Catoctin Mountain, Thurmont, Maryland, April 24, 2009
There are days when you should go fishing and there are days that you should stay home. I should have stayed home.

I got up around 4:30am to fish for shad off the cove at Fletcher's Boat House on the Potomac River in Washington, DC. The weather was supposed to be spectacular and with temperatures hitting the low 80's it would push the shad bite into high gear. However I should have checked how fast the water was running in the river because if it's over 4 cubic feet per second below Chain Bridge the folks at Fletcher's will not rent boats. The fast water and ripping current makes it way too dangerous to be out fishing and it's not worth killing yourself for shad. I knew a big slug of water was coming downstream but it just slipped my mind and I payed for that mistake the following morning.

Bad sign number one. I was the only car in the parking lot. Bad sign number two. A rope with a little sign stretched across the catwalk to the dock said NO RENTALS. But at least I wasn't the only person there because I was joined minutes later by several other people and the Fletcher's crew who told all of us there would be no boats available today. We stood around for a few minutes and watched the water pulse past the cove. There was nothing much we could do at this point and it was unlikely the volume of water was going to decrease by Saturday (best guess was maybe Monday) so since it was only 6am I headed back to Virginia to grab trout gear and head out to fish Big Hunting Creek in the
Catoctin Mountain Park.

The weather was way too nice. On the way up past the ranger station I counted many cars and trucks parked in the trout pull-offs. I headed up to my favorite spot and naturally there were several cars parked there as well. I geared up and headed down the trail and as I arrived at the creek so did a dad carrying his young son. Dad wanted to fish and the little one wanted to pick up leaves and throw rocks and sticks. I watched him throw casts and attempt to keep the boy out of the muck but kids being kids that was pretty impossible. They moved off upstream and I decided to head downstream but as I rounded a corner there was another angler headed towards me and another set up further downstream so I decided to stake a claim to this bit of water and stay in one spot for the day.

I had several strikes but missed them all. The trout were pretty skittish but that was probably from all the anglers walking and fishing around them. As I was tying on another fly the downstream angler came up to me to ask if I had any luck then stayed and jawed at me for the next hour! Yak, yak, yak. Politics. The economy. Immigration. Taxes. Stimulus. The bailout. Guns. Wolves. He even gave me a killer home-made recipe for trout bait. Take some
Berkley Power Bait (orange or white with sparkles) and mix it 2-1 with some Velveeta cheese then roll it into tiny balls and place them in the refrigerator until it's time to fish. You get the best results if you use a Big Bite Dough Bait treble hook. I continued to fish as he talked. And talked. And talked.
After he left I managed to raise a few nice brook trout but missed every hook set. I moved further downstream to a large pool. The bank is about four feet above the water and trees make casting difficult to impossible. The bank is also a bit undercut so someone standing above can't see the entire pool. I moved near a large tree then got down near the ground and peeked over the edge of the overhang. Finning in the slow water was a very large, very fat, brook trout minding his own business and sipping on floating insects.

I tied on a size 20 CDC floater and used a
bow and arrow cast to get the line out. The fly landed perfectly and was tracking right into the fish. The brookie saw the fly and began slowly rising to the surface. The fly was just an inch away when the trout struck and ate a bug that had fluttered down and landed right next to my fly. He felt the tippet and zipped off into deeper water. It was time to go home.

EQUIPMENT: I used a 4-weight rod with weight-forward 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.