Coburn and Gelso write about the Daniels Dam in their book and include it because it is a favorite of may local fly fishermen. The Patapsco, other than the black bass catch and release section just downstream of Daniels, is a put and take fishery. The DNR actually pleads on their site that fisherman keep any trout they catch up to the two a day limit since the river warms to the point of lethality in the summer.
I started at the dam with the immediate intent of putting distance between myself and the parking lot. It was a little confusing to figure out where to cross the river. I ended up walking the southern bank until I could find a place to slosh across and immediately headed up the bank to link up with the wide, improved walking/biking path.
The water near the dam runs past an industrial area that detracts from the overall ambiance, but the water is deeper here and runs to over 5 feet in spots. Downstream, it shallows up with as many shallow runs as deeper sections. I walked quickly down the path for my standard 1/2 mile and then cut over to the river only to find another fly fisherman working a nice hole right there. Rats. I continued down another 1/4 mile and cut in again. Another fisherman! I continued to walk and the scenery gradually became familiar. I realized I had walked all the way back to the section that I visited in the Spring that was blown out. It looked totally different now and the difference was good. Once oriented, I decided to go all the way back to the start of that section and work my way back upstream since the water was nice and deep.
I was hopeful that it would hold some smallies or at least some of the trout that had been stocked in the Daniels Dam area the week prior. I waded across the river to the southern bank and began working upstream with streamers. It just seemed to chilly on this March day to use dries and terrestrials. I picked up a few chub, but nothing else that was interesting.
With the water way down from the blow out of the last spring when I was there, I could see plenty of structure that was hidden from me earlier. There are a large number of big rocks that channel a firm flow of water into pooled up sections. Understanding the attraction for smallies for swifter water, I did not spend a lot of time in the “lakes”, but concentrated in the areas ahead and downstream of the rocks. When streamers did not work out, I tried a few nymphs. No joy there either.
I later read of a smallie trick with spin gear that I want to try with my fly rod. The tip was to tie a plastic worm or grub to a barrel swivel while also tying a small weight to the same swivel. The weight will pull the lure to the bottom and being free, the plastic worm will wave in the current. Once on the bottom, you slowly let it out in the run a few inches at a time.
I think this is something I could rig on the fly rod using the small crappie plastics and a couple of split shot… I’ll give it a try when I switch back to smallies at the start of summer.
Without any luck (defined by a fish I want to catch, not chubs), I pulled my way up the bank and walked back towards the dam. The other guys had gone, so I had the river to myself and I took advantage of the situation by being picky.
I skipped over the non-productive looking areas and focused my efforts on the trouty / smallie looking spots. The closer to Daniels I waded, the better the water started to look with more rocks and deep channels defining the river. Even though everything was thumbs up from a theoretical fish perspective, I was skunked.
I never got close enough to the other two guys to see how they were doing and did not want to noisily clomp out of the woods to holler over and see what was working or not working. Hopefully, they had a better day of catching than I did.
In general terms, the north side of the river is the deep side. Since the banks are really high and steep, you have to find a place to get into the riverbed and work your way across. Once on the southern side, you can hit the opposite bank easily. There are overhanging trees in many places, but not enough to make casting a challenge. This is good beginner water and will be forgiving regarding sloppy backcasts.
There is a shallow stretch that you will skip in the middle. But, in the spring after the stocking, it will probably hold some of the stocked trout in the depressions and pools until the birds pick them off. Where it is shallow, there is no cover.
Bottom Line: I don’t think I’ll come back here unless I don’t have any other options. While it was nice… to a degree… the pressure is a negative; especially when other sections of the Patapsco are pretty clean and appear to be more gently used.
Getting There: Take Route 29 to the end. Turn right on Route 99 and follow that to Daniels Road. Route 99 is actually Old Frederick Road. Be sure and stay on that after the traffic circle. Daniels Road is a bit confusing as it leads to an industrial area. Just keep going and it will eventually dump you into the parking area at the Dam. I parked down by the industrial area below the dam, walked directly to the river and found a spot to cross to get to the nice trail.
The wide, wide access sees plenty of action from bikers and walkers
This is the middle shallow section
It widens up downstream
Overhanging trees make casting tight to get to the banks
Unless stated otherwise, this article was authored by Steve Moore