Catoctin Mountain Park, Thurmont, Maryland, May 11, 2013
I sucked.

For the seventh time, there was a brief, sudden splash followed by a loud s-bomb as I let out some frustration. I missed. Again. I was fly fishing on an overcast day on Big Hunting Creek in the Catoctin Mountain Park, a place I had fished often, and this brookie was driving me insane.

I arrived at the creek a little past 6am. There were no other fly anglers at the parking lot or pulled off in one of the many pull-offs along the road. I figured the cool weather and possibility of afternoon storms would keep most people away, but you never are quite sure if the water will be crowded until you get there. The creek was running high and the water was a bit colored--runoff from all the rain over the past few days. Some of the regular fishing areas were buried under fast-moving water and there were a good number of fallen trees and debris.

I followed my usual procedure whenever I fish this creek, which is to gear up and walk down to the water but stay back in the trees and watch the water. Most people will walk up to a spot and just start fishing but if you hang back and just watch, in about 10 or 15 minutes you’ll probably see a telltale dimple, maybe two or more, just outside the main current or in a protected piece of pocket water that just about screams out, “Hey, there’s a fish here.” It’s far more productive to know exactly where to fish than to just blindly cast up and down the creek hoping something will take the fly.
The fishing wasn’t on fire, but they were biting. I worked my way upstream to the Joe Brooks Memorial before reeling up and heading back to the car. About half way up the trail I heard the splash of a feeding fish. As I watched the creek, I spotted the rise just outside the main current in water that looked to be about knee deep.

I tossed a couple of
Baltz paranymphs and drew a strike on the size 18, but after a couple of followup casts it was obvious it was not going to be fooled again. I had been faced with this problem before--fish in an area that are pounded heavily often will take one swipe at a fly and refuse it at the last second. The trout will not take a second shot at that fly no matter how many times you toss it back at them. The best thing you can do is switch the fly. I tried a couple of other flies, some patterns I tied specifically to fish at Big Hunting Creek, but the pattern continued--just a quick slash at the fly. Finally, I sat and watched. The trout was eating something floating in the film but it was too small to see. Then I noticed some insect life fluttering past and it was a light cream color. The only thing I had in the box were a couple of size 14 to 18 PMD parachutes and the size 18 was a close color match but a bit on the chunky side when compared to what was flying over the creek. But it was all I had and after seven strike outs I was desperate.
It only took one drift. The brook trout wasn’t very big, but it ran and jumped and gave the 3 weight a pretty good workout before I brought it to hand. This was not the biggest brookie I ever caught on Big Hunting Creek it was the most satisfying catch of the day.

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 11 foot leader tapered down to 3-feet of 6X tippet. Size 16 to 22 flies and very gentle presentations.

DIRECTIONS: From Virginia head north on Route 15 towards 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.