Catoctin Mountain Park, Thurmont, Maryland, October 8, 2017
What remained of Hurricane Nate, now Tropical Storm Nate, was heading towards the East Coast after slamming into several Gulf states and bringing with it what the weather forecasters said was at least up to two inches of rain. The area had gone 20 days without any significant rainfall and although we weren’t in a drought, we could definitely use the moisture.

The heavy rain wasn’t expected to hit us until Sunday afternoon but I waffled back and forth about whether to fish or not. I wanted to go but I didn’t want to waste my time if we were going to get soaked or be caught out on the water waving a graphite stick as thunderstorms rolled in. So it was go, no-go, back and forth for most of Saturday until I finally decided to do it. But I decided to travel very light. Just a lanyard and a small pocket-sized box of flies suited for the selected locations--Big Hunting Creek and Beaver Creek.

I got up early the next day and checked the weather. It was very humid, almost tropical, and a light rain was falling as I headed for Maryland. About 15 minutes into my trip I had a feeling that something was missing. I don’t know what causes this to happen but I knew I had all the important gear in the car. Waders, check. Boots, yep. Rod, of course. Reel. Lanyard. Slim line fly box in my shirt pocket. Shades. Cap. Phone. NO WALLET! And my fishing license was in the wallet. I made a hasty exit off the freeway, made a U-turn, and headed home. Luckily it was still early Sunday morning and traffic was minimal.

I left the car running as I quickly retrieved the wallet that was resting on the dining room table and headed out again.

A light rain followed me into Maryland but it tapered off as I approached Catoctin Mountain Park and Big Hunting Creek. I guess I was the only person crazy enough to go fishing in this weather so I had the pick of the parking areas. I quickly geared up and carefully crawled over slick boulders to reach the creek.
The water was really low and in some spots barely moving. In conditions like this, the fish were going to be very wary and you had to watch where you stood and had to use the terrain to shield your approach to the water. Sounds silly but with low water this was a necessary tactic to prevent the native trout from panicking and running for cover, where they would remain for the next few hours.

I tied on a Size 22 Baltz Paranymph with an orange post to about 11 feet of leader and 18 inches of 5X tippet. After checking for obstructions behind me I laid out the first cast and had a strike. A fish was laying just outside a relatively deep spot (not even a foot deep) just outside the main current. I made my second cast and had a second strike about five feet below where the first fish grabbed the fly. They weren’t monster trout, just pretty natives. But that was the end for action in this pool because all the commotion spooked everything else and I saw fish darting around quickly, scattering in panic up and down the creek to other pools.
Rain dripped off the trees and dimpled the water in some shallow pools as I fished my way upstream. I stopped to work several of the deeper pools but came up with nothing. Although I call them deeper pools, they were no more than knee deep at best. I knew they held fish, because one sloppy cast that smacked the water would send them dashing for cover and that would be the end of fishing for this hole for the day.
I fly fished at several locations along the length of Big Hunting Creek and in most locations it was the same--low water and skittish fish. After a few hours I decided to pack up to try my luck at Beaver Creek.

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 11 foot leader with 18 inches of 5X tippet. Size 16 to 26 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.