Strolling along a beach after a morning of casting to bait-busting seatrout, the sun warms my neck and I squint into the sun sans shades, trying hard to even out a harsh sunglasses tan. It’s hardly 9 o’ clock, and even as the wind whips through my loose clothing, the temperature rivals that of a Virginia summer. One thing is clear—Southwest Florida is a far shot from Virginia in almost every aspect.
Over the past week, I have saved several such moments in my mind. Still frames standing and casting to fish in backcountry mangroves from my kayak; pushing over oyster beds and through tight cuts of water miles from the big bordering city; jumping tarpon and unhappy alligators; slicing patterns in the sky, casting to fish amid calm blue water crowned with a fiery sunrise, fighting fog and darkness—all are cataloged with thankfulness for the experience.
The past two months have provided me with even more treasured memories. Memories of gurgling Catskills trout streams at dusk, leaping salmon of magnificent proportions, casting dry flies after dark to skinny-water brown trout in “Pennsylvania’s Grand Canyon,” guiding a kayak through the Okefenokee Swamp dodging alligators and cypress trees, of lifelong friends made—all leave me humble and anxious to return.
But here I am, on the front end of Virginia’s firearms deer season; in the middle of the trout’s fall feeding frenzy, when the brook trout dress up in their most colorful garments and flaunt them about the state’s most beautiful waterways, when an elderly New Yorker approaches me on a beach and inquires about the Rapidan—undoubtedly the most well-known stream in Shenandoah for President Hoover’s appreciation of it.
“It is a wonderful stream,” I replied. “But there are many more like it, if you’re willing to look.”
And it was then that I began to daydream, of the miles of wild trout streams of the Blue Ridge and of my beloved brook trout, of the way the almost-gone leaves look on the trees and how the crisp chill in the air brings out the fragrances of the forest and the mountains, of the humanity and sense of closure that November cold brings to the Piedmont, when we go to the woods and the water bundled.
With that, I found myself eager to revisit those cherished back-home memories, all the more appreciative of the varied sporting opportunities Virginia has to offer.
Originally published in the Rural Virginian