Johnson Boys Visit Western MD

My brother and I decided to do a fly fishing trip to remote Western Maryland to fish two of MD’s top rivers, the Savage and Casselman after Father’s Day. We rented a cabin in the New Germany State Park (a thirty minute drive away from the Savage through Big Run state park and just a fifteen minute drive from the Casselman). We weren’t prepared for how challenging the Savage River was (a trophy trout river). The Savage is a tailwater that runs in a steep canyon over highly “technical” wading terrain for most of its length. I’m talking boulders from the size of small cars to bowling balls, and very few to no flat areas to simply rest. Despite that, its beauty was incomparable with most days seeing a slight mist over the water, incredibly diverse hatches (spotted my first green drake and lime sally), and wildlife. With some guidance from Mike of Savage River Outfitters we set out to experience the river. On day one, a #14 blue quill landed a 14″ rainbow, and similar-sized wild brown. My butterfingers caused me to drop both back (and lose my fly!) before I could get a good picture, but at least they were in the net! The next day–a lonnngg day of tough fishing, produced a small brookie on a nymph and then a gorgeous 12″ brook (which I also butterfingered) on a sulphur in the evening. My brother was less fortunate being skunked on both days, despite some very patient angling. He even had a 20-incher rise to a streamer, but missed the hookset. I was really feeling for him, but steaks on the grill, a beer in hand and the coziness of the cabin helped a great deal.

On the evening of the first day we were also witness to a rare event…driving along Savage River road I spotted a mountain lion climbing the embankment about 200 yds in front of us. At first I thought, oh–someone is walking their golden retriever, then I was thinking–why is that golden retriever climbing the side of the mt–and then I saw that beautiful long puma tail. It was on my mind for the rest of the trip. Apparently–some folk don’t believe cougars are in MD, but I happily beg to differ.

We had intended to fish the North Branch of the Potomac and the Casselman each day but rain blew it out on the first two days. On the day we were to leave, we got in a half-day of fishing on the scenic and very graceful Casselman, which sits on farmland in the heart of Amish country.  After a slow drive past Amish farmers, we hit the river early and were rewarded for throwing Caddis and a slow retrieve making it look like an emerger… I immediately hooked up (and again and again) and looked at my brother sympathetically. Uh-oh, not again!  I backed off the river, pointed him to the hole and then he hooked up (again and again) and he even caught the day’s lone brookie, a 12-incher at least. The Casselman isn’t a tailwater and we regretted not taking a few trout home for supper, but we hear there are occasional summer holdovers.

All in all–it was a great trip! Stinky waders, sore feet and backs, lots of grilled meat and flies to fish. Next time we’ll do a little more research and reserve the technical rivers for a half day instead of two–but we learned so much. I’m certain we became better anglers for it!

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