Fly-fishing in Emmitsburg
Originally published in the Emmitsburg Dispatch
Republished in the Emmitsburg News-Journal
I have here before me three small plastic
boxes. In each are very small fish hooks, and
tied onto these hooks with invisible thread are
colored feathers, yarn, deer hair, chenille and
other materials ó fishing lures made to trick
trout into believing a tasty bit is on the end
of the line. It could be a Royal Coachman, Black
Gnat, Mayfly, a worm or a caterpillar, cast in
the hopes that the angler has chosen the morsel
that imitates the insect hatch of the day.
My husband John was an avid fisherman and,
after having read Izaak Waltonís The Complete Angler, decided to try his hand at tying his own
flies. Using hand-tied flies in the cold
mountain streams of Frederick County was far
different from casting a night crawler into the
I often went with him and sat along the
stream and watched birds, looked at the flora,
and just day-dreamed, moving as he moved either
up or downstream as his luck or lack of luck
took him. I had the feeling that John knew all
of the good trout streams of Frederick County,
from Turkey Run, a stream that empties into Toms
Creek near Annandale Road, to all the branches
of Hunting and Owens creeks in Catoctin Park.
In the Ď40ís, trout season opened on the
first day of April. In the spring of 1942, I got
up early with John on opening day to be with him
at the stream. I believe he had caught nothing
and was ready to go home when a man with a
camera approached us: "Fishing?" he
said to me. "No, only watching."
"I came out here to get a picture of a
woman trout fishing. Would you do me the favor
Eagerly I agreed, not really knowing what was
expected of me. What was expected was to put on
all the fishing gear ó everything from hat
with the flies stuck in the brim, jacket holding
all the equipment of lines and more flies, net,
creel hanging from the waist, and waders. And of
course the fly rod in my hand.
Into the stream I went. I stepped on a
slippery rock and fell feet up, flat on my
backside, fishing rod flailing in the air.
"Lovely," said the camera man.
"Now, would you do it again so I can get
the picture?" Vanity, vanity ó I did do
it again, in pretense of course, and a few days
later found a Washington newspaper in our
mailbox with a picture of me on the sports page.
I soon tired of watching John fish and
decided that I too must cast a line and have the
pleasure of success. I got a rod, and John,
teacher that he was, made sure that I would cast
correctly. Fly fishing is a bit more tricky than
just putting a bait in the water and waiting. A
spot must be selected. and the angler must aim
for that spot, hoping that trout would rise and
take the fly. That is the dry fly method. A wet
fly takes a different skill. The spot is
selected, but the fly must be under water to
fool the fish into thinking the bugs are there.
I did learn to cast, and then we went to
Hunting Creek above Thurmont to try my luck.
John went upstream, while I stayed below him,
standing on a flat rock that slanted down to the
stream, as I had no waders. I cast several
times, and then, POW! A hit on my fly! I fixed
the hook and with racing heart let the fish tire
a bit and then landed him ó a nice, 13-inch
"Now what do I do?" I had that
trout safely on the rock slab but had no idea
how to kill it. That had not been included in my
fishing lessons. John was too far away to hear
me even if I had wanted to call. So I found a
small log and hit the trout on the head.
I could hardly wait for John to see my trout.
He was pleased for me, but more so, he was in
disbelief that I had resorted to such an extreme
to assure myself of having a fish to show.
On one of our trips to England, we were at a
bed-and-breakfast in Shropshire, and during the
course of a conversation, John told the hostess
that he would some day like to fish for trout in
England. One evening on returning from
Stratford, our hostess took us into her lounge
and introduced us to two couples, both of whom
had estates nearby. As the conversation
progressed, one of the gentlemen raised his arms
and pantomimed an angler casting a fly for
trout. John returned the pantomime. A bond had
been formed. John was invited to fish in this
manís private trout stream. Joy! But it could
not be. We were to leave for home the next day.
I didnít fish at all after we had children.
When John died, I saved his fine fly rod,
wishing I could go to the mountain and catch a
trout, reliving a memory or two. I finally
"realized" that I simply couldnít do
that. I sold that fine rod. I donít need it to
keep my memories alive.