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Old 07-22-2013, 10:16 AM
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Default Rapidan newbie Help Needed

I'll be in Virginia the last week of September and I want to take one day and fly fish the Rapidan for brook trout. Hopefully by late September they may be picking up some spawning colors.
I need some advice on how to go about this trip.
1. As I understand it, I can hike downhill from Skyline Drive or I can hike up hill from the bottom. I have read that the last section of the road in at the bottom is very rough and I'll be driving a Ford Taurus- not much of a rough road vehicle. So...if I go in from the bottom I might have to park at the end of the smooth road and walk the rest of the way. Of the two access spots- which is the easiest to take to reach brook trout water? How much time does it take to hike in from either area and what change in elevation is encountered from either access point?
2. I have read some but I'm a little confused. It sounds to me that the Rapidan begins at Camp Hoover where two tributories meet. Where exactly is the best stretch for brook trout, below Camp Hoover or above Camp Hoover?
3. For late September- what flies would be a good choice?
Thanks for any help.
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Old 07-22-2013, 01:05 PM
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Default Re: Rapidan newbie Help Needed

1. I regularly drive up the upper access (route 649) in a Saturn Coupe. Perfectly doable if you take your time. Definitely don't hike down from Skyline. It's a pain to hike back out after fishing. The lower parking lot (Graves Mills) is really easy to get to, but the fishing isn't quite as good down low, imho. You can start picking up fish at the Graves Mills parking lot if you work at it.
2. The general consensus is that the fishing gets better at higher elevations, but the fish get smaller. Nobody's going to be any more specific than that.
3. #14 Mr. Rapidan or Royal Wulff, any terrestrials up top. Weighted fat-bodied nymphs below.
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Old 07-23-2013, 09:59 AM
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Default Re: Rapidan newbie Help Needed

Quote:
Originally Posted by diamond rush View Post
1. I regularly drive up the upper access (route 649) in a Saturn Coupe. Perfectly doable if you take your time. Definitely don't hike down from Skyline. It's a pain to hike back out after fishing. The lower parking lot (Graves Mills) is really easy to get to, but the fishing isn't quite as good down low, imho. You can start picking up fish at the Graves Mills parking lot if you work at it.
2. The general consensus is that the fishing gets better at higher elevations, but the fish get smaller. Nobody's going to be any more specific than that.
3. #14 Mr. Rapidan or Royal Wulff, any terrestrials up top. Weighted fat-bodied nymphs below.
Man, I really wish I was on this forum before I went up to the SNP this past weekend. I fished the rapidan from the top down and saw nothing. I was careful to stay as stealthy as possible but really couldn't find a pool that was holding anything. I fished half a mile up from Camp Rapidan all the way down to the Camp itself. The water was beautiful but no brookies to be seen. I was fishing #14 Mr. Rapidans and #16-14 tricos - no bites. Oh well, I'll have to go back and give it try from the bottom up I guess.
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Old 07-23-2013, 10:15 AM
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Default Re: Rapidan newbie Help Needed

If your in the area, you might stop in and talk with the folks at Murray's Fly Shop and see what advice they can give you. I'll usually buy a few flies for their assistance when I stop at the fly shop and ask for help.
https://www.murraysflyshop.com/
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Old 07-23-2013, 12:02 PM
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Default Re: Rapidan newbie Help Needed

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Originally Posted by chi804 View Post
Man, I really wish I was on this forum before I went up to the SNP this past weekend. I fished the rapidan from the top down and saw nothing. I was careful to stay as stealthy as possible but really couldn't find a pool that was holding anything. I fished half a mile up from Camp Rapidan all the way down to the Camp itself. The water was beautiful but no brookies to be seen. I was fishing #14 Mr. Rapidans and #16-14 tricos - no bites. Oh well, I'll have to go back and give it try from the bottom up I guess.
I can guarantee to you that there are brookies in those pools. However they head for the deepest holes and hide out when the weather and stream temps are as hot as they've been. You stand a shot if you can get weighted nymphs down to 'em, but it's very tough. Micro streamers supposedly work also, but I've never tried that. It's just very tough this time of year.

As for Murray's Fly Shop, he's on the wrong side of the mountains from DC so I haven't been there. I've read his book on fly fishing the SNP from cover to cover a couple times, though. I highly recommend it.

Last edited by diamond rush; 07-23-2013 at 12:25 PM.
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Old 07-23-2013, 01:24 PM
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Default Re: Rapidan newbie Help Needed

I want to thank everyone for the help and the honest assessments. The reason I am interested in the Rapidan is because it is reputed as a top stream, one of the "must do" places. I think it is one of TU's top 100 in the U.S.
Personally, the idea of hiking up a mountain at the end of the day, when I'll already be tired, I wasn't looking forward to that so thanks on that aspect. I am planning on staying around Charlottesville so I'll drive up and start at the bottom. I still have lots of questions so I hope you don't mind me asking.
1. From Charlottesville to Grave's Mill- how much time does that drive take?
2. I have done some reading, initially I thought brown trout were in the lower areas and for brook trout you had to be higher up than camp Hoover but then it sounded like folks were catching brookies farther down. Hopefully by the end of September they might have spawning colors. I am really interested in only catching brookies as they aren't that common in a lot of areas. For targeting brookies in the last few days of September, what part of the river should I focus on and what type flies should I be using? It sounds like on the areas above camp Hoover you have to dap more than cast. I don't care what technique as long as I have the best shot at catching brook trout.
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Old 07-23-2013, 01:53 PM
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Default Re: Rapidan newbie Help Needed

Quote:
Originally Posted by diamond rush View Post
I can guarantee to you that there are brookies in those pools. However they head for the deepest holes and hide out when the weather and stream temps are as hot as they've been. You stand a shot if you can get weighted nymphs down to 'em, but it's very tough. Micro streamers supposedly work also, but I've never tried that. It's just very tough this time of year.

