On the same day we went to Big Springs Creek, Jim and I also visited East Branch of Antietam Creek at Renfrew Park in Waynesboro, PA. In the week prior to going to Pennsylvania, I was pumped! All I had heard for the past several years was the wonders of the cold spring creeks that existed in this state. Tall tales of the Yellow Breeches, the Letort, and other notable Pennsylvania water swirled in my head. With that, I was itching to go when I picked up Jim at his church at the conclusion of his work in their food bank.
We drove north on Rt 15 and worked our way over to Waynesboro. The stretch we were going to fish started at the bridge which marked the northern boundary of Renfrew Park and stretched downstream. Since we were going to fish Big Springs Creek on the same day, we only walked about a half mile downstream before entering the water and beginning to fish. This section of the Antietam is a fly fishing only, special regulation section. In short, it means it's catch and release and only traditional flies can be used -- no trout magnets or other plastic lures or scents.
As I entered the stream, I felt a twinge of concern as it looked identical to the the typical creeks you see in central Maryland. In fact, it looked very much like great Seneca Creek or Northwest Branch. The creek was about 15 to 20 feet wide and very shallow in most of the run that I visited. It's surrounded by dense vegetation and tall trees which provide protective shade to the water and work hard to maintain a cold environment. I took a quick temperature reading and was reassured to see that it clocked in at 58° in early July. So, maybe this would be okay.
I started to fish my way upstream; instantly tangling with a pod of bluegills - there's something that is consistent with Maryland as well! The water was running low -- far too low to hold trout except in the deeper holes. Jim found one of those holes near a downed tree that stretched across the creek and successfully pulled out a 10 inch rainbow trout. At least that was confirmation that there were still trout here. As I walked up the stream, I spent more time skipping riffles that were an inch or two deep to get to the next deeper area. I did not find a "good" deeper hole until I got up to the picnic area of the park where there were happy families splashing in the water and getting ready for a lunch under the tight knit shade trees. At the picnic grounds, there is a short section of deep water (1 - 3 feet) that goes from the bend near a bridge which leads across to the tourist buildings up to Route 16. It looked good and offered the promise of trout. I fished this for about a half hour with no luck. At that point, it was time to go. I was actually relieved to be able to leave this place. I have to believe that in spite of the fly fishing only regulations, the fact that this is in the heart to Waynesboro, a decent sized town, and in a public park with easy access, that the pressure has to be intense. To be fair, I did not see any evidence of poaching - no bait containers or other trash and we were the only guys fishing that day.
Finally, it's not much of an experience to fish with kids running around and all of the motion associated with picnic activities at your elbow. According to the regulations, the East Branch protected section runs farther south from the park. I'm sure we would have had a different experience if we had walked further downstream and then fished our way back up. However, in the middle of summer, I bet that the water is skinny all the way downstream.
Remember to refer to my rating explanations - these are based on what I look for - so RED for Physical Fitness translates to easy physically - you do not need to be in shape to fish this section. I prefer terrain that is tough to get into and out of.
Bottom line: This is definitely a place where I will not return. I'm sure there is much better water in Pennsylvania and I just need to spend the time to find. The real bottom line on this water was in the teaser for this article. Would you be willing to drive two hours to fish in Accotink Creek or Holmes Run? That's exactly what this felt like. Actually, Accotink Creek looks better than this place.
Getting There: Mapquest yourself to Waynesboro, PA. Renfrew Park is in the center of town. Drive to the park. The creek is in the center of the park.
Google Local Coordinates: 39.744201, -77.558175
Secrets Revealed? No. This is a very public location that is documented in the Flyfisher's Guide to Pennsylvania