Catoctin Mountain National Park, Maryland, February 12, 2009
I planned on fishing at another location today but the high winds (60 mph gusts) quickly put an end to that trip because it was in a very exposed area and casting would have been impossible. The fact that I also had to help pick up a van-load of Girl Scout cookies in the afternoon sort of factored into my decision to return to scout and fish Big Hunting Creek. I figured that the water was protected on two sides by high cliffs and trees so the wind wouldn't play havoc with angling. I also like to really explore any good water it takes more than one trip to find out where the trout are hanging out. It takes awhile, but it's worth the trouble. When you really know an area well you spend less time guessing where to go and what fly to use and spend more time wetting the line and catching fish.

I was partially correct about the wind. It wasn't as gusty at the creek, but the high wind was snapping off dead branches and in some instances whole trees came crashing down. I spent a lot of time looking up and staying the hell away from any unstable trees. You could hear huge wind gusts whooshing through the trees followed by the cracking and snapping sounds of splintering wood then the dull thud as another dead limb struck the leaf-covered forrest floor.

There were fish rising
here and there and again, something small (size 22-26) and buggy got their attention. I didn't spend much time in any one spot and moved to other areas frequently. Around noon I headed to the entrance of the park, turned around, and began fishing upstream. There was a nice pool at one of the trout parking areas and I spent over an hour working a large brookie that was cruising around below a small waterfall.
The water was clear and he was very large and easy to spot. I threw a good deal of dries at him and varied the color and size but the fish would spot the offerings, come up off the bottom slowly, swim up to and follow the fly, then slowly swim back to the bottom. Frustrating. So I sat there watching him fin lazily around the pool for 15 or 20 minutes before I decided to try something that most folks would say is just not right. I soaked the dry fly thoroughly until it was so saturated with water that it sank...slowly. By this time I noticed the fish was swimming a set pattern around the pool so I waited until he was in some very quiet water, out of the current, then dropped a short cast above him. The fly sank slowly. The fish turned and came up to the fly, watched it sink for a few seconds, then ate it. I set the hook but the fish didn't rocket off like I expected. He slowly shook his head from side to side and opened and closed his mouth a few times. I put pressure on him and he rolled onto his back and was coming towards me so I figured no net was needed and maybe something was wrong with the fish.

As I was leaning over to grab him he suddenly rolled back over, took one look at me and shot off for the deep water. That caught me off guard and he ripped line off the reel as he made for the far end of the pool. All at once I was trying to control the fish, which was zipping back and forth in the pool and attempting to keep the line from wrapping around dead tree limbs and rocks. I freed the net and was bringing him in close again but he threw the hook. I watched him swim under a large rock, where he sat sulking.

I moved on, driving to other put-in areas and fishing some nice water. Lots of small fish. Some big ones. But none landed.

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. Parking areas for anglers line both sides of the road.