Muddy Creek – Catch and Release Section

In York County, Pennsylvania, there is a Catch-and-Release, Fly Fishing Only Section on Muddy Creek. I fished it once previously with my friend Jack ten or twelve years ago. It’s got some pretty nice water. On my first visit there, the water was high and off-color, and I remember doing well catching lots of trout on my Gray Ghost Wooly Bugger. Last Friday, Jack and I headed up to Muddy Creek from his home in Bel Air, Maryland. There is an old abandoned railroad that served as a good easy access on my previous visit, but in the intervening years, it has grown up in most sections to the point that it is impassable. So one must walk along a winding footpath if one wants to fish the upper reaches of the project water.

I decided to fish drys, and that’s all I did from our start about 4:45 PM.

Muddy Creek, about a half-mile above the parking area at the lower end of the access area.

Muddy Creek, about a half-mile above the parking area at the lower end of the access area. This is where I started fishing. Nice pools and some good pockets.

Muddy Creek is stocked, but for the most part, the trout I caught were small, stream bred browns.

Downstream view

Downstream view of where I started fishing. The path is on the opposite side of the creek. I entered and crossed to the left-hand side of the creek just to the left of the boulders.

A few caddis flies were coming off, and I saw a handful of mayflies floating on the water. I did not catch one, but from a distance I think they were Hendricksons. I saw a few rises here and there. Most of the rising trout would end up taking a whack at my #12 Delaware Adams.

My first trout of the afternoon.

My first trout of the afternoon. He was all of five inches long, a stream bred fish, but made up for his diminutive size by his spunk, aggressive strike, and beautiful colors. The #12 Delaware Adams in his upper jaw is a big meal for this little fellow, but it’s barbless so removal and release was easy.

Another photo of the same trout.

Another photo of the same trout. The sunlight allows for better viewing and appreciation of the colors of the fish. Note the parr marks, a juvenile, probably a one-year old trout.

A little farther upstream.

A little farther upstream, looking downstream. Pools, runs, riffles, and pocket water.

Looking upstream at the lower end of a big pool.

Looking upstream at the lower end of a big pool. I did not get farther than the head of this pool, since around 7:00 PM, a few trout started rising sporadically.

After I caught my first trout, I wondered why I missed the next six fish that took my fly. I suddenly thought, “I better check my fly,” and sure enough, my tippet had tangled about the bend and I was pulling the fly backwards. Duh. Stay sharp, you’ll catch more trout.

Upstream view of the bog poolwhere I sopent the evening.

Upstream view from the big pool where I spent the evening. There are lots of large rocks along and in the stream. These make for very beautiful areas along the banks, and in the water, they provide cover and create pockets and holding lies.

Jack had walked above me, and was using three wet flies. I later found out that he caught a lot of trout, swinging them down and across. I admitted to Jack at the end of the evening that I would probably have caught more trout using wet flies or a bugger, but I just wanted to cast and fish dry flies.

By seven-thirty I started seeing some sulphur duns and a few spinners were gathering in the air. I had not brought a flashlight with me, and Jack and I were out of sight and had not communicated with one another since separating more than three hours earlier. I knew he would have to walk past me to return to the car. I was thinking that I should have brought my walkie-talkies along. I was going to wait for him until 8:00 PM, but I delayed my departure for a few more minutes. At exactly 8:05, the pool erupted with more than thirty rising trout. By this time I had switched to a #14 Sulphur Parachute Dun. I stood at the water’s edge at the lower end of a large, garage-sized boulder, and caught several more trout without entering the stream. Just as I released a trout and stood up, five feet away a large black shape boiled the surface and moved away from me underwater. At first I thought it was a gigantic carp, but then I ascertained it to be a beaver. I was startled enough by this event, and he didn’t even slap his tail.

Another stream bred brown

Another stream bred brown from Muddy Creek, taken on a #14 Sulphur Parachute Dun.


Close-up of trout that ate my #14 Sulphur Parachute Dun

One more fish...

One more fish…the flash went off unexpectedly, but it sure highlights the sulphur orange body color of the fly I was using. This was my last fish, and then I had to get going.

Here is the recipe for this sulphur pattern,listed in order of tying the ingredients:

Sulphur Parachute Dun

Hook: Standard dry fly, #14

Thread: Danville Flymaster 6/0 Orange.

Wing: Tan colored Hi-Vis or Enrico’s Sea Fibers (same product, different name), set upright into a post

Tails: Six yellow or ginger Microfibetts, split 3/3 with tying thread

Abdomen: Superfine dubbing, Sulphur Orange. The abdomen is reverse wound, from thorax to tail, and ribbed with the tying thread going forward. This tightens up the body and adds segmentation. You ought to see the benefit of this technique on patterns where contrasting thread color is used.

