The morning started in a bad way (as future stories usually do). I had to scrape the ice of my car in the dark in order to drive to the river. I'd never done that before. I should have known.
But the night before was when I might have taken events as signs. I was just clumsy all night, from tying ugly flies to having a hard time tying the knots for my dropper rigs. I capped it all off my dropping my once-used Super Days Worth fly box on the cement basement floor and breaking part of it.
But I was off.
My fingers were in pain before I had finished rigging up, even with the neoprene gloves on. After getting set up, I had to take a break and put my hands inside my waders. I wasn't sure how I was going to fish.
As soon as my hands were marginally okay, I started casting. After only 6 casts or so, I saw the indicator pause and set the hook. A flash of silver told me I had a decent rainbow on and, after steering him clear of some brush, I landed an 11-incher. So already I had broken the two-outing skunk streak, and I was in a good mood.
I quickly moved into some riffles and started catching chubs. I worked my way upstream, and continued to catch fish almost constantly, but no trout. Instead, I got into tons of a fish I'd never seen before, and neither friends, family, nor members of two fly fishing forums could identify it from my description (this is when a camera would be really nice).
It was a little fish, typically about 5 inches or so. It was silver, with three dark vertical markings on its side. The tips of the tail and fins were all bright red. Someone suggested it might be a river redhorse, but it didn't have that kind of mouth. If anyone has any suggestions, please let me know. I suggest it's a regional variant of something.
The big challenge of the day was keeping my guides ice-free. I'd never encountered this problem, and the first time I tried to cast and shot the line out the middle of the line was a strange experience. By lunchtime, the air had warmed up enough that the freezing water in my guides wasn't a problem, but it was an odd way to spend a Virginia morning.
Anyhow, I caught quite a few fish that day (beyond counting, which always equals good, regardless of species). I hiked back to where I started and talked to some other anglers, at which point at felt foolish. They told me the Delayed Harvest area extends downstream from where I started, but I'd been fishing upstream. I suspect they're right, as the water is certainly better that direction (which I proved by fishing for a while without a bite), but I've checked several guidebooks, all of which list it upstream.
Oh, well, I had a good day, took fish in some painful conditions, and don't really care if I fished the "right" stretch or not.