The only negative to the Youghiogheny River (aka Yough – pronounced Yawk) is that it is impossible to spell. This is an exceptionally popular and well-known river. Gelso discusses it extensively in his Guide to Maryland Trout Fishing and even Ann McIntosh devotes a couple pages in the Mid-Atlantic Budget Angler. Both are highly complementary of the river and the great fishing experience it offers to the trout angler. The Yough is one of the few catch and release fisheries in the western part of the state; a distinction it enjoys with parts of the North Branch and the Savage. On the eastern side of the state, the only C&R places I am aware of are Morgan Run and the upper Gunpowder .
One of the things that makes this river unique is that the Maryland DNR only stocks fingerling rainbow and brown trout — no adults. Since the Deep Creek Reservoir periodically releases cold water into the river, the Yough is a year-round fishery (although you should exercise judgment during the hottest days of the summer when the fish are most likely to be stressed). The DNR did initially stock the river with an experimental warm water strain of rainbows, so their descendants may still be cruising around. Brown trout have a natural tolerance for warm water that pushes their range just a bit beyond the rainbow – but not much – so it is more likely you will tie into a Brown rather than a Rainbow..
The last time I was on the Yough was in 2006 is when I was using spin gear. On that trip, I fished upstream from Hoyes Run with my son. We caught plenty of smallmouth bass but no trout because we were dumb enough to fish above the exit flume from the dam – so the water was warm up there. On the way upstream, we chatted with a fly angler who was having a great time right off the Hoyes Run access point catching medium-size rainbows and a flock of smallies. With that as a backdrop, I was excited when I pulled into the Sang Run parking lot in late October. Since the DNR does not stock adults in this river, you do not need to pay attention to the stocking schedule to decide when to fish here. Instead, you need to pay attention to the real issues associated with fishing such as sun, time of day, weather, water temperature and all the other variables that go into creating a dynamic fishery.
I walked from the truck directly to the river and gazed upstream to see another fly fisherman standing in the middle of the river 100 yards up from where I was. Not a problem. This is such a large river that you can’t feel pressured by other people here. I decided to walk upstream about a half-mile and start fishing from that point on. A few hundred yards out of the parking lot, I ran into the partner of the fisherman I had seen and stopped to chat with him. It turns out that neither he or his buddy had been having good luck on this particular day. They were from Pennsylvania and make the run down to the Yough a couple times of the year because it is always such a productive spot. Unfortunately, this was one of those rare days where nothing was productive for them. Granted, a weather front was moving through; creating the excuse we could all use – clearly, it was putting down the fish. They were going to head over to the FFO section of the Savage. I recommended they might want to consider the delayed harvest area on the North Branch as it had been stocked, wished him luck and proceeded to walk upstream to hop into the river about a half-mile up from the parking lot.
There is a broad path with easy access up the eastern side of the river. When it finally petered out in a tangle of fallen trees, I decided this was a place I should start fishing. The first thing that struck me about the river was its width. You don’t really appreciate this until you actually get out in the middle of it and realize that it would take a long cast to reach either bank. After fishing all the small water in Virginia, this was a real shock to my system. The water was running fairly shallow and was a foot or so deep in most places with randomly distributed deep spots. This makes fishing here a challenge as the deeper holes are not instantly obvious as you wade. Granted, with the water being a foot or so deep, any place could end up being a good holding spot as long as there is a small rock or other obstacle to break the flow and make it easy for a trout to hold position while they solve the calculus of the “energy equation” in their heads. When everywhere looks good, you may as well cast anywhere and that is what I proceeded to do.
I worked my way up the river for another quarter-mile; fishing a semicircle in front of me. Sadly, I have nothing to brag about as a result of this experience. I did not have a single hit on anything I was throwing. I worked both dries and streamer patterns. I did see some fish charging out of the way and had to admonish myself about my noisy, splashy approach. Maybe I should be kind to myself and blame it on the fact that I was wearing some blaze orange clothing to keep from being mistaken for a deer. Or maybe I should blame it on that weather front that we talked about earlier. But the real reason is that I did not spend enough time on this river to truly plumb its depths.
There is so much here to look at and fish that the short two hours I spent were totally inadequate. It will take at least a day to properly introduce yourself to the river and come to know some of its unique characteristics. Only then will it give up its secrets.
Some of the authors comment that the fishing is best as the water recedes after the release from the dam. This is consistent with guidance I heard from two guides on the South Fork of the Holston. There was no release during the timeframe when I was at Sang Run so I could not verify whether that was also true of the Yough.
One positive thing is that the rocky bottom here is not as rough to negotiate as it is over on the neighboring North Branch of the Potomac. It seems like the boulders here are smaller although you still have to exercise care and should use a wading staff as everything is slippery.
Bottom line: The catch and release section of the Yough is a destination that should be on every fisherman’s list. If you really want to catch and keep some trout, you can go downstream a little bit farther and fish the put and take section of the Yough which is in the vicinity of Friendsville or go over and hit Bear Creek when the water is better.
I’m sure to come back to the Yough next season. Without a doubt, this place will be better in the spring and into the early summer. Late October probably puts it past its prime but I know I’m just using that as an excuse as the water temperatures here are partially regulated by the recurring releases from the dam. So chalk it up to being a New Fly Guy and I hope to do better next time.
Getting There: Get on 42 south out of Friendsville, MD. Turn right on Bischoff Road followed by another right on Sang Run Road about 2 miles later. Follow Sang Run Road and you will see the parking area a couple hundred yards up from the bridge over the Yough.
Google Local Coordinates: 39.565934,-79.428749
Secrets Revealed? No. This is a very public location that is documented in the following places:
Guide to Maryland Trout Fishing
Mid-Atlantic Budget Angler
Upstream from my entry point
Downstream from the entry point
Upstream from where I turned around
Typical path on the east bank
Unless stated otherwise, this article was authored by Steve Moore