I’m aware that my situation is by no means unique: I’m busy and I don’t get to fly fish as much as I’d like. So when the opportunity to get a few hours on the water avails itself, I seize it. Regardless of conditions, I’m going to be fishing for every single minute I can.
This past weekend I had about five hours to get away. Five hours to fly fish. Being in Northern Virginia, my options are limitless three seasons out of the year. Winter, however, reduces one’s choices significantly. Especially when the timeframe is relatively short, there are only a handful of waters that will be good bets within an hour’s drive.
Given that hour-or-so radius, I settled on central Maryland. While the area isn’t known for being a stellar trout region, there are a number of very viable fisheries. Big Hunting Creek was where I cut my fly fishing teeth. Catoctin Creek is a relatively “new” special regulation stream.
But then I thought: I’ve never fished Beaver Creek.
Beaver Creek is right about an hour away, has a mile of fly fishing only / catch and release water, and is a limestone stream. The last characteristic was the most appealing. The spring influence provides a productive, year-round habitat for trout, while it also somewhat buffers the flows from rain and ice melt.
I was off to fish Beaver Creek, for the very first time.
I pulled off I-70 and turned down the radio. It was time to focus. I knew I needed to turn right on Beaver Creek Road to reach the lower section of the special regulation area. In my planning, I saw it was the second turn. Still, I got anxious and looked at my map. After turning, I decided to drive up a road that paralleled the stream. Coming over an old iron bridge, I saw a full parking lot. That was discouraging, so I made a three (or five) point turn on the small backroad and headed to the next lot.
The next lot isn’t right next to the stream. I pulled off the road, right next to the babbling and heavily weeded creek, to consult Google Maps’ satellite imagery. After attracting the attention of two skeptical locals, I found the lot and made my way up.
I pulled in just as another angler was getting off the water. “Nothing today,” he said. “I’m heading to Catoctin Creek. They’ve been on down there.” Great. And this guy looked like he knew what he was doing. With a little less confidence, I rigged up and began to walk to the stream.
On my walk to the creek I was enjoying the scenery. Coming down from the lot, I was surrounded by rolling hills and farmland. I love to catch fish in this setting. It is so typical of the Mid Atlantic, so very characteristic of what I associate with home.
Standing a dozen yards from the creek, I began to analyze what was going on. It was slow, channelized, and devoid of any bug activity. There was some vegetation waving back and forth in the current. I tied on a moderately sized sculpin imitation, and cast towards a stump on the far bank.
The fish came out with such speed that he was gone before I set the hook. In the resulting delayed motion I immediately realized that I missed him, and I salvaged my lame set by turning it into a cast. Sure enough, he came out again. This time I set the hook too quickly.
Good job, Matthew. Fishing like you’ve never set a hook before.
If you’ve fished enough, you know when you’ve turned a fish off. Their body language says it all. And this guy was done. I headed upstream, and, still frustrated from the two missed opportunities, promptly pulled my streamer from another charging fish. Three casts, three chances, zero trout.
As I moved through the succession of pools, I kept admiring the beauty of the little valley that Beaver Creek flowed through. Even in the stark January winter, there was a warm familiarity to it all. Farm houses, barns, and stone fences seemed as natural to the landscape as the creek itself.
It wasn’t too long before I was into fish. A brown and a rainbow were landed; each took smallish streamers around cover. Both fish were colorful and healthy. It would have been good to find a few more, or even try for those missed trout from the beginning of my day, but I needed to head back.
A situation like that is really all one can ask for in a few hours of fishing on a winter day. It felt good to “get on the board” in the new year. More than that, it felt good to be on a new creek. A new creek in beautiful environs, filled with trout, and relatively close to home. Really all one can ask for, indeed.