Gunpowder River, Baltimore County, Maryland, March 18, 2011
After hooking seven or eight trout in a row I stopped fishing to rest a bit and to think about what just happened. It was a nice day to be out on the
Gunpowder River in Baltimore County, Maryland, but it was even nicer since the fish were cooperating.

With winter heading out the back door our region was heading into our traditional Spring warm-up but today was going to be exceptional, with temperatures in the mid to high 70's and maybe a little bit more. With the possibility of bugs in the air, I headed for the river.

As I drove up Falls Road around 9am I noticed cars and trucks were already parked along the various pull-offs and in gravel lots. I quickly found a parking spot, geared up and began hiking downhill to fish an area that usually gave up a fish or two. The trees had not begun to leaf out yet so I had a clear view of Prettyboy Dam and the Gunpowder River as I followed the clearly marked trail down to the water. One of the dam's gates was open and a health volume of water was spewing out. When I finally made it to the bottom and got a good look at the river I guessed that the flow was running around 200 cfs, which made it close to optimum fishing conditions for the Gunpowder. And I guess it also pleased the kayakers because several of them passed me as I was walking downstream.

I found my spot and watched the water for a bit before tying something onto my tippet. There were a few bugs flying about but the temperature was still in the mid-50's. After sitting there for 15 minutes and not seeing any surface activity I decided to try fishing an experimental nymph given to me by a friend in Pennsylvania who's a professional tyer. It was about size 16 with a copper bead head and a dubbed body. I added a small split-shot about 12 inches above the fly and gave the setup about three feet of line before adding a small football-shaped chartreuse indicator.
When I began to fish, I did not step into the water. I started with the softer current that was flowing right next to the bank and gradually moved my casts out further if nothing took the fly. Many folks ignore the water at their feet and immediately throw the longest cast they can. I should know because I used to do it a lot. It seems the water on the opposite side of the river always looks fishier.

But I learned that fish, especially the Gunpowder fish, will sometimes be just a few feet from shore swimming in the most unexpected of places. All they need is a depression or rock or stick or snag, a few inches of water and a current that brings them food. Years ago my fishing buddy Jin showed me one such place.

We were past the Masemore bridge heading upriver when he reeled up and told me to put a cast about three feet out from the bank in water that was barely lapping over the tops of my boots. The water was clear and I could see the bottom of the river. I thought he was joking, but he insisted that I cast to that spot so I did--not putting much effort into it because I felt it was a waste of time. I was so surprised when a fish took the fly that I missed the hook set. And another. And another. And another. Jin looked at me, like you look at a dog that just peed on the carpet, and asked me if I was having a problem. Thankfully I finally hooked and landed a fish and a few more after that before Jin said to give the fish a break and quit fishing the area. In a location that most folks would think was too shallow was an area maybe five feet long and two feet wide--a shallow depression in the gravel bed that was deep enough to hold several trout.
So I fished shallow and close then gradually moved my cast out to deeper water. I readjusted the indicator to fish the fly deeper and after fishing for five minutes I had my first fish, a nice 8 inch Gunpowder brown trout that was nicely colored and full of fight. After that the fishing really turned on and after 20 frantic minutes of hooking, and missing, lots of trout the action died down. So I decided to clip off 'The Nymph' and experiment a bit with other flies.

Over the next few hours I alternated flies--fishing nymphs that were similar to the experimental model plus those I used before on the Gunpowder that caught fish. Same rod and line setup. I used flies of similar color. I used flies of dissimilar color. Flies with flash. Flies with no flash. Bead or beadless flies. Size 16,14 or 12. Size 16, 18, 22 and 24. Nymphs. Midges. Emergers. Dries. I got a few taps but it could have been the bottom. I also got some great surface takes when a couple of trout tried to eat the small chartreuse indicator. I rested the water, walking upstream and downstream to fish other areas before returning to try again. Nothing. I put 'The Nymph' back on and I caught a fish. So what did this all mean?
My theory is the fish on the Gunpowder see the same, or similar, flies most of the time since they're pounded pretty regular all year. Something that looks different stimulates their interest so they stick it in their mouth to figure out if it's good to eat. Or not. And nothing I've fished on the Gunpowder looks like 'The Nymph'. So maybe this fly is the flavor of the month for trout but eventually they'll get wise, spread the word to their friends up and down the river, and it will become just another nymph among a number of nymphs that I carry in my box. But until then I'm using it. As often as I can.

The sun climbed in the sky and it got warmer. I was standing under some heavy cover but the thermometer said it was 81 degrees in the shade. I also noticed more people appearing on the footpath that ran along the river. Joggers, dog walkers, kids and soon other fly fishers. By 2pm I had one person standing 25 feet to my right and two other folks fishing to my left, who were slowly working their way closer and closer to me. I felt pinched so I decided to call it a day and hike back up the trail.
When I finally made it back to Falls Road the parking lot was crammed with cars. A fly guy who was rigging up his rod told me at this time of the day he thought he'd have the whole place to himself. Right. On one of the nicest days this area has seen in awhile, a Friday, he expected solitude on the Gunpowder River. More cars were arriving so I got out of there and stopped by the parking lot at the Masemore Bridge to
scrub down my wading shoes. As I expected, this parking lot was also packed with anglers and kayakers. I quickly changed and got out of there as more cars piled in. As I left I could see anglers standing knee-deep in the river with others tromping down the footpaths hoping to find an open spot to wet a line.

Despite the crowd it had been a great day for fly fishing on the Gunpowder. Nice weather and cooperative fish. On the way home I stopped at the local Exxon gas station to fill up with their Coke and two hot dog special. At only $3.07 it would keep me full for the drive home through Friday evening traffic.

EQUIPMENT: I used a medium action 9 foot 4 weight rod and a 12 foot leader tapering to 5X. 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 Masemore bridge and follow the road until it hits Bunker Hill road. Turn left and follow it until it hits Falls Road. Turn left onto Falls Road and follow the road. You will cross Falls Road bridge and you will find several parking areas on your right along Falls Road as you drive uphill.