Catoctin Mountain Park, Maryland, February 18, 2011
All week I was hearing that the weather on Friday was going to be outstanding. Seventy degrees! In February! However this warmup wasn't going to last long so I decided to shake off the winter fishing cobwebs and head out to
Big Hunting Creek.

This wasn't going to be a leisurely fishing expedition. I wanted to check some things out at the creek to plan strategy for future trips in the coming months so I planned to fish fast--throw a couple of casts to likely spots then move on.

As I expected there were lots of folks out on the water enjoying the day. Cars and trucks were parked at most of the popular fishing pull-offs and parking lots and as I drove by I could see anglers casting or walking along the creek. The vehicles thinned out once I got past the ranger station but as I pulled up to my favorite area I saw that there were already several people ahead of me.

I geared up and headed for the water. The sun was out and at 9am the temperature was already up into the 60's. Snow was still on the ground and the creek was running high but very clear. Judging by the footprints in the snow several people had recently walked past and stopped to fish, with anglers heading upstream and downstream. But since nobody was around this section, and I couldn't see anyone anywhere on the water, I decided to modify my fishing plan a bit and stick around to fish awhile.

I stayed back from the creek bank and watched the water. The sun was shining and the weather was warm but it was a bit too early in the day for bug activity, although I did see an odd midge flitter near the bank. I continued to watch the water for about fifteen minutes but I didn't see any surface dimples that indicated feeding trout. I knew the fish were here, they always are, but getting them to bite is tough because by now, they've probably been fished over by several anglers.

I started with a size 20 beadhead emerger and gradually worked my way through almost everything I had in my box. I know the fish are there. I could feel them staring at me and hear them laughing as they watched fly after fly drift past. After half an hour I got--nothing. Not a tap. Not even a snag on the bottom, even when I tried by adding a daisy chain of micro-shot to the line.

So I gave up. The trout won. Walk on and hope for more willing fish upstream. I was seriously behind schedule at this time so I picked up the pace and stopped to throw only one or two casts before moving on until I eventually came to the Cunningham Falls Reservoir. It was around 12:30pm and the weather had really warmed up but still no bug life around the water. The normally hard-packed ice was slowly turning to slush and more cars and trucks were appearing along the road as other fly fishers pulled on their waders and strung up their rods. Even though this was a weekday it looked like the water was about to get really crowded, so I hiked back downstream and headed off to try my luck at Beaver Creek in Washington County.

EQUIPMENT: I used a fiberglass fly rod that was 6 feet long with a double-taper floating line. The leader was 12-feet long and tapered down to 3-feet of 6X tippet. I used small midge and nymph flies, size 16 to 26 and a very gentle presentation.

DIRECTIONS: From Virginia: 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.