayed at The Cottages at Chesley Creek farm and during the day Saturday we went hiking and fly fishing in Shenandoah National Park. Our target was the upper Rapidan River. We've previously fly fished the lower Rapidan where Michael landed a beautiful brook trout but after a lot of research we decided we wanted to hike and try our luck for some native brookies at the headwaters of the river. We were not disappointed by our decision and the hiking was great. There were lots of little cascading waterfalls and plunge pools and because the trees in Shenandoah are still lacking leaves you could see the mountainssurrounding the trail. The Upper Rapidan is a challenge when it comes to fly fishing but worth the effort of bushwhacking through mountain laurel and rhododendron to find a private stretch of stream. There are lots of deep plunge pools that are perfect for landing brook trout. For every fish caught there where 10 missed because the hook didn't set... those suckers were hard to catch. The fish were smaller than the brookies we caught down stream but were vibrant, spirited and striking at the fly on almost every cast. Michael purchased a few Mr. Rapidan dry flies which were specifically created to match several of the early season mayflies that brook trout love in the Blue Ridge Mountains and more specifically, the Rapidan River. It was the perfect fly and trout were emerging out of all sorts of little holes and hiding places to try and get that early season mayfly. I almost had two fish but I need to practice setting my hooks. I would get overly excited and yank a second too soon or too late and miss the fish. But still, it's always a rush to see the trout come up and strike at the fly at the top of the water and pull it down.

The last picture I uploaded is of Camp Hoover. President Hoover was an angler and he and his wife had this camp built as a summer retreat and a place to host world dignitaries (they called it the Brown House, because it wasn't the White House, ha!). His requirements were that the camp had to be within 100 miles of Washington D.C., above 2,500ft elevation (to avoid mosquitoes) and had to be near an excellent trout stream. The property was incorporated into Shenandoah National Park after Hoover left office and the park service has restored the cabin to reflect what it looked like in 1929.

We only hiked about 5 miles in total but this hike can be done as a 7.6 mile loop, more info on that hike here.

In addition to the list of hikes I want to do this summer, Michael and I have added some river to fly fish. I swear we have the longest list of places to visit and for every spot we cross off, we end up adding two more. Only 21 more days until we head off on our road trip to Eastern Tennessee!!