I doubt that many of you will be traveling to and fishing the Smokies to fish this month although I
hope you do.  January and the first part of February is probably the coldest time of the year and
you will have to pick out the better days to expect much success fishing the freestone streams.
By the end of February, everyone will be doing their best to force the bugs to hatch and the trout to
respond even though they will probably have to wait a few more days to see any surface action.
That considered, I thought I would write about some fishing trips we have made to various other
destinations. Don't expect these articles to win any awards, just tell you about some things I
hope you will find interesting and a few that I look back on with a gleam in my eye.

Fly Fishing the Rapidan River - Part Two

The first time we fished the Rapidan River, Angie and I caught as many brook trout
as we wanted to catch in the first two pools we fished. The fishing was incredible. I
don't think a single brook trout was under seven or eight inches long. They
averaged about eight inches long. I don't remember the number we caught. Part of
them are shown in our
"Fly Fishing Small Streams - Brook Trout" DVD.

We fished the stream on one other occasion about four years ago. It turned out to
be very similar to the first trip we made. We caught lots of large brook trout. The
Rapidan River is an excellent brook trout stream. If the stories about President
Hoover fishing the Rapidan are accurate, then all I can say is that he certainly knew
what he was doing.

The brook trout are not exactly the same as the native Southern Appalachian trout
that are found in Great Smoky Mountains National Park and other southern
Appalachian waters. They are referred to as the Northern Strain of brook trout. As
far as I know, there has been no official classification of separate subspecies of
brook trout. They are just referred to as Northern and Southern Strains. My guess
is that means no one has actually completely figured everything about them out yet.
I'll just leave it at that.

During the first trip we made there, Angie fished a #16 hook size Parachute Adams
and I fished a pattern that imitated the fall caddis in a #12 hook size that I was
experimenting with for our "Perfect Fly" selection. It was not what we finally settled
on.  I doubt the fly made much difference. The trout took both of the completely
dissimilar flies very well. In fact, the way they ate the fly was amazing.

The water was quite deep - maybe eight feet deep. The pool was about the size of
a large family room. If you cast to the base of the short waterfall at the head of the
pool, the fly would drift about ten feet before it began to decelerate and drift at a
very slow pace. At about that point, you would see a brook trout come out from
under the white water beneath the water fall and take the fly. At times you could see
the trout come as far as ten feet to take the fly. I have no idea how deep the brook
trout were holding beneath the white water. It was very difficult not to take the fly
away from the trout before they ate the fly. It looked like they were feeding in slow
motion. It was similar to the way cutthroats that are seldom fished to take a fly. In
fact we missed some of the first ones by attempting to hook them before they
actually had the fly in their mouth. We just had to wait until we saw a swirl before
setting the hook. We saw every brook trout we caught come at least a few feet
before taking the fly. It was an exciting ordeal.

It was close to the time the brook trout should have been spawning but I am quite
certain the ones we caught were not yet spawning. I saw a few at the tail ends of
the pools they were in the early stages of spawning but I seriously doubt the ones
coming from beneath the white, deep water were. We caught both sexes and we
didn't catch any at the tail ends of the pool. They seemed to spook very easily
which is why I say they were in the early stages.

The second time we fished the stream, the trout did not react the same way at all. In
fact, you could repeat the same tactics without getting as much as a look from one
of them. It was mid summer and catching them required a completely different
method of fishing. The trout were eating Little Yellow Stoneflies (Yellow Sallys). We
caught all the trout fishing a nymph imitation of the Little Yellow Stonefly. By the
way, Little Yellow Stoneflies nymphs are brown, not yellow.

We didn't stay until late in the day or otherwise, I feel sure we could have taken
them on a dry fly imitation of the egg layers. We fished the nymph with a small
single BB size split shot a few inches above the fly with no indicator. All of the trout
took the fly close to the banks. We fished upstream bringing the fly down the edges
of the pools.

We rate the Rapidan River as a great brook trout stream that is a worthy
destination. If you haven't already done so, we hope you get to experience it in the

Copyright 2008 James Marsh