Finally! The first real spring-like weekend! The air temps crept up to around 60 by the end of the day and the sun hung in there and burned off most of the chill.
Dick and I continued our exploration of the Patuxent. As I mentioned in the previous post, the Patuxent TU guys recommended this body of water to me at the National Angling Show. Being methodical and, of course, driven by the need to see new water, we will chop this river into sections and check out the entire stretch.
This week, we worked the Hipsley’s Mill section heading upstream from the parking lot. The river was actually pretty different from the upstream section from Howard Chapel. It seemed like it was generally wider as I found numerous places to practice and develop my emerging fly fishing skills. The transition from spin to fly proceeds!
The water was pretty clear this week – you could see most of the bottom down to about 2 – 3 feet. It was moving fast and was bitterly cold. My stream thermometer measured the pain – a brisk 34 degrees – not a real good indicator of active trout; a prediction that proved good on this trip.
While we saw plenty of trout skittering around the pools as we slipped our way through the mud to get to them, none were interested in our lures. We tried nymphs, stoneflies and a “Patuxent Special” (an orange looking fuzzy thing) sold to us by the guy at the Tysons Orvis store. Now, in my case, bad luck – especially with this new fly stuff – is not that unusual, but Dick was skunked as well.
We chatted with another angler on the river and he echoed our results. But, we were outside, the air temp was just fine – other than some cold toes, we were not uncomfortable at all.
Now for the bad news. This place is ripe with pricker bushes. Not the nice little prickers that bend and only jab you if you hit them the right way, but the big nasty ones that are the size of a shark’s tooth and razor sharp. In fact, my brand new waders were wounded and were leaking from a small pricker hole by the end of the day. Aagh! If you come here in the summer, be prepared to dance around any number of these things and face up to having to pretty much walk in the river to avoid them.
The river is small – you have to be careful as you come up on these trout guys. I am going to add kneepads to my fishing outfit so I can get a bit lower to the ground. The river runs so smoothly that you do not have the surface movement that would potentially break up the trout’s range of vision.
The mud is muddy. There is a lot of silt in this river and it all piles up at the bends or in the flats. If you walk across it, be prepared to sink to your shin and be careful you do not end up stuck up to your knees. It is that sucking, sticky kind of mud that gives off a joyful slurping sound as you sink into it. Give a choice of prickers of mud, I took the mud.
And, finally, the trees are here as well. There are plenty of trees and all of them must be coated with adhesive that is tuned to magnetically attract all flies. While I only lost two on this trip, I spent some time untangling them from trees and bushes.
The Guide to Maryland Trout Fishing discussed the Patuxent and it is accruate in its description of the river and probably gives pretty good advice on the flies to use. More of the river is deep than shallow – 4 feet or more in places – so work your magic down at the bottom.
If I had been using my spin gear, I would have gone with a silver flash Panther-Martin since the tree cover cuts down on the amount of direct sunlight that hits the river. Indirect sun dictates a brighter flash.
Pressure. When I pulled into the parking lot, there was one other car. When I returned around noon, there were three. We only saw one other guy – not bad in a mile of walking – so the others must have headed downstream. There’s a message in that decision that I’ll check out since all the cars had Maryland plates.
Getting There: In Mapquest, get yourself to Unity, MD. Stay on 650 and to the west of town, turn north on Hipsley’s Mill Road. It’s a straight shot – once you cross the river, the parking lot is on the right.
Important! The “path” is on the south side of the river. It will get you around most of the prickers and allow you to move quickly upstream away from any perception of “close to the road” pressure.
Crisp morning shot – nice wide stretch here – wider than upstream from Howard Chapel
Great structure that will hold fish is all over this river
Generally, the streambed is rocky, but where there is a bend, it silts up with deep, soft mud that wants to suck the boots off your feet
These pictures do not really show the obstacle course of wader-poking prickers that line the banks
New Fly Guy perspective – the wide spots are great for getting some good casting practice on real water.
Exactly what you need on a chilly day standing in 34 degree water – some coffee, a fishing rod and a few flies
Dick showing me how to work a nymph in a nice hole
Worked this great looking spot – huge deep dropoff under the tree – no luck. I’m going to add kneepads to my gear on the next trip. This water is tight.
Unless stated otherwise, this article was authored by Steve Moore