August Outing Reports 2011

Savage River Campout August 20-21

With scattered thunderstorms forecasted all weekend we kept our eyes on the weather report for Garrett County. Still trying to decide whether or not to scrub the camping trip that coming Saturday, Tim Bowers emailed me Thursday saying to heck with the weather, let’s go. So Friday night during a light rain I loaded the truck with camping & fishing gear and we pulled out the next morning at O dark thirty.

Driving up Savage River Road through bright sunshine there were numerous cars in the pull-offs from the Iron Bridge all the way up to the PhD Pool. Tim had looked at the weather report the evening before and commented the entire mountain was surrounded by severe weather, so, we decided to fish first, then set up the tents, not quite yet committing ourselves whole heartedly to the idea of camping.

Hiking up to the no trespass sign just below the dam there’s a nice tumbling run that tails out into a long pool. Even with all the rain the river was clear, and as low as I’ve ever fished it. We weren’t there 10 minutes before fish were rising the whole length of the pool. Posting ourselves at opposite ends we settled into our fly boxes and attempted to crack the code. The fish came in splashy rises, but no resistance on the hook set. Getting a little frustrated we fished a variety of flies from beetles and crane flies to small midges and mayfly imitations from sizes #10 to #24. Fish would rush up to inspect or splash an offering on its first couple of drifts then ignore us completely until another fly change. I think we each must have had close to a dozen of those splashy false takes before a fish finally took a tiny #24 sparse hackled winged dun. Without hesitation she sucked it in then dove right through a three foot long wad of algae waving in the current. I had her on for a minute and could see her twisting down deep in the pool algae collecting on the leader until eventually it pulling the hook. I don’ think this particular stuff is an invasive, looked like the same algae I’ve seen for years everywhere. Lots of it though, and made nymphing next to impossible in some places. There is supposed to be a high water event this September, and I hope that clears most of this crap out of the river before the October Campout. I hooked another on that same fly, but after that they wouldn’t look at it. Later I ended up landing a rainbow on a crane fly. Tim getting two, a brown on a #18 olive, and an eleven inch brookie.

Mid afternoon we heading back to the camping area to eat an early dinner and set up the tents. Over the years the food on these trips has graduated from beans and soup right out of the can, to this trip of Tim grilling Delmonico steaks, corn on the cob served with a baked potato bathed in butter. It is getting competitive, and lately I’ve been considering how I’m gonna top that fare in October. If it keeps up I’m going to have to add gourmet cooking to the outings advertisement.

Ken and Steve stopped by; they had fished up and down the river from the Iron Bridge to just below the dam. Steve hooked and lost a couple on a Pink San Juan, Ken getting a rainbow and losing a brown on a #20 Griffiths gnat.

Tim, Ken, and Steve

Tim grilling corn & steaks

Butterfly on Indian Paintbrush

They went up Friday afternoon and had been on the mountain through that storm Tim was watching on radar, where the scroll across the bottom said if you’re in the area seek shelter immediately! Ken said they drove through rain on the way up but getting to Westernport it quit and Savage River road was dry, so they went on up to fish. But every time they rigged up they were driven back into the truck by lightning bolts and heavy rain, and eventually gave up the fishing in favor of a dry motel. Ken said a rain soaked angler came up into the parking lot who had fished between and through those squalls, telling them he had caught a couple above the PhD Pool, then a good 15 inch brown in the Pool on a midge. So, the fish weren’t concerned about the weather.

We lounged around, played with Steve’s new bamboo rod, very nice, then after checking the weather on Steve’s ipad got around to the business of setting up camp. By the way, if you’re coming up in October don’t pass up any chances to buy local wood. We forgot to get some coming in and had to drive back down into town. The gas station in Westernport was out, and we ended up driving past the 220 turn off toward Keyser to another mini mart and got their last bundle. Buy only local wood and not bring any from outside the area to prevent the transmission of invasive species.

Tim in the mist

Hiking back up to the same spot after setting up the tents we fished till dark. As dusk came on a mist materialized down river then advanced up the canyon and enveloped us. Just about dusk I hooked a large Rainbow on a # 20 Henryville that was rising to something just off the far bank. She wallowed around in the shallow water on the hook set then rolled off into the deeper water. I was standing on a rock high enough to plainly see her as she slid across the stream bottom straight towards me. Her length surprised and I got off that rock so I could move around better. I had her on for what seemed like several minutes while she made some great leaps then shot downstream; I followed her into the run below. I got her close to the net thought I had her whipped before another good run wound me around a big rock mid stream and she was gone. I was reminded and laughed in empathy about something Steve had said earlier in the day relating to an experience of his own, “at the very last instant I was able to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory”! I think it was the largest fish I’ve ever hooked in the savage and told Tim it was worth the drive out just for that by itself.

We noticed quite a number of rainbows in this pool and figured they must have washed down out of the lake during last winter’s dam repair. Who knows what else is in there. Earlier that afternoon on the way back to set up the tents I spotted what at first glance appeared to be a yellow/orange spade shaped leaf with black venations drifting in the current, then it suddenly swung around and swam upstream and held under a rock. I was tying on a woolly bugger to try for it but something must have spooked it. It shot out and swam a couple of fast circles then and disappeared under rock before I could get a better look. I tried to drift my booger under the rock but didn’t get a hit. Don’t know what it was, maybe a chunky palomino but the thin black wavy lines running from gill plates down onto the sides didn’t make sense. Or, maybe it was a perch of some kind, or maybe even a big goldfish? Who knows? But I’m sure it was a fish.

The weather all day had been a mix of sun and clouds warm but not hot. The scenery mostly a palette of greens and browns splashed here and there with the deep red of Indian paint brush where butterflies dueled over the flowers, the rock moss so bright it looked illuminated.

