In early October, I recalled a conversation I had a year ago with the Savage River Outfitters where they told me that all of the streams feeding into the Savage River Reservoir had good populations of brook trout. What stimulated the neurons to pull up that conversation was the reference to the Middle Fork in the Mid-Atlantic Budget Angler: Fly-Fishing for Trout by Ann McIntosh. The Middle Fork is one of the three places she identifies and recommends as a fishing destination in Western Maryland. Since I was in the area fishing on Bear Creek and the Castleman, I decided to take a quick run by and invest two hours to see if her recommendation had any merit.
The first thing that pops out as you drive along the road bordering the reservoir is that every creek entering the lake is designated as a brook trout zero creel limit area. In my mind, this confirmed the recommendation from the Savage Outfitters that this would be an interesting hike with a high probability of payoff at the end. I found the Middle Fork without any problems, parked, and walked over to look at the water. As you can see from the picture below, it did not look encouraging from the road. However, I assumed that the water would get better higher as Ann’s recommendation was to walk in from the lower boundary at least 2 miles to get to the best fishing. I did not have the time for a two-mile hike, but I did have time to walk and about half that distance to see how the water evolved.
It’s an easy hike up from the small parking area. At that location, there is a locked gate leading to a wide road that climbs up the hill. You need to resist the temptation to park in front of the gate — it is the best spot as it is a little bit farther off of the road. You always need to be aware of blocking access for a rescue team that may have to come and pull your butt out of trouble. If you block the gate, the rescue team will not be able to get to you without surviving the same hike you did to get into trouble. After repositioning my truck, I started to hike.
1/2 mile up the road, it takes a sharp veer to the right away from the stream to climb the hill. There is a small path that heads to the left that will put you down at the water level. I decided to follow this even though the book indicated I would not encounter good fishing for a substantial distance.
I was encouraged by the increasing volume water present in the stream. While it was only running at a trickle in mid-October, it was running and there were pools collecting this precious resource. As I walked by some of the smaller pools, I could see small trout skittering around in their desperate attempt to avoid my approach. I was delighted by this as my first thought was “how could anything survive in so little water”. Since I saw life, I decided to start fishing my way up at the likely spots. I tied on a small Adams and began to pepper likely pools. I was instantly rewarded with the chattering, chittering and snapping of the little guys attempting to choke down the fly which was clearly too big for their little mouths. This changed as I moved quietly towards the pools that were at least a foot in depth – I began to pick up some small brookies in the 4 to 6 inch range. When the action died down on top, I tied on a green weenie and stripped it across the bottom of the pools; generating additional fish excitement. The nice brookie shown in the picture below was caught using that green weenie.
I encountered one deep hole which was protected by a thick bed of leaves preventing me from fishing it effectively. I crawled up to it and poked my head up; leveraging the angle of the late afternoon sun to see the contents of the pool. I could see a “large” brookie swimming with a few buddies at the bottom. This guy was huge — probably nine inches — which is certainly big in this skinny water. I tried to break through the carpet of leaves floating on the top of the pool to no good effect — my efforts just put the fish down.
At this point, it was the end of the day so I reluctantly walked back to the truck. This is clearly a place that is worth a second trip.
Bottom line: I walked in from the bottom and the book recommends you walk in from the top where there is a 45 minute walk down a “long steep incline”. I would certainly be willing to do that based on what I saw in the “bad” section at the bottom. On my next visit I will do a close map recon to determine where that top access point is. The access instructions in the book take you to the lower section that I just described. However, Ann indicates that, at least in 1998 when the book was written, that there are 2400 trout per mile in that distant upper section. That is worth additional investigation and you can bet that I will check it out for us.
Note that this is brook trout water with a zero creel limit. Fish this small are not worth harvesting and I encourage everyone to report anyone seen poaching along any of the brook trout streams that dump into the Savage River Reservoir.
Getting There: From Luke, MD, continue west on Rt 135. Turn right on Savage River Road and follow it up to the Reservoir. The road will take a hairpin turn to the right at the junction of Savage River Road and Spring Lick Road. Keep going and the next hairpin turn (about 3/4 of a mile) should be Middle Fork.
Google Local Coordinates: 39.513411,-79.155078
All of the small streams running into the Savage River Reservoir are special brook trout areas
Looking upstream from the trailhead – not looking good
The gated road provides easy access
Water started to appear at about the 1/4 mile point
The largest pool I found was this one
Long and skinny. Pretty shallow as well
Deeper pools hold the brookies
Caught this guy on a green weenie in the pool to the left
Reminder to wear orange when fishing during hunting season
Looking back downstream from the ridge
Unless stated otherwise, this article was authored by Steve Moore