The heat this week is approaching triple digits, but the Gunpowder River is still well below the threshold where trout become stressed by warm water. The upper reaches are still below 50 degrees in the morning, and may climb into the sixties in the mid to lower accesses of the catch and release sections. Areas below Bluemount Rd are likely to be too warm for fishing, so consider taking a water temp before fishing. Generally the trout become less active once the water gets into the 68-70 degree range, so fishing farther up river will be far more productive, and less stressful on the trout. The cooler water temps along the Gunpowder really drop the ambient air temps, and the rolling fog and a slight breeze act as air conditioning. In weather like this when yard work is a miserable chore, fishing can still be a way to cool off, and get out of the house.
I fished quite often over the past weeks in fluctuating flows, before taking a non fishing hiatus to the beach. I returned to low water, and decided to dust off a smaller 7 foot 3 weight fiber glass rod. I knew of a few good riffles holding lots of trout, and fished a small caddis dry on a long leader. Fish were taking caddis sporadically, but would hammer the fly on the first drift. In one run I rose ten fish without moving a step, landing five browns. The 8-11 inch fish really put a bend in the fiberglass rod. The most productive areas were the faster runs and riffles where the trout wouldn’t spook as easily. In the flatter, shallow sections I watched as trout spooked from as far as sixty feet away. In some cases I watched fish dart for cover before my boots got wet. Avoiding these areas and focusing on the deeper areas will result in better fishing. In the lower flows it can be feast or famine in terms of catching trout, but in some areas it can be quite productive. On a different day I spent an hour fishing where a lot of smaller trout hold, armed my six foot one weight Scott Fiber Touch rod. The rod and smooth drag on the reel was a blast on the 6-10 inch trout. I only saw one other angler between the two days on the water. Despite the low flows and excessive heat, the river is fishing well. The latest video post features some wild browns I caught on fiberglass rods.
The shop received an update that a release was made this morning at Prettyboy Dam. The latest release is an attempt to draw down reservoir levels to eliminate spillover. When reservoir levels drop below the lip of the dam, the release will be cut back to a lower flow. Flows are expected to level out at 100 CFs through the weekend into early next week. Water temps are fluctuating from the low to mid fifties through the day. Caddis and sulphurs are still hatching midday, and bringing fish to surface. Nymphs are working well, and anglers should consider fishing midge or nymph patterns down to a size 20-22. Streamers are a good bet around logjams in the mid to lower sections of river. The Gunpowder is at a great flow, cold and clear. Be sure to take advantage of these ideal conditions while they last!
This Spring the shop received numerous shipments of Simms boots, and with the felt sole ban in effect in Maryland, boots moved quickly in the shop. Many anglers commented that they were both pleased, and a little surprised at how well the new rubber soles performed. The positive feedback on the traction of these boots, in all variety of terrain anglers encounter, has been a big selling point. Limiting the spread of aquatic invasive species has become the biggest driving force for anglers in PA, VA, DC, DE, who are converting from felt to rubber without bans in those states. Many of us in the shop have worn most styles of Simms boots, and can find anglers the perfect fit based on comfort or price. A large shipment of boots, in a variety of styles and price points, arrived at the shop this week. The selection of boots in the shop is easily one of the best in the region. The boot styles available (pictured above) from left to right are the Freestones, Headwaters, RiverTeks and Guide boots. All the boots feature the same Vibram StreamTread sole, which allow anglers the option of using screw in studs. The Freestones retail at $129.95, the Headwaters for $149.95 and the RiverTek at $169.95. The Guide boot with higher ankle support and leather construction retails for $199.95.
