I always enjoy fishing Big Hunting Creek in late winter. I don’t usually catch much if anything, but it’s just the feel of the place that does it for me. Entering the Park to begin the ascent I always crane my neck to get my first look at the creek as it tumbles down through a narrow notch and out of the Catoctin range. The creek and road run together through the catch & release section, and in winter the leafless trees paint the hills a soft medium brown that stretches all the way to ridge tops where bare branches rake the sky. On sunny days especially when the snow is on it reminds me of on an old Currier & Ives scene, but on overcast days like today with low mist hanging down into the hollows the Park feels closed in the hills wrapped around us.
Even though the forecast called for cold and snowy weather we had a good turnout. Eight of us in all, Ken Bowyer, Doug Portner, Dave Simms, Carl Smolka, Jim Robinson, Lou Reichel., Bob O’Donnel and myself. The condition of the creek was great, a good clear flow creating lots of pocket water, tumbling runs and plunge pools. The nature of the creek has changed since I was last there, a huge blow down now crosses the entire creek just above where Bear Run dumps in, and the willow patch at the first bend below the bridge is gone. I didn’t make it up past the canyon section but would hazard a guess that with all the new woody debris in the creek below the bridge there must be a good amount above as well.
We fished about four hours, getting started about 10:30 and going till about 2:30. Ken, Doug and I fished down, the rest of the group scattered out above. We had no snow cover, and except for the odd flake blowing about nothing coming down either. About 1 pm the sun actually broke through, but the only bug I saw was a very small midge. I had expected to see a lot of little winter stoneflies crawling about on rocks, but saw none. Ken saw a few more including both Midges and Stoneflies and a very early # 20 Mottled Wing Caddis.
I fished a small black bead head Zebra Midge with a dropper of either a Stone Fly Nymph or a tiny Copper John and fishing the rig slow through the shallow sides, runs, and pools without even a bump. I could see Ken catching up with me from below and watched him net a fish out of two consecutive pools I had just vacated using #14 Flash Back Pheasant tail Nymph. He had switched from using a variety of small Black & Olive Brassies, Midge and Stonefly Nymphs and a small Egg with a blood dot as droppers off foam Red Ant, so, so much for going small. Ken’s first was a small Brown he said sparkled like a jewel in the net, the second a vividly streaked 10 inch Rainbow, so some of the stockers have held over.
The only other fish netted was a nice Wild Brown of about 13 inches that Carl Smolka took using his Tenkara outfit and a Black Zebra Midge. Doug reported a couple strikes, and having one on briefly, and that was it.
We didn’t fish all that long but had a good time. It had warmed up the first part of the afternoon, but by 2:30 the temperature was dropping fast so we headed to town for some hot coffee. Big Hunting is really pretty water this time of year and the size of the pools with this much flow are impressive. Looking at the MD DNR stocking schedule I see that Big Hunting Creek’s C&R section is slated to receive 1000 Rainbows on March 31. That should make for some great sport when the April Grays make their Appearance.