New Video: The Last Big Run

Virginia has been good to me. Very good. Still, the time has come to move on. A few members of the local Trout Unlimited chapter (Bill Wills Southeast Virginia TU Chapter) and I made one last run to the mountains to find some hearty brookies. 
With some tips from the boys at the South River Fly Shop in Waynesboro, Virginia, we found our way to a great stream holding wonderful fish. Tenkara has been good to me in the Shenadoahs, and that held true one last time.
Filmed on Gopro Hero, iphone 4s
Music: David Nash “The Fisherman”

Camping with a Baby

Loft Mountain Campground
is at the bottom of the map

We did it! We went camping with a baby!

Last weekend, we took David on his longest car ride yet and his first camping trip! He fussed the first 30 minutes in the car and we almost turned back, but thankfully, we powered through it and made our way to the Shenadoahs for a Blue Ridge Overnight.

I pulled the map off another website (Midatlantic Hikes). You’ll see the campground loop at the bottom where you can also see the Appalachian trail (white line) loop around the campground and mountain ridge.

Great job setting up the tent David!
We drove up on Saturday morning with a friend of Sara’s who was visiting with her 4 and 1/2 year old son from Switzerland. After several pit stops for bathrooms, breast feeding, diaper changes and gas, we managed to find a tent site at Loft Mountain Campground in the Shenandoah National Park. 
Now that is a happy camper 🙂
For essentially having no plans, it couldn’t have worked out more perfectly. We found a nice site that gave us some extra space, set up our tent and went for a short hike before making a fire and having dinner. 
Heading out on our first hike.
Picking berries. 

The trail encircles the campground. All in all, we hiked about 2 miles. A perfect easy hike through the woods and mountain ridge provided spectacular views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

The Davids
Happy Family. Mom and Dad each with the emergency clip-on baby attire.
The Appalachian Trail swings around the
campground with spectacular views. 
Collecting kindling.
After making a fire, roasting hot dogs and s’mores, we all called it a night. Our Coleman tent (borrowed from Kevin over at Sweet and Salt was spacious and cozy at the same time. We set up a Pack-n-Play in the tent for David and he did great while Sara and I cuddled up on the floor. 
On a side note, Nicole, Sara’s friend was worried we’d see a bear. I told her not to worry as it was pretty rare. Also, the ranger at the station told us, as long as we store our food properly, it won’t be an issue because there are plenty of raspberries and apple trees for the bears to munch on. As we got the fire going we stopped to fully absorb our home for the night only to notice we were surrounded by berry bushes and covered by a canopy of apple trees 🙂 We laughed a lot about that, but not too worry, there were no fuzzy, big-pawed visitors.

A very cool silver spider at the bathroom.
He had to go too, apparently.

We woke early, as we always do with baby David, to have a nice breakfast and start our morning hike to the Doyles River Falls. It got hot fast and the kids were heavy (yes, Nils, needed up needing carrying too). So we trudged back up the mountain and enjoyed lunch before making the drive home at midday.  It was a short and perfect trip. I enjoyed a re-broadcast of Prairie Home Companion while everyone snoozed most of the way home. 
The Upper Falls
I’ve got a Lamb’s Ear Leaf in my hat to match David’s.

Taking Painting Through Prosek a little further

My buddy Kevin wanted me to try painting a Shenandoah Brookie for him “Prosek Style.” Meaning, he wanted the swatch of color and pattern without the fins and such. That is good, because I can’t paint the other bits of the fish.

Using Prosek’s Labrador Brook Trout as a guide along with the picture from Kevin, I came up with a version I like. Hope you do too!

If you read the post before this, you’ll know I made a CD and put it on CDbaby. Well guess what? It is also on Spotify and iTunes. I’m very impressed with how quick that all happened. If you get a chance, go have a listen. Search “David Nash Dormroom Sessions”and you should find it. It was pretty fun to put together. Spotify works a bit like pandora, so you don’t have to pay to listen as opposed to iTunes and CDbaby which will make you buy it to hear the entire thing. iTunes also has longer song previews than CDbaby.

Day Hike at Bear Church Rock

Sara getting us started. 

Yesterday, Sara and I woke up early and drove to the Rapidan Wilderness Area to hike up Bear Church Rock. I found the hike on the site HikingUpward.com which has a great list of hikes throughout Virginia and West Virginia. It rates the hikes for their difficulty, views, streams, solitude and camping. I was looking for something that had good views and streams. I was hoping I might squeeze in a tiny bit of fishing along the way.

This guys reminded us of our cat. Very Fluffy.

Bear Church Rock is an outlook that gives a nearly 180 degree view of the wilderness area. It is about 3100ft in elevation. You hike 3.9 miles (one way) climbing 2210ft from the parking area. The first 0.5 miles of the trail is along the Rapidan river. The next 1.7 miles or so hugs the Staunton River before turning up the mountain to snake through a canopy of mountain laurels and eventually navigate its way to the Bear Church Rock Overlook. There is also a small cabin 0.3mi off the trail you can rent. We met a friendly couple who was spending a few nights there.

