I am starting to become anxious with the cold weather and looking back with longing at some of my last trout hikes of the fall. In preparation for my upcoming move to Wilmington, NC I’m making an effort to revisit my favorite places before Virginia becomes a long trip with a special purpose. One of those is the Staunton River – a feeder stream that joins the Rapidan River.
I love this section of the Blue Ridge for several reasons:
(1) it takes a moderate exercise of sweat to reach the first good access point. The trail veers away from the main trail along the Rapidan River about a half-mile from the parking lot and then there is a moderate climb to get to the first access point;
(2) once on the water, it’s combat fishing. There is no easy trail along the river and it takes a bit of physical exertion to move from spot to spot; climbing over rocks and wiggling through underbrush.
After a long absence, I returned to the Staunton on October 1 to get my last few casts before the brookies began spawning. On my last visit, the bright greens of the tightly packed trees that keep the river cool sparkled in the April sun. On this trip, I got to enjoy some of the fall colors even though they were muted as a result of the drought we have experienced over the last two years. In fact, I was concerned that there would be a low density of brookies here as a result of the two years of drought. At the end of the trip, I did feel that there were fewer fish, but there were still enough to justify the hike.
As usual, I used my Tenkara rod collapsed down to 7 feet to allow easy casting without catching more trees than fish. My cautious approach moving upstream paid off and I did catch some nice size brookies (typical one shown below).
I was comforted by the fact that I did not see any evidence of other anglers. I’m glad that others respect this nice, small stream as much as I do. On this hike, I ventured farther upstream that I had gone before and found that the water (as expected) became skinnier, but there were still fish holding in the deeper pools. With the move to North Carolina in the near future, I’ll never get to the absolute headwaters, but I bet the upper reaches hold some pretty good fishing given the uphill hike to get there.
Bottom line: if the fishing on the main stem of the Rapidan is poor or crowded, wiped sweat from your brow, hike uphill and check out the Staunton.
Google Local Coordinates: 38.444044,-78.36952
Secrets Revealed? No. The Rapidan watershed 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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Date Fished: 10/1/2012
Unless stated otherwise, this article was authored by Steve Moore