Washington County, Maryland, March 1, 2008
Nymphing for stocked rainbows and browns at Antietam Creek below the large stone bridge just outside the Devil's Backbone Park.

It was a bonus day for fishing--my wife and daughter were going to a Girl Scout function and I wasn't! I thought I was going with them to the meeting but when my wife turned to me and asked if I was doing anything today while they were gone, I was off to Antietam Creek.

The creek is best known for the historic Civil War battle that took place on September 17, 1862, when the armies of the North and South slugged it out from dawn to dusk on a farm field bordering Antietam Creek near the town of Sharpsburg. This bloody encounter produced more than 23,000 casualties on both sides and there was no clear winner.

There are two locations to access the lower fishable part of Antietam Creek-- the Devil's Backbone County Park and the Antietam National Battlefield Park. I began at the park and quickly found out that it was overrun with bait anglers. Some folks had several rods out tipped with nightcrawlers, corn or some plastic trout yummies. The park itself is very nice and provides restrooms, picnic areas with grills, a playground, pavilions and parking. It was a bit too crowded for me and anglers were eyeing me and my fly rod so I packed it in and headed back downstream to fish the creek outside the park.

The Devil's Backbone Park. Lots of anglers fish here using a variety of gear and baits, both live and artificial.

Outside the park Antietam Creek is fairly wide and has a variety of riffles that empty into deep pools and runs, providing ideal trout habitat. There are several parking spots along Lappens Road (68). One is just before the one-lane bridge where Beaver Creek empties into Antietam Creek. I parked at the other pull-off about 100 yards beyond the small bridge but before you reach the large stone bridge leading to the Devil's Backbone Park.

There was another fly angler parked there waiting for friends to show up. He had been fishing for a bit and said it was slow but fish were there if I used small nymphs or caddis around size 18-22 (Pheasant tail, Hare's Ear, etc). He also let down my expectations a bit by adding that this section of the river has recently been pounded heavily by poachers fishing at night and out of season. After gearing up I crossed the road and jumped the crash barrier where I found lots of trails leading to the water.

The banks were steep and muddy but the trails along the river are very evident and so are the put-in spots. I fished a bit and walked downstream to the small bridge where Beaver Creek empties into the Antietam. I found a spin angler and two fly guys standing there working the water. We stared at each other for a few seconds and exchanged the usual angler lies about how many we caught and what we caught them on before I turned around and headed back upstream.

The one-lane bridge on Lappens Road where Beaver Creek empties into Antietam Creek.

The water was moving fast, so a good bit of weight was needed to keep the fly near the bottom. Sections of the creek are also pretty deep and the water cloudy so you need to watch your step because at some spots it went from ankle deep to waist deep just by taking a step forward. After catching some small (less than 5-inches) rainbows and a couple of long distance releases on two fish I decided to pack it in and check out Lower Beaver Creek at Toms Road.

EQUIPMENT: I used a 8-feet 3-weight rod with a dual taper floating line and an assortment of nymphs. Anything small and black was working.

DIRECTIONS: From I-70 heading towards Hagerstown, take Exit 66 (Boonsboro) and turn left onto Mapleville Road (66) at bottom of ramp. Continue down the road for a few miles and turn right onto Mill Point Road. Follow Mill Point Road for a few more miles as it crosses Old National Pike (40) then turn right onto Lappens Road (68). You will come up on the narrow one lane stone bridge first and you can pull over and park on the right or continue to the second, larger stone bridge which will put you at the Devil's Backbone Park.