Spring is still unfolding in Western Maryland. Clumps of Sweet William bloom at the base of the old stone bridge at Grantsville, and leaves on ridge top trees are at half curl and bright green. The weather for the outing this year was in sharp contrast to last year’s cool drippy days. Just barely cool in the morning, temperatures rose quickly to afternoon highs in the uppers 80’s. By mid-morning we were peeling off long sleeve jackets and shirts and applying sunscreen to bare arms and faces.
Ken Bowyer and Patrick Masler both arrived in Grantsville on Friday, a day ahead of me. Ken decided to fish the Savage first, while Patrick headed for the North Branch at Barnum. Both scored, Ken netted 2 rainbows; three brookies and a brown, most falling to a beadhead pheasant tail, one to a pink San Juan. Patrick landed a couple rainbows on a stimulator before leaving the NB for the Savage. At around 7pm Patrick caught up with Ken on the PHD pool where they decided to head over to the Casselman to finish out the evening. Before quitting for the night Patrick landed another rainbow just up from the river bridge on a pheasant tail, Ken getting a 13" brown on a sulpher spinner.
I finally arrived mid Saturday Morning, free from work and anxious to throw a fly. Like Ken the day before, my first stop was the lower savage. I saw no insect activity aside from the occasional caddis, no rises anywhere, but put on a #18 Henryville anyway. I soon abandoned these efforts and the PHD pool altogether and began working pocket water upstream with a variety of offerings from top to bottom without even a glint of a trout.
Meanwhile, Ken and Patrick were spending the day on the Casselman where Ken later reported seeing a few sulphers and some caddis coming off. Bugs were not in abundance the entire weekend so any and all bug activity was noteworthy. Ken landed four browns, one a 16 incher, and ldr’d a half a dozen more. He caught one on a grey midge the rest on pheasant tails. Patrick said he blanked out in the morning but things shaped up for him in the afternoon getting a nice fat 14" brown on a brassie, a rainbow on a stimulator, then 2 more browns on brassies under the bridge. Ken said the 14 incher was so impressive he decided to take its picture, afterwards, sliding the camera back in its zip lock bag it went right through the bottom and straight into the river. Damn! Another digital casualty in an effort to preserve a priceless moment.
After checking in at the Inn that afternoon, I drove to the parking lot by the stone bridge on the Casselman and rigged up. I was on stream around 5 pm and happy to see my favorite pool empty with two anglers working a pool just above it. After 30 minutes of fishing I hadn’t had a strike but noticed the two guys just upstream taking turns landing fish with regularity. Despair was setting in when suddenly they reeled in and moved down stream. I could hardly believe it and in a series of clumsy splashes quickly moved in. Over the next 2 1/2 hours I landed 11 browns, 1 brookie, and 1 bow, losing or missing half that many more. All of these fish were in the 12"-15" range most 13"-14".
These fish were freshly stocked, hungry, and taking a variety of offerings. Bead heads of all types worked in size range #18- #14, and a tan elk hair caddis in #18-#16 would do the trick. The trick was, we had (Patrick had found me) to keep alternating between dries and nymphs to keep catching fish. Take 2 or 3 on bead heads then fish would be up on top taking caddis, switch to an elk hair, take a couple then they would stop. Go back to bead heads or a nymph and repeat. Just before dark they refused the elk hair so I switched to a sulpher dun and took 3 more with it. By this time it was getting dark so we headed for the Inn to collect Ken and get some chow at the truck stop in Accident just a few miles up US 40.
Early Sunday morning I was back but someone was already in the hole. I took a brookie in the pool above it before Ken and Patrick got there then went fishless for the next hour. The sun was bright on the water by then but Ken managed 3, a brown, a brookie, and a bow concentrating on the shaded spots. Patrick and I decided to head up river where we saw the warden. After he checked our license he said we should try the big pool under I 68 above the new handicap fishing platform. This is a great asset for challenged fishers, it looks over a large deep pool under the interstate. Its all smooth paved from the parking lot to the platform to accommodate wheel chairs or walkers. Pulling up we saw a trout in hand net that must have weighed 8-10 pounds. There are some incredible fish stocked in this river. Take note though that the delayed harvest rules are still in effect at this pool, they end some yards up river. Before we headed up river we noticed the warden writing a ticket to a transgressor of a variety not readily apparent.
Moving up river through some nice runs we found a pool with good tail outs and chutes between some rock ledges where Patrick and I each got into a couple of fish. Ken caught up with us and we wandered up stream finding mostly flat water, around noon with temps climbing into the upper 80’s someone suggested a nice nap in a cool room after a good lunch, without any debate we all headed back down river and to the trucks.
Sunday evening had us on the same hole I fished the night before, only this evening the fish weren’t quite as aggressive. There was an absence of mayflies and the caddis were coming off only sporadically. Even so we all took 5 or 6 fish within 50 yards of the little pool, the best being a brown that Patrick netted late in the evening that was close to 17".
At first light Monday morning I was on the big pool under the interstate. I foul hooked a 15" brown that made me think I was into a much larger fish, then fair hooked and landed a 13" brown. Patrick joined me soon after and was into fish immediately. I left around 9am, Patrick stayed till around 11 and taking a total of 3 browns.
Ken opted out joining us on the big pool and struck out for the upper Savage instead. He was expecting brookies but caught 4 rainbows, three of them on dries. He said a fair number of sulphers and caddis were coming off which I’ve mentioned earlier was an uncommon sight on this trip.
We had some beautiful weather, warm, sunny and dry. Even with the bright days and the absence of any major hatch activity we still all hooked and landed a good number of fish, a couple in the 16"-17" range. A lot of these fish look like they’re on steroids, shoulders like a buffalo and even a 14 incher will charge off downstream making your reel sing. Ponder on that a little this winter while you’re sitting around the fire dreaming spring thoughts.