Chris and I decided to hit the Savage after working Wallman in the morning. I’m not sure why we decided to shift our focus from the North Branch to the Savage, must have been the lure of new water or whatever. Anyway, we left a pretty good morning on the North Branch to slide over to the Savage. Since Chris is a spin guy, we drove up to the lower suspension bridge that marks the start of the fly fishing only section and worked our way downstream.
I had heard about the Savage. If you fish in the MD, VA, WV area, you can’t avoid hearing of this stretch. A few years ago, the Basswife and I were passing through and took a quick spin up to the Savage, a recon, to check it out. Then, as now, we went to the suspension bridge and I could not resist testing the water. I threw a gold panther-martin in the pool right under the bridge and was rewarded with an instant strike. Now that I am a fly guy, I was anxious to see if that trout had grown and if he was willing to play again.
We piled out of the truck and split up. I worked the pool and the close in area while Chris walked downstream a bit before cutting to the river. While I did not get that nice bridge trout again, I did pick up two small brookies on an attractor pattern that had flecks of orange and red.
That quick success calmed me down and I looked at the river. The water was raindrop clear and showed every strand of slime waving hello as the water flipped around each rock. With a wary eye on the slime, I extended my wading staff and took my first cautious step downstream and continue fishing.
This stuff is slick! I’ve heard the expression “snot slick” used to describe other rivers, like the Pit in California, but that pales in comparison to the Savage. The Savage snot adds a thick density that is probably only achieved in the unique blend of clean water and shaded overhanging trees all blended in the ice cold tailwater churn. My cleats could deal with the Pit just fine. On the Savage, they were on the verge of failure as they merely squished the snot down to form a tight carpet of slime without grabbing on a rock.
This is not water you want to fish alone unless you feel you can crawl to the road with a broken leg. Thankfully, the road is pretty close along the entire stretch. With renewed caution, I worked my way downstream switching between the attractor pattern and nymphs. I concluded that the water in this stretch was not deep enough for nymphs given the flow. It was lucky to get to be a foot and that foot would only exist for a short distance; nothing long enough for me to correct the mend and do all of the other fly guy things that probably come second nature to a veteran fly fisherman.
So, I gave up and just stuck to the surface. I worked each rock carefully; flipping the fly into the swirl and feeding line downstream. I did not have the time on this second stop of the day to run downstream and work up. I figured I could be sneaky enough working downstream to be successful.
The tactic worked and a few more trout were brought to hand and released. Nothing big, nothing to brag about, but, inside, I was thrilled that my limited skills had caused at least a few trout to be deceived.
About 0.75 mile downstream, it started to rain, gentle at first; adding intensity with time. I took one look at the snot and decided further time on this river would result in death as the rain added one more level of inhuman slickness to the exposed rock. Back to the truck and called it a day.
Bottom Line: We did see plenty of other trucks pulled off as we drove up and I encountered another party working upstream at my exit point. Based on that experience and what I have heard, my conclusion is that the Savage is just as popular at Big Hunting Creek. While you may encounter pressure here, the feeder creeks and streams into the Savage River Reservoir all need to be explored! Someday!
Any discussion of the Savage has to include a mention of the Savage River Outfitters. This is an Orvis fly shop up by the suspension bridge. These guys are great! Stop there for guidance on what’s hot and what’s not. They have cabins and will guide as well – to include above the reservoir. If you are fishing, please skip the section on their property so their guests can use it. Let’s keep these small fly shops in business!
Getting there: Mapquest yourself to Bloomington, MD. Coming in from the north, from Luke, turn left on Savage River road. It comes up pretty quick after the bridge over the Savage. Follow this road and take advantage of any of the pulloffs along the way. There is one posted section where you will get yelled at even though it is my understanding that you are OK in the stream. You need to verify that if you want to fish that section of the river.
Downstream about 1/2 way down from the bridge
Looking upstream back to the suspension bridge (not in sight)
Chris working a pool
This is a big pool right at the corner. I got back onto the road here and saw another group around the bend.
Unless stated otherwise, this article was authored by Steve Moore