The last trip of the year had to be spectacular for two reasons.
- It was, after all, the last trip of the year
- It was Patrick’s last fishing trip in the US before he returned permanently to the UK
This was the end of a solid summer of fishing with a good, newfound friend. Patrick and I initially joined forces to fish with Lon on the confluence of the Rapidan and Rappahannock early in the summer when the water levels finally became cooperative. Patrick was in the US on a long-term assignment working for a major IT company and, sadly, that project was wrapping up. With his flight back to the UK already on the tarmac warming up for his return on Thursday, we joined forces at the top of Skyline Drive at the trailhead for Hogcamp Branch to descend as far down into the Rose as we could in the time available. The upfront answer was that we had a 7 mile round-trip that involved a descent of 1,852 feet — a brutal, physical challenge that was the fitting end to the summer.
The trail into the deep valley that shelters the Rose River was well marked and well trodden by generations of hikers and campers. As I walked down the steep pitch that led from the parking area to Dark Hollow Falls, the same thoughts I had when Lon and I descended into Doyles River reverberated in my mind — “this is going to suck on the way back out”. And it did.
The trail down to the Rose parallels Hogcamp Branch until it joins with the Rose approximately 2 miles from the trailhead. We walked by a small group of campers perched on the ridge that separated the Rose from the Hogcamp. These folks must’ve been hardy souls because it surely must have dipped into the 30s the night before. As is typical of my experience fishing in the Shenandoah, there were no fishing rods in evidence with these campers. In fact, I can count the times I have run into other anglers on one hand and that includes many trips into the Hughes, White Oak Canyon, the lower Rose River and others. The physical demands of moving anywhere away from the road can be significant given the rough terrain of the Blue Ridge.
Patrick and I were both sensitive to the fact that the spawn had ended and we were cautious about disturbing the redds. Therefore, we did not wear waders as the cold water would be a constant reminder to stay high and dry; fishing perched on strategic rocks as opposed to wading in the stream. The valley of the Rose this late in the year presents a stark contrast to the green wonderland you encounter in late spring or summer. There were no leaves on the trees and the brush had thinned. As it turns out, this was a great advantage since there is no trail paralleling the Rose once you move away from the Loop trail at the junction. With the oncoming winter pushing the brush back, it made it a lot easier to bushwhack our way down the river. It was well worth it!
The recent heavy rains had filled up the river and had made the fish more prone to feeding and less spooky. We split up at the trailhead and leapfrogged each other as we moved downstream. We were picky. We stopped at the major pools and worked them hard and successfully. Patrick was picking up good fish on nymphs while I was having a good day on dry flies. Given that we were only targeting the major pools, we moved quickly down the Rose to where it took its deep and dramatic pitch down the steep hill to level out a quarter-mile below before hurtling down the additional rocky ravine that I documented in earlier posts. In fact, this trip allows me to claim that I have fished the entire public section of the Rose River from Skyline Drive to Syria.
With the sun starting to dip behind the Blue Ridge, we decided to move quickly back up to the junction so Patrick could fish up towards the Rose Falls and allow me to revisit some of the good spots just below the junction. I also wanted to fish up Hogcamp Branch to the wooden bridge on the Rose River Loop trail. We didn’t spend much time on this last detour because we wanted to fish more of Hogcamp on the way back up — but that’s a subject of another posting. With the fishing behind us, we began the grueling hike back out the basin. It seemed like it took forever to stagger our way to the top; even leveraging the advantages of the “Swedish lock step” mountain hiking technique.
Breathless and covered with sweat, we stumbled back to our vehicles and after with a few grateful deep breaths agreed that it had been a great day.
Bottom Line: The Rose River continues to be one of my favorite streams to fish in the Park. The rough physical challenge of fishing this water protects it from pressure. The only constraint and concern for heading in this direction is to verify that there is adequate water and that it is cold enough.
Getting There: Once you are on the Blue Ridge Parkway, drive to the Big Meadows Visitor Center. The parking area and trailhead for Hogcamp Branch / Dark Hollow Follows is just north of the visitor complex. The trail starts at the west end of the parking area.
Google Local Coordinates: 38.519463,-78.430946
Secrets Revealed? No. This 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
Date Fished: 11/15/2009
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Sunrise from Skyline – what a way to start the day!
The junction of Hogcamp and the Rose
There are the great pools…if you are willing to bushwhack
FFB loaned me a Snake I to test… caught it in this shot
Patrick working the Rose prior to heading back to the UK
The “Switchfisher” in full combat gear for mountain trout
Unless stated otherwise, this article was authored by Steve Moore