The Gunpowder River flow climbed into the 600 CFs range over the weekend. A release was made to stop the hot spillover, which began after a thunder storm produced heavy rains. The water temp rose into the low seventies, but quickly dropped when the valve was opened. Flows are now back to a normal 103 CFs, and a chilly 50 degrees. Sulphurs and caddis are still bringing fish to the surface, and small nymphs will work when the hatch slows. A black Zonker worked well for me on the Gunpowder, as the flow dropped yesterday evening. A few days ago I decided to try my luck on a small stream, and happened onto some decent sized brook trout. Hiking a few miles away it switched over to primarily smallmouth and largemouth bass. The fish were smaller in this stream, but still eager to hit a good sized streamer. I covered a lot of ground and the water was surprisingly cold despite hundred degree days earlier in the week. The bass were fun for a while, but I relocated to still water with a lot of carp, which were quite a challenge. In the clear water the fish were ultra selective about taking my nymph, but I finally connected with a small one. The Scott G2 four weight got quite a bend in it, as this fish refused to budge. Numerous carp pushing ten pounds had me rethinking my plans, since a three pounder was tough to turn on such a light rod. The day took an interesting turn when I was leaving for home. I bushwhacked through some brush toward the gurgle of falling water. A small water fall made by this tiny stream was the only give away it existed, since the flowing stream emptied into swampy marsh. I walked up a few hundred feet, and after feeling the cool breeze coming off the water, took a water temp in the high fifties. The stream shielded from the heat by the canopy of the trees, and obviously fed by cold water, looked perfect for brook trout. I dapped the streamer in a bathtub size pool. A few small shapes darted out from under the rock for the big fly. A switch to a small pheasant tail quickly produced a brook trout. I didn’t have my small stream rod, but the 9 foot rod allowed me to hang back, and dap nymphs in each sink to bathtub sized pool. Twenty five minutes later and my total landed was 9 small brook trout. These native trout had vivid markings, and the unbridled aggression of trout living in such small waters. The thick ferns, heavy shade and damp environment created a micro climate that dropped the air temp a few degrees. Each bend in the stream lured me to explore farther and farther up this creek. Once the water shrank and divided, I knew it was time to turn around. The latest video post features an interesting day, which started and ended with native brook trout, and a mix of bass, browns and carp.
Flows were bumped up to 65 CFs at Falls Road on the Gunpowder River. Currently the gauge is down, but the water is flowing at good levels. Water temps climb from 48 degrees to around 58 during the afternoon. The change in flow and fluctuation in temps has the sulphurs hatching midday. I guided an angler yesterday, and we encountered a quick sulphur hatch from 1-3pm. One of our other guides was out in the morning, and reported seeing sulphurs hatching all morning. The evening is still a good time to catch a spinnerfall. Many anglers reported rising trout after 7:30 until dark. The river is quite cold, but in this heat a few of us are wet wading. The conditions improved from the low flows last week, but I haven’t seen another angler after two days on the water. The heat may be keeping many anglers off the river, but the cold water is a great escape on a hot day. Rising trout and hatching insects are just an added bonus for those seeking refuge from unusual June weather.
There are many warm water fishing options in Central Maryland during the Summer months. Anglers can fish large reservoirs, ponds, rivers and even small streams across the state. Once June arrives I start to spend a day or two a week exploring numerous warm water hotspots. I went over to Loch Raven Reservoir last week armed with my 1 weight Scott fiber glass rod. I quickly located a fallen tree swarming with crappies. My camera was dead, so it was just an hour of catching and releasing a few dozen “paper mouths.” A few days later I returned to the area to find the fish were either pulled out, or they moved into deeper water. A long hike into a remote area lead to a fallen tree loaded with good sized blue gills. The small rod got quite a workout, and the fish were taking damsel fly nymphs. The casts were short, but stripping the fly amongst the submerged branches was the hard part. There was a few large mouth between 2-4 pounds cruising the shallows, but I never bothered to cast to them with such a small rod. The next day I targeted carp in a wide river, where the big fish cruise the shallows. The water was very stained after recent rains, so it was really tough to get the carp to notice the fly. I hooked six fish, broke one off, landed two and lost the others on the take. The Summer ahead should provide many good days chasing these often wary, but big fish.
