Catoctin Mountain National Park, Maryland, February 10, 2009
The fishing was so good on my previous trip to Big Hunting Creek that I decided to take advantage of the warm weather to try my luck again and this time I vowed to explore more of the park before committing myself to serious angling.

Although the weather wasn't going to be as nice, it was still going to be ten degrees above normal for this time of year but as I pulled into the parking lot across the street from the ranger station it felt a good deal cooler than the previous day. As soon as I got out of the car I almost took a serious flop onto the pavement, which was covered with a sheet of ice. I managed to get geared up without any further drama and headed downstream.
I walked down the side of the road and at each parking area I would hike downhill to fish the pools and small waterfalls, tossing a few flies at likely holding spots but never lingering long because I wanted to see as much of the water as possbile. After walking and fishing for about a quarter mile I decided to turn around and check out the water below the dam at Hunting Creek Lake.

There is a large, deep pool at the base of the bridge that spans Big Hunting Creek just below the dam but all I did was take a look at the water for a few minutes before driving to the
Joe Brooks memorial to begin fishing .
Fish were holding in some unlikely places. Low, slow and shallow water seemed to have the most trout. Again, I stood well back from the edge of the bank and watched the water for a few minutes. When you first look at the water, it's so clear and shallow that all the bottom features are quite evident. Leaves, twigs, large stones and gravel are well defined and you'd think there are absolutely no fish around. However after standing VERY STILL and better yet, next to or slightly behind a tree, fish movement becomes evident. This is nature's camouflage at its best. There's a reason trout have that dark mottled pattern on top. But usually what gave the trout away were the 'rise rings' when they sipped tiny insects off the top of the slow moving water.

On my previous trip I used a size 22 Pale Morning Dun, the smallest fly I carried that day, and was rewarded with some nice fish. This time I came armed with size 26-28
midges and these were the key. Again, I lengthened out the leader to 12-feet then added three feet of 7X and tied on a midge. Then i waited. As soon as I spotted a dimple on the water I placed the fly gently into the current and drifted it down to the fish. This was tough fishing because you had to get the fly right over the fish or there was no take and you'd have to recast. You also cannot false cast a lot. That put the fish down for awhile if line and fly swished over them. The water was shallow and clear. The trout sees all.
Nearly all the fish I caught today were between six to eight inches long. All put up a great fight when hooked. The only boring part about the whole experience was standing around and waiting for the trout to settle down and resume feeding after I caught one. I pretty much planted myself in one spot and cast to rising trout for the better part of two hours. Then the temperature began to fall and so did the rain, so I packed it in and headed home.
ABOVE: Several warning fliers tacked to the bulletin board at the parking lot. Bears and snakes. It's also nice of them to give directions to the hospital.

EQUIPMENT: I used a 8' 9" 3-weight rod with weight-froward floating line, but not much of the line was out of the tip of the rod. I used a leader that was 12-feet long that tapered down to 3-feet of 7X tippet (so 15-feet overall length). Small flies and very gentle presentations.

DIRECTIONS: From Virginia it's Route 15 north (to Gettysburg). You'll see signs saying your in the Catoctin Mountain National Park. Take the left exit in Thurmont to Route 77 west then onto Foxville Road into the park. You will see the creek on your right then after you pass the ranger station it will appear on your left. Park and fish.

Located in
Cunningham Falls State Park and the Catoctin Mountain National Park, Big Hunting Creek is famous for a number of 'firsts' in Maryland. It was the first stream in the state to be stocked with trout, the first designated as a fly-fishing-only and the first catch-and-release trout fishing area. According to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, "all stocking upstream of Cunningham Falls Reservoir was discontinued in 1975 to encourage the development of the wild trout." Efforts to manage the wild trout population began in 1977 with the reduction of stocked trout to only 1,000 brook and rainbow trout annually and an end to the stocking of brown trout. A comprehensive fishery management plan was developed during 1993 between the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Cunningham Falls State Park, Catoctin Mountain National Park and other interested parties who share an interest in the welfare of Big Hunting Creek.