February 2011 Outing Report.
Big Hunting Creek
Spring may be coming too slow for most of us but, based on participation in this outing, winter isnít really slowing anybody down. Nine members, Mike Abramowitz, Carl Smolka, Ken Bowyer, Lou Rechiel, Nick Weber, Charlie Dissinger, Shawn Ackley, Jim Crowell, and I met at the MacDonalds in Thurmont. Two more, Will Amland and Steve Graves met us on stream for 11 all together.
Water levels were excellent maybe just a tad heavy, the flows substantially heavier than when Ken and I were there two weeks ago. The rain on Friday had increased the size of the plunge pools and fattened up the runs but it still ran clear. Carl had driven up into the park before meeting us at MacDonalds in Thurmont and reported that at 9 am the air temperature was 34 degrees, the water 36.
Itís really kind of amazing that a place this beautiful and this accessible can be this close to two metropolitan areas and still have a secluded feel to it. The creek within the park is mostly visible from Route 77 which parallels the stream and provides easy access along its entire length. From where Route 77 intersects with Catoctin Hollow Road just below the lake, and then all the way back down stream to the private property just above the Crows Nest camp ground is where we fished. Flowing onward out of the park, the creek first dumps into Frank Benz pond which is maintained as a put and take fishery, then flowing on it splashes and tumbles on through the small town of Thurmont.
Presidents have fished this creek, and there is a pool not far downstream from the Camp Peniel Bridge that bears the name. Old timers have told me that when President Carter fished the creek it would be heavily stocked just prior, then shut down to the public by the secret service while he was actually on the water.
To my eyes the little wild browns that live in this creek seem a bit brighter, a little more colorful. A coppery gold spotted up with black and purple that sparkle like jewels when plucked from the pools and runs.
As we fanned out upstream and down from the bridge parking lot, Mike struck first, hooking and landing two browns on a soft hackle he drifted along the retaining wall just below the bridge. He later hooked and lost another at the presidentís Pool. As it got closer to noon the bugs began to appear. As the morning wore on and warmed up I noticed some of the rocks protruding close to the shoreline had scads of stoneflies crawling all over them, a few fluttering to dry off their wings.
Two and a half hours of fishing soft hackles yielded me nothing, and I had changed over to a #18 pheasant tail flashback when Nick, Charlie, Carl and I all converging at the elbow pool around 2pm. I was trying to get my nymph out of a tree branch when Carl was suddenly above me on the road saying he had caught two, one on a prince nymph the other on a little black stonefly nymph fishing the plunge pools, which convinced the rest of us to follow suit.
We were supposed to meet back at the parking lot at 3pm so I decided it was time to start fishing back towards the truck. We were only about a half mile upstream from where we started. BHC isnít what I would call a difficult stream to wade, but the heavier water had us clamoring over more rocks and wading into deeper and swifter water than usual, providing us all with some great exercise.
Not wanting to share lunch with a skunk I dawdled as long as I could poking my stonefly into little pockets of water near brush piles and under tree trunks all the way back, but ole skunk followed me all the way to the truck. We had been on the water for about five hours by this time and it had really turned into a nice winter day. I hated to quit fishing, but it was time.
Getting back to the parking lot most of the crew was already there admiring a picture of a brown Shawn had caught. It was the largest of the day, a beautifully colored fourteen inch wild fish he took on a Gelsoí s Little Black Stone heíd tied just the evening before the trip.
I think everyone had a really nice time. There was still about three inches of snow on the ground in most places, and it was still cold enough to wear a cap with ear flaps during the morning, but the sun came out in the early afternoon warming into the 40ís to become quite comfortable.
The last pool was at the Cozy Inn in Thurmont where, in response to rising gas prices, the outings committee decided to extend the 100 mile rule to any trip of any distance that involves a fishing rod and flies; thereby enabling all participants to consume any amount of food and drink they desire, guilt free. Itís the least we could do.