The Gunpowder River, located in Baltimore County, Maryland, is a large and very picturesque tailwater trout fishery that begins at the face of Prettyboy Reservoir and flows through Gunpowder Falls State Park down to the city of Baltimore.

The Gunpowder did not become one of the best know trout streams in the region until the Maryland chapter of Trout Unlimited negotiated a continuous release of water from the reservoir and state fisheries biologists stocked the stream with thousands of fingerling and adult brown and rainbow trout. The first natural stream-bred brown trout reproduction event occurred in 1989, followed by Rainbow trout reproduction in 1991 but has only been successful above Falls Road. Special trout management regulations enabled the wild trout population to successfully establish itself and the Gunpowder tailwater has been classified as a blue ribbon trout river.

About 7.2 miles of the Gunpowder between Prettyboy dam and Blue Mount Road are managed as catch and release using flies and artificial lures only. State wild trout regulations (two trout/day, no size or bait restrictions) apply from Blue Mount Road downstream for 4.2 miles to Corbett Road. The remaining 6.1 miles from Corbett Road downstream to a hiker/biker trail one mile below Phoenix Road are stocked with hatchery rainbow trout. This stream section is stocked in the spring and fall and have a five trout/day limit with no bait/lure restrictions.

The main finned resident of the upper Gunpowder is the brown trout with smaller populations of rainbow and brook trout. Rainbows can be found between the Prettyboy Reservoir and Falls Road. Brook trout can be caught throughout the tailwater at spots where smaller tributaries enter the main branch of the river. Wild brown trout can be caught anywhere on the river with the highest numbers are found upstream of the put-and-take section.

EQUIPMENT: Use anything from a 3 to 6 weight rod depending on the size of fish you are after. Leaders 9 to12 feet long at 4x or 5x are good for general use but lighter tippet and longer lengths might be called for later in the year. Check the Backwater Angler fly shop for more details.

DIRECTIONS: Take I-95 towards Baltimore then left onto I-695 to Towson. Take Exit 24 and merge onto I-83 Timonium/York, PA. Take Exit 27 Mt. Carmel Rd/MD-137 toward Hereford.
Turn left onto 137 (Mt. Carmel Road).
Turn right at Mazemore Road and drive slowly downhill, past the old stone house. The fly fishing parking lot is located just before the Masemore Bridge. To get to other areas mentioned here, cross the bridge and follow the road until it hits Bunker Hill road. Turn left and follow until it hits Falls Road. Turn left onto Falls Road and follow until it crosses the Falls Road bridge. There are several parking areas along Falls Road.

October 19, 2007
A short report.

I was on my way to pick Jin up in Philadelphia before heading up to Pulaski, NY, to fish the Salmon River at the Douglaston Salmon Run. However I had time to kill and since I left Virginia early to beat the Beltway traffic I decided to stop and fish at the Gunpowder River above Falls Road for a few hours. This would also allow the morning rush hour traffic to clear around Baltimore and the I-95 corridor heading into Delaware and Pennsylvania.

It was foggy. Really foggy. You could only see a few feet in front of the car as I slowly crossed the bridge at Masemore and Falls Road. Using a headlamp I walked down the trail to the fishing hole and began casting a size 18 parachute to a few rising fish.

The water flow was 300 cfs and fish were sipping very small bugs off the surface. I got a few hits on the parachute but decided to switch to subsurface fishing using small size 20 caddis. The hot color was green with a black head. Most of the fish I caught were wild browns. Very small but full of fight. After three hours of fishing it was time to hit the road for Philly.

September 15, 2007
A report from Jin
We fished Gunpowder River above Falls Road over the weekend with Trey, a friend from Wyoming that was in town to attend a wedding. The wedding kept the ladies busy so it gave the men the opportunity to fish in the morning.

Saturday was overcast, with air temperature in the 50s and water temperature at 61 degrees. We arrived at the river around 7am expecting tricos but found fish rising small, tan mayflies in size18 to 20. There were sporadic caddis and olives flying around.

We both caught couple browns on top with para-nymphs but the fishing slowed down around 10am and that's when we left.

On Sunday we arrived at the stream around 8 am and fished one of the lower pools for a couple of hours before taking a walk up through the gorge. Here, the fishing picked up considerably.

The first hole I stepped into, I landed three browns in five casts. It was fast and furious for about an hour with both of us landing a ton of fish. Unfortunately, we had to leave to make it to a wedding. We hiked backed to the car, drove down to the church, changed from our waders to suits in the parking lot, and made it with 30 minutes to spare. I'm told this happens all the time in Wyoming.

August 26, 2007
A report from Jin
I fished the Masemore section of the Gunpowder River from 7am to 11am, starting at the elbow pool and fishing the riffles. Air temperature was in the low 80s. It was still overcast and foggy, having just rained earlier in the morning. Didn't check water temperature but it felt mid to high 50s. The river was flowing at 150 CFS.
The fish were rising sporadically all morning to tricos (size 20 or smaller, 8am to 10am), BWOs (size 16 9am to 10am), and sporadic hatch of caddis (size 16). If you see the fish rising but can't see what they're eating, they're probably feeding on tricos. I started on top with a size 18 paranymph. And caught two browns pretty quickly. My biggest fish was about 11 inches. I moved up stream and continued to land a fish here and there.