As for Murray's Fly Shop, he's on the wrong side of the mountains from DC so I haven't been there. I've read his book on fly fishing the SNP from cover to cover a couple times, though. I highly recommend it.
I should've learned from my experience fishing the Moormans near the resevoir. I caught a few brookies using a prince head nymph. What's the name of that book you're referencing? I'd like to check it out. Thanks.
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Old 07-23-2013, 03:42 PM
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Default Re: Rapidan newbie Help Needed

Quote:
Originally Posted by Red Owl View Post
I want to thank everyone for the help and the honest assessments. The reason I am interested in the Rapidan is because it is reputed as a top stream, one of the "must do" places. I think it is one of TU's top 100 in the U.S.
Personally, the idea of hiking up a mountain at the end of the day, when I'll already be tired, I wasn't looking forward to that so thanks on that aspect. I am planning on staying around Charlottesville so I'll drive up and start at the bottom. I still have lots of questions so I hope you don't mind me asking.
1. From Charlottesville to Grave's Mill- how much time does that drive take?
2. I have done some reading, initially I thought brown trout were in the lower areas and for brook trout you had to be higher up than camp Hoover but then it sounded like folks were catching brookies farther down. Hopefully by the end of September they might have spawning colors. I am really interested in only catching brookies as they aren't that common in a lot of areas. For targeting brookies in the last few days of September, what part of the river should I focus on and what type flies should I be using? It sounds like on the areas above camp Hoover you have to dap more than cast. I don't care what technique as long as I have the best shot at catching brook trout.
1. It's about an hour to Graves Mill from Charlottesville and an hour and 10 to the upper access. It's a 2 mile hike from the Graves Mill parking lot to the upper access part.
2. It's all brook trout in the Park/Management Area. You can catch brookies from below the lower boundary all the way up to where the stream comes out of the drainage off Skyline. The stream has such a high gradient that you can usually get a full cast in if you carefully aim your backcast back over the stream. September is a great time to fish the park and you should definitely find some brookies in full spawn color. Cover a lot of ground and don't make too many casts to the same spot. If there's a hungry brookie, you'll know about on the first good cast to a spot.

---------- Post added at 02:33 PM ---------- Previous post was at 02:32 PM ----------

Quote:
Originally Posted by chi804 View Post
I should've learned from my experience fishing the Moormans near the resevoir. I caught a few brookies using a prince head nymph. What's the name of that book you're referencing? I'd like to check it out. Thanks.
Trout Fishing in the Shenandoah National Park: Harry W. Murray: 9780962255502: Amazon.com: Books Trout Fishing in the Shenandoah National Park: Harry W. Murray: 9780962255502: Amazon.com: Books


---------- Post added at 02:42 PM ---------- Previous post was at 02:33 PM ----------

By the way, I have a thread on fishing the SNP with a couple trip reports if it helps:

Shenandoah National Park in Winter
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Old 07-24-2013, 11:35 AM
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Default Re: Rapidan newbie Help Needed

Remember I'm a newbie, I still have a few more questions:
1. If it is only an hour from Charlottesville I think I'll stay there since I know the town pretty well. When you say an hour to Graves Mills and an hour and 10 minutes to the upper access, which is two miles from Graves Mills, you mean an additional 10 minute drive from Graves Mill to the upper access, correct? I know it is a stupid question but some roads are so rough you can't go much faster than walking.
2. I think there are there different rules in SNP and the ajoining management area and if so are there signs to let you know what area you are on? I think I also read that rules change on October 1. If you are a pure catch and release fly fisherman with barbless hooks- is that good either area?
3. On the prior thread you referenced, it sounds like one good tactic is to use a black GRHE nymph, weighted, and cast to the head/top of each plunge pool, give each pool say three casts and then move on.
4. On such small water- waders? Hip boots? wade wet?
Thanks again for any help.

Last edited by Red Owl; 07-24-2013 at 11:38 AM. Reason: spelling
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Old 07-24-2013, 12:09 PM
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Default Re: Rapidan newbie Help Needed

1. To get to the top access, you have to drive all the way around the wildlife management area and come at it from the other angle.
2. There are signs clearly marking regulations at the trailheads. You won't have any issues.
3. I'm not an expert, but that's what works for me. YMMV
4. Wear waterproof hiking boots if you have them. You don't have to get in the stream if you don't want to. You will have to cross the stream constantly to get the right angles and drifts, however.
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