Low Flow Tips for Fly Fishing the Gunpowder River

The low water, at 24 CFs, has changed the fishing on the Gunpowder River compared to the higher flows we’ve seen the past three months. Gone are the days of big indicators, three spilt shot rigs and waist high water that threatens to knock you down. The soft edges that held trout weeks ago are now bone dry, but trout are still taking flies eagerly. Let’s face it, we dodged the low water bullet all summer while most rivers in the region suffered. Dry flies are a great option as they land softer than bead heads and won’t hang up in shallow riffles. Many good sized pools and runs now hold a lot of fish that have left areas that are now too shallow to hold fish. Caddis, olives and midges are good ideas for searching patterns.
Anglers need to stay out of the water and stay low! The low water levels mean that anglers are now much more visible in the fish’s sight window. Avoid peering over high banks into pools below, and wading downstream. Walk downstream on trails away from river’s edge, not down the exposed gravel below the high water mark. Target the better pools, approach from well below and stay low. Kneeling or crouching may help in some areas but usually is not required in most places.
Longer casts can help avoid spooking trout, but a lot of false casting over fish will put them down. Leaders 10-14 feet ending in 7X are a great idea right now. Prospect with dries while stalking upriver, and keep an eye out for trout holding on the bottom. Using 7X on nymphs is also a good idea where sight fishing is possible. A standard two beaded nymph rig needs little additional weight to reach pools 3-4 feet deep, if you cast well above the fish.
Fish streamers in the best looking areas around deep water, structure or large rocks. On a recent outing one small brown was nearly taken off my hook by not one, but two 17 inch browns that appeared from a big log jam competing for the eight inch brown writhing on my hook. A followup streamer cast a few hours later drew the two big browns out of hiding and nearly to my feet, but neither would commit. Streamers may be the best option for bigger fish, but lower water in some stretches makes for unproductive streamer fishing.
The flows are not expected to change for the next few months, so the fish will adapt to the change and so should  anglers. The leaves are turning vivid reds and yellows, and these low flows are stranding many of leaves along the exposed shoreline. The leaves have yet to end up in the river in such number that fishing is tough. At least not yet.