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Fishing in the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Shenandoah National Park

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Along the eastern edge of North America, stretching from the State of Georgia and Alabama in the US to Quebec in Canada lies the Appalacian Mountains, an ancient and worn range.  A small portion of this range, from Tennessee to Northern Virginia seperates the bulk of the Alleganey Range from the Atlantic coastal plain-this sharp line of wooded peaks is known as the Blue Ridge.  The Blue Ridge is positioned to catch moisture from the Atlantic, and to scrape rain and snow from weather systems from the mid-west, making it moist and lush.  These mountains have been logged out twice-once in the late 1700's and again in the late 1800's, but due to conservation efforts some parts of these forests have regrown their coat of trees, and can support the fragile, native, brook trout.  While the brook trout is the only native trout to these mountains, it has been joined since the 1880's by the brown and rainbow trout in the slower, wider sections of the larger rivers and creeksclick to enlarge In the largest streams and rivers, too slow and warm for the trout, black basses and sunfish abound-especially Smallmouth Bass, Rock bass, and Redbreast Sunfish. Habitats vary from extremely small streams, in which a pool that is 5'(1.9m) accrossclick to enlarge and 6"(14cm) deep is large, to slower rivers with 20' deep pools and are 100 feet across.
In the Shenandoah National Park, most streams near Skyline Drive (the top of the Blue Ridge Parkway, follows the spine of the Blue Ridge Mtns) are definitely small.  We drove up to a couple of the parking areas at the start of some of the trails (Doyle Trail is a good one), and had to accomplish a two mile hike DOWNHILL before we the stream was large enough to support brook trout! The stream (a tributary of the Doyle River) was heavily shaded by the forest canopy (a must for a stream to support brook trout) and in most places could be crossed by one long step.  In these streams the brook trout are very wary and will dive under a rock at the slightest provocation.  The brook trout click to enlargehere are also small due to the small water and limited availability of food, and range from 2" to 9" in size (anything over 10" is big, and one over 12" is a trophy-but they all must be released here).  We dressed head to toe in green camoflage, and slowly tip-toed to trees that were near each promising looking pool (one or two big rocks or a downed tree, or an overhang, 4" deep or better, 2' accross or better), and lobbed our barbless offerings to the brook trout, who when not spooked savagely attacked any lure that was 2" or less and white, black, or chartruese. Due to the single barbless hook restrictions we opted for 1-16oz marabou crappie jigs, beadhead wollyworms, size 0 spinners .  All we had to do was put the lure within 2 feet of an object that the brookies might hide under, and twitch it slowly a few times, which would inspire any nearby brookie to dart out from it's hiding place, grab the lure, and either shake it loose (60% of the time) or dart around the pool frantically.  The entire dart out-bite-shake loose bit takes about 2 seconds, making for an alert and somewhat confused angler!
  For those anglers not up to an arduous, 4 mile round-trip, hike, a trip to the lower reaches of the Doyle river, or the higher reaches of the Murray, South, Shannandoah, Pedlar, and Buffalo rivers offer a different type of angling.  In the summer, these rivers host large numbers of small to mid-sized smallmouth and rock bass, and in the fall, winter, and spring offer brownclick to enlarge  , rainbow click to enlarge  (stocked once or twice a month in these seasons! see Virginia Dept. of Fish and Game for the latest stockings), and brook trout. In either case, these rivers are easily accessible by car or canoe, and can be fished by a variety of means (unlike the brook trout creeks above which are too tight for any rod longer that 5'6" making fly fishing interesting, though a short 3wgt is doable). These waters are the bread-and-butter fisheries of the area, and are usualy packed elbow to elbow the first weekend after each stocking, but are near deserted at other times. In the spring, summer, and fall, a small crankbait, 1/16oz jig, and on the fly 2 inch weighted streamers, wolly worms, or poppers will result in constant hookups with a variety of sunfish and black bassesclick to enlarge    click to enlarge .  Fish the heads of pools, overhangs, and rock snags during morning and evening, and fish slow, shaded, backwaters during the day. I use either 2lb spinning gear with the small lures or an 8 weight flyrod with 4# or 2# tippet for the flies.  The evenings of the late spring and early fall offer incredible surface action from sunset to 2 hrs after sunset, and a tiny poppr or chartruese cork bass popper will result in explosive strikes (though the fish aren't always big, they are very very aggressive at night).  In the winter, the trout can be picked off with numerous lures, but my favorites are 1"-1.5" crayfish imitations in chartruese, slowly twitched off the bottom in the slower sections of the current.  For spin fishers, a size0 silver panther martin or 1/32oz crappie jig (with a rubber crayfish or marabou) wil suffice. In all cases, 2# line or tippet is a must since the 'dumb' trout were taken out long ago by the powerbait wielding locals, leaving cautious and savvey trout. A slow twitching motion in the current will result in srikes, but be prepared to put in time to locate the fish.
Once the rivers slow, in the Maurry, Shenandoah, or James River, Channel Catfish, Carp, Largemouth bass, Crappie, Redbreast Sunfish, and Rock bass are prime targets below rocks, brush piles, and weedbeds.

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Some Fishes you might see:

Brook Trout

Brown Trout

Rainbow Trout

Northern Rock Bass

Smallmouth Bass

Largemouth bass

Green Sunfish

Common Carp


Redbreast Sunfish

Common Shiner/Fallfish

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