Catoctin Mountain Park, Thurmont, Maryland, January 30, 2015
I knew it was going to be a very cold day because the weather app on my phone said so. And so I prepared myself with several layers of clothing, wool socks, beanie, cap, gloves, a vest and an insulated jacket so I would be comfortable as I fly fished on Big Hunting Creek in Maryland. But it wasn’t cold. It was DAMNED COLD!

I arrived at one of my usual spots around 8am. On the drive up I noticed that there was nobody else around, no vehicles parked in the small marked areas along the road, and except for a ranger truck nobody was at the visitor’s center either. I parked my car and checked the path to the water. It was covered with snow and nobody, except maybe a fox, had been on the trail.

I strung up a medium action rod and headed for the creek. This is a small, narrow body of water and anything stiff wasn’t going to cut it. The tactic is close casting with long leaders and tiny flies with very little of the main line hanging out the tip so you need a rod that’s going to flex and load easily.

The water was very low and clear. Anyone who looked at this section of the creek would figure there are no fish around, so why waste your time. The water is pretty shallow and you can see the bottom--only rocks and some submerged tree branches. To most people it’s obvious there aren’t any trout around. That’s why most of the anglers I meet don’t bother to fish this area and often give me a strange look, wondering why I’m wasting my time.
The fish are there, and in numbers that are unbelievable once you get around to hooking a bunch.

I remember fishing a section of the creek where I thought there were maybe five or six fish, at most, inhabiting a glide that was about 20 feet long. A small hatch went off when the sun hit the water and all of a sudden there were more fish sipping off the top than I could count. I must have pulled 15 fish out of that area, and missed a bunch more, before the action stopped. But when you take a hard look at the creek, really staring at the bottom, you would swear there were no fish there. Ma Nature and her critter camouflage are a wonderful thing.
I lengthened the leader out to 12 feet and added a 24-inch section of 6X tippet. I used one of the size 20 patterns I tied to specifically to fish Big Hunting Creek and began to work the area. Fishing was OK but after 30 minutes passed I was beginning to get cold. When I hit an hour, it was starting to become uncomfortable and I would mentally be telling myself to hurry up and fish this pool out so I could hit the trail for the next one and warm up a bit with a nice walk.

Three hours later the wind began to pick up, pushing down the wind chill and making casting pretty tough. And things became a bit hairy when old tree branches began crashing down around me. Most were small ones but a couple of huge limbs came tumbling down--I heard the crisp, sharp snap then the muffled thud as it slammed into the snow.

I fished a bit more, but the cold was really getting to me. I had the wool beanie pulled over my baseball cap but I was wishing I brought the fleece face mask too because the wind chill was awful. After I got my line tangled up in a tree I said to hell with this. After untangling the mess I called it a day and headed for the
Sheetz gas station in Thurmont for something warm to eat and drink.

EQUIPMENT: I used an 8-foot 4 weight fly rod with a Rio Gold weight-forward floating line, but not much of the line was out of the tip of the rod. I used a 12 foot leader with 2-feet of 6X tippet. Size 20 to 32 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 anywhere from the park entrance sign on up the mountain and fish.