Thorax: Sulphur orange rabbit dubbing

Hackle: Ginger

A thorax dun version of this same pattern can be made by winding the hackle conventionally. I prefer to clip the bottom of the hackle half-way between the point and shank. My sulphur pattern preference is to use the Super Floss stretch material in sulphur orange for the abdomen. See:

I ended up staying until almost 8:30 PM, hooking a dozen or so trout. Then I had to get out of there. Still no sign of Jack. I was in unfamiliar territory, with no flashlight, the path winds along the stream bank, with perilous (for waders) barbed wire at one section, my unseen companion, with previous heart-attack history, is seventy-five years old, and I was at least a half mile from the car. I was just a tad concerned. I started downstream, crossed over and found the path. I actually wondered, “What if Jack is not there?” Even so, I tried to believe everything would be OK. After I traveled a short ways, and since I was heading back home to Pennsylvania the next day, Saturday May 4th, I stopped and broke down my Loomis 4-piece rod to avoid tangling the rod in the brush along the path. I put the reel in my vest, and held the rod sections in hand. I had barely enough remaining daylight light to see the barbed wire, but I  managed to get past without snagging my waders, and then I finally arrived at the lower section where there is a cleared area by an old camper that probably serves as a weekend camp.

Fortunately, when I could see the parking area, I saw a light on where Jack had parked his car. As I got closer, I saw his standing silhouette at the back of the car, and he had already taken his waders off. He had somehow slipped past me, even though I vocalized “fish on” now and then. He was looking for me, and I still don’t know how he got by me, supposedly traveling along the creek, without seeing me. Anyway, he was fine and had enjoyed some good fishing.

We drove to his house where we had a late ten o’clock dinner of his home-made Maryland crabs cakes. No filler, they were great! The fishing and good meal were a nice conclusion to my visit. These photos will prolong the memories of a good trip.

Great Blue Herons and Bald Eagles

I recently spent some time visiting and fishing with my friend Jack, who lives in Bel Air, Maryland. The original intent for my visit was for me to hit the Hickory Shad run on Deer Creek, but aside from getting some fish the first two nights on April 24th and 25th, the shad run had pretty much fizzled out.  Nevertheless we still had a great time. I also traveled to Budd Lake, New Jersey, on Saturday April 27th to tie flies and demonstrate at the Crossroads Angling Auction and Antique Tackle Show. For me the highlight of the day was when Hoagy Carmichael, bamboo rod builder and son of Hoagy Carmichael – songwriter, singer, pianist, composer, actor, singer, bandleader; admired and bought some of my extended body Green Drake Coffin flies and Spinner patterns. Hoagy Carmichael, the elder, is best known for composing the music for “Stardust“, “Georgia on My Mind“, “The Nearness of You“, and “Heart and Soul“, four of the most-recorded American songs of all time. His son has been part of the bamboo rod building heritage for many years. It was a thrill for me to meet him, especially since I have some of his father’s music on CD’s. See:

One afternoon Jack and I went to the lower western side access below the Conowingo Dam on the Susquehanna River, just to see the sights. Within the first five minutes, we saw a group of ten mature bald eagles soaring about 1500 feet above the river, all winging on the air currents in a fairly compact group. Other eagles could be seen at lower elevations, and there were several flying about across the river, close to a mile wide at that point. Additionally there were ospreys, cormorants, ducks, and numerous great blue herons. In fact, that part of Maryland has more herons in one area than I’d ever seen before. One night on Deer Creek while we were fishing, a group, or flock, of nine herons flew over at tree top level. Along the creek, they were always stationed in the riffs and pocket water, waiting patiently while hunting the shad or any other hapless fish that got too close to them. There would be easily upwards of a dozen to twenty or more herons on watch in a couple sections of the stream. Here’s some photos I took during my visit:

Great Blue Heons on the Susquehanna River

Great blue herons on the Susquehanna River. How many do you see? The photo was taken with my zoom lens at 24x; these birds are a half-mile away. With no tripod, I rested the camera on the railing.

Another image, same distance and camera setting.

Another image, same distance and camera setting.

One more shot...

One more long-distance shot…

One night

One night on Deer Creek, Maryland, the hunter waits.


Here is a male in full breeding plumage,

Here is a great blue heron male in full breeding plumage, displaying those long spey hackles that we would love to tie flies with, but can’t because it’s illegal.

Bald eagle nest

Bald eagle nest along the road to Deer Creek. The young eagle’s head can be seen in the nest.

While we watched, the parent flew from the nest to  nearby limb.

While we watched, the parent flew from the nest and perched on a nearby limb.

According to my host this particular nest has been here for almost ten years.

According to my host this particular eagle nest has been here for almost ten years.

We also fished Muddy Creek in southern Pennsylvania. I’ll post those photos separately. I hope you enjoyed these pictures of “professional fishermen.”