It was 40 degrees when I pulled into the lot at Masemore at 10 am, the sun was out, it was supposed to warm up, and looked to be the makins’ of a fine day. As the guys pulled in I recorded their fly choices then off we scattered till three that afternoon. The fly choices are as follows: Ken Bowyer #20 ICSI midge, Brad Bickford #18 stonefly, Bob Dietz soft hackle, Carl Smolka soft hackle, Will Amland #18 stonefly, Steve Graves bead head soft hackle, Carter Wildermuth hare’s ear soft hackle, & myself a soft hackle.
This time of year really gives a different perspective of the Gunpowder than in summer when the trees are leafed out blocking visibility. Walking upstream I could see all the way to the ridge tops and make out the fences and roofs of private residences sticking above the skyline. Where the path rose up along the hillsides I looked down into the water for fish seeing a few, but mostly what caught my eye were the long bulbous strands of didymo undulating in the current behind rocks and other debris it was attached to, smaller chunks of it broken off floating free at all levels of the water column . The upper section of the catch & release section really seems to be heavily infested. If you go, don’t forget to hit the boot washing stations provided on your way out.
I thought it felt like it might be getting a little warmer and was keeping a lookout for stoneflies or any rises. Getting to a pool I usually fish on this stretch of the river I spotted a crushed Styrofoam worm box stuffed under a dead tree trunk close to the remnants of a campfire. Bait fishing at night by camp fire seems quite bold but that is what the evidence suggested. Seeing no flies or rises, I made a few casts into the pool letting my soft hackle drift in the film then pulling it under at the end of the drift letting it hold in the current a moment before the retrieve. No dice so I headed up stream.
Two guys were already in the next couple of pools I wanted to fish, but I saw a guy moving out of a good stretch just above them and waded in. I wasn’t even in casting position when I saw the first rise, then another, and another. In the next 30 minutes two things became apparent; they didn’t want my soft hackle, and it wasn’t getting any warmer. The sunny skies were turning overcast and a cold building wind had me wishing I had brought my stocking cap.
It didn’t take long to identify what the fish were rising to, catching one of the little gray bits bouncing off the surface and buzzing through the air proved to be tiny midges with a dark greenish/brown body in about #32. The fish were definitely on the duns, noses clearing the surface and sometimes the whole fish leaping clear in hot pursuit of a bug. I soon gave up on my soft hackle and spent the next two hours tying on midge patterns, scaling down to 8 X tippet and lengthening the leader out to about 12 feet. I couldn’t get as close as I wanted for spooking the fish, and the wind was picking up in little puffy gusts. Trying to cast a long fine leader into the wind gets pretty frustrating pretty fast, the line shooting out ok, but the leader floating back on itself before the fly finally settling somewhere between me and the end of the fly line, but I did get a few good drifts. The smallest fly I had in the box was a #30 griffiths they didn’t want, but they would rise to a # 24 they just wouldn’t take it, even though I thought they had four times as I raised the rod to air. Anything else they wouldn’t even look at.
Bob and Will had headed down below Bluemont road, Bob adding later that it didn’t get any warmer down there than where I was up above. Will also on the lookout for stoneflies, said he only saw one on his way back out, a lonely looking little bug looking mighty cold and clinging to a tree branch. However, even in their absence Will did promptly hook and lose a fish on his #18 little black stonefly, then immediately lose it to a tree on the next cast. The only other guy other than Bob to actually hook a fish on his recorded fly. Bob did better with his soft hackle of Grouse & Herl. He said he had numerous strikes, some of which may have been suckers, but after losing a couple of fish he knew were trout he did manage two 9 inchers to the net, 18 inches that would prove to be enough for back to back wins.
Carl, Brad, and Ken all headed for Big falls Road; Ken said he couldn’t buy a strike, but both Brad and Carl hooked fish on Wooly Buggers but couldn’t get them to net. Steve and Carter decided to try the canyon section, neither of them had anything to report either other than Steve saying for the first time he managed to walk all the way up to the top parking lot from the river below without stopping for a breather, Atta boy Muddy!
Grouse & Herl
Even considering all the didymo you had to clean off your fly and loop to loop connections; and even being 40 plus degrees, that cold wind always seemed to manage to find my bare neck no matter how I positioned myself. Back in the parking lot as I tallied up the results, Bob Dietz chanted Threepeat! Threepeat! We had no choice but to bow to his superior skills with the soft hackle and declare the winner two years running. So, as it stands, it’s brassie 2, soft hackle two, and Bob two. So hear ye! Hear ye! Let it be known to all who cast a fly, that once again, for another year, Bob Dietz has the right to brag!
The following is a short video of this outing.