There was a major change that occurred in April of 2010 that impacts the accessibility of the Hughes River. At that point in time, the upper Old Rag Mountain parking lot was closed for public use. This automatically adds another 0.6 miles to the hike to reach the upper end of the Hughes River. Add that 0.6 to the half mile of private property the trail runs across before you can walk to the river – resulting in a hike of over a mile to reach legal, fishable water. After fishing on Brokenback Run, I decided to walk over to Hughes and fish the lower section to see if this change had had an impact on the quality of fishing. In earlier years, I never fished the first section because that stretch was always hammered by people who were unwilling or unable to walk farther. Maybe with the new reality of a hike of over a mile to reach the start, the quality of the fishing will improve.
I beat feet from the parking lot all the way up to the trail and was impressed by the quality of the water. It was running full, fast and crystal clear. I did not see any kind of a hatch in progress so I decided to rely on small nymphs. Granted, I had not seen what the river looked like at the height of the drought in the summer so I did not know whether the fish had moved from their community pools or had been wiped out by marauding raccoons and other wildlife that could unleash a hungry fury on fish stuck in shallow water.
I only fished about a quarter mile upstream because I’d already done a lot of hiking. I was pleasantly surprised at the number of fish I picked up. It was a mix of a brook trout and fallfish, but it was clear that the fish were still here. On the only other time I tried to fish this stretch, back before it was harder to reach, I don’t recall having luck as good as I experienced on this day. Therefore, for those who can walk, this is a very positive development and makes the Hughes even more attractive than before.
Bottom Line: The Hughes remains one of my favorite rivers in the Shenandoah National Park.
Getting There: To get to the southern entrance of the Hughes, go south from Sperryville on 231 and turn off on 602 towards Nethers. Continue until you get to the Rag Mountain lot. You have to park there as all the parking closer to the trailhead is now posted. Follow the Nicholson Hollow Trail – it runs right next to the Hughes.
Unless stated otherwise, this article was authored by Steve Moore