A few days ago I decided to try an interesting small stream I never fished. I marked this stream on my car’s GPS last year while running errands. I hoped to find wild browns in the small creek. I walked down to the first pool and rigged up a small bugger on the one weight. The water was clear and dark shapes holding on the bottom moved slightly. I made a cast and immediately coaxed a fish to rise off the bottom. The fish slammed the fly. I was surprised by the fight, and also to reel in a chunky eleven inch smallmouth. I moved to higher ground to get a better view of the pool. A dozen smallmouth, between ten and seventeen inches, shared the deep pool with sunfish and suckers. A quick switch to my Scott G2 9 foot 4 weight, and I returned to the pool better prepared. I hooked the two biggest bass in the pool, but only landed a few ten to twelve inch bass. The rest of the day was spent stalking the shallow pools, spotting fish and exploring new water. I even filmed while fishing, and managed to get a few aggressive takes on camera. A large white Zonker on 4X was the only fly I fished the whole day. The section held a lot of bass and my tally neared twenty bass landed, and many others spooked or missed. I landed a few 14-15 inch bass, and only a couple under ten inches. A few larger small mouth bass pushing three to four pounds are sure to require a return trip. The latest video post features a mash up of three different warm water outings.
The past two releases from Prettyboy Dam brought water temps down to safe levels for trout. The water temp was climbing into the upper sixties last week due to surface spillover. The flow went from a mix of spillover and release to a flow of 150 CFs. The river temps dropped down to the low fifties, and the reservoir levels dropped just below the lip of the Prettyboy Dam. Wednesday morning flows were cut back to 30 CFs with 46-48 degree water pulled from a lower gate. The threat of thunderstorms and water lapping only inches from spilling over was cause for an additional release. In an effort to prevent another spillover event, water was released on Wednesday night to create a “storm buffer”. Currently both reservoirs are at full capacity, which creates a lack for the need to release water from Prettyboy Dam. Essentially, once Loch Raven Reservoir is full any water that spills over is lost for drinking water purposes. The City, while managing water for human use, does respond quickly to keep the river cold for the trout. Many anglers lament the lower flows, but water temperature is obviously a much bigger issue than the volume when it comes to the trout’s survival. As water use increases through the Summer, more water may be released. Currently the water is back to 30 CFs, and fluctuating daily between 46 to 55 degrees. Long leaders, thin tippet and a bit of stealth will improve chances of catching the wary wild browns. In the low water many fish will concentrate in the deeper holes and runs. Nymphing, swinging small nymphs, or even sight fishing without an indicator can be effective. Sulphurs and caddis are still the predominant hatches, but anglers can do well fishing ants and beetles on top. The river is ice cold, clear and a great place to escape on a hot day. If the approaching Summer is a dry one, many rivers and streams in the region will become too low and warm to fish. The Gunpowder will be cold and fishable all Summer, and has a large reserve of cold water.
A heatwave brought daily highs into the mid to high nineties in Northern Baltimore. The Gunpowder, which has leveled out at an ideal 150 Cfs between 50-53 degrees, is a perfect place to cool down on a hot day. The recent gate change last week has created more opportunities for anglers seeking hatching bugs and dry fly fishing throughout the day. Reports from guides, clients and anglers over the weekend detailed good morning and midday fishing on the surface. The evenings are still best, but fishing for a few hours at any time of day can be productive. Fishing nymph tandems under an indicator or swinging wets will yield more fish, and larger browns. The brown above was caught by Alex McCrickard, a few days before he left for a Summer of guiding in Wyoming.
Here are some photos from the past few days on the Gunpowder. I caught some nice fish during the sulphur hatch including this 15 inch brown last night right before dark. The sulphurs are now a size # 16 – 18. Nymphing with a size # 16 or 18 hares ear nymph has been deadly in the afternoons.
