Late evening haze, the warm glow of sun on the surface riffles of the North Fork finds me casting a hare's ear soft hackle, mending the drift downstream, trying to keep from hanging up in the tangled arms of a half-submerged yellow poplar tree that fell sometime in the squall of late winter, strong icy winds blowing across the lower mountains, at the foot of the Blue Ridge escarpment.
There are not very many trout here, in fact, I don't know if the state DNR even stock this stream anymore like they once did. What fish I do catch here are usually good ones, though, and put up one hell of a fight to match the struggle an angler must endure to locate and catch one of these wild, holdover fish.
This stream is moody. At times, she is as calm and lazy as a summer day, water slow as a glass of fine wine. Other times, she becomes a handful, rough and dangerous, full of pent-up rage, making it difficult for even the most skilled of waders to stand in her powerful current. The waters of the North Fork are cold and deep, sometimes glacial when you're standing waist deep, trying to keep a foothold and at the same time fish the runs around bank edges, the green pools, and under the thick, overhanging brush on the stream's edges.
The North Fork is not a wide river, casts must be short, but have to be calculated, executed with precision. An angler will lose many flies to the low-hanging trees, the rhododendron, and deadfalls all along her banks. The prospect of catching a fat rainbow or brown trout keeps me going, helps me press on through the rapids cutting between massive rocks, and deep sand in the bends around thick brush.
Any local angler reading this knows exactly where I am talking about when I mention the North Fork. Many fly fishers will turn their nose up when they realize what trout stream I'm talking about. I gladly fish that stretch often for two reasons: 1) It's close to home, and 2) not many people fish it, opting for stretches of river that holds more fish, and is easy to navigate.
I don't care if no other angler would want to fish there, in fact, I am happy the North Fork doesn't get any love from most fly anglers.
Slightly altering the name is not my attempt to try and disguise the location from other anglers, but to keep from mentioning it to what I call the "general recreationalist," non-anglers that crowd the ground around any trickle of water they can find when the weather turns warm. Those better-known stretches of trout water not only attracts fly anglers, but also picnickers, large families looking for a "natural" area to have a barbeque, and probably some folks who use the water as a trash dump, or a place to do their laundry.
All I am saying is, find your own place, and try to make it yours. Sometimes, especially in these parts, you will have to share the waters with other anglers, maybe a Sunday tourist or two. Be willing to fish places that other anglers wouldn't be caught dead fishing. Find a place so far off the beaten path that no sane person would ever try to find. And once you find one of those places, keep your mouth shut.
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