All the details are in my book, but I felt like I needed to put up a posting about something in the Blue Ridge as the water begins to heat up in late February. If you’re going to fish the Rapidan, the area above Camp Hoover is essentially a waste of time.
First of all, it’s a very long drive past excellent water to reach the dead-end at the boundary of the Shenandoah National Park that is the start of the 1 mile walk to reach Camp Hoover. The history of the Camp is interesting and is displayed on the various signs and placards associated with the restored buildings. The Camp sits at the junction of Laurel and Mill Prongs – the two creeks that form the headwaters to the Rapidan River. Of these two small streams, Laurel Prong is the larger.
Laurel Prong is tight and congested with numerous blowdowns and tight vegetation. It’s a long trek from the last parking location to reach the Camp with additional effort required to move up the tight, boulder strewn creek from where it joins with Mill Prong to create the Rapidan River.
Your choices are simple. You can begin to wade upstream at Camp Hoover or follow the small trail that parallels Laurel Prong and eventually crosses the slick, muddy mess that marks the spring seep that is the ultimate beginning of the Rapidan. The farther you go up, the skinnier the water gets with the fishing declining proportionally.
The best strategy is to start fishing at the Camp. After all, it was a heckuva hike to get there ; so pressure is not an issue. In addition, there is more water at this point as a result of the additional springs that flow into Laurel Prong and create a fishable volume of water.
Once you are beyond the first hundred yards, the fishable pools are few and far between. Granted, if they are over a foot deep, they will hold decent size brookies, but most of this stream is an unfishable mess protected by numerous fallen logs and bushes that overgrow the surface of the creek.
For Map and Directions – See the book
Wade Fishing the Rapidan River of Virginia
Finally, don’t be deceived by the promise the signs that discuss “Laurel dam” propagate. To an angler, the presence of the dam connotes a holding area for water with the promise of width and depth. Once you finally find Laurel dam, the only thing that sits behind it is a skinny pool that stretches upstream around the bend. It does not hold anything beyond what you already encountered as you beat through the brush to reach this spot.
A better bet for early spring fishing is to focus on the canyon section of the Rapidan that starts where you had to park and extends for a mile up to the junction of these two small feeder creeks.
Secrets Revealed? No. The Rapidan is a very public location that is documented in the following places:
Flyfisher’s Guide to Virginia
Virginia Trout Streams
Virginia Blue-Ribbon Streams
Fly Fishing Virginia
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The view up from the camp is encouraging
The initial section looks like a normal Blue Ridge stream
Wide spots like this are few and far between
“Laurel Dam” is nothing to write home about
Most of the water looks like this… unfishable
However, there were some decent guys here… about 150 yds up from the camp.
Unless stated otherwise, this article was authored by Steve Moore