Heavy raindrops hit the brim of my hat like they were dropped off a trough. Overhanging sycamore, red maple, and tulip poplar branches caught the rain and dipped toward the stream with the weight. Stream flows, already swollen from a week of rain, began to increase turbidity as the rain intensified. As quickly as the rain began it subsided, dropping the humidity and temperature noticeably.
With the change to summer weather, wet wading with sandals instead of wearing waders is a welcome part of my fishing experience. A quick cloudburst made the day more comfortable, but also wet the rocks and boulders along the stream. Without the wading boots and their carbide studs, I had to slow my pace and watch each step.
I was visiting a new stream, exploring Shenandoah National Park, and working towards my goal of fishing new streams. Taking my time was just what I needed to do. The streambed consisted of large cobble and boulders, with isolated areas of sand and small gravel. Along a steeper gradient, stream flows plunge into step pool and pocket water configurations. The flow of the water against the boulders pulsed and created a sound like a bass drum.
A fawn peaked out from behind an alder to see if I posed any danger. Carefully stepping along the edge of the stream I eyed a slower pocket of water downstream of the plunging flow. I cast a dry dropper into the seam and turned a quick glance to locate the fawn. Looking back to find my fly, it was gone. I lifted the rod and felt the pressure. A brook trout. Woohoo!
I meandered upstream with the turns of the channel. Each bend brought a series of pools, cascades and runs. I knew I had to look at the clock soon to keep on my schedule for the remainder of my trip, but each step felt like an adventure. I had caught nearly ten brook trout, with bright orange and white fins and blue haloed red spots. The bright colorations of each fish sown brightly in contrast to the natural greens, grays, and browns of the stream. Hidden gems within the rolling water.
The careful pace of the wet wading and the amazing setting created an odd combination inside me. Each cast brought anticipation and excitement that made my heart race, and simultaneously I felt at peace. The cool air on my skin, the cold water against my legs, the deep bass of the rushing water, and the inquisitive gaze of fawn layered a soothing calm over me. Facing a stressful week ahead, this time on the water sharpened my mind while warming my heart.