Blue Ridge Thunder and Rainbows

As I intimated, briefly, on my fB page myself and my other half are on a US road trip for the better part of May as it was our 25th wedding anniversary at the start of the month and we wanted to do something special.

It isn’t a fishing trip, but somehow a few items of tackle made it into my case. Nothing big you understand. A 6 weight travel rod ( a bit over-gunned to be honest, but all I had compact enough should I need conventional fly tackle) – I do wonder why no one makes a travel sized 3 or 4 weight river rod in lengths longer than about 8feet, why no travel nymph rods? Gap in the market there, think.

I also managed to slide my Tenkara rod into the same rod tube with the 6 weight as I felt in smaller rivers it would be more appropriate. To this lot I had a reel, a few basic tools and accessories ) nippers, floatant, sinkant, small pliers and a couple of small boxes of dries and wets/nymphs and some tippet.

But would I get a chance to use any of it?

The Crystal Creek

The river that flows by the cabin

Creek side residence

Our second stop, Roanoke is in a small creek side cabin.  The creek is gin clear and I imagine spring fed. It is a tributary ultimately of the Roanoke River. The road where I am staying is called Crystal Creek Road but the river I think is called Back Creek and runs down eventually to become the Horseshoe branch of the Roanoke River. When I arrived I was watching some small fish, some of which looked to be small trout in the shallows of a side channel right under the balcony of our cabin. Then as I watched I saw a big trout move into the tail of a pool that was mostly covered by trees opposite us. It was too much to resist. I grabbed my waders and boots from the car and readied my Tenkara rod. I never mentioned the waders did I? Well in point of fact they didn’t come with us though I bought them some months ago. My plan was to procure them in the US on this trip to replace my nearly finished Simms Headwaters. I decided to get a direct replacement set and with a new pair of Vibram soled wading boots they were in total literally half price of home, in the New Year sales ( normally I would expect to save about 1/3rd on the UK RRP). I picked them up from a friend in DC who stored them for me and now I could use them for the first time.

The Specimen sized bait fish from “Crystal Creek”

By the time I had tied on a small LTD Sedge and got the waders on ( over shorts- never a good idea) the big trout had vanished.  Caddis flies are in season here so I felt the LTD was a good choice as an opener. I cast over the smaller trout in the side channel and my first two casts rose two but I missed the take and my third cast seemed to spook them all and they dashed into the deeper pool above. I cast a few times over the main pool and eventually reached a deep channel in the rocky base of the river upstream. I had a sharp knock here and saw the white flash of the subsurface take- by now I had put on a small nymph instead. But still no fish. I was realising that my plain, straight out the box rubber soled wading boots were not as good at gripping the bottom as conventional felts and nearly came a cropper a few times.

I then went further down stream and in a fast run, after two more knocks, hooked a fish and initially thought it was a Brook trout until I got it to hand and realised it looked to be some sort of Dace but with some red fins and black spots. I asked in the local Orvis shop later what it might be and was told it was pretty much a specimen sized bait fish- ” a pretty big Silver fish” the guy said.


Simms Aluminium studs

Simms Alumibrite Star Cleat studs fitted. Could probably do with a second pack

As soon as I was back on the balcony I sat down and fitted the Aluminium Star Cleats to my new boots. A fiddly but necessary task.


Now it has to be said while I only fished for maybe 45 minutes tops I was maybe, fishing illegally. I had asked the cabin owner if it was Ok to fish and she said yes but Virginia has some funny laws and regulations about permitting and I thought that was I intending to go fish elsewhere I really ought to get a licence first.


Getting Legal… and Failing

Today was a run up into the Blue Ridge Parkway and before we left and while the Mrs was “sorting her hair” I nipped into town to the tourist information office to find out about getting a licence. Friendly as they were, to be honest they were pretty clueless on the subject other than to say go to the Orvis store in town and they will sort you out. I need to back track a bit at this point and add, that before I left I did look into licencing. it seemed that to fish the majority of state waters you need as a minimum a freshwater licence. In national parks you also need a licence/permit for there too. However while it states they are all available online or at thousands of agents ( shops) all I could locate online were annual state resident and non-resident licences at around £70 a pop.  A bit much for a single day out. I did email the Virginia State fisheries department about how I got a day ticket and the answer was no less opaque than the website that appears to be written on the assumption that a) you are from the US and b) have spent the prior 10 years studying law at an Ivy league college.

