The Basswife was busy with her twin sister last weekend! That meant I was automatically cleared for a road trip of fishing in the western part of the Maryland. As usual, success would depend on the weather. I kept a eye out all week, eagerly gazing at the clouds and AccuWeather.com in the hope that the coming rain would be over long before I hit the water for the serious fishing on Saturday and Sunday. I guess I didn’t learn a thing from my trip to Whitetop-Laurel in early March.
With a heavy drizzle falling, I was a little nervous by mid afternoon on Friday when I climbed into the truck to head West from Gaithersburg. My plan was simple; I would stop at Antietam creek for the afternoon and then Sideling Hill Creek for any evening hatch. When done, I would head to the Oak-Mar motel (exceptionally clean, $49 a night) in Oakland where I would spend the weekend. While the plan was simple, the rain turned the execution complex as it increased in intensity the further I drove on I270. Rats! This proved the truth of the old military axiom that “no plan survives contact with the enemy”.
No problem, I was flexible. I decided to skip Antietam Creek and go directly to Sideling Hill. That would put another hour behind me and hopefully the rain would end by the time I got there. I would look at Sideling and if it was not blown out, I would continue with the weekend plan. Since I’d never been to Sideling Hill Creek before, I decided to start in the middle. After leaving I68 and jogging around on US 40 to follow a side road, I eventually took a left onto the small, short dirt road that led to the ford where I intended to start fishing. On the way in, I saw a few other trucks and noticed some guys spinfishing at the head of the long pool that paralleled the road. Was that a sign that the stocking truck had snuck in like Santa in the dark of the night? Sure enough, when I got out of the truck I could see the deep tire tracks from stock truck etched into the soft mud at the water’s edge. The presents must be under the tree… or in this case, under the clear water in front of me.
The Maryland DNR was scheduled to stock the creek this week, so I was thankful that I was there after that occurred and not before. But I wasn’t worried about this first pool; the other guys could have it. I wanted to go downstream and see what this creek was all about.
The first thing that became obvious was that there was no trail next to the creek. To me, that’s a good sign. Not that many people take the time to bushwhack in search of trout;, preferring the more immediate gratification provided by the hole next to the parking area. I was off and I headed downstream. There was a small deer trail on the Western bank that I’ve followed until I came to a shallow spot where I could splash across easily. I discovered that there was no trail on the other side. However, I did find a ditch carved out by overflow water that was about 4 feet wide and open, I followed it down another 100 yards or so and then I broke west through the brush to go back to the stream.
Poking out from the brush, I looked upstream and saw 4 kayakers headed my way. A lot of folks would be upset assuming that their passage would disrupt the fish and cause them to spook for an extended period of time. While that may be true with wild fish, stockers seem to be more tolerant. They scatter and then come back to what they were doing fairly quickly. As the kayarkers paddled by we exchanged pleasantries. I asked them if they’d been on the creek before and what the water looked like downstream. No luck there. This was their first time on the creek is well.
I let them go past, and began to work the far shore with an ant pattern without a dropper. On the first cast, it floated over a small rock and immediately was sucked in by a stocked trout. Hey! Maybe this wasn’t such a bad place. I worked the pool until I was convinced that the kayakers would’ve put some distance between us and continued downstream. I always prefer a working upstream rather than down, so my typical strategy is to walk in and then fish back.
I walked downstream through a patch of bushes to see the kayakers rounding the bend in the far distance. Since it was already four o’clock in the afternoon and I knew that I had a long drive ahead of me to get to Oakland, I moved to the next bend and started fishing there. I changed out the ant for a nymph with and midge dropper and began to fish the eastern bank. No immediate luck, but that changed about halfway up the long pool.
At that point I started to pick up hits. The strike indicator would jerk under; I would jerk back and either catch a rock or a trout. While I successfully caught my limit of rocks, there were enough trout mixed in to make it fun. But the best spot was at the head of the pool. There is a large rock formation that compresses the water into a tight cascade which has cut a deep hole right where the creek has to turn. I extended the length of my nymph and added some split shot to it to force it to the bottom in spite of the strong current. Soon, I was rewarded with a hit and then another. I continued to pepper the water up and around the corner, pulling some decent size stocked trout from the deep cut next to the rock face. I even switched to a orange crayfish pattern and also used a Patuxent Special; catching fish on both.
Rounding the corner, I found myself at the pool where I had chatted with the kayakers. It offered up with both trout and a single, pathetic looking redeye bass. By now, the clouds were thickening and the light fading so I decided to call it a day and head to Oakland. It had not rained since I had started to fish and the water was clear. So I was optimistic that my luck would hold for the weekend. Sadly that was not to be, but that’s another story.
Bottom line: I like Sideling Hill Creek. It’s wide and, at least on this day, the water was deep enough to provide room to roam for all sorts of fish. It has a rocky bottom that must harbor plenty of insect and crayfish life given the results I had seen over the last three hours. I did not get the sense that this is a heavily pressured creek. On my walk down the creek, I did not see footprints or other evidence of other fishermen. In addition, the stocked fish seem to be spread far and wide in this water. I’ll have to come back and see how it fishes if I go upstream or closer to I68. But that may have to wait until next season, because I think last week was the last stocking of 2008 for this location.
Getting There: Head west from Hagerstown and take Exit 72 for High Germany Road headed towards Swain Road/US 40. Go left on High Germany Road and then right onto Swain Road. Take a left at Swain Hollow Road and then a final left onto Harry Norris Road. Norris is the dirt road that runs next to the creek for about 200 yards.
Secrets Revealed? No. This is a very public location that is documented on the Maryland DNR Stocking Table
Looking upstream from where I started
Looking downstream from where I started
Good run here – picked up a fish
Dumps into a “lake” that had a number of trout
Looking downstream where I turned around
Whoops! Slippery little guy. Hard to time the shot
Great spot. Fish are in the current above and below this rock
Looking upstream from where I turned around
Unless stated otherwise, this article was authored by Steve Moore