Mountain Trout Adventure
The mountains of Virginia took me by surprise. I trucked up I-64 towards, of all things, the state’s annual fly fishing festival. It was my first year in Virginia, and while I was familiar with the Blue Ridge Mountains, I was spending most of my time in Richmond City chasing smallmouth on the James River.
I’ll never forget rounding a bend just before Waynesboro and seeing the deep valleys and arching, tree-covered mountains cascade off the right side of the highway. I’d stumbled upon something incredible. I’d been fly-fishing for trout all my life, but this was different.
A brook trout is hand painted. It’s as though some strange forest Nymph happened by and plucked each fingerling from the small stream to apply strokes of white to the fin tips and sunrise orange to the underbelly. This is what I seek in the eastern mountains.
Chasing native trout is an adventure that not only tests an angler’s skills but also his wherewithal to handle the elements. If you climb through mountain country to find that perfect valley stream, you will be tested. It takes the right plan, gear and skill for it to all come together.
When fall comes, forested cliffs turn from emerald green to fiery shades of orange, yellow and red. The beauty makes you want to drop the fly rod and pick up the canvas and paintbrush.
Along with this brilliant autumn change comes colder air. The fish come back to life, and they’re often held up in pocket waters in small streams. If you have the right gear you can make it to these fish on the coldest days.
While most of your gear can reside in a decent fishing vest, one of the most important pieces of attire for any fisherman is a serious hat to keep the sun out of your eyes and your eyes on the fish. Offering a comfortable fit, UV protection and quick dry design, the KÜHL RENEGADE Hat is designed for stalking mountain trout.
Some mountain streams are so small you can’t even fathom entering them for fear that every fish would feel your presence. When fishing for cutthroat out West, you’ll find expansive waters that beg for waders or fast-drying pants. The quick dry KÜHL JETSTREAM Rain Pant is so light you won’t feel bogged down even if you have to travel through miles of rough. If they do get wet, you can unzip at the hem for extra airflow. The zippered pockets are perfect for storing gear.
Hiking through the mountains works up a sweat even on the coldest days. The combination of sweat and chilling winds makes for very uncomfortable fishing. Working a dry fly and shivering doesn’t play out in your favor. A base layer like the KÜHL SKAR Crew is essential for its warmth and ability to wick away moisture.
Beyond proper apparel, you’ll need a combination of fishing gear and basic camping gear to make your trip a success.
There are three flies I carry in all seasons and conditions. These flies have kept me happy over the years:
- Size 16 Gold Bead Head Hares Ear Nymph
- Size 14 Olive Wooly Booger with Grizzly Hackle
- Size 14 Black Stonefly Nymph
Around midday, it’s important to find a spot to catch your breath and enjoy the view. Put the rod down and pick up your fork, and maybe even the binoculars or camera. Though you may opt for quick, ready-to-eat foods, I encourage you to take at least one meal that needs to be prepared. Freeze-dried camping meals are easy to prepare and tasty too. My fishing improves greatly after a lunch break.
- Freeze-dried camping meal(s)
- Camping stove
- Pan for heating water
- Eating utensils
Water is essential but quickly adds weight to your pack. Always have clean, potable water on your person or water purification gear. Important: if you’re below the vegetation limit on a mountain, the water needs to be sanitized.
- Water purification tabs
- Filtration system
- Clean container for water
Anytime you venture into the backcountry, pack a detailed, topographical map so you understand the trek ahead.
- Topographical map
- Quality compass
- Powerful flashlight
- GPS phone
If you fall in the water on a cold day, you may need a fire to prevent hypothermia and save your life. Keep some basic tools on hand to make fire starting easy.
- Waterproof matches
- Tinder or firestarter gel
- Ferrocerium rod
- Camping hatchet or fixed blade knife
The mountains are calling. Come prepared with quality apparel from KÜHL on your back and all the right gear in your pack. Seek out beautiful mountain trout and try to trick one into sipping that stonefly!