I arrived on Sunday October 18th in the afternoon at the Savage River after a three hour drive across Maryland through some incredible Fall scenery. The air temps were in the high thirties in the mountains and continued to climb into the fifties each day through the week. I decided to focus on nymphing the deeper runs and chutes found throughout miles of the Savage, as levels were perfect at 100 Cfs with water temps in the high fifties. In a few hours that first afternoon I caught a few ten to twelve inch browns, and cycled through a number of different patterns. On Monday morning I hiked into a favorite stretch and started working a deep, almost bottomless pool. After three drifts, I made a weight adjustment and on the fourth drift the indicator shot under and I set the hook on what initially felt like a rock. The rod doubled over and the fish just bulldogged me to the bottom in a back and forth battle; over and over again. I never got a clear look until I turned the fish at the net, but by the strength of the runs I knew it was a big fish. I measured the brown (pictured below) out at 18 inches, thick bodied and a head as big as my size ten Patagonia River Walker boot. Finally recovered from my injury (foot also pictured below) I felt a bit of redemption landing this particular fish after missing out on a month of guiding/fishing and canceled trips to Colorado and Western Maryland.
Using my Scott S4 10 foot 4 weight I dredged the bottom of the deepest holes with long 12-14 foot leaders, thingamabobber and using a lot of weight to get the flies deep. I fished a number of nymph patterns, and the fish were willing to take a variety of different flies, if the drift was good. Cleaning leaves and algae off the hook were frequent chores, but deep nymphing as usual on the Savage. I covered a lot of water by Monday afternoon and landed over a dozen browns, with the majority over twelve inches. In addition to the brown above, and a number of nine to thirteen inch browns, I measured out one fourteen, one fifteen, one sixteen, and one sixteen and a half inch brown by day’s end. I had three more days of fishing left, and doubted any of the coming days would top this day. On Tuesday I moved a few miles into a different stretch of river with the arrival of warm and sunny weather. The hatches really started mid morning and I saw caddis, midges, and counted four different mayfly species. I saw a few risers at the end of a midday spinnerfall, but stuck with the deep nymphing rig. At the end of the day Tuesday I caught a few seven to ten inch brook trout and ten browns ranging from eight to thirteen inches, with three more browns over fourteen inches. Between the Fall foliage, warm weather and great fishing on miles of water with almost no anglers, it really couldn’t get much better.
On Wednesday the Savage flows increased to 250 Cfs in an attempt to meet elevation goals for draining the reservoir for dam repairs this Winter. It seemed as good a time as any to drive over to the North Branch and wet a line, as the Savage fish adjusted to the rising water. I fished the Barnum access and came across a number of other anglers who relayed decent catches on bead head nymphs, san juan worms, wet flies and egg patterns. I cycled through a number of different patterns but had success on caddis pupas, scud patterns and pink San Juans. The majority of trout landed were rainbows 12-19 inches, and a few smaller browns. After speaking to ten or twelve anglers on the same stretch, few big browns were seen or landed, so I planned to fish the Savage the next day. Thursday was spent finding pools and pocket water where a decent drift in softer water with nymphs was possible with the rougher 250 Cfs flow. I decided in the last hour of daylight to break out my streamer rig, a Sage Z-Axis 10 foot 5 weight paired with a sinking tip line and a five inch articulated streamer on 3x tippet. I had a number of chases and swipes, and only one solid hook up, which pulled free. I ended the day content with eight fish all over ten inches with one heavy fourteen inch brown to show for a lot of rough wading situations, lost flies and lost fish in the higher flows. Friday was spent working in the rain, guiding a client who had never fished the North Branch. We jumped in where we could amongst the crowds above Barnum and fished up to the island, having a good time landing bows from 13-19 inches, and hooking a few other trout that shook the fly. On Saturday I slept in late and headed for home mid morning after a great week of weather, camping and catching some beautifully colored, hard fighting wild browns. The latest video features a quick shot of a BWO, caddis and parallep spinner I saw hatching early in the week on the Savage. It also includes footage of wild browns in a variety of sizes all caught in the Savage River.