Back in May 2008, I had a disastrous weekend in Western Maryland. I described this in an earlier post about Sideling Hill Creek. To recap, the weather projection was bad, but I had the free weekend because the Basswife was going to visit her parents in North Carolina. Not wanting to waste this opportunity, I ignored the bad weather forecast and headed west anyway. I had a good Friday afternoon on Sideling Hill Creek as the rain had not started to really pour down. But, by the next morning when I woke up in Oakland, Maryland, I was looking at a disastrous day. It had rained buckets all night long. In a mild panic and facing the prospect of a wasted fishing weekend, I drove by Bear Creek and the North Branch down near Kitzmiller to see both streams running 3 to 5 feet above normal while sporting a deep chocolate brown color. Faced with this, I dug into my mind thinking about any other options. I concluded that the Savage below the dam would probably be a good choice. The dam would control the outflow into the river and, hopefully, all the brown sediment may not have reached the base of the dam yet to feed into the lower river.
I drove up from Bloomington past the Savage River Outfitters to pull into the parking lot near the suspension bridge that marks the lower boundary of the fly fishing only stretch of the river. As the torrential rain continued to pelt down, I pulled on my Gortex and waders and began to walk on the slippery trail up the east bank of the river. The Savage is famous for the wild trout that inhabit it. Any reference you see to the stocking the Savage refers to the Upper Savage River, not here. Surprisingly, the water was low. I had expected to see full flows given what I had just experienced on the other two streams. Instead, the water actually looked a little bit down. This is classic trout water. Boulders perched everywhere, the water takes an infinite number of twists and turns as it compresses and pushes around the rocks into the deep cuts it carved over time.
I rigged up some nymphs and began to work the water (why do we always say “work”? This is not work! Work sucks, fishing is fun!). I fished my way upstream for about 100 yards with no luck and without seeing any evidence of fish. I know they are there; these are PhD educated fish who will recognize every fly and be able tell you the page on the catalog where you can order it. I was tickled with what lay out in front of me – it was pretty – but gradually came to the conclusion that if I continued to fish here it would only be a matter of time before I killed myself given the wet and slippery conditions. The rain was coming down in sheets. Even on a sunny day, the Savage is known for the unique brand of algae that coats every rock in sight. I had my emergency personal locator beacon with me, but I did not really want to activate it as I know that would just make the Basswife mad two reasons. First, I assumed she would be concerned for my safety and, second, because she would have to deal with a text message on her cell phone — she is not computer literate at all!
If you do not have a PLB, you should look at this one (Spot Satellite Messenger)or this one ( ResQlink PLB). If you fish by yourself without one of these, you are really taking risks. Disappointed that I could not fully test my skill against this tough water, I carefully made my way back to the truck and drove over to the Dry River to fish it where it comes out of the Skidmore Dam.
Bottom Line: This Savage is (was) one of Western Maryland’s best-known trout rivers with the fly fishing only section being on everybody’s top list of places to fish. While I deferred to my better judgment on this particular day, this is a destination that merits not one but many return trips.
Getting There: From Bloomington, MD on 135 heading south from the river, make a quick turn to the right on Raley Ave followed by another right onto Savage River road. Follow this to the bottom of the FFO area (about 3 miles up from the turn onto Savage River road from Raley. You will see a small dirt road leading off to the river. Follow it for about 30 yards and you will see the bridge.
Google Local Coordinates: 39.50169,-79.109888
Secrets Revealed? No. This is a very public location that is documented in the Maryland DNR website and in the Guide to Maryland Trout Fishing
Upstream just beyond the suspension bridge
Generic upstream view
Upstream from where I turned around
Downstream from where I turned around
Unless stated otherwise, this article was authored by Steve Moore