The original plan was to meet at the Pilot Station in Grantsville at 6 am, unfortunately, Tim Bowers and I didn't get there till about 6:45. Can't really say why we were late, just doddl'n around too much along the way I guess. So if anybody was waiting for us I do apologize. By the time we arrived if there had been any PPTU'ers there, they had left. So we just had some coffee, stretched a bit, and then moseyed on down to the river.
All the way up from Columbia the wind buffeted the truck, and stopping at the rest stop at Sidling Hill a chill blew right through me. An hour later and 50 miles down the road pulling in the old stone bridge parking lot the wind had lain. Temperatures were warm enough that I stuffed my wind breaker in my vest and was comfortable in just a pullover Under Armor T shirt. Not a bad feel after being bundled up in layers of wool and fleece on previous outings. My waders usually stretched tight from all that bulk, felt curiously loose and quite comfortable. As we strung up, clouds boiled up off the horizon then blew on over, it showered a little throughout the day, but no real rain till after we were off the water, but it did get very windy at times. The temperature would drop noticeably as large clouds obscured the sun, but, all in all, a pretty nice day to be fishing.
Walking through the strip of timber along the river I could see the Garrett County woods were just beginning to wake up. The trees were still in the bud stage, with only some early spring flowers brightening up an otherwise brown world, Virginia Bluebells and Trout Lilies made splashes of lavender and yellow here and there. The dark green umbrellas of May Apples, mostly closed, poked just a couple inches above the dead leaves.
We hit the pools just below the stone bridge each taking three rainbows, mine on ginger boogers, Tim's on Olive boogers I think. We didn't know it at the time or we would have strolled over to say howdy, as Ken Bowyer, Joe Robinson, Carl Smolka, and Bob O'Donnell were just up river from us on the I 68 pool. They all went up on Friday and fished through some rain. They all got into fish and at Farmers lane Ken said even with the rain some fish were rising. Joe got half dozen or better, one a 12 inch brookie, one of only two fish the whole trip that weren't rainbows, Bob O'Donnell getting the other one. Mike Abranowitz and Art Friedlander were also Friday arrivals, but I didn't get a report from either so not sure how well they did.
Deciding to move down river we drove back through Grantsville then made the loop through the country to circumvent the broken bridge. We hadn't seen anybody else from PPTU at that point but did spy Lou Reichel's Van at the Farmer's Lane among a gaggle of other vehicles, so, we figured he and Rodger Johnson were down there somewhere. Driving back up River road we found a vacant pull-off and settled in. By this time the sky was as blue as it gets, the wind was up and gusting little, and an osprey was really upset with me that I was sharing her stretch of river. I'd wade & cast and she'd fly over head and scream at me, then, when that didn't drive me off, she found a comfortable tree to jut glare and scold. I found a couple fish near a brush pile and lost one, while Tim picked one off a bank, but fish numbers in the flat water just seemed very low so I hiked downstream looking for a hole and found one by the bend. The water was stained just enough from a previous rain and rippled with wind I couldn't really see into it enough to spy fish. That problem was solved when three or for rainbows rose in succession, one a fat bow chasing something across the surface I couldn't see.
There must have been something coming off but I couldn't see it, and not seeing anything I tied on a Pink San Juan Worm and was rewarded with a take on the second drift. This was about 11:00 am, by 1 pm I'd caught 25, 22 from this same hole, so I decided it must be break time and headed to the truck to cook lunch.
Tim was already there waiting and said he hadn't really located many fish, I told him no problem I found a hole with enough fish for us both. After a nice leisurely lunch of Irish cheese, Chilean grapes, chips, brats & coleslaw we sauntered back down to the bend.
Both of us were into fish immediately, but they seemed especially drawn to my San Juan. I was beginning to feel downright swinish about catching so many fish, but not swinish enough to stop fishing I guess. The wind would gust at times, dark ominous clouds rolling over that brought some quick showers. Then, late afternoon the fish started rising. Tim switched to an ElK Hair Caddis & Midge Pupae dropper and quickly landed a few, so I retired my worm and rigged up with the same set up. The fish really turned on for a while, first taking the dropper, then toward dusk crashing the Elk Hair itself.
