Even though you can fish year round here in Virginia, there is no real joy is freezing while fishing. But, I do get anxious and need to get outside. So – time for a road trip!
Since Sunday was a nice day, I rounded up my wife, hopped in the truck and headed out to look at some new water in preparation for the Spring (or at least a few more degrees on the thermometer). Since we live in Northern Virginia, I decided to work down from Front Royal per the Area 1 map that you can obtain from the VA Department of fisheries. The goal was to look at the Piney, North Fork of the Thornton, the Hazel and the Hughes. In my haste to get out of the house, I missed picking up the detailed maps for all but the Hughes – so we had to wing it as we searched for the best approach to the others.
After stopping for lunch in Sperryville, we headed south on 522 to 231. I took the cutover on 707 to get to 600 – I recommend you stay on 231 until it hits 602 as this is where the river crosses 231. That way, you can see all the water as you work your way upstream.
The Hughes was looking good. The lower portion down to Route 231 is stocked.
This stretch is clearly marked with white and black signs that point the way. I confirmed with the State fisheries biologist (Larry) that all stocked water has public access – landowner permission is not required – but do be sensitive. While the water appears to be fairly flat and shallow, the bends contain some holes that would hold trout as you can see from the first picture below.
Continuing up the road, you come to a large parking lot for the Old Rag Mountain parking lot for the National Forest. The Hughes River veers to the north a bit upriver from this. Although we did not follow the trail since we were intent on checking out additional water, the Nicholson Hollow Trail hits the river a little bit up the road and it looks like you just walk across the river and continue to follow the water to the “wild trout” fishing area in the park. According to Harry Stone in his book, Virginia Trout Streams, the best fishing is up near Corbin Cabin – quite a hike from this end and a grueling 2 mile climb from the Skyline Drive.
In my experience, the best guage of a great fishing spot is how far it is from the road – that gets rid of 90% of the fishing population. For those of us who don’t mind to sweat a bit to get to the good water, remote is a good thing!
If you continue up the road beyond the parking lot, it will dead end at another small parking area at the actual edge of the National Forest – right next to Brokenback Run. The water looks great here as well as you can see from the second picture.
There is a sign on the road beyond the Rag Mountain lot that says it is for residents only, but looks like most people ignore it. The parking lot at the edge of the park was full. We took a quick walk up the trail and loved what we saw – plenty of pools, fast water, good looking habitat.
Bottom line – this looks like a winner – I’ll be back when it is warm.
Looking north on the Hughes River from Route 600
Looking north on Brokenback Run by the Trailhead
Unless stated otherwise, this article was authored by Steve Moore