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Western Virginia Brook Trout Fishing

To me, fly-fishing for brook trout has become almost an obsession this season, and I feel like there is no going back. It is an experience that brings you to some of the most beautiful streams you could possibly imagine and puts you in contact with native trout who have been breeding and living in those streams since the beginning of time. Furthermore, to me, fly-fishing for brook trout is as close as you can get to the way trout fishing was meant to be. 

This past weekend I went fly-fishing for brookies in western Virginia with my uncle and had the best two days' worth of trout fishing I've ever had. The stream was remote and cold. The fish were small and feisty. Most importantly, they were hungry. I put my uncle onto his first-ever trout on a fly-rod (how many people can say their first trout on a fly was a native brookie??) and I myself caught eight total throughout the two days, including some 8-9 inchers. 

The challenge and the excitement of brook trout fishing -- unlike almost every other kind of fishing -- does not lie in catching the biggest fish. It lies in the process of actually finding streams where brook trout live -- as they are usually high up in the mountains -- and being stealthy enough to actually catch one. Since most brook trout don't see a lot of fishing pressure, they are unaccustomed to seeing fishermen on the shore and, if you make a false move or don't handle your approach correctly, you're likely to spook them. That goes for all situations in which you are fly-fishing for trout, but especially fishing for brook trout. 

The thing we had going for us last weekend was that we fished a lot of "plunge pools" where the water came in fast to a particular hole, almost in a little waterfall. This makes the surface of the pool rougher and therefore makes it more difficult for the fish to see you. I caught a lot of my eight fish this weekend simply by dropping a white bead-head nymph into one of these plunge-pools and letting it float out with with drift. I used a strike indicator, not so much to see when a fish was biting but simply to let me know where my nymph was at all times. 

Although I caught eight brookies in total, I missed at least two dozen others. This was frustrating but I came to the conclusion that I should either use smaller flies next time, making it easier for the small fish to bite them, or just that I need to work on my hook-setting skills. I shouted many, many curse words into the Virginia sky as, time after time, I felt a brookie pull on my line only to spit the hook just as quickly. 

This past weekend I abandoned my usual brookie strategy of using only dry-flies. The water was a little too rough and there did not seem to be a strong hatch. Normally, there is nothing better than dropping a white dry-fly into a crystal-clear pool, only to see that tell-tale flick and watch the fly disappear, knowing a brookie has grabbed it. 

One other thing we had going for us was that the water was a little murky. Not sure why this would be, as we were way up in the mountains. However, even in the higher elevation parts of the stream, the water had just a slight haze to it. Perhaps that's the way this stream always looks, I do not know. But it helped -- again -- because in purely crystal clear water it's very easy for the fish to see you standing over them. In this case, we were aided a bit by nature.