Potomac-Patuxent Chapter Trout Unlimited
As Patrick gave me a run down on his fishing thus far, saying he had netted 4 rainbows on pheasant tails and bead heads, he reached into his pocket for his thermometer. Holding it near the bottom for several seconds it produced a warm 69°. Moving into deeper water and holding it down for a little longer only cooled it off to 68. Casselman trout live on borrowed time, but Mother Nature may be calling in her marker a little earlier this year. Even so, there were fish making splashy rises up and down the river, some leaping clear in obvious pursuit of rising flies, the downstream risers silhouetted against the reflection of the river’s metallic surface.
Rising to what, though, was the problem. There were some caddis fluttering off, the most numerous were tan in #20 - #18, and a black one landed on my hand that looked to be about #22. Occasionally a sulpher mayfly in #18 - #16 or a tan one of some sort in #18 would rise seemingly unmolested.
Throughout the evening we tied on numerous patterns trying to crack the code. Ken finally took a brown on a sulpher emerger but there was no repeat performance. Around 8: 15 I tied on a rusty spinner and floated it through the same slot of holding fish we had been fishing to all evening and for the first time a fish rose to something I threw. A 13 inch bow holding tight against a rock came up and slowly rolled over on the fly hanging in the current and showing me his eye as he sucked it in. A few minutes later another bow took it in the same place the same way but popped off when I let him slip over the lip of the pool and into the fast water then disappear into the larger pool below.
It was getting dark by this time and the fish didn’t seem interested anymore in my rusty spinner so we had a short caucus and headed for the diner at the ridge near the Accident turn off. There were enough us by now to fill a larger table and then some. Sheila and I got there first followed by Ken Bowyer, Steve and Mary Graves. A few minutes later Pete and Patrick strolled in, Patrick saying he collected another bow to his previous 4 at the river road bridge pool, and before they could get settled in, Will, Debbie, and Zachary Amland arrived. Will said traffic was moving at a pace that was just perfect to enjoy good long looks at the scenery most of the way up. Well, at least until it got dark. Our table later voted Zachary as the person looking most like Harry Potter.
The next morning Will and I met in the parking lot around 6am to fish the big pool under I 68. An hour’s fishing produced only one good tug on a Patuxent special, and a small brown that smashed my beetle. I decided to head back down to those rising fish at the ledge pool, I would at least see some fish if not actually catch them. As we headed down to the river from the parking lot Will spotted some rising fish in the flat water above the stone bridge and decided to give them a go, taking two browns on a caddis. Within a couple of minutes of me getting to the ledge pool, Ken arrived. While we were talking Jim Feudale sauntered by stopping long enough to say howdy and then was off again to go exploring down stream. I heard later he found some cooperative fish and did well on caddis, or as Ken put it “took several”. Meanwhile, Pete and Patrick were up on the Savage. Patrick did very well taking 3 browns on a stimulator, and one on a pheasant tail.
Before breaking for lunch and naps, we decided to meet on the lower catch and release section of the North Branch later that afternoon after the flows were dropped back to 275 from the earlier white water release. I misjudged the time to get there so Will and I pulled in the lot around 5pm, 30 minutes later than I expected. Hiking down river we found everyone else already belly deep on the edge of a large deep blue pool about 1/3 of a mile below the parking lot. The expectation was that when the water went down the fish would come up. Some did, and a few looked large. The pool was very deep and too far to cast across. There were some good rises along the far bank so one by one we all started moving down to a half submerged gravel bar that had a fast run on either side of it. If you were in the wrong spot the drift was tricky and hard to drift the fly for any distance. Still, a couple of the guys did pretty well. Will took two nice rainbows on sulphers out of a fast run on the near bank that were 14-15 inches; and Pete took four rainbows of 10-12 inches, two on a caddis and two on March Browns. I saw his first from the unusual perspective of having the fish between him and me. I was standing on the far edge of the shallow gravel bar trying to fish the fast water sluicing out of the pool next to the far bank. Pete was sneaking in on a riser just over my left shoulder in the slow pool behind me, putting the rising fish between him and me. Watching him cast to the fish over my shoulder I could see the fly line unfold as it came at me then the fly settle on the water. I watched the fly do a long slow drift, saw the rise & take, and the fight to the net, very nice!
