Where: Little Tonoloway Creek, Hancock Maryland, upstream of the youth/blind section.
When: February 19, 2009 – Evening
Water Temperature: 36 °F
Permits: Maryland State permit and trout stamp
Access: Pretty good path from the parking area; hip or chest waders were helpful to reach some of the better pools.
I happened to be in Hancock for work and had an hour or so available afterwards, so I figured I would drop by Little Tonoloway Creek. According to the Maryland fisheries website about 400 trout had been dumped into the upper section only a couple weeks before, so I figured it was worth a try, despite the freezing conditions.
To get there, drive to Park Road in Hancock and park at the baseball field. The stretch of stream just beside this parking area is designated for youth and blind fisherman…so unless you are under 16 and/or blind you’ll have to move upstream just a little ways. There is a pretty good path through the woods north of the baseball diamond though, which will take you around the bend across from a horse farm, which is where the stocked section of the creek begins.
I decided to start at the south (downstream) end of the stocked section after reading Switchfisher’s informative post about the behavior of stocked trout. Although I couldn’t see any signs of trout, this wasn’t surprising as they were probably hunkered down at the bottom of the deeper pools on this below-freezing day. It was also overcast, so I couldn’t see into any of the deeper pockets, where the water would be warmer than the surface temperature of 36 °F.
Since nothing was breaking the surface, nor were there any flying/floating insects around, I decided to try out a nymph or two. This being my first trip of the season I was primarily hoping to work off some of the rust of hiding inside all winter, and figured any trout I caught would be a bonus. After about 30 or so casts I realized why you don’t see a lot of people fly fishing in sub-freezing temperatures…chunks of ice were slowly building up around the eyelets of my fly rod until I finally couldn’t strip or cast the line anymore. I took this as a sign that it was time to congratulate myself for not falling into the freezing cold water or losing any flys in the overhanging trees and pack it in for the day.
Several lessons learned about winter fly fishing:
- While temperatures in the thirties might be ok for catching trout, anything below freezing makes casting very tedious due to ice buildup.
- If your camera batteries have been sitting in the ice-cold trunk of your car all day, don’t expect them to hold any charge (hence the lack of photos in this post).
- Fly fishing is addictive enough to make me stand waist deep in a pool of ice water just because I hope it will make spring come more quickly.
This was a very pleasant spot; very scenic despite being right on the edge of town. I would like to come back here again when it is a little warmer out, but probably wouldn’t make the almost 2-hour drive from DC just to come here.
I implemented a new “?” in my ratings system because I really had no way to judge the number and size of trout. I didn’t see any sign of any, but I’m pretty sure there were at least a couple hundred of them lurking in the pools. While I didn’t see a single other person that day, I suspect that the ease of access and location in a settled area means that during spring/fall this river could get a fair amount of pressure.