January 2nd, 2006

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Can You Find Paradise in Your Own Back Yard?
By Dick Taylor, (Grn Mt Man), Virginia

Even from the roadside far above, the sound of captured water forced through the narrow passageways of moss-draped rocks barely hints at the nutrient rich steep gradient stream that lies below.

The small pool at the base of the "arrowhead" shaped rock is the normal starting point to an upstream passage from this locale. It harbors a few good specimens if one approaches quietly and lays out a size ten elk hair caddis with a 6X or finer tippet. The largest taken from this pool turned out to be a surprising fourteen inch brown with hues of color that put a rainbow to shame.

The growth rate of the browns and rainbows in this watershed is phenomenal and was documented this past fall during an electro-shock sampling conducted by the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. I was able to tag along as an observer and an invited participant of the survey. The fingerlings introduced during the previous six month period had one fin clipped for identification purposes and to differentiate them from the naturally reproducing population and older previous stockings.

Continuing upstream one is confronted with a dying population of once stately hemlocks; now broken and riddled with a boring insect sounding the death knell for them, much as the chestnuts beforehand. The woolly adelgid, an Asian native, was discovered in the U.S. in 1924. It has no known predators here.

The mile length of this stream lies at the bottom of a gorge and even in the warmer months it funnels cool misted air through a canopy of covering leaves. One encounters plunge pool after pool with very few long flat runs. No tightly looped forty foot casts here; rather, a rod's length flip of the fly; sometimes underhanded serves you well. A custom built seven and a half foot two piece rod is usually the weapon of choice in this neighborhood. The overhead cast has resulted in the catching of multiple "tree trout" and the "release" of many flies unto them!

The opportunity to photograph many specimens of flowers and plants abounds in the park along streamside. One early February day, a speck of bright yellow ahead seemed totally out of place. Closer inspection revealed an already brightly blooming dandelion streamside.

Besides the favored elk hair caddis the next best producer is a small black foam ant topped with a brilliant orange foam "sight minder" for the aging eyeball. Have also tried nymphs with limited success and any type of indicator used gets as many or more hits then your fly. The strikes on this stream are probably the most aggressive encountered and a three inch fingerling would give "Jaws" a run for the money.

As you trek farther upstream there is one area that holds an unpleasant surprise for the unwary or possibly uneducated mountaineer. A particularly steep and hemlock laden run begs one to exit the stream and detour around it. The natural course between two waist high boulders must not be taken whilst wearing shorts nor swinging any portion of one's unprotected skin through the tall green foliage that grows there. On my only short wearing traverse, midway through the "rock passageway," the stings of a gazillion barbed hot pokers assailed my bare legs. Instead of quickly forging on ahead I made the mistake of reaching down to part the foliage with my left hand. Now, it too was ablaze. Ah - the childhood remembrance of the "stinging nettle" was quickly retrieved from my subconscious storage. No amount of cool water dunking served to relieve the itch and pain the rest of the day. It actually would flare up and continued to torture me for about a week afterwards.

Most trips to this favored stream are shared with only the occasional deer, squirrel or bird. There is very little traffic except for the occasional fly fisher or streamside hiker. The lower level of the stream in the park area has a steady stream of visitors along the well-maintained trails and the fishing there is the put and take variety occasioned by stockings of twice or more a year. Park Rangers conduct series of nature walks and plant identification throughout the summer time and the picnicking facilities in the park area are excellent.

A trip to this stream is magical any time of year. The scenery constantly changes and after heavy spring rains the stream bed is in constant motion. Last weeks pool is this weeks flat run; the wood dam run at the bottom of the big falls is once again fishable for a short pace and the "three rock" tail out has deep undercuts once more. If you can't recharge your batteries on a visit to this place then they are surely dead.

If I may so bold as to quote Betty's FAOL signature: "Trout don't live in ugly places." ~ Dick Taylor (Grn Mt Man)

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