While we were all fishing on the bar Ken found a large mayfly hatching in a pool left over from the receding water. A large reddish brown fly was emerging with heavy mottled wings that he decided was a March brown. It was on Ken’s suggestion that Pete tied on a MB pattern that took his last two fish. Referencing Caucci’s & Nastasi’s HATCHES II after I got home, it suggests they may have been Stenonema Vicarium. These are large flies, size #10 or larger. The puzzling thing at the time was that while there were a lot of these large flies in the air I didn’t see much commotion on the water’s surface of them trying get in the air, I saw only a few stagger off the surface all afternoon, without any noticeable increase in fish activity. I used my hat to try to catch some that were hanging a few feet above a riffle close to me. I failed, but did get a good look. It occurred to me the next morning that these flies probably hadn’t just hatched, they didn’t have the grayish opaque wings of a freshly minted dun, and although their wings were darkly mottled and in full flutter, I thought they looked too clear for duns. I think they may have been imago males holding and dancing above the riffles waiting for the females to appear. However, if the females did come creating a spinner fall it was after we left. Even so, my only strike of the evening was on a high floating March Brown Dun.
Sunday morning had us dragging our waders and boots in for a good scrubbing with soap and hot water. We were headed for the Savage and trying to eliminate any impact from the whirling disease reported to be in the NB. We had decided earlier we wanted to dedicate some time to brookie fishing on the upper and lower Savage river system. We weren’t disappointed. The river was low, clear, and in full shade giving the whole scene a very green and serene look and feel. On the upper, Patrick caught the most with an even dozen ranging from 2 to 6 inches, while Pete and I caught fewer they ran a little bigger. Pete caught’em ranging up to 10 inches on a copper John, and said the big 10 incher took him under a rock then dashed out and wrapped the leader around his ankles, made a real fight out of it. I caught only three, a 2 inch, a 7 inch, and a beautiful 11 incher that smashed my Adams in a shaded run then streaked up stream making my little Hardy sing then wallowed the water all the way back to my net. Pete describes brookies as “gorgeous reasons to fish”, I like that description.
The lower Savage produced two more brookies for me, a 10 incher and an 8 incher both on a soft hackle I tied on after watching some caddis sputter around. The other thing the river produced was hordes of campers, hikers, fishers, and others in, around, and on the river. It was the first time I ever saw people dragging coolers and lawn chairs out into the middle of the Savage. To say it was crowded is an understatement.
Pete, Patrick, and I finished our Sunday on the Casselman at the river road bridge. Lured by the siren’s song of big ’uns, Pete and Patrick spent most of their time peering at targets under the bridge, hooking a couple but losing them before they hit the nets. I slowly waded down the center of the river flicking ants next to the bank. They weren’t big, but they were browns, all 5 of them. Later, just before leaving, we were back at the bridge pool where Patrick briefly hooked into a good one that had me hunting for my camera.
We hadn’t seen Ken or Steve all day and thought they had left then suddenly at the diner there they were! Steve said he had explored the Yock after taking a good rainbow on the Casselman, and apparently the brookie crew had just missed hooking up with Ken on the lower Savage earlier that afternoon. Ken had caught 2 brookies at the PhD pool and took 5 more browns at the lower bridge while hooking 4 others. I could tell we were deep into this trip because even with the 100 mile from home road trip rule of no calories, no cholesterol still in effect I noticed several of us were leaning more toward the salads on the menu and away from cheese and fries dishes.
Before leaving the diner some of us decided to meet and fish the Casselman the next morning. Getting on the water around 6am I fished a couple of hours before the others arrived. First I hooked a couple of rainbows, landing one losing the other. With fish obviously grubbing the bottom I was prospecting my boxes when I stumbled across a caddis nymph pattern that finally turned the trick. In the next 30 minutes as the group started to assemble I hooked and released 5 rainbows between 13 -14 inches, one pushing 15, the fastest action I had had all weekend. By this time it was approaching 9am and I hadn’t checked out yet so needed to be moving on. Before leaving I divvied up the caddis nymphs I had left in the box to those who were there and said I was headed east. Patrick told me later he didn’t have any luck on them but landed 6 fish out of the same pool on the smallest caddis he had in his box before leaving around noon. Ken had opted for the Savage and reported taking a brown at the PHD pool on a Griffiths, then finished the day by falling in. I think he might have learned that from me. Will also finished up Monday with a brown on an elk hair.
It was a little dry, but warm and sunny days throughout the weekend made it very pleasant to be outside. There were still wild flowers blooming in the woods and fields, and the mountains were soft folds in various shades of green. At times it did get a little frustrating trying to find the right fly, but we still caught a fair number of fish, and between us we fished all four of the major rivers in Garrett County. Think rain!
© Potomac-Patuxent Chapter of Trout Unlimited 1999-2017
P.O. Box 2865 Wheaton, MD 20915
This document last modified 12/29/09