After independently blaming each other for planning a trip which demanded that both of us go, Dick and I obtained the requisite kitchen passes from our wives and headed to Ramsey’s Draft – a wild trout stream whose location is fully disclosed on the VDGIF site.
The DGIF website gives pretty clear guidance:
“Ramsey’s Draft and its tributaries within the George Washington National Forest provide over 10 miles of native brook trout water. Most of this section of the stream is located within the Ramsey’s Draft Wilderness Area, providing the angler with the opportunity to fish for quality native trout in a remote setting. Summer flows are usually quite low in this stream, so plan to fish Ramsey’s Draft during the springtime”
With the recent solid rain that caused flooding up and down the Northeast coast, we figured that if we were going to hit this stream, we had better do it now. And we were not disappointed.
The stream was running strong and full; with the water temperature a brisk 40 degrees. Ouch, first mistake. I was doomed for cold feet all day. I had only brought my neoprene socks and no waders. When the water is really cold, those socks never get a chance to warm up unless you spend long periods of time on the bank. That was not going to happen today. Given my novice status as a fly guy, I knew I had the best chance of not getting hung up if I worked the middle of the stream casting up and downstream. If you have hip waders, this is the place to use them until the water warms.
As usual, we walked in about a half mile to put the normal distance between us and the parking lot. Time and again, it has proven true that those of us who walk away from the lot usually have the stream to ourselves. On this day, it would not have mattered. We were the only folks fishing. We did see a family group camping and some other hikers, but no fishing equipment was evident. Also, a fisherman will usually ask a question of two – even if he/she foolishly did not bring their gear just to add a few facts to their mental fishing library. No fishy questions from these guys.
The key characteristic of Ramsey is that the pools are spread apart and the deepest runs being around 4 – 5 feet. They are typically small and tight and protected by the challenge of getting around obstacles of blown down trees and overhanging limbs. Most of the fishable water can be found in very small places. You have to look for a deeper pocket of water that is part of the general flow. Most of these form where the stream makes a turn and are no more than a few feet wide and a few feet long – small target.
Accordingly, to fish this stream, you should be pretty good at targeting small holes. This is probably more of a spin comment than a fly issue as I found that I could flip the fly into the more open of the holes pretty easily using what passes as my roll cast from close range. Spin requires a bit more distance that would cause your spinner to have to run over very shallow areas and get hung up
We walked in 3 miles and were busy with these small pools all the way; picking up small brookies here and there. The largest was a 10 incher pulled out of the deepest pool. He was quickly returned to the water and is waiting there for you now. From what I have been told, the section we fished is the best section. I was told that the portion of the stream above where Jerry’s Run joins it is flat and uninteresting for about a mile. In terms of the map above, Jerry’s Run is about another 1/2 mile from where we turned back.
This is a physical river, but anyone in decent shape can handle it. As you can see from the map, Ramsey’s Draft runs through a valley. There is not much vertical gain on this hike; it’s a gradual upward slope. The only physical exertion is the effort associated with climbing over the obstacles. However, there is plenty of easier access to the stream in many places.
Early in the day, we tried fishing dry flies. There was no hatch, but we did see some mayflies flitting around. When those did not prove productive, we switched to nymphs. Dick quickly found the secret of the day and they started hitting on little black looking guys (I think they are called “APs” with a beadhead and zug bugs. I tied on one of the APs with a small red copper john as a dropper and started to get some good hits. Of course, I have not mastered the art of the hookset with a fly rod yet, so no fish was ensnared despite my best efforts to actually land something.
My son, Chris, was also with us and caught a number of brookies on the standard gold and silver Panther Martins.
Getting There: The DGIF provides good directions:
“To reach Ramsey’s Draft, drive 15 miles west of Churchville on Route 250 and look for the Mountain Home Picnic Area on the right. A foot trail parallels the stream from the picnic area.”
We were concerned when we saw other cars in the parking lot at 8:30 when we rolled in. Turns out they were campers. While we did see other people camping and hiking, we were the only ones fishing.
Looking at this you can understand why the DGIF waves you off in the summer with the recommendation that you fish it in the Spring. Once the water gets low, this will turn into a trickle.
There are a lot of tricky holes like this one as a result of the dense foilage and plenty of blowdowns.
A wide spot in the run. It’s deceptive – there are holes even in the flat water. Sadly, you will not find some of them until you walk past them and have scared the fish.
Working the first good series of pools
Another typical pool – all of these hold normal sized brook trout up to 9 inches.
Looking upstream over the blowdown you have to work your way around.
This is the pool at the point we turned around. There were a number of small brown trout living here.
Another look at the obstacles to getting to the river. While you are not climbing over rocks like in the SNP, you have an equal challenge with terrain like this.
In most places, the road marked on the map looks like this. However, it degenerates into a game trail at points and you need to be alert. Look for piled up rocks that the hikers have created to make sure you stay on the trail.
Unless stated otherwise, this article was authored by Steve Moore