If you like to listen to trains in the night then camping next to the river is a real treat. First you hear a distant whistle, and then they come chugging up the valley. About midnight an engine was laboring so hard to make the grade the whole valley seemed to shake for fifteen minutes as it crawled by, I got out of the tent and was met by a rush of stars, magnificent! Something lost if you’re a city dweller.

Ken landing a rainbow

Steve and Ken at the PhD Pool

Sunday morning the truck said it was a comfortable 61 degrees; the air had a rainy feel to it so we knocked down the tents and packed up right after breakfast. Before heading up river looked at the PhD Pool and found Ken and Steve were there and already into fish, Ken landing rainbow on a Pink San Juan. Ken said the fish were actively chasing but not readily taking. That sounded familiar.

We started just below the dam again and worked our way down. We found some really nice sized browns in a long deep pool where I was able to hook three but landed nary a one, lost all three just after poor hook sets. That can’t be good. Around lunch time it began to rain so we decided to pack it in and head back.

Leaving our waders on and grilling in the rain we decided it was a great trip just not enough of it. The flows were low which allowed for some easy wading to some usually hard to reach places. But, I’m looking forward to more normal flows in October and hopefully moss free!

Dennis Covert


Yellow Breeches White Fly Hatch August 24

I don’t remember how many years we’ve been doing it, but on the Whitefly outing Ken Bowyer and I have been going up early and fishing the Le tort. It makes for a nice full day. Fish, have lunch, then head to the Yellow Breeches to stake out a spot.

The Letort

Technical is not an adequate term to describe fishing this Spring Creek, its beyond technically difficult. The Creek is wide, and a living sponge, with narrow channels coursing through its undulating cress beds a few pools here and there. In some places there are no deep spots at all, just a few inches of water running over the cress and around clumps of drowned brush and weeds.

The banks are soft and springy, the general rule is if it’s green it’s ok to step on, if it’s brown go around. Large stretches of creek have no definable bank. In these places the water spills out into the adjoining meadows. Ken and I attempting to reach a nice pool maybe 50 yards across a flooded meadow started out wading through waist high weeds and knee deep water that got deeper as we went. About half way there I stepped in a hole and began to have thoughts of falling through the weed bed and swallowed up whole. Chickening out I turned back and left that pool to the herons. We did find places to fish but our effective drifts were short. If the line didn’t get caught on a weed, stick, or snagged in the cress, the braided currents soon had their way. It’s tough, but beautiful, eerily beautiful, but beautiful. Fifty shades of green, delicate flowers, willows weeping along the banks, and wild trout.

Letort Brown caught by Dennis

It’s tough but we did manage to hook a couple fish. Ken hooked but lost a fish on a #18 beadhead brassie, and I landed a 10 inch brown on a tan shell back scud. But by early afternoon the sun was beginning to climb and bringing the heat with it, so we retreated to Carlisle for some ice cream and air conditioning.

Refreshed, we headed out to the Breeches. We stopped at the run first just to take look. Standing on the bridge we could see two large rainbows in the run just below, a white fly hanging out of the largest ones jaw making him easy to spot. Parking at the Allenberry we suited up.

This is definitely a gentleman’s hatch, easy access, easy wading, and more social than you really want it to be. It was around 3 pm so we had over 4 hours to fish before even the big Hex came off. We had the whole stretch of river to ourselves for a little while but after about a half hour other anglers started to show up. For the next three hours we fished a variety of flies. Ken caught a couple on beetles, and I got three, one each on a green weenie, a pink San Juan, and wooly bugger.

Ken on the Yellow Breeches

Around 7 pm I looked up to Hexagenia dancing in the sky. These are huge flies and easy to see and 15 minutes after that the first white flies began to appear. I think the white flies must be tastier, because I only saw one swirl on a hex, but fish were jumping all over just as soon as the white flies came off.

Some years the hatch isn’t very good, and some nights it doesn’t really come off at all. It’ll start late some evenings and just sputter along with a few fish coming up and then be over in minutes. But this was one of the best hatches I’ve ever seen. Within minutes after it started scores of flies were pouring off the surface, and the water was churning with fish. Two or three fish would be in the air at the same time chasing flies even after they had lifted off the water. I put on a dun I bought at the shop a few years ago; it has a silver ribbing and just caught my attention I guess. I had a couple of fish charge in for a look but no takes until I clipped a wedge out of the hackle. I like to skate my fly then let it settle back and drift a little then skate it again. With all the flies on the water I feel I need to do something to get the fish’s attention. It took me awhile to get my first take.

I landed a couple then miss took a lull in the action for the fish switching to the spinner. Within a minute of tying one on I knew I had made a mistake. More flies came off and more fish were after them and I should have still been rock’n that dun. It was getting darker and I didn’t want to change back to the dun just to have to re- tie on the spinner so I left it. It was probably another 10 minutes before the fish stopped jumping and settled into those sipping rises signaling they were on the spinner. With all the real flies on the water it’s a little bit amazing anglers catch anything at all, but people were hooking up all around. I could see ken’s rod bending from time to time, and began to think something was wrong with my spinner before I got my first hook up. Everybody is in working in close, each trying to get close to the fish. Even in the dark we were conscious of each other and adjusted our casting to keep from tangling up.

The spinner fall lasted well past dark, I landed three, Ken one then it was over. There were still some spinners falling but after what seemed like an hour, maybe not quite, the fish were probably gorged. I would like to fish this hatch several times during the week, but the two hour ride back home puts it somewhere around midnight, and my alarm goes off at 4:30 am. It’s good hatch, but over for me till next year. It’s still going though, so if ya have time head on up.

Dennis Covert