I’ve watched the USGS gauge fluctuate on the Savage River all Spring, and finally found a window to go fishing. I was on the water at noon on Tuesday, as the Savage dropped from the 250 CFs range. The higher water makes for some great fishing, especially throwing dries in the pockets. I arrived, rigged up a sixteen foot 5X leader, and tied on a size 12 snow shoe march brown. I started in a rough water area, fishing the small pockets behind boulders, and where the soft seams meet the fast water. The trout were looking up, and I rose quite a few, but landed 6 fish by dinnertime. I took a quick break, and rigged a streamer on another rod. Two deep pools looked like good places for big fish, so I worked them thoroughly with a sink tip. The first pool didn’t give up a strike, but the second pool left me walking away defeated. Twenty minutes without a strike caused my attention to wane, until something pulled the line from my hand between strips and started taking line off the reel. I didn’t feel a strike, just instant fish running drag. The chase was on as the rod bucked violently. I adjusted the drag, kept pressure on the fish and much head shaking ensued. The strength, weight and bend in my rod made me realize this was likely the biggest trout I’ve ever hooked in the Savage. I felt the trout dive to the bottom, and one more head shake was one too many. The only thing worse than losing a big trout is not even getting a glimpse. I went back to fishing dries, and ended the day with 9 fish in the net. March browns, caddis and a few sulphurs hatched in small numbers, but I never saw any rises until dark.
Wednesday I took two rods down to a middle section of river that gives up some nice fish. I went through with dries, and than with nymphs, but only picked off two decent browns. I moved back up to the upper sections, and fished the same dry fly all day. I covered a lot of ground, and caught the triple combo; brookie, brown and rainbow trout. I had two 15 inch browns all the way to the net, and just popped them off. I moved down to a flat before dark, and had an encounter with the smallest fawn I have ever seen. It made a run toward the river, and I set my rod down to take a picture. I moved down river, and the deer doubled back. It ran clumsily right at my rod, but stopped a foot short of trampling it. I snapped a pic of this tiny deer, which was only as tall as the first stripping guide. I didn’t see any risers in the flat, and moved into choppy water. Before it got totally dark a few hendricksons, march browns and sulphurs hovered over the river. I left the water with 9 fish landed, quite a few misses and break-offs. On Thursday I hiked up through one of the lowest sections of river. I wanted to nymph, and quickly caught a half dozen bows on a size 14 pheasant tail. I picked up a couple of nice browns and brookies on a larger rubber legged nymph. In the afternoon I went back to dries, but since the levels had dropped 100 CFs, the fish were not nearly as aggressive. The fishing was still very good, and my total landed hit 14 fish. Plans to wait out the last evening for a spinnerfall were abandoned after thunderstorms chased me off the water. I slept in late and hit the road on Friday. The latest video post features some river shots, insects and some trout I caught on the Savage.
Clouds of mayflies weren’t the only clouds hovering over the river this week. Heavy rain the past few days caused the Gunpowder to hit nearly 600 CFs, and steadily rising as a light rain falls in Monkton today. Current USGS reading at Falls Road today is 596 CFs, and climbing straight up. A good possibility of thunderstorms later today and tomorrow means anglers should check the gauge before the weekend. 100-300 CFs is wadeable, although anglers should be cautious on the higher end of that range. 300-400+ CFs has limited wading options, but fishing is still possible from the banks or shallows of wide flats. Flows over 500+CFs can be very difficult to fish, although a few sections still allow fishing streamers from the bank. Before all this rain the Gunpowder had dropped down to just over 100 CFs, and water temps in the low sixties. The fishing really turned on these past few weeks. The sulphur hatch is three weeks in and going strong. We ran many guided trips the past two weeks, and hit some great hatches in the evenings. The sulphurs start hatching in the morning and again between 3-6 pm. Swinging nymphs or fishing an indicator rig will catch fish through the middle of the day. Fishing snow shoe pheasant tails to the browns slashing at emerging sulphurs will entice the aggressive trout. Traditional dun patterns will get strikes fished blind in riffles and pocket water. The hatch fishing over rising trout in the late evening is pretty exciting. I encountered a few heavy spinnerfalls, where the bugs numbered well into the hundreds, if not thousands. On two evenings there were “too many” bugs, a situation where the trout became tough to catch with all the naturals floating past. I was guiding, so I didn’t have my camera to film the hatch. One evening I finally did film a big cloud of spinners, as they returned to the water. Unfortunately, my camera does not focus very well on tiny objects flying through the air, nor does it do well in low light conditions. When I got home the footage was far less clear than witnessed first hand, but even in the slightly grainy shot, it is obvious there are a lot of mayflies in the air. The latest video post shows why staying late on the water can be worth the hike out in the dark.