To a lot of regional anglers, trout fishing shuts down once the kids are out of school and the weather gets hot.
Besides, the spring stockings have subsided and many are looking at other activities or perhaps the fall trout stocking schedules in October and November.
However, there are numerous ways to beat the summer heat with the trout fishing gig. There are options for native brook trout in Catoctin streams or those in Western Maryland’s Garrett County or some delayed harvest scenarios in several Mason Dixon area waters.
However, seeking hot weather trout in cooler, tailwater streams may be the best local option for those who simply must catch either wild or stocked rainbows and browns.
I recently enjoyed what I thought was an excellent trip with Dylan James Musselman, of Spring Grove, Pennsylvania.
Dylan is a young, multi-species angler who has a special fondness for the wild brown trout that currently inhabit a number of our regional streams. Many of our “wild” trout are actually fish that were originally from stocked fish that held over and reproduced, thus creating generations of fish that essentially act, feed and behave like wild, native trout, not your hatchery stockers that tend to strike at most any lure immediately after implantation.
Then again, other waters do have actual, “native” trout, as in the brook trout in some of our more delicate streams.
Dylan and I had been trying to hookup for a trout outing for some time and we finally sealed the deal with a trip to Codorus Creek, a small tailwater trout fishery in York County, Pennsylvania, that sees routine releases of cold water from the dam at Lake Marburg.
This creates a constant, cold-water environment that maintains quality fishing even in the hottest summer weather. With water temperatures running from 60-64 degrees, the wild brown trout remain active and catchable.
He has fished numerous sections of the stream, but we targeted the “Trophy Trout” section which has about 2 plus miles of good looking water.
No stranger to creek trout fishing, Dylan has caught numerous 15- to 20-inch brown trout through this area and has recently taken trophy fish of 22 and 24 inches, giant stream browns in anybody’s book.
All those fish, along with many 8- to 12-inchers, always go back, despite a 2-fish allowance of trout over 14 inches.
I was surprised to see that Dylan had enjoyed recent success with smaller, minnow-style crank baits along with his favored hair jigs and in-line spinners made by local lure maker Bo Bowers.
I tried a 1.5-inch Rapala Floating minnow and he tossed a similar sized Matzuo Nano Minnow. The banks were steep and heavily overgrown with sticker, multiflora, poison ivy and stinging nettle bushes impeding our progress.
At approximately 30 feet wide, there was heavy canopy and shade over the creek and a distinct channel.
In other words, you had to really “want” to get to the water’s edge for a shot at these fish. I could see how an area such as this could hold big fish, and few fishermen. With long-sleeved shirts and long pants, we bush-wacked our way, with Dylan taking the lead.
Typical overhead casting was, at best, very tough. Dylan had the knack of making underhanded flip casts with amazing accuracy to streamside logs, overhangs, boulders and channel cuts to try and temp the trout. We each missed a few fish, then he scored our first wild brown of the day, a feisty 10-incher with dramatic colors and beautiful orange and yellow edging on the lower half of the fish.
I switched to a Matzuo Nano Crank in blue and at the next hole caught my first ever wild brown trout, another beauty that was photo-worthy in its own right.
Wild or native brown trout do not all look exactly the same. Some have more spots than others, while larger, mature fish seem to have the classic black and red spot patterning with the halo circles on some of them.
The fish were not chubby, pellet-fed specimens from the hatchery truck, but rather more stream-lined and muscular with every scale intact and fins were perfect.
Dylan’s knowledge of the creek was apparent, and he clearly knew where fish were likely to be. On one pool, he pointed to a likely run of deeper water and I made good with the cast.
Money! A solid strike put the skids on my crank bait and the ultralight rod bowed over as a bigger trout, fortunately, fought to the downstream, away from a mid-stream log. I was amazed at the strength of the fish as it fought much harder than its size.
Shortly, Dylan reached down with his long-handled net and scooped a fine 15-inch class brown, another beauty.
A couple more photos and a quick release and we were forgetting the fact that it was July, bright and sunny, and temperatures in the low 90s.
We spent about three hours total on the stream and had a dozen or so strikes with seven fish coming to the net. It was what I thought of as a pretty good day, considering the weather and conditions. But Dylan pointed out that even throughout the hottest part of the summer the release of cold water from the dam enables good fishing and healthy trout throughout that stretch.
To ensure successful catch and release angling it is important to handle the fish minimally, use wet hands and barbless hooks and take photos quickly, getting fish back into the water. Despite our success, he thought the day was slow in comparison to most summer ventures at Codorus.
Two other nearby tailwater trout fisheries would be the Gunpowder between Prettyboy Dam and Loch Raven in Upper Baltimore County, and Big Hunting Creek below Cunningham Falls Lake near Thurmont.
Be sure to check regulations for any and all trout streams before fishing as there are specifics for many streams for fly-fishing only, delayed harvest, trophy sections or catch and release only areas.
No, trout fishing does not have to be exclusively a spring time gig, but be prepared for typical summer concerns with sunscreen, insect repellent, cold water and polarized glasses to make the day easier.