After being frustrated by my 2.5 mile long slog on the Patapsco north of Ellicott City, I decided to go home. As I drove down River Road on the way back to Glen Bernie, I noticed that the Patapsco south of Ellicott City looked like it had plenty of water and was prime for fishing. In fact, it was irresistible to a dedicated fishing addict like myself. I pulled off into a very small parking area that would only handle one truck and walked down to the shore to see what was there.
As I stood at the shore (top of the red track), I stared down into the murky water and saw a number of large fish finning next to the bank. While I quietly watched, they began to move up the shoreline, coming closer to my position. Holy mackerel! I could see that they were bass and big bass at that. So much for heading home! I ran back to the truck and pull out my rod and returned a protected location a bit downstream of where the fish were. As I danced across a few small rocks to get into position to roll cast the popper I tied on, I noticed more and more fish becoming visible. In short order, I picked up three nice size bass on a size 4 green popper. With action that good, I knew I had to spend an hour or two here before proceeding home. Now the challenge was to find a place where I could actually wade into the river as it was exceptionally deep near my bank.
I walked down the shore and noticed a small frog in the mud next to a leaf (see picture). No wonder the green popper pattern was so productive! I guess “matching the hatch” includes things like frogs. About 50 yards down from the start point, I finally found a place to get into the river and waded back upstream to be able to fish the deep spot from the opposite bank.
About the time I got back into position, I noticed another fly fisherman about 100 yards upstream coming in my direction. Recognizing that I needed to get a little more space between the two of us, I abandoned my spot (it was probably spooked anyway) and started to fish downstream.
This section of the Patapsco is really nice. The east bank has the deeper water and the structure. The bottom of the river is generally sand with no rocks to hold fish. Given that, they cluster around the protected holes formed by fallen trees and bushes. I alternated fishing between the east and west banks; concluding that the east bank was the better of the two. The west bank was shallow with the general slope of the river going from west to east. I was here in early July, and the river was easily wadeable until I got to the far end where it spills over a small dam. I had good luck using poppers, terrestrials of different sizes but nothing on streamers. I abandoned streamers anyway as they consistently got hung up on the underwater brush next to the shore.
Once I fished my way to the dam, I crawled out and walked back up to the truck where I encountered the other fisherman walking on the road. Turns out that he was a new fly guy just like I was and we swapped stories about our challenges gaining a small level of competence in this sport. He relayed to me that he had had good luck from Ellicott City down to where we were standing. That was good news because this river is fairly close and I made mental plans to come back and start at the bridge in the city instead of where I parked on River Road.
Bottom Line: It’s amazing how a river can change character in the space of a quarter-mile. Upstream of the bridge in Ellicott City, the Patapsco looks more like a trout stream with rocks breaking the profile of the water; creating the runs and cuts we all like to fish. In addition, the upper section is generally shallow once you get beyond the deep hole next to the apartment building I mentioned in the earlier post. Downstream, in the section discussed here, the river is broad, wide and deep on the eastern bank. It’s not surprising that the bass migrate here to find good holding water during the summer. This is a keeper and I’ll be back again in the future.
Getting There: From 29 northbound, take exit 24A onto Rt 40 eastbound. Turn right at Rogers Ave and then left onto Rt 144. Follow it and turn right onto River Road (it is a Y intersection across from a small gas station where you can get a sandwich). Pull off and park anyplace that is legal along River Road.
Google Local Coordinates: 39.257064,-76.777697
Secrets Revealed? No. The Patapsco is a well known fishing river that is documented on the Maryland DNR website.
Date Fished: 7/05/2008
Typical bass in this section
Cool frog I saw – indicates something about the popper color!
Downstream from top of the track
Upstream from the top of the track
Unless stated otherwise, this article was authored by Steve Moore