Owens is a reverse delayed harvest stream that is open to any type of equipment and lures up until June. At that point, it flops over to being a catch and release. Given that as well as the energetic stocking program that Maryland has for this creek, I had high hopes in mid-May as I trudged down the steep hill from a pulloff to cross the rail bed and get to the water.
I was greeted by a scenic view of a small creek that was shaded by a full canopy of dense trees. The books were right. The trees would be thick enough to keep this water reasonably cold and possibly encourage the survival of a trout or two into the warmth of a Maryland summer.
As you can see from the map, this section is in a gentle, level stretch between the surrounding steep mountains. I was hopeful that the geography would produce some dramatic runs with steep pitches, but the map did not lie. The water is mostly shallow with a scarce few deep spots hiding near rocks and cuts where the creek changes course. To sum this section up, it was mostly a stagnant looking mess. But the trees softened that perspective.. just a bit.
I fished my way up the creek about 0.75 miles and was unimpressed with the trout action. In the back of my mind, just as when I fished the lower section, I wondered if the stockers had already been cleaned out and the holdovers promised by Gelso’s book (Guide to Maryland Trout Fishing) were hunkered down, smart and wary from seasons of pressure.
The only fish interested in the flies I used were the chubbs and the bluegills. No trout to be had. Given the slow water, I relied on streamers and terrestrial patterns as I worked my way up the stream. I was careful to be reasonably sneaky, but with mostly shallow water, it did not really make a difference.
In this entire stretch, I only found a few pools or deep cuts that would be notable. The farther up I went, the more it seemed like I was moving into a dead zone. According to the books, there is a good brookie area way up at the top above Lantz. I was south of Lantz in this section and it was clear that they had not been able to penetrate in this direction.
Bait is legal here. I have no problem with folks using it where it is legal. In terms of Owens, I wonder if that more effective fish catching approach had already cleaned out this section.
Bottom Line: While I may go to the top of Owens to check out the brookie fishing, I’m not coming back to this section. I should have anticipated this from the map and my growing experience with central Maryland trout water. It’s not the North Branch by a long shot. If you decide you want to fish here, check the stocking report first. The water is so low here – even in May – and so slow, that even with the nice shade, I doubt there is much holdover. I know the NV TU guys ran a trip up here recently, I’ll need to check in with them to see where I went wrong…. or right. Given the comments on Owens from others, I believe I may have fished in the wrong place.
Getting There: Mapquest yourself to Thurmont, MD. Take the exit off Route 15 to 550 and head west. Pull off at any of the roadside turnoffs. There is one posted section on the way up to Lantz, so be aware of that and look for it to avoid any problems.
Last pool at the upper end of this trip
Most of the section was flat and slow
At the lower portion, the gradient kicks in and the creek moves faster
This was a very deep pool that was full of chubs
Unless stated otherwise, this article was authored by Steve Moore