When I was at the Bass Pro Spring Classic, I had a few hours to kill while waiting for the Bass seminars wanted to attend, so I headed over the the Patuxent. When I was at the NCC-TU National Angling Show the week before, I spoke with guys from the Patuxent TU chapter – all gave this section of the river high marks.
In all fairness, I do not believe the ratings I had to assign because
- I was only there for 2 hours
- The water was really not fishable – very, very murky
- I spent most of my time screwing around with fly stuff as this was my first real fly expedition
I fully expect the rating to be revised – but to be consistent, I need to report on the conditions as they were on this trip.
The first thing I noticed about the Howard Chapel end was that it looked like a moonscape. As a result of the winter and flooding, the entire landscape was a uniform shade of dirt brown – the only color was the sky – at least that was blue.
The second thing was the high banks. I had to walk along the northern bank for a bit to get to a spot where I could get down into the river – the deep side seemed to be on to the north. And deep it was. When I finally popped into the water, I was up to my hips in the brown flow – which is a good thing. Nice deep water says that the trout here can get a bit larger than what you would find in the Shenandoah.
Third thing was the trees. There are trees all over the place! As a spin guy, you don’t pay much attention to the overhead cover, but as a novice fly guy, these were obstacles that I had to deal with.
Once on the water, I got all rigged up. The books and the tapes came in handy as I was able to apply their lessons in the field. I had no problem tying everything together and getting ready to go. The first challenge, of course, was what kind of fly to use. With the water so murky, I knew that there would really not be any good choice, so I tied on a streamer with some silver flecks in it in the hopes that it would attract some attention. I also realized that this was not really a fishing trip – it was more of a practical exercise to test if could I apply my “book learning” to a stream situation – and a narrow stream at that.
The stream was around 15 feet across and well hung with trees. So, I did not go crazy. I worked small casts and had plenty of time to work the roll cast as I learned the need to get the line moving before flicking it forward and getting the hang of how much effort to put into the stop on the forward cast. Not bad. Got a few good casts out there.
But! I quickly realized that I did not really know what to do once the cast was good. If this were a nymph or a dry, I knew that I had to make sure the drift was natural – but what about a streamer? I remembered something about stripping the line, so I would pull the streamer back in about 6 inches at a time until it was directly downstream. I repositioned the line using the spey casting technique that CD Clark taught me at the lesson I took at the NCC-TU show and had at it again.
The other thing I quickly learned is that the leader/tippet does not like to get hung up in trees and that one wrong yank would quickly ruin about 4 bucks worth of leader. The same yank on a spin rig would have jerked the spinner free, or worst case, you lose a few inches. Aaagh. I only had one extra leader, so I exercised more caution from then on out.
I only had time to walk upstream a bit – to the second bend.
On such a short trip, I can’t really give this section an overall rating. It smells like a good section – I’ll have to return to confirm
Remember to refer to my rating explanations – these are based on what I look for – so RED for Physical Fitness translates to easy physically – you do not need to be in shape to fish this section. I prefer terrain that is tough to get into and out of.
I had fun! This fly stuff is pretty neat. There is more to think about, more to do and less repetitive flogging – it’s much more about position, presentation and selection than just picking a gold or silver flash and flicking it out there. I think this is going to work out OK. I’m coming back to the Patuxent next weekend with Dick to work this again. I really think this is a promising stretch of water – and one you want to visit before the pricker bushes get chest high!
Gear: As you know, I decided to go out initially with the bottom of the line – a $20 starter kit – just to see whether it would work. The line sucked – not weight forward to help on the casts, the reel was about the same – it has no drag other than some kind of clicker. If I had caught a big one, I’d be sucking eggs pretty quick. The rod … I don’t know. I’m going to take it to Bass Pro this weekend and compare the feel with a “real” rod.
Pressure. When I pulled into the parking lot, there was one other truck. When I returned around noon, there were two. I ran into the first guy and he indicated that he had no luck either and had walked quite a bit of the stream. It was just a rough water day…
Getting There: In Mapquest, get yourself to Unity, MD. Stay on 650 and to the west of town, turn north on Howard Chapel Road. It’s a straight shot – once you cross the river, the parking lot is on the right. Easy.
Upstream side of the bridge across from the parking lot
Looking downstream from the bridge – one other fisherman in sight. Counting me, there were three vehicles in the lot.
Conditions the day I was here were obvious – cold, bright, muddy runoff
Tremendous density of trees all over the place – this section requires some technical fishing – no “air fishing”.
The river was around 4 feet deep – mostly on the northern bank – as a result of the runoff from the rain and snow melt from the week prior to my trip
As you can see, the underbrush next to the river is pretty thick.
The recent high water had pressed all the old vegetation flat giving the area an odd “moonscape” feeling. Everything was dead looking.
Beware! What you can’t see here are the sticker bushes. They are everywhere! In the summer, you may as well bring a machete to chop your way to the water. The Patuxent TU chapter guys warned me about this as well.
Unless stated otherwise, this article was authored by Steve Moore