The Gunpowder Falls River, Maryland

I was in Maryland for a conference this past week, right by the Gunpowder Falls River in the Hereford area. This river is well known as a wild trout stream and tailwater that runs out of Prettyboy Reservoir. It was named one of the 100 best trout streams in the country by Trout Unlimited and made Field and Stream’s Top 5 U.S. Tailwaters. The river is also well known due to fly fishing legend and conservationist, Lefty Kreh. There was a time when the river would dry up depending on the flows out of the reservoir. Lefty fought for a steady release from the dam and the catch and release only section in the upper 7+ miles of the river. This resulted in one of the finest wild trout populations in the country. It also resulted in the trail that runs along the upper 7 miles of the river being named after Lefty Kreh.

My conference ran from Tuesday morning through Thursday afternoon, but as it is a 4-hour drive or more from my home in New York, I chose to come down Monday morning and leave Friday afternoon. This gave me some added time to go fishing and explore the river. My first stop was the Backwater Angler there in Monkton. Its owner, Theaux, was incredibly forthcoming with tips and pointers on the river and its wild trout population. He helped me plan my trip according to the impending rainstorms heading our way. He was knowledgeable and non-pretentious, a very generous man who I was grateful to have met.

After settling into my room, I headed out to do some fishing for the rest of the afternoon. My first stop was the upper river toward the Prettyboy Reservoir. I parked at the Gunpowder Falls Trailhead lot on Falls Road and hiked down toward the river. I was quite surprised at the beauty of the river, its pristine cleanliness, and its easy access. Really, I picked up 1 piece of trash the entire week on the river.

Upper Gunpowder Falls River

Anyway, I began my week of fishing and was immediately into a few little wild brown trout. They were very interested in the little stoneflies I had tied the week prior. I started fishing some beautiful streamers that Theaux from Backwater Angler had recommended, and though I got a few bites, couldn’t seem to set a hook. After switching to the stonefly dry, I landed 4 little 6 inch browns in a couple small pools. I continued to hike further up the river but was unable to hook up after trying a multitude of nymphs and dry flies.

The upper portion of the river is chock full of giant boulders and pocket water, but there are also very calm, slow-moving portions throughout the river as well. Sections where you have to be extra careful and not spook the already skittish fish. And, speaking to that, 12-foot leaders and 7x tippet are the way to go here. Over the course of the next week, I fished several sections of the river from Big Falls Road to Masemore Road and up to the reservoir. The river offered a variety of different water and many challenges. I was using a 7 1/2 foot 3wt rod as the majority of the fish were fairly small and it is a smaller river. My largest fish of the week was about 8 inches.

I did not fish Thursday due to the rain but was able to get back out Friday morning. The river was blown out but clearing up and there was some visibility so I was throwing streamers again, black and olive woolly buggers primarily, with a few nymphs as well. I had a couple hits, but nothing landed. It was beautiful though. I hiked from the Masemore Road bridge up to the Falls Road bridge. There were some beautiful spots and really fishy-looking water, but no luck for me that day. As I always say though, it’s not just about catching fish. The oneness I feel with nature while fly fishing is immeasurable. Being alone on the river with nothing but the sound of the wind, birds, and river tumbling by is perfection to me.

I’m looking forward to making it down to that area of Maryland again to do more trainings so that I can have an opportunity to fish the Gunpowder Falls again. It really is a beautiful river and well cared for. It was an honor to fish the same waters as Lefty Kreh, a man who I have admired since I got into the sport nearly 25 years ago. I also want to thank the stewards of that river who work so hard to keep it so pristine. Thank you and see you again soon!

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