Several months ago, I discussed fishing Big Run in the Shenandoah National Park. Those of you who throw a trained eye on the route I took may conclude that fishing Rocky Mountain Run, either on the way in or on the way out, would be a good way to mitigate the stress and strain of the 10 mile hike.
This posting is intended to dissuade you of that idea. Basically, Rocky Mountain Run is miserable. It starts out narrow and skinny, tucked into the draw underneath the parking area that leads to the trail into Big Run. You will walk next to Rocky Mountain Run for approximately 3 miles until you get to the junction. In that 3 miles, you get to see the headwater emerge just below the 1.5 mile tough uphill pitch and follow it — watching it gain volume as it careens downhill to eventually join Big Run. The problem with the stream is that once it obtains enough volume to hold trout that would be an interesting size to catch, it also transitions to a flat rock bottom that does not hold the gravel and rock structure to support significant insect life and protect the trout from airborne predators.
You should only gather your energy for the intense physical challenge for the hike next to Rocky Mountain Run as a trail leading to the ultimate goal of Big Run. Ignore the stream until you get to the second stream crossing. At that point and below, there is enough water in the stream to merit investigation. However, early in the year, there may be an algae bloom as you see in the pictures below. This will limit your ability to use nymphs and keep you on dry flies. Except for the one location beneath a small waterfall, there is no place I discovered in the stream where you could throw a spinner.
While you can start to fish below the second stream crossing, you need to wait until you reach the small waterfall. From that point to the junction with Big Run, the stream has enough volume to be marginally interesting. You can cut from the trail to the stream at various locations and poke your head out of the brush in the hopes of discovering a deeper section. The brush deserves a little bit of comment itself. It hugs the shore closely and overhangs the stream; making it a challenge to cast unless you are using one of the new Tenkara rods. Given the skittish nature of fish in shallow water, you must stick to a ultralight presentation and use a 2wt or a Tenkara rod.
On the day we walked into Big Run, I detoured over to the stream several times and my conclusion was that it was worth ignoring given the ultimate goal of the good fishing on Big Run in the distance.
Bottom line: Skip Rocky Mountain Run and spend your energy to get to Big Run.
Getting There: The Brown Mountain overlook is just north of milepost 77 on Skyline Drive.
Secrets Revealed? No. Big Run 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: 4/3/2010
Gains a little bit of volume
Algae bloom snags nymphs
Larger water after the second stream crossing
The small waterfall
Broadens, but look at the overhanging vegetation
You can see the flat rock bottom in this picture
as well as this one
Unless stated otherwise, this article was authored by Steve Moore