|The Patuxent in February|
I read up on several areas, and took note of the Patuxent (I'll leave the branch ambiguous). I have fished the sections of the Patuxent below the fall line for years, mainly for bass, perch, and shad, but I have never fished the river or its tributaries for trout (up into the piedmont). I guess I thought it would be relatively untraveled and unfished (or hardly fished) in late February. The area is also designated "delayed harvest" which normally keeps away both the catch and release crowd (too many stocked / too few wild fish) and the bait fishermen, at least until the harvest period opens in June.
|Welcome to the path most traveled!|
I made my way down to a washed out stone bridge and got to work. With a mix of snow and rain in the air, conditions definitely weren't ideal. I'd seen grubs, woolly worms, and bees moving earlier in the week, so I threw woolly bugger and bee patterns rigged up to inline spinners/spoons, and had several bites by suckers. None swallowed the hook, which was fine by me.
The river is a lot different than the tributaries of the Gunpowder I started fishing last year for trout, and certainly different from the nearby Patapsco, where I caught my last February trout in 2005. The Patuxent's banks are sandy and eroding, and the river is wide and surprisingly shallow, even in February. There's a fair amount of woody debris, but less than I expected. The layout of pools, runs, and riffles is a bit unique too. In the spring, I'd expect to see a good spread of trout across nice wide cobble beds about 3' deep. The river's greatest problem is that local groundwaters recede in summer, guaranteeing that most trout will die from warm water and low oxygen levels.
Finally, I drifted a red and chartreuse hackle on a gold spoon (don't hate!) past a dark pool against a boulder. Two brown trout around 10-12" long darted downstream after it, then reconsidered the merits of their competition, and then darted back into darkness. 4,752 subsequent casts above, through, across, and below the pool did not generate any fish movement. Dammit. Around that time I ran into another angler, fishing a pink trout magnet worm (don't hate!). He reported a catch of approximately 9,000 suckers and did not see a trout. The best/worst news of the day immediately followed.
|a little birdy told me...|
I don't know if I was more upset that I got blanked on a stream that had just been stocked a mile or three below, or that I was wasting my time fishing a reach of stream that everybody knows about, everybody fishes, and where DNR dumps a thousand or more trout every year, who almost all die by July 4th.
There are probably some lessons here, but I don't really care. I'm unhappy that I'm still fishless for 2012. For today, I'm happy that I got to go out. I tried a new river. And while I'll probably never come back to this exact spot, I'll have an idea of what to expect when I sneak into an unpublished and unnoticed Patuxent tributary several weeks from now, looking for leftovers...
And for the World's Greatest and Most Pure Trout Fisherman who lamented my lure choice in the comments below, suggesting that, for use of this lure, I may as well seine net wild trout, here's the unsportsmanlike, end-of-the-trout-fishing-lure-as-we-know-it lure you were so concerned about:
.........."Huh?" is right.