We set out to enjoy a day hiking, have lunch at the overlook, possibly do a bit of fishing on the way down, and grab some barbecue and cupcakes at BBQ Exchange in Gordonsville for dinner.

Although I didn’t catch anything in the 30 minutes I spent fishing,
I saw several nice fish in the Staunton River. I think I’ll come back and try to tackle them again. 
Plenty of fungi for this fun guy.….

We did all of that. As you can see by photos, it was a great day to hike. We spotted lots of treasures along the way. The butterflies were out in full force as were the fungi. I got to see a ghost plant (Monotropa uniflora) which was super cool. I even stole about 30 minutes to fish the Staunton with the Tenkara rod. No fish in hand, but I had several takes. Several were nice sized fish as well, probably over 10″. This would be a great river to return to in the fall.

Finding bright colors all over the forest floor.

We made our way back to the car and headed to BBQ Exchange. This place is so good and even better after a day of hiking. I suppose it doesn’t really matter what you eat after a good day of hiking. Any food always seems to be very fulfilling. But I’ll tell you this, there was no talking as Sara and I each got lost in a good BBQ sandwich paired with some fresh slaw.

We found several groups of Monotropa uniflora also known as the ghost plant, Indian Pipe, or corpse plant. 

These are parasitic, non-photosynthisizing flowers. 

Sara by the big tree stump.

Mountain laurel canopy. Very cool. 

I think crossing the path was this little guy’s summer activity. 
The panorama view shows no man-made object in sight.

The Tenkara rod came along, but no fish to hand. 

BLTs at the top. Hit the spot.

OBN Photo Prompt: Spring Has Sprung in SNP

My first spring in Shenandoah did not slake a thirst.
It delivered a desire for more.
Just as the spider descended upon its prey,
I sped into the park looking to feed an appetite.
I nibbled on lichens stretching across rocks,

Searched with the bees for season’s first pollen on Hawksbill summit,

Admired the delicate violets,

And twiddled the pig-tailed ferns.
They’re still unraveling, I presume.

In springtime, water falls.
It falls in torrents.
It falls in trickles.

It burrows pools
Which are safe havens for rising trout.
How did you get up here, little fish?
How in God, and Evolution, and Everyone Else’s name did you get up here?

No matter, I may as well ask the same of the trillium.
From ditches in Wisconsin,
To mother’s backyard,
To the mountains of Virginia,
The Trillium lives on,

And I’m hungry for more.
More growth,
More spring, summer, learning,
More sun, rain, laughing,
Just more.

A great day in SNP.  Here’s to a spring and summer full of them.

New Video: The Rapidan BBQ Rendezvous

Spring is now officially here, but I think it arrived in the northern hemisphere sometime in January. The brookies were taking dries on the Rapidan River in Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. It just took me a while to land a fish. I’m still getting used to the tenkara rod and still getting familiar with the Virginia trout waters. I can feel the pieces are starting to come together.

Available in HD. Just click the button or go to vimeo.com.

Enjoy the music. The Tallest Man on Earth: “You’re Going Back.”

Reset

Sometimes you just need to reset yourself. Your clock, your sleep schedule, your diet. Yesterday, I had to reset my attitude. We had been fishing all morning and I felt like I was getting worse. My casts were getting uglier. I was losing faith in my fly selection. I didn’t understand the water like I have in the past.

The day started off well. We got to the Rapidan river by 10 AM. The weather was beautiful. There was a chance of rain, but optimism won out, and the storms steered clear. The three of us spread out, hop-scotching each other, sharing the pools. The air was filling up with midges, a few duns, butterflies, and gnats. I tried to start slowly, taking in these new surroundings.

I haven’t fished the same water twice for a long time. Moving to Virginia has dumped a host of new species, habitats, and thus, opportunities at my feet. It is exciting, but also slightly hectic. Each fishing trip has brought new challenges.  

After the last outing for trout left me contently skunked, I new I needed to really take the time to study the water on this trip. This river was a buffet line of good pools, but that doesn’t mean I should just dig in and throw myself at everything in sight. Careful study of each entree is needed to ensure optimal satisfaction of each portion.

So I took my time. When I saw a rise, I switched to dries. First a griffiths, then a midge, then the closest thing to the duns I had. I had droppers, emergers, then scuds and soft hackles. I eventually switched to a stimulator and began getting some looks, even a few takes, but the size was too big for the little brook trout mouths. Slowly, the takes and looks went away. No fish in hand yet.

I had heard that the fish were hitting on nymphs, so I tried. I really tried. I am, however, extremely uncomfortable nymphing. Maybe it is because I can’t see the nymph in the water. Even just watching the indicator is hard for me. I like to see the fish take the fly. I don’t know, maybe I just need better glasses.