Most of the risers were sitting in slower water away from the current. For every fish I landed, I probably missed two more. I fished back down the stream using a MMS. and landed two more fish, bringing my total for the day to half a dozen or so. I ran into another fisherman at the parking lot who suggested using partridge and purple (wet fly) and/or pink worm. He swears he caught a 26 inch brownie the week before. It sound just like the 30 incher I caught the last time I fished here.

July 27, 2007
We have never been to the lower section of the Gunpowder River so on a hot summer weekend day Jin and I hiked in to see if we could find some fish.

There are clearly defined trails on both sides of the river and it's a fairly easy hike. Our plan was to walk downstream for about a mile then fish back upriver. The trail is a dirt path that winds its way alongside the river. At some locations you must climb over fallen trees or hike up and down large rock formations, but it's not very difficult. We wore our waders and wading shoes, but I think if I were going to do it again (and especially if it was during hot, muggy weather) I'd wear walking shoes (or Korkers) and carry the waders in to the put-in point.

Water conditions were great. Water temperature was in the lower 50's and the river was running clear. The bottom would go from rough gravel to soft, sticky muck along the banks. There are some very deep runs and large debris pileups. Another problem you must contend with are the tubers and kayakers who float downriver but it doesn't seem to bother the fish because they'll continue to bite after the disturbance passes. I just love it when they float right through the area you're fishing and ask if you're catching anything.
Fishing was fairly decent. Nearly all of the fish caught (by Jin) were small, palm-sized wild browns except for a very large brown that would have probably measured out at close to 15 inches, which is an exceptional sized fish for the Gunpowder. I could tell it was a decent fish because Jin had a serious bend on his rod and had to muscle it out from under some fallen branches. He had it in hand, removed the hook, and as I was approaching for a picture it slipped free. His cry of anguish was probably heard back in Virginia.

The fishing pattern had trout hitting size 16 or 18 para-nymph dries in the morning but around noon the bite shut down and we had to go subsurface with size 16 beadhead pheasant tails or beadhead emergers.

June 30, 2007
We decided to fish the lower section of the Gunpowder at the Monkton ranger station trailhead. This is a put and take section of the river and not as easy to access due to the steep terrain and wading. This is not for those who want to pull into a parking lot and immediately get into the river to fish. You have to walk. We probably did half a mile in on the trial then walked-waded another mile upstream before exiting for the day.

This was my first time fishing this area. It was very beautiful and we had a good two miles of the Gunpowder all to ourselves. How did I know this? By talking to the float-tube folks drifting past us and there were many. Most were college kids on inner tubes...usually with one tube (or two) reserved for the cooler with beer or other beverage of choice.

However the fish didn't seem to mind all the commotion. The floaters would pass through and we'd get back to catching fish. I got a really nice nine inch wild brown on a size 16 beetle and several more smaller ones. Jin hammered about a dozen and we probably missed more than we caught. Towards 6:30pm we decided to move up to the Mazemore Bridge to try the evening hatch, but the water conditions were extremely low and there were no insects coming off the water. We called it a day at 9:00pm and headed back to DC.

The low water level was disturbing and it was quite evident, especially at the Mazemore Bridge, that the water has been low for quite awhile. Grass was growing in spots that would otherwise be underwater and we saw very few fish. Those that were around are hold up in deep cuts in the riverbed, so you'd have better luck going subsurface with a nymph than throwing dries because they're scared and they're sitting down deep.

June 17, 2007
A report from Jin
My Father's Day present was a family outing to the Gunpowder, where the girls could float down the river while dad fished.

We arrived at Bunker Hill campground around 2pm. The water temperature was 56 degrees and flowing around 35 CFS. The stream was ankle deep in most places.

I managed to hook one small brownie (bait-sized) during the first two hours on a dry. I switched to a baetis emerger around 4pm and things started to pick-up when I landed three small browns. Fish began to rise. I saw several caddis but nothing else on the surface.

I switched to a size 16 X-caddis and landed two more browns and missed another four as my hook-set is a bit rusty from lack of practice (editor's note: you must be kidding me). I could have kept going but it was time to take the little ones home. The fish turned on around 4pm and I landed all of my fish in less than an hour, with the largest fish at 10 inches. Several of the smaller browns could have qualified as bait.

May 29, 2007
A report from Jin
I planned to fish the upper and lower stretches of the Gunpowder to explore sections of the stream I have not yet fished. Unfortunately, I fell into my old habit of parking at Masemore and walking upstream, hoping to have the riffles all to myself. Air temperature was in the low 70s and water temperature was 70 degrees.

