Streams I love to fish | Rapidan River
A storied stream with a rich history
Spring is on the horizon and that means prime brook trout fishing in Virginia’s mountain streams. With that in mind, I’m going to share some information about some of my favorites. First up, the Rapidan, in the Shenandoah National Park.
The Rapidan is a high gradient mountain stream with a variety of riffles, pools, runs, and falls. You can drive right to the water, but you will be on a dirt road of varying quality much of the way. It doesn’t require a 4x4, but a sports car is not recommended.
To reach the Rapidan, take state route 29 to Madison. Head west on route 231 toward Banco. Bear left onto route 670 toward Criglersville and Syria. Go about 2 miles and turn left onto 649/Quaker Run Rd. Follow Quaker Run Rd. until it becomes a dirt road. Stay on the dirt road and you go up on over the ridge, crossing a fire road and head down into the Shenandoah National Park. At the bottom is the first of several pull offs where you can park.
Where to fish
You can start fishing up or down from that first pull off, and there are miles of water up and down stream. If there are more than two cars, I would continue up the road until you find a pull off that suits you and start fishing.
As you continue on the road, you will cross the first of two wooden bridges. There are parking areas near each bridge. When you cross the first bridge, you will enter the state’s Wildlife Management Area.
Continue past the second bridge; you will pass an in-holding (not open to the public) and further along you will come to a locked gate. If you hike up the trail you will reach Rapidan Camp, President Hoover’s summer getaway. This is where the Mill Prong and the Laurel Prong form the headwaters of the Rapidan. The U.S. Park Service maintains an interpretive operation at Rapidan Camp. It is an easy half-hour hike and worth the trip, if only for the historic value of seeing a rustic presidential retreat.
What flies work
The typical flies that work in mountain brook trout streams work here. I use a dry or dry-dropper rig, either Adams or BWO parachutes. For nymphs try a Pheasant Tail, Gold Ribbed Hare’s ear or Copper John. A few Quill Gordons, March Browns and Sulfurs for mayfly imitations; little black stoneflies, yellow sallies and some tan and olive caddis round out the assortment.
Because the Rapidan has more gradient than some of the streams to the west of the park, it offers more complexity to the water. There are an abundance of pockets, plenty of riffles and some big deep pools. Fish each one carefully but don’t stay planted in one place. If you don’t get some action after a few casts, don’t hesitate to move along as there are more spots ahead. You can spend a lifetime fishing the Rapidan and always find interesting water to fish. I have fished it in every month of the year and covered most of the water and still look forward to fishing it every time.
If you give the Rapidan a try, let me know what you think.
Tom, I think the SNP is a treasure, but many streams are suffering and few have retained their population of trout. So much so that I dare not mention any other good streams in the park.