I had never heard of the Northwest Branch until I started to study the Maryland Stocking Table. Since I work in Gaithersburg once a week, I was interested in additional fishing options that I could use while waiting for traffic to subside before driving home.
The Northwest Branch is huge! Surrounded by homes, it stretches for miles through the heart of an exceptionally built up area.
The first challenge is to figure out how to access it? I decided to go to the northern end of the stocked section and start there. When I drove down the road, it was clear to me that this was more complex than I anticipated. There were no clearly marked pulloffs or parking areas to get access to the fishing. You could pull into the housing areas and drive around looking for an access point, but I did not have time to do that and was uncertain about parking in front of a random house and then hoping the trail to the creek did not violate anyone’s property rights.
Putting aside the fact that I am a man, I swallowed my pride and drove into the Wheaton Regional Park in search of the park office to ask for directions. The kind lady behind the desk was happy to tell me where to go. Basically, go down and park in the right hand lane at the entrance to the Wheaton Regional Park. There is a well marked trailhead that opens up to the path. Just head down that path and creek will pop up.
Roger that. As soon as I hit the creek, I started to see trout. The Northwest Branch had been stocked the week before my visit with over 2,250 trout, so I would have been really shocked to discover it had already been fished out.
The creek is nothing special. It’s basically a holding tank for trout waiting to be put into a frying pan. There is no holdover here, strictly put and take, anything goes. The creek did not look like anything special either. It was one step up from the misery of Severn Run; a bit wider, a bit deeper, with more water.
The creek is mostly mud and slit on the bottom with high banks that demand you pick your side of the river and stick with it for awhile. Since this is a stocker creek, the best bet is to walk down the wide path and find the parts of the creek that are near the trail. That’s where the fish will be.
On my evening here, this was exactly the case. I was able to find fish near the path, nothing away from the path. This tells me that the pressure here is intense and the fish do not have the opportunity to disperse across the entire length of the creek. A quick glance confirms that they are captured into the pool into which they are dumped. There are exceedingly shallow sections between pools that would prevent “the great escape” unless the water levels are up. At the time I visited, since we had not had a really intense rain that would blow out the creek, it is not surprising that the fish stay where they are loaded into the stream.
The MD DNR has stocked golden trout here. I get a real kick out of them since they are easy to spot finning in the shallow water. But I have discovered that these guys are also hard to catch… at least for me. I worked a set of goldens at 15 Mile Creek last month without success and the outcome of the fight on this water was exactly the same.
A good aspect of Northwest Branch is that it is easy to negotiate. I did not need my wading staff and hip waders will do just fine. There is plenty of room to cast with few lurking trees eager to grab your fly. Since you are in the middle of the Washington Metro Area, the cell phone coverage is good if you get into an emergency.
While I was fishing, I saw plenty of dog walkers and no other fishermen. However, the proximity of the creek to a densely populated area can only mean pressure. This is not the North Branch. Absolutely nothing scenic here.
Bottom Line: If you are desperate, this is OK to fish after work or right after the stocking.
Getting There: Take the Georgia Ave exit (31) northbound from the beltway onto MD 97. Turn right on Randolph Road (MD 183). Turn right on Kemp Mill Road. This road runs in front of the Wheaton Regional Park. Go down about 1/2 mile or so until you see the park entrance on Glenallen Ave. Turn right and park in the turnoff at the head of the road (Glenallen/Kemp Mill) or go just beyond Glenallen and park on the right. The trailhead is well marked and is right here – about 25 yards south of the Glenallen/Kemp Mill intersection on Kemp Mill.
Secrets Revealed? No. This is a very public location that is documented in the Maryland DNR stocking table
Spots like this right next to the trail will have fish after stocking
The creek has a number of wide areas with deep sections on the outer rim
This was farther from the trail. Nobody home here
And much of the creek is really shallow. This is inches deep at most under the bridge.
Unless stated otherwise, this article was authored by Steve Moore