Rumors of Wild Trout

Seneca Creek, January 31 2019
(New sign complete with full choke shotgun pattern)

A year is best bookended with things you love to do, so I decided to drag myself out of bed on a cold and sleety New Year’s Eve and make the 45 minute drive to one of West Virginia’s few wild rainbow trout streams. I have only fished this stream once, and that was back in 1997 when I was still in college, and that was several mile upstream from here.

My preference is to take the roads less traveled, so I was a little concerned when a gated gravel road followed the bottom two miles of the stream. I thought this road would end and I’d be left with the backpacking trail that goes on for another ten miles.

Much to my surprise the road ran right into a gate and a fence peppered with No Trespassing signs, and even one Beware of Dog sign for good humor. My OnX Maps showed the private ground, but typically a little parcel of private in the middle of the Mon National Forest will have a sign that says “Please Close Gate behind You”. But no, not this guy. He is very proud that he owns his little slice of trout stream and no one else can pass through.

Stream access is a problem in West Virginia, no different than many other states.

So I headed back downstream and started fishing in earnest. I was using a 2wt TFO, with a bead-head prince nymph and a hares-ear dropper, complete with strike indicator. And of course there is no perfect setup for conditions like this. The water is cold and clear, so I wanted to fish deep, but deep sometimes meant 18” and only occasionally meant 24”-30”. I hung up on bottom, I hung up in trees, I hung up in dead falls… that was pretty much the day.

I was starting to doubt that the rumors of wild trout in Seneca Creek were true, when I stepped on a deadfall and a rainbow shot out and upstream. I got a little more careful and deliberate after that. Farther downstream I peered over an undercut bank and there was a good 12” rainbow below. I circled upstream to come in from above him and from the opposite bank. I got in about eight good drifts through that hole before I overcast into the bank and snagged-up. My hands being too numb to retie, I called in a morning and headed out.

A rare pool.

And so that ends 2019. I can’t say this day was a whole lot different than most of my other says afield this year. All day long (until I stepped on trout) I could hear my Dad saying “So tell me again how you picked THIS spot?”. I am notorious for great effort with di-minimus results … depending on how results are measured. A few hours alone on a wild trout stream with the wind roaring through the trees on the mountain above you while the water rolls over rocks below you… I will call that a good morning.

Sunrise over Allegheny Mountain

Published by: Blaine Emery

I have spent my life seeking the old ways where things are pure and unspoiled. As much as life allows, you will not find me unless you look on a hidden mountain stream in West Virginia or on some desolate mountain in Wyoming. You can also follow some of my exploits on Twitter @WVPackHunter

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