Enlightenment on Deer Creek: Fly-fishing hits rock bottom


September 08, 1992|By PETER BAKER

It is,by this time, 3 p.m. and my companion is wondering whether I wish to endure the impending thunderstorms so that we might spend another hour or so afterward further attuning our senses to the gurgling of the creek, the whisper of the wind in the trees and the complete indifference of the smallmouth bass.

We are on Deer Creek in Harford County, and by this time, some six hours after we left Annapolis, we have managed to grope our way across highway and byway from a quiet stretch of water near the bridge on Furnace Hill Road to a popular stretch near the pumping station in Susquehanna State Park.

Fishing upstream has produced bluegills and fallfish, veritable behemoths that charged through the depths of the knee-deep water and slashed at our weighted nymphs with the unpent fury of gypsy moths.

As we pulled into the parking area near the pumping station, a fellow dressed head to toe in nationally advertised regalia was heading upstream, plodding through what appeared to be a promising, clear pool and leaving a muddy wake.

Directly across from the pumping station, a handful of kids were riding inner tubes down a smooth rock channel through modest rapids.

Even so, fish could be seen holding behind rocks on the bottoms of the deeper pockets.

But here, too, upstream and downstream a way, the fishing was tedious. Frustrating.

Creep along the shoreline. Crouch and cast to the head of a pool, within which the fish could be seen feeding upon their whim.

Watch the nymph drift along the bottom -- and see a handful of small fish nose the fly and turn away.

Change flies. Change leaders. Find new pools. Refish old pools. Cast in pursuit of piscatorial midgets -- and resist the urge to break your rod over your knee.

My companion is saying that this is all part of the Zen of fly-fishing, part of becoming enlightened by means of direct, intuitive insights.

My two-cents worth of insight was something about Zen being a way of life for Eastern monks and fly-fishing for 6-inch smallmouths being a bunch of Buddhist.

But these moments of tedium and frustration, my companion was saying, are part of paying one's dues, of enduring the suffering and despair that eventually must lead to a sudden flash of enlightenment.

The flash of a big fish would have been enlightenment enough.

Deer Creek, which begins in west Harford County between Norrisville and Drybranch , is almost legendary.

One section of the creek is a trout area. Farther downstream, the water warms and bluegills and fall fish and smallmouth bass take over. Farther downstream, where the creek meets the Susquehanna River, at different times of the year there are shad and stripers and more bass.

In theory, here is a stream that might offer a little bit of something to anyone who can take the time to fish it, to come to know it up close and personal -- to know intuitively that somewhere along its watercourse is a fish that would rival a Norfolk spot taken off Hackett's Bar.

And in fairness to the creek, we did not fish enough of it to cast judgment.

But if, intuitively, you can tell that it was not a good day, zen your insights are in direct contact with my own.

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