One other car was in the parking lot when I arrived around 8am and I let the elderly fisherman go ahead of me. We had the entire stream to ourselves. There were sporadic rises, with fish jumping out of the water in many instances . I tied on a size 16 caddis and hooked a 12 inch trout almost immediately. Switching to a size 18 para-nymph, I landed couple more small browns before I caught up to the fisherman ahead of me. He was having difficulty tying on his new fly, so I set him up with some 7x tippet and an x-caddis, guided him across the stream to a better spot, and started up the stream to the riffles. I hope I'm fishing the Gunpowder when I'm 84.
Caddis started to come off in larger numbers around 11am. I landed another four to six, mainly small browns and probably missed just as many strikes. I managed to foul hook my biggest two fish of the day, a couple of browns that were 12 inches plus. The bigger fish would take the fly and roll on the surface as they spit out the fly, causing the hook to become lodged somewhere on their body.

I left the stream around noon and stopped at Backwater Anglers for some color on fishing conditions. Jason at ths shop said the fishing picks up around 6pm, as sulphurs start to hatch. A size 16 to 18 dun is the go-to fly until the spinners start to fall. He also said the warm water is accelerating hatches this year. Sulphurs usually hatch through out June but we may see them ending earlier this year. The peak hatch maybe over and we might be fishing with ants and beetles before the middle of June!

May 26, 2007
It was hot. The Memorial Day crowd was starting their early escape from DC, flooding the roads with cars on their way to the beach on the Eastern Shore. With everyone hitting the roads or planning some serious partying, Jin and I decided to fish the evening hatch on the Gunpowder River.

Traffic wasn't that bad as we made our way up to Monkton, Maryland. After a quick sandwich at That Funky Monkey Cafe (16949 York Rd., Monkton, Md., Ph: 410-343-3232) we drove down to the Masemore section of the Gunpowder and began fishing.

We tied on size 16 and 18 para-nymphs and stepped into the water. Jin landed an nice brown on his second or third cast near the elbow pool above the Masemore bridge. We could see trout sipping something off the top but we couldn't quite see what it was. For the next few hours we worked our way upriver, fishing the likely riffles and runs. Jin landed two more trout while I proceeded to annoy the fish by yanking the fly away before they could get a good grip on it. Late in the afternoon we returned to the car and took a break before the evening hatch.

Fish were rising near the Masemore bridge so we decided to fish this area for the evening. Things started off quietly but as the sun began to set the fish became really aggressive and were jumping out of the water to grab at the bugs. However we still couldn't quite get the right pattern down and I tried a ton of different flies--para-nymph 16-18, sulphers from 16-20, black gnat 16-18, PMD parachute 16-18 and dry 14-18 and I even tried drifting nymphs (pheasant tail-bead and non-bead, flash and no flash) thinking that there might be subsurface action. However when Jin gave me a spinner--that was the key. On my second cast I hooked up with a decent brookie.

But I think we still were missing the key pattern for the night. Fish were rising and sipping all around me but except for the brookie I couldn't buy another hit. By 8:30pm the action had died out and we headed home after a quick gourmet meal at the gas station.

May 13, 2007
A report from Jin
I made it to the Gunpowder River around noon and started fishing from York up to the big elbow pool. The air temperature was 64 degrees when I arrived but it warmed to a high of around the mid-70s as the day went on.

Water was flowing around 100 CFS however the water was slightly stained with the temperature in the high 60s. I couldn't tell if the dam was overflowing, hence the high water temp.

The fishing basically sucked. I got three strikes on top and landed two fish. Both were in the five inch range. I tied on a nymph with a couple of pounds of lead and dredged the bottom of some deep pools and managed to get a couple of solid strikes, but no fish. I had the Tsumakoto complex, the seeming inability to set the hook despite the fish grabbing your fly and just waiting for you to set the hook (Editor's note: this syndrome was named after a fisherman who missed eight trout in a row on the upper Gunpowder River a few years ago).

There were sporadic hatches of caddis (size 16), some smaller mayflies that looked like blue quills (size 16 to 18) and one sulphur. Might have seen one rise all day, other than the three I managed to rustle up on my size 16 para-nymph. I also tried different x-caddis patterns, para-nymphs down to a size 20, and assorted nymphs (serendipity, baetis emerger, and lightning bug). Generally not a good day when number of flies used exceeds fish caught by a factor of two.

I spoke to other fishermen that were all asking the same question: "Where's the @@#$%## hatch?"

I did have a deer cross the stream next to me. Generally this is a bad omen for fishermen. I bugged out around 3pm...defeated.

April 22, 2007
A report from Jin
Fished Gunpowder today down by York Road. I hit the stream around 7am; air temperature was 47 degrees with water temperature in the low 50s. It looked like the river was flowing 100 to 120 CFS.

Fishing was pretty slow. I fished the slower runs with a size 18 para-nymph and got one fish pretty fast but then nothing until around 10:30am when I was ready to walk off the water. Got three takes on the same fly but my slow reaction kept me from hooking up.

Bug activity picked up a bit as air temp warmed. I saw a couple of caddis, couple of mayflies but couldn't tell what they were (size 18 to 16 maybe). Spotted one March Brown or Brown Drake. A BIG FLY (size 12 to 14). I fished all the way up to the riffle where you hooked your fish last year. I was hoping for some sulphurs and rising fish.