By the end of the day I had caught somewhere around a half a hundred fish. Tim kept chiding me about not having as good a day, but I'll wager he netted better than 20 fish himself just from that one hole, and had he been there before lunch like I was he would have broken 50 easily. That hole, like many others I suspect, was just full of hungry fish.
That night back at the Inn we started to gather up for supper and exchange stories. We had a good turnout; In addition to the already mentioned, Dave Simms, Charlie Gelso & his friend Donna, and while I didn't actually see her Diane Black was there. Everyone said they found fish and had assorted versions of the same basic story; most fish on San Juan Worms in either pink or red, a few on wet flies or wooly boogers, emerger patterns and Elk Hair, almost all the fish in the deeper holes.
Charlie had made reservations at a restaurant in Frostburg, and I think they had fifteen diners counting a surprise appearance of Cathy Nutter & her husband Bob Culver. An evening I was told enjoyed by everyone with good conversation and great food. Tim and I went to keyser's Ridge instead in search of any stragglers that might be looking to hook up with the group, then, after a quick burger it was back to the Inn for an early bedtime. Neither Tim nor I got more than an hour or two of sleep the night before, and we were just plain tuckered out.
Sunday morning I talked to Charlie & Donna while I donned my waders in the parking lot. They told me they saw loads of Mother's Day caddis clinging to the bushes in the timber Saturday figuring the bugs were trying to stay out of the wind, so the hatch was on, at least of sorts. It had rained pretty hard Saturday night and I thought it might have muddied up the river, but driving down to the bridge I could see stream bottom and the water was actually more clear than it was the day before. It's been really dry out west from what I heard and I guess the ground was thirsty enough absorb the rain with little runoff.
Over breakfast at Burger King Joe was grilling me about exactly where we fished the day before and just how many fish did we catch? I was a little vague in my description of just where, and evaded the question of how many entirely, all the while Joe eyed me suspiciously over his bowl of oatmeal. Joe & Ken left a little ahead of us and on the way to the river I bet Tim since they had seen where we were parked the previous day Joe's car would be in the pull off when we got there. Rounding the bend we saw somebody else was already there but not Joe. Driving on down the road we found Joe's car at Farmers lane. Tim and I Bushwhacked our way along the river and popped out just below our hole when I heard Tim say, " Dang!" "Somebody's already here", and then "Oh, its Ken & Joe!" I started laughing and told Tim I won the bet. Good thing were all great friends cause it was a little cozy.
It was a gorgeous morning, no wind & very sunny. Joe was working the slot at the edge of the pool with a San Juan regularly landing fish, the rest of us getting a fish now and then. Soon the caddis came off, Ken and Tim switching to dries. They caught several before Joe and I made the switch, me never really finding a fly the fish wanted. After about an hour things kind of quieted down in our pool and Ken made a move after spying a few fish rising below us next to a downed tree. It wasn't long before that ole boy was really putting on a clinic. I could see Ken's leader turnover in the sunlight as he'd Cast up into the dark blue water right at the edge of the downed branches. His #14 Henryville would settle on the riffle and a fish would pounce in a splash of silver. Sitting on a rock just to watch I was reminded of just how pretty fly fishing really is.
I think of the April/Casselman outing as my cheesecake trip, knowing the Casselman is always rich with fish in April. And like cheesecake I try and gorge myself. This place draws anglers from everywhere. Ken said he talked to a guy who has made the 300 mile trip to the river every weekend since March 1st.
I asked the guys to send me their highlights and totals; so many reported double digit days I'll just sum it up saying it was a helluva trip with lots of fish caught. By lunch time Sunday, Tim & I still being active members of the labor force, needed to be thinking about heading back east to rest up for work Monday. In summary, I think the Mother's day hatch isn't quite peak and next weekend will probably be better if the weather cooperates. I didn't have a thermometer but the water seemed colder than it should have been, and instead of the fish being dispersed throughout the river which is what we expected, most were podded up in the deeper holes. Although once fish were found they were quite willing with the right fly.