July 10- 11 2009- Savage River, Rocky Gap, MD.
Late afternoon on the streams. Mid morning to mid afternoon on the lake.
I found myself back East again last weekend. This time in Maryland for our bi-annual family reunion. Usually this means I take a week or so off and try to find some nice eastern fishing waters but this year, I had a hard time really finding any good information about fishing in Maryland. The same 3 streams were always mentioned, the Savage River, North Fork of the Potomac and the Casselman River, as if Maryland only had 3 fishable streams. I knew that was not the case but didn’t do well in my search for small, native brook trout streams.
In the end, I picked the Savage River, mainly due to the character I’d seen in photos more than anything. It turns out that the Savage is widely thought of as the best river in the state but it also appears to be a little over an hour from my Grandmother’s house or to put it in fishing terms, with less than 30 min of additional driving, I could be fishing at least 3 different wild trout fisheries instead of the put and take fishing at Dunbar Creek or Meadow Run. It also turned out that there were several native Brookie streams close by, more to my liking, which will definitely get more attention on my next trip.
Vita and I flew into Washington DC and spent the evening among the monuments before making the two hour drive to Rocky Gap Resort. Rocky Gap Resort was were the family reunion was held and it lay inside Rocky Gap state park on the shores of Lake Habeeb. (Named after the fellow responsible for the development of the park.)
I played the incognito cousin and within hours of arriving at the resort, I was out the door and headed for the river. The road to the Savage River travels through the New Germany state park and when I passed a forest ranger station I decided to stop.
The resort web site reads as if there’s a fully stocked outfitter right on the premises. I was disappointed to find out that it was simply a desk, manned by a young woman who simply booked tours and knew nothing of fishing. She pointed me in the direction of several other employees that were similarly clueless. I came to Maryland with one goal and that was to return to California with a good Maryland fishing guide. I was hoping to get this from the "outfitter."
The ranger station didn’t have any fishing books but I was able to get a map and some good information on native Brook Trout streams nearby. “This one has the highest concentration of Brook Trout” the ranger said when I asked him about a small trickle of water that appeared to flow under the main road. I knew from fishing Dunbar Creek that these small eastern streams are at the mercy of the rain and run off. This particular stream had 3 forks and appeared to be a candidate for good flows this time of year. Before I left, the ranger told me there was an Orvis shop right on the river, so that was my next destination.
The shop was small but well supplied and the owner knowledgeable. It was right on the river and after I picked up a book and a half dozen flies, the owner and I went out back where he showed me some largish trout taking midges on the far bank- shades of Hot Creek Ranch. I probably spent too much time there but I enjoyed the company and appreciated his help. He suggested that I drive to the next pull out and start fishing there. This I did.
The stream was similar to the Upper Sac but with an eastern flare. Swirling pocket water mid stream with smooth slicks under the rhododendron, hickory and maple. Several internet forums referred to the stream as “technical” and I quickly found out why and why the fellow at the fly shop said it was best not to let the leader hit the water. The swirling currents were maddening. The proper thing to do would have probably been to lengthen my 7.5ft leader but I was too lazy to do this and didn’t feel like dapping with a dry fly. I dealt with the currents as best I could and wasn’t very successful. One nice little brown trout did come hand though.
I made a downstream curve cast with an upstream mend against the far bank. The fly slowly drifted back toward a protruding rock. “There’s got to be a fish there” I thought to myself. Just then the little brown had a go at my dry and I set the hook. I was happy to land the bright yellow brown trout, the colors of which rivaled the Butterball Browns in Yosemite.
I left the savage river with just enough time to fish two other streams for a short period of time. Both were native Brook Trout streams with a character much like Dunbar Creek, a wet roadway in a bright green forest- uniformly wide with varying degrees of depth. Often times the sky can be seen as a narrow ribbon weaving it way along the top of the trees.
The access points to both streams were the stone bridges under which they flowed. Despite my experience at the Savage, I had high expectations for the Brookie streams. They were quickly dashed when I didn’t see any fish at the first stream and quickly came upon a fallen tree which created a natural barrier to my upstream adventure. I climbed out and made my way to the second stream- the stream that I had originally identified on the map in the ranger station.
Immediately I could feel the water in this stream was colder as it flowed over the thin neoprene boot of my travel waders. I quickly realized that the holes in the slick rock and pebble surface that made up the floor of this stream were deeper than one might expect….and there were fish. I spooked one fish in what I thought was a pocket to shallow to hold fish and missed several strikes on my dry from others. Unfortunately, it was late and I had to cut my time on this second stream short. It will have to wait until my next visit to my grandmothers.
I wasn’t able to catch any native Brook Trout this trip but the next day I was able to fish the lake at the resort and catch mostly bluegill. I worked counter clockwise along the lake and cast to bass whenever one came into view. Several times during the day I had bass following the Stillwater nymph I was using to catch the bluegill. At first I thought the bass were following the bluegill but I realized that they were in fact following the fly when during one retrieve, the bass and bluegill came from two different directions. I quickly switched to the conehead frog pattern that I’ve been using for the past two years, which turns out to be a variation of the Conehead Madonna fly.
I had 4 of these flies left and on my first cast, I lost one to the submerged tree I was casting to. I cut my 5x leader back to the thick stuff and tied on another fly. With the new fly tied securely on a thicker leader I made several more casts. Eventually, the bass came back into few. I cast the fly out, gave it a few twitches and fish on! What a rush. I landed the bass and continued to catch bluegill until the afternoon thunderstorms emerged.