Catoctin Mountain Park, May 21, 2010
After my unplanned side-trip to Beaver Creek, I reverted to my original plan for the day and headed for Big Hunting Creek. I arrived at the Joe Brooks Memorial, geared up and headed down the trail.

The temperature was begining to climb and it felt good to get under the canopy of trees that line the creek. The water level was low and the trout were spooky. You could see them clearly and they also could see you. Any movement along the bank sent them streaking for cover so I stood well back from the water and watched if they were feeding or cruising. There was a lot of insect activity and with little or no breeze you would soon have a miniature cloud of gnats circling your head if you stood in one place for too long. This was really irritating--they'd get in your nose, ears and mouth and I was constantly waving them off. I followed the trail and walked a good distance downstream then turned around and began fishing upstream.

Because of the low water, most of the trout were in deep pools or tucked close to the banks near tree roots or snags where there was a good flow. Most of the fish weren't feeding. They would fin in one spot or slowly cruise in a circle. There were a few trout taking bugs off the top but none were doing it in a consistant spot. There was no pattern to the feeding. The water would dimple in one location then the fish would swim up or down the creek a bit before taking another morsel off the top.

Since there was no pattern to the feeding I just put the fly in the main current, which was pretty slow, and hoped for the best. It wasn't worth casting to the spot where a ring was slowly spreading on the water because the fish had already moved on to another location. I threw a lot of casts before I finally hooked the fish. It was a nice rainbow. A bit pale in color but fat and healthy.

I continued to fish upstream. I picked up a fish here and there but mostly it was a casting excercise with a few breaks so I could untangle my leader from those fly-eating trees that grow close to the water.

At a large elbow pool I spotted about ten trout feeding across a large area. They were eating, but like everywhere else I fished on the creek there was no consistant pattern to the eating. They were all over the place, eating in the current, outside the current, in the shallow water or in the deep section of the pool. And whatever they were eating, what I had tied on was not interesting to them. The water was really clear so I could see them as they swam up to the fly, took a long look, then swam away. I finally got a small rainbow on a size 26 CDC Black Gnat but I got a pretty good shock as I was fighting the fish because a large shape streaked out from the opposite bank and began following the smaller fish as it struggled on the end of my line. It was a really big rainbow and it looked like it was trying to eat the smaller fish. Both fish were darting back and forth across the pool and I finally brought the fish to hand as the large rainbow took off back to wherever it was it came from on the opposite bank.

I caught a couple of more fish from this pool, an assortment of rainbows and browns in various sizes, but the large rainbow never reappeared. I knew thunderstorms were forecast for the afternoon and I did not want to get stuck in rush hour traffic so I called it a day and headed for home.

EQUIPMENT: I used a full-flex fiberglass 5 weight rod that is 5 feet in length with a double taper 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 6X or 7X tippet. I used small flies from size 18 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.

According to Maryland fish and game, Big Hunting Creek features one of the largest populations of wild brown trout in the state. Brown trout are found throughout the watershed from the tiny headwaters downstream through the town of Thurmont. Although some of the brown trout will reach 15 inches, the majority of the fish are less than 12 inches long. Wild brook trout are limited to Hauver Branch and Big Hunting Creek upstream of Cunningham Falls Reservoir since no trout are stocked in these areas. Two organizations, the Potomac Valley Fly Fishermen and the Maryland Fly Anglers, raise or purchase rainbow and brook trout and stock the Big Hunting Creek tailwater each spring. Many of these hatchery fish will weigh more than a pound.
Inscription on the Joe Brooks Memorial
We who love angling, in order that it may enjoy, practice and reward in the later generations, mutually move together toward a common goal--the conservation and restoration of American game fishes.

Towards this end we pledge that our creel limits shall always be less than the legal restrictions and always well within the bounty of Nature herself.

Enjoying, as we do, only a life estate in the out of doors, and morally charged in out time with the responsibility of handing down unspoiled to tomorrow's inheritors, we individually undertake annually to take at least one boy a-fishing, instructing him, as best we know, in the responsibilities that are soon to be wholly his.

Holding that moral law transcends the legal statutes, always beyond the needs of any one man, and holding that example alone is the one certain teacher, we pledge always to conduct ourselves in such fashion on the stream as to make safe for others the heritage which is ours and theirs.