Regardless, the frustration was mounting. I had taken a slip or two, scratched the waterproof lens on my camera, and was losing fly after fly to the forest. I started walking up a ridge to get to another pool when I came upon a bed of moss. It looked too inviting. I set down my gear, took off my sunglasses, and laid down.

Reset. 

I slowed down my breathing, taking in the fresh mountain air. Listened to the birds and the brooke. Felt the sun on my face. My mind cleared itself of the negativity that was filling up all morning.

I sat back up, feeling the serrated edges of the lichens with the palms of my hands. I looked back at the pool I had planned to fish next. It looked good. Hearty. There were fish in there. I knew it. Not only did I know it, but I knew where I needed to cast. The water made sense again.

On the second cast, my fly slid on the seam of the run. A errant strike splashed next to my fly. I let my drift finish and casted again. The second strike was dead on target. I set my tenkara rod and felt the small body fight with every ounce of power it possessed.

A beautiful fish. I sent it back and continued up the stream to finish off the day. The water made sense to me all the way back to the car.  I even managed another fish and a few more looks. I met up with the guys and we shared beer, stories, and dinner.

The day started and ended great, but it was funny how things added up to really pull me down and shake my confidence on the water. When I commit an entire day and eight hours of driving to fish a single stream, I put a lot of pressure on myself to perform. Today, I got to spend a gorgeous day with friends doing something I love. That should be good enough. My ability to catch fish, while important, shouldn’t dictate my happiness. Of course, I fish to catch fish, but I won’t always do so. When I get frustrated, it is helpful to hit the reset button and try again when I feel ready to see the water.

Summer Solstice, Mountain Brookies.

This is a summary of my trip yesterday to Shenandoah National Park to find mountain brookies and a preview to the video to come shortly.

In the last 4 years, trout fishing had been pretty elusive for me. Besides the recent spring trip to the Big Horn River in Montana, I really haven’t done much in that time. Yesterday was my last day of legitimate freedom, so I took the opportunity to head to the nearest trout stream I could find. 
In order to bypass any issues with private stream ownership, I decided fishing in one of Virginia’s parks would be best. Shenandoah NP is about 3.5hrs from Norfolk, Va which makes it just close enough to make it a solid day trip. 
I woke up at 4:45am, ate a good breakfast, packed the cooler, coffee and car, and got on the road. I was on the trail sometime around 10. I really had no idea what to expect other than there were native brook trout, feisty invasive browns, and according to Owl Jones, either bears, snakes, or yellow jackets (possibly a combination of all three). Additionally, the hike required to get to the stream was described as “relatively easy” and at least “several miles.” The several miles thing turned out to be true, but, I tell you what, I was EXHAUSTED by the end of the day. I think I walked 5-6 miles, crawled over countless boulders and logs, shimmied across many river beds, and easily finished the 1.5liters of water I brought along. If that is easy, you can keep the difficult ones. 
Coincidentally, the storms that were supposed to hit, dissipated and my last free day turned out to be the summer solstice, the longest day of the year providing me with the most daylight. The summer solstice is also a free day in national parks. Who knew? Not me, I was ready to pay the $15 entry fee when the ranger gave me a map and a smile and waved me by. 
I wore my waders as pants, which I’m glad I did. Between the nettle, gnats, and profuse sweating, I was constantly scratching, swatting, and wiping my arms, forehead, and neck. It sounds like I’m complaining, but I’m not. It was all worth it. 
So how was the fishing? What does Neil Patrick Harris’ character Barney Stinson on “How I Met Your Mother” say? Oh yeah.                    Legend… Wait for it…. DARY!!!

Those trout are so easily spooked, but if you can creep up, they will destroy the fly you present. I was able to catch 7 brookies throughout the day. Gorgeous little fellas. The largest was maybe 7-8 inches, which is a solid fish from what I hear. It really was like hunting and fishing combined. If I even snuck a peak in the wrong way, I was reprimanded with a scatter of trout like kids who just hit a ball through a neighbor’s window. 
I caught most of my fish on size 16-18 Griffith gnats. After a drought of fish, I finally got one to take a Parachute Adams tied by Owl Jones. 
All in all, it was an amazing day. I had so much fun. I only saw 2 other hikers and was surrounded by pristine country. 
Sitting down for lunch on the creek bed, I jotted down a few lines….

Blue Ridges, Cold Water
The clouds are at a tipping point.
The air is thick and sweet like honey.
Lunch on these softened stones of the
Creek bed much older than its name
Shows me the summer solstice is a gift.
An opportunity to get up earlier,
stay out later,
and catch more trout.
The mountain brookie
Is a shy performer, 
Quick to escape at first sign of audience.
I must be calm.
I must be quiet.
Another boulder in the bed.
Another mossy log leaning close by.
I wash my hands, arms, and face
In your coolness.
Refreshed, the hunt begins again.
Sweaty, clouded, and accomplished,
I will return home.