Trout Hike – Hughes River Trout Fishing (VA – Park at Mile 1.5 upstream)

Update: the parking area is now very near the access point.

The trail is still pristine, the water sparkling, and the pressure light. Granted, I did not expect to see anyone at this hour of the morning (eight o’clock), but this held true for the rest of the day as well. I only saw one other fly fisherman on the water. Just like before, there are plenty of hikers grinding up the trail with no purpose other than exercise. I just don’t get it. Why walk in the woods if you can’t go fishing?

I told Jim that I wanted to walk quickly up the trail and start fishing near the junction of Hannah Run — a small, pathetic stream that trickles into the Hughes from the Northeast. Do not bother to fish up that tributary unless you are truly hard-core. Jim was happy starting to fish on the lower reaches where the river runs a little bit wider and on a flatter gradient. With that, we parted, and I moved as fast as possible to get up the trail. After crossing the junction with Hannah Run, I walked an additional quarter mile and then cut left to get back to the river. Between Hannah Run and the stream crossing point at 2.6 miles from the trailhead, the river is protected on one side by the steep hill and the trail side by dense, thick brush. If you are a trout hiker who enjoys a brutal walk to get the water, this is where you should fish. It took me a while to wind my way through the thick undergrowth to reach the stream. I broke out of the brush and slid down the bank to find myself looking at pristine water. This is true pocket water. The maximum distance you need to cast is probably 15 feet – enter the world of the roll cast!

There are a few things you need to understand about fishing this part of the Hughes. The first I have already alluded to — there is no easy way to get here. The second is that you need to be in good physical shape to climb over the rocks and fallen logs that protect the stretch of the river. There is no easy way upstream or downstream. As you fight from pool to pool, you will have to climb over rocks and wiggle under fallen trees. In other words, it’s perfect!

I came to this section of the Hughes on purpose. The last time I was here, I walked up closer to Corbin Cabin and fished my way downstream from there. At the trail crossing point, I remembered the river falling into a steep series of waterfalls to enter a high-gradient stretch. On my last visit, I noted that I needed to fish this section and was here to do that. As you work your way up the stream, you’ll go from a small plunge pool to a small plunge pool. While you can fish the shallower riffled areas between the pools, you only see small brookies living in those areas. The typical fish in those stretches ranges between 4 and 6 inches. In the plunge pools, the brookies grow big, reaching 9 to 12 inches in size. As you can see from the pictures below, the backbreaking physical exertion to fish this part of the river is well worth it.

These trout are wary! You only get five casts at each pool before they know you are there. If you cast more times than that, you need to recognize that all you’re doing is getting practice. On this day, the fish were anxious to take anything off the top. I even had them hit my strike indicator the few times I switched to nymphs. I use dry flies most of the day because that was the most exciting thing to do. They hit Mr. Rapidans, mosquitoes, attractors, and ants in sizes ranging from 12 to 16.

The best bite was in the morning, tailing off around 1 PM. That was okay because I’d reached the end of this stretch and literally had to claw my way up the steep bank to get to the top of the ridge as the first step in beating my way back to the trail. I ended up having to cut my way out using the garden shears I carry in my fly vest. I didn’t realize how much noise I was making pushing my way through the undergrowth until I finally fell out onto the trail in the middle of a group of wide-eyed hikers. From their looks, I’m sure they thought they were about to encounter a bear! While I was dirty enough to be mistaken for one, I reassured them that I was only after fish. I moved back down the trail to link up with Jim as it was close to the time we had to head back anyway. I fished a little bit in the gentle gradient section at the bottom to fill in the time before I had to meet Jim and leave.

Jim reported the same good results on the lower section. He had plenty of good action in the morning and it had only just calmed down. We walked our way back out and repeated the process of getting the truck. We left all the gear and I jogged down to the parking lot to get the truck.

Hughes River Trout Fishing Bottom line: If you’re going to fish the Hughes or anywhere else in the park, do it within the next couple weeks before the water warms up. It was running a brisk 60 agrees on this day but as the water temperature increases the fish will become stressed. You should avoid fishing in the park in the heat of the summer to protect these delicate fish. A final point is that if you are going to stray from the trail, you need to be in shape. At 57, I’m grateful that I can still go where I go to get to the fish. This event today involved 7 miles of hiking, jogging and bushwhacking with a total vertical gain of over 600 feet!

One resolution I did make at the end of this day was that I needed to come back here more often than once every two years!

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.

Google Local Coordinates: 38.589848,-78.315321

Secrets Revealed?  No.  This is a very public location that is documented in the following places:

Virginia VDGIF
Flyfisher’s Guide to Virginia 
Virginia Trout Streams 
Virginia Blue-Ribbon Streams 
Fly Fishing Virginia 

Date Fished: 05/23/2009

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Downstream from the start point

Upstream from the start point

Beautiful waterfalls mark the area

Tight spots!

The reward!  Most of the guys I caught were this size

Typical bushwhack to get up river to the next spot

Plenty of pools like this!

Fishing the gentler section at the bottom

Unless stated otherwise, this article was authored by Steve Moore

Articles on this site are out of date since some go back to 2006. Regulations and property ownership may have changed since publication. It is your responsibility to know and obey all regulations and not trespass on private property.

Disclaimer and Warning:  The contents of this site reflect the opinion of the author and you, the reader, must exercise care in the use and interpretation of this information.  Fishing is a dangerous sport.  You can slip and fall on rocks and sustain severe injury.  You can drown.  You can get hooks caught in your skin, face, eyes or other sensitive places.  All sorts of bad things can happen to you when to go into the woods to visit the places documented here.  Forests, streams and lakes are wild areas and any number of bad things can happen.  You must make your own judgment in terms of acceptable behavior and risk and not rely on anything posted here.  I disclaim all liability and responsibility for any actions you take as a result of reading the articles on this site.  If you do not agree with this, you should not read anything posted on this site.

Disclaimer and Warning:  The contents of this site reflect the opinion of the author and you, the reader, must exercise care in the use and interpretation of this information.  Fishing is a dangerous sport.  You can slip and fall on rocks and sustain severe injury.  You can drown.  You can get hooks caught in your skin, face, eyes or other sensitive places.  All sorts of bad things can happen to you when to go into the woods to visit the places documented here.  Forests, streams and lakes are wild areas and any number of bad things can happen.  You must make your own judgment in terms of acceptable behavior and risk and not rely on anything posted here.  I disclaim all liability and responsibility for any actions you take as a result of reading the articles on this site.  If you do not agree with this, you should not read anything posted on this site.

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