Monocacy: place to beat crowds


DICKERSON -- By late afternoon, as heavy cloud cover moved eastward over the area and broke up the heat of the day, fish were dimpling the surface out in the pool of the river backed up by the sandbars and riffles above the Route 28 bridge.

By early evening, baitfish were jumping in the shallows, pursued by smallmouth bass ready to feed again in the shoreline shadows of this section of the Monocacy.

Earlier, the day had been pretty much a bust, with light spinning tackle and spinners and grubs catching only a handful of fat sunfish from the edges of patches of submerged grasses and two 8-inch smallmouth bass from behind rocks that broke the flow of the river.

In the previous couple of days, thunderstorms and showers had passed through the area late each afternoon, and for the most part the river was murky, its current carrying sediment and silt washed from the farmlands that border the Monocacy, one of the state's designated scenic rivers.

But in the small eddies and larger backwaters created by grassy points and rocky outcroppings, the river was almost clear.

The river outside the channel edges, which seemed to funnel the silt and sediment downstream, also was clearing.

And by early evening the shallows were turning up smallmouths with some regularity on a fly rod and popping bugs.

The rod would send the bug into the deeper shadows beneath an overhang of tree limb or brush where the water deepened slightly, the bottom scooped out some by current when the river was high.

One pop. Two pops. Maybe three -- and whish, a smallmouth would attack.

There was little size to the fish. But each, whether six inches or eight inches, brought its own bit of excitement to the end of what had been a pretty dreary day.

This section of the Monocacy in Frederick County is not known for superb fishing or larger smallmouths, but it is easily accessible from a state park parking lot alongside Route 28 and provides a mile or so of water suitable for wading above and below the bridge.

The river is wide enough and shallow enough during the summer months to allow fly fishermen to move into the river and cast across to the shorelines or upstream to rocks, short ledges, sandbar edges or grass beds with a clear backcast.

A proposal by the Department of Natural Resources would make the Monocacy a catch-and-return area up to the dam in Buckeystown starting next season. The same proposal would make the Potomac River a catch-and-release area for bass from the Seneca Breaks upstream to its confluence with the Monocacy at Dickerson.

And perhaps at some point in the future this same stretch of the Monocacy, with the help of catch-and-release management, will sport more and larger bass.

Currently, however, it is a good place to beat the crowds on weekday evenings, to wade wet in tennis shoes and old shorts, to send lures or flies in toward the shoreline and chuckle as another smallmouth hits the lure.

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