I gave up.

I went to the Orvis Shop in Roanoke and the staff there could not be more helpful. However, they were also as baffled as me as to how I got the required paperwork.  It appeared the licence I needed was only $15 and a further $4 for State Park access. However, could they work out how to get one?…. After 30 minutes of going round in circles on the state licencing website they too were getting a little exasperated and in the end gave me a card for the shop and said, “you tried to be legal, if anyone challenges you please give them our number and we will back you up!”

It seems to be impossible. You can apply as an overseas resident but insists to create a state profile account that seems to only want a US-based address. Even after trying to give them a friends address it still barfed and round and round we went getting nowhere.

Bait Fish

A rather out of focus shot of my first US river Rainbow, the first of three today.

Virginia you really need to sort this mess out! It’s only a fishing permit it isn’t a license for an assault rifle. I am sure had I walked into a gun shop I could have left 5 minutes later with several AR15s and some assorted ammunition no questions asked.

The run up the Blue Ridge Parkway was pleasant, and little traffic was encountered. The guy in the Orvis Shop very helpfully gave me a Google Maps location for some fly only water about 40 miles North of Roanoke. He said it didn’t require a State park licence only a State licence, as it was mostly Brook Trout and the odd Rainbow and not stocked fish. I stored the map ref in my sat nav and after visiting Glasgow, VA and refuelling I decided to at least have a look to see if I could find the indicated spot. Getting to the grid ref was easy enough but finding where the fly only water was, proved impossible. I was told to watch for a sign indicating the change of status but despite driving in a huge loop failed to succeed. However, the road followed miles of gin clear stunning looking trout water. I was itching to wet a line. We encountered maybe 6-8 anglers fishing with bait or lures of some sort in smaller sections of the river but never seen anyone fishing the bigger areas. I realised this was probably because not one of them was wearing waders….. which I had! I even stopped one who was walking to his truck, and he had no idea where the fly only area was.

Middle Creek


Pocket water

I took this shot while playing fish number three so have no reason to believe it isn’t in shot, just its hard to spot. This was the water where the fish were sitting.

After a frustrating 45 minute tour of very rural Virginia I could not hold back any longer I decided to chance it. I picked a wider section with a convenient layby and already set up with a Tenkara rod and waders stepped into the river. I could see the front edge of the pool had a deep feeding line and I lobbed a Scruffy Nymph in a size 16 with a wee black spider on a dropper into the back of this channel. About three casts and I had a thump and my very first river caught Rainbow was brought in. I had no net so on a Tenkara rod I had to play it out and then bring it into hand. A rainbow of around 3/4lb to a pound. The photo isn’t very good to be fair as I had only my DSLR on me having left my wife with my mobile and while the DSLR takes great shots it’s not so easy to do a selfie holding a wet fish in one hand and a camera in the other!


By the way, the Alumibrite star cleats made a huge difference. I wasn’t slipping at all today.

Deer head

Every angler needs one of these…..

Safely released another couple of casts and I had a second smaller but stunningly marked fish. It almost looked like a Tiger Trout but was definitely a Rainbow, of about 3/4lb. No picture this time as I dropped it while trying to switch on the camera! I then had a wee bait fish, before moving into some pocket water and soon had number three, another Rainbow of about 3/4lb that put up a huge fight racing off downstream. Just as I was bringing it into hand there was a flash of lightning and a loud clap of thunder and suddenly standing in the middle of a river with 11 feet of carbon fibre did not seem quite so clever. I let it off quick and headed back to the car just as the rain fell in torrents. In less than 30 mins I had a very successful outing and my immediate craving for fishing was sated. When it might next be fulfilled we will see … keep watching this space.

Waders drying

To dry their waders on.

By the time you read this I will have crossed the state line and will no longer be a fugitive from the law.