Not so Savage of a Winter

So, this winter has been very forgiving to say the least.  It only sucked if you’re really into skiing or ice fishing, however it has been very generous to fishing.  Ryan was off, I was off, KG was in Amish country, Adam and Greg had to work.  Sorry boys, but Ryan and I couldn’t pass up a saturday in February with a forecasted high in the 50’s for western Maryland.  This was going to be the first BCI trip of the year, Ryan and I were stoked!

We met in a Wally World parking lot at 6:30am to load Ryan’s gear into La Poderosa before heading south below the Mason Dixon line.  Early season trips tend to start with incredible optimism yet end with, “well, it’s just nice to get out there.”  Saturday, the optimism was met and exceeded.

We make it to 7x flat by 8:30am and gear-up.  I’m ready to go and head down to the spillway to see if I could dredge-up a late winter trout.   A few drifts and a strike.  Ryan finally is ready to hit the water and crosses the stream behind me to come up and work the opposite side of the seam I was working.  Ryan makes his first cast.  First cast of the year and sticks a fish.  That sumbitch…  Now, I had been fishing for about 5-10 minutes before he started, so I was a little ticked that on his first cast he gets nailed.  But, the fish lets go.  There’s good and bad to that.  Bad that he lost the fish, but good that luck wasn’t used up right out of the gate.  There have been many days when the fish caught on the first cast ends up being the only fish of the day.

We flogged the run long enough and move up river.  Ryan was already on the opposite bank and instead of following right behind, I head back to the bank I came from then cross over the suspension bridge.  I catch up to ryan at the top of 7x flat.  All I hear is, “rising fish, dude!”  Well, this is right where I was back in November that I wrote a post about.  We couldn’t immediately see any surface bug activity, so surmised that on a sunny winters day when you were told that the fishing could be hitting midges, they were actually hitting midges.  On go the Griffith’s Gnats and in short order Ryan’s first trout of the year, one taken on a dry fly, and my fist trout on a dry in 2012 were brought to hand.  The kindly trouts indulged our wishes to have pictures taken before we bid them adieu.

Ryan hooks and land a few more on surface bugs.  I miss a bunch.  The hatching seems to taper off and we switch to nymphs and streamers.  Again, Ryan lands a few more.  Then, I strip a bugger down through some deep stuff and one of the larger brookies I’ve caught on the Savage slams my fly.  I bring him to hand, my first brook trout of the year.  Below are a few pictures of that brookie and some close-ups of the browns Ryan and I landed on dry flies.

Steve-o's first fish of 2012 on a Dry Fly
Ryan's first fish of 2012 and first on a dry
Salvelinus fontinalis #1
Not a bad buck brookie

We look up after I release the brook trout to see some other anglers making their way towards us.  We had been fishing for a few hours and decided to move on up to try the Ph.D hole.  We break the rods in half and climb into La Poderosa.  We get up to the bridge and see a couple cars, then say screw it, lets try the brookie streams.  Stream number one had some company, so we move to stream number 2.  Right at the gate to the fire road that heads up into the hills, is a line of about 6 pick ’em up trucks and about a dozen camo and blaze orange wearing fellows.  Not a good sign.  Half the trucks were loaded down with what will soon be bundled fire wood for sales at Worms and Wood.  It must have been a firewood collection holiday or something in the Savage State Forest.  Not knowing what their intentions were or if they’d have any appreciation for ours, we motor up to stream number three.  We had that to ourselves except for a goofy dude in his hat he bought because it looked like it would have been in “the Movie.”  Movie Hat dude decided to stay low, while Ryan and I worked our way up stream.

A few weeks ago Ryan and I posted some info about the future of Maryland’s Brook Trout fishing regulations in the Savage River drainage.  There was some question as to whether those regulations, particularly the no kill, zero creel regulation have had any impact on the populations of brookies within the Savage and its tribs.  Notably there was the correlation between population density, and ease of access.  The tougher the access, the better both the numbers and size of brook trout in the stream.  Surprising, huh?  The stream Ryan and I decided to fish until recently had much, much easier access along almost its entire length.  That access was virtually eliminated as of last year.  We fished this stream back in the fall and were encouraged by the numbers of fish we were finding…that was until we found the bears.  Saturday, yards from where the road used to cross through the stream I pulled a very nice 10″ brookie from underneath a cut bank.  Below are a couple pics.  Please note, I had the telephoto lens on and was prepared for another bear encounter.  That lens made it a challenge to snap a few quick pics singlehanded while Ryan was down stream a ways.  But, they did come out kind of interesting.

It was getting late and we needed to have some lunch before trying our luck on the Yough.  Only thing I’ll say about Deep Creek Maryland on President’s day weekend is that it is full of a bunch of douchy ski people that makes the place on the 4th of July look like a ghost town.  Holy Jeebus it was bad.  Lunch scarfed down, a stop at McHenry beverage, (where we actually had to wait in line to check out), topped off La Poderosa’s feed bag and back to the water we went.  We have never had luck fishing our beat of the Yough in winter.  Can’t quite figure out their pattern, maybe they’re all by the park in Friendsville just off of I-68, but they certainly ain’t in our beat.  We tried though, fruitlessly for a couple hours.  I had one really good take and that was it.  The water wasn’t bad.  Not HIGH, but high.  Dunno, but it keeps us guessing, and lets us know there is still a lot to learn down there.  It was a hell of a day though.  Beautiful weather for a February day, catching fishing on dry flies and some really solid brookies.  Plus I got to bring home some beer not available in PA and save the world with it.

I support 1% for the Planet, especially the beer...and the fishing parts too...

What can we say, it’s just nice to get out there…

Steve-o

P.S.  I’ve got maybe a 5 minute video I’m working on from this trip, with a focus on the brookie stream part.  Plus some potential squatchiness in there…stay tuned!

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