Pete Ring: On Saturday, March 4, I led an outing to Little Hunting Creek. Club members who joined me included Victor Ezerski, Craig and Julia Falk, Vince Leon-Guerrero, and Jarrett Macdonald. The group met at 1 PM at Catoctin Furnace on the Catoctin Furnace Road in Thurmont, Maryland. Several members were a bit late due to the tanker fire in Frederick that closed down 15. Sadly, the driver of the tanker lost his life.
We had a bit of rain the day before and the forecast was calling for some high winds which can make for some challenging conditions. The water levels were up and a bit off color, but I have found that higher water flows can have an advantage of bringing out the trout to feed. The wind was more of a concern for me as it can really blow your line and flies around. That being said, if I waited for the best conditions I would rarely get out. As it turned out, the wind was not blowing hard enough in the canyon to be much of an issue.
There is a trail that leads from the Catoctin Furnace to the Manor area that follows the stream. This includes a foot bridge across Route 15. Parking at the Furnace is free, but the Manor area has a small fee. In the summer months there are a lot of picnickers at the Manor area enjoying the cool stream and I will bypass this area and start fishing upstream of there.
It turns out that the park service is updating the trail and had it closed. We ended up getting into the water downstream of Route 15. While others were rigging up, I tossed out a Copper John under a strike indicator on the edge of a small current seam. On the second cast, my indicator disappeared under the water, and I set the hook on a pretty little 10” wild brown trout. This was a promising start.
One of the things that have been a challenge to me with bringing groups of people to these small streams is how to spread everyone out so everyone can fish in water that has not already been spooked. Part of the enjoyment of fishing with others is the time spent getting to know others and sharing the experience together. What seems to work best for these outings, so far, is to pair up in groups of two and spread out by 100 yards or more and fish upstream. The pairs can then take turns fishing the holes. This gives the best opportunity for all to catch fish.
Craig and Julia started at the Manor area, Vince started downstream of Catoctin Furnace Road, Vic kept fishing where we first got in, and Jarret and I headed upstream through the culvert under Route 15 and above the manor area. Vic, an experienced fly fisher, was able to catch a nice brown from the pool below the culverts. Vince, who fishes for brook trout in Shenandoah National Park, caught one above the Manor area. Jarret has been fishing Catoctin Creek catching the stocked trout but had yet to catch a wild trout. We worked hard to get him on one, but unfortunately, it did not work out as had hoped. Craig and Julia, whom I have fished with up at Fishing Creek, were unable to get one on either, though we all enjoyed being outside and on the water.
Towards the end of the outing I started thinking that with the high flows, my nymph was being pulled unnaturally by the strike indicator. I decided to remove the indicator and “tight line” the nymph. This is something I do not have much experience doing with a 7-1/2’ rod and no indicator line. To my surprise, on the second drift I hooked up on another 10” brown. This is something that I will keep in the back of my mind to try again.
Back at the parking lot we stood around telling fishing stories and discussing possibilities of other outings. In April, Vince is going to take me to the Shenandoah, of which I have never been. Vic shared his adventures of fishing around the world and locally. For me, the icing on the cake was when Vic showed us his split cane bamboo rod he made. This is something that I am very much looking to do in my lifetime. For me, this is what these outings are about. Before PVFF it was hard to find someone that shared my passion for fly fishing and I spent a lot of time fishing by myself. Now, the more I go on these outings, whether leading or attending, I come away with more opportunities for adventuring with others.
Mike Holland: We are blessed that Pete is so willing to generously share his time and knowledge of the Catoctin Mountain Watershed. He has fished the area since 2010 and shared that he literally has spent one year fishing just Little Hunting Creek. When you fish there with Pete, it truly can be like fishing with a guide as he is very quick to share advice and guidance if you wish.
We have another outing to the Catoctin Mountain Watershed, water to be determined (TBD), scheduled for July 29. While we will have to limit the number of participants on a first-come basis, it does provide an opportunity to fish with Pete and other members in one of the best hidden gem fishing areas of which I am aware.
If you do not want to wait until July 29 and want to strike out on your own or with a fishing buddy, it is pretty easy to find Catoctin Furnace and Little Hunting Creek. Common questions people have is what size rod and weight line to use. You can use anything from a 9 foot, five weight to a 7 foot, three weight. It really just depends on where on the creek you are going to fish. As Pete says, an 8 and an half foot or 8 foot rod is probably ideal. As for flies, you can have a lot of fun with caddis dry flies and nymphs but other go to attractor dry flies and nymphs work well too. These include Stimulators, Copper Johns, Pheasant Tails, and Zebra Midges. If you have further questions, reach out to Pete or me and we will do our best to answer your questions.
In closing, I found it noteworthy that Pete shared that the group shared some good fellowship and that some future fishing plans were made among participants. In addition to helping club members get out and fish with other members, that is one key goal of our outing efforts. We hope club members will continue to participate in and lead outings as the year continues.
By Pete Ring amd Mike Holland