When I started Five Great Virginia Streams for Tenkara on March 5th I had hoped to get all five covered in a couple of weeks. Now here we are on May 4th and I am just getting to number 4, the Rapidan River. Sorry about that, but life and new job keep me away from this chronicle.
The Rapidan is probably my favorite brook trout water. I have spent more time and logged more miles on the water then any place else on earth. It truly is my home water.
The Rapidan, located in the Shenandoah National Park, 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 4×4, 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 Quarker 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. You will bottom out at the Rapidan with a 4-5 car parking area on your left.
You can start fishing up or down from here and there are miles of water either way. If there are more than two cars, I would continue on the road until you find a pull off that suits you and start fishing.
If you continue on the road you will cross the first of two wooden bridges. There are 4-5 car parking areas near each bridge. When you cross the first bridge you will be entering the state’s Wildlife Management Area. You can camp in this area if you want.
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 ½ hour hike and worth the trip if only for the historic value of seeing a rustic presidential retreat.
If you have read the other posts then you already know what flies work in these mountain brook trout streams; 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. Of course if you want to go the full tenkara route then try an Oki or Ishigaki. Check with Mossy Creek Fly Fishing to get the latest on what’s working.
Because the Rapidan has more gradient it offers more complexity to the water. You can spend a lifetime fishing the Rapidan and will 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 again.
Give the Rapidan a try and let me know what you think.