This River is Wild left the Upper Potomac and headed to the next stop in line, the Yougiogheny River. We heard a lot about the Yough from local fly shops and magazines and had high expectations. We also heard it was some more crazy water to fish, with massive fluctuations in flows and some class V rapids. We ended up deciding to fish the catch and release section of the Yough which encompasses a few miles beginning upstream from Sang Run. We arrived early that morning to heavy showers and the rain continued throughout the entire day.
Weirdest Chubs of All Time.
Most Acrobatic Fish of the Trip.
We immediately began catching small bows and browns who eagerly attacked not only our nymphs but our large dries as well. These small fish were easily, pound for pound, the hardest fighting fish of the trip. Most likely due to their environment and the ever changing flows of their habitat. During our time at the Yough the river was low and and the water was very shallow making it difficult to find the holding water of the resident trout. After fishing several miles Adam and I found several nice pockets that contained numerous fish. For our efforts we only caught one large fish, a bow pushing 15 inches. Several large rainbows approaching 25 inches were spooked in the long glides of the river and we missed some nice brown trout. Overall the experience on the Youghiogheny was difficult despite the number of fish that were caught.
Going out with friends always proves to be a good time. Last night while checking out the local bar scene I got a bit giddy upon arrival, oh who am I kidding I was *&^%@*! ecstatic when I noticed the insect activity around the neon lights of the bar. I immediately started pointing and rattling off scientific names of stonefly and mayfly species. The locals outside the bar were giving me some weird looks as I explained to my friends the life cycles of these insects while pointing out the eggs underneath one of the large golden stones. Haha, the looks got even weirder when a whipped out my cell phone to get a few shots.
After reveling in the trout of the Savage, This River is Wild made the 20 minute drive to Barnum, West Virginia to gain access to the North Branch of the Potomac River. After the technical demands of the Savage it was fun for a day to hammer on some dumb hatchery fatties.
We began the afternoon by wading downstream from the access point and catching two browns on two casts. They were a far cry from the healthy fins and markings on the Savage browns, but fun nonetheless.
Soon we had 'bows and some browns hammering anything we threw at them. Soft hackle hare's ears suspended under Letort Hoppers were pulling them out. We took fish on the dry, on the swing, on a dead drift, on a not-so-dead drift, on a drowned dry fly....they were definitely not picky. We had fun with some seriously complex rises and slow, deliberate takes on our dries. Nothing is more exciting than when a fish has your dry nose-to-nose for a few seconds before refusing or committing.
That evening we hiked upriver of the access point to check out the water we would fish the next day. Before we could get a good look at it a local who had been fishing upriver came out of the woods and told us to turn around because he saw a 'huge ass bear, I mean a big fucking bear!" wading near shore a mere 100 yards upriver from us. Thanking him for preventing us from walking into the jaws of death, we fished a bit and returned to camp to gear up for the next morning.
Gearing up = eating lots of hot dogs
Strategizing that night we realized that the Maryland side of the river, upstream from the Barnum access must be rarely fished compared to the WV side because of the ridiculously treacherous wading. We decided to work that side hard the next day.
Slowly working our way upstream, using hands, elbows, knees and felt souls to navigate the thigh-deep rushing water and boulders we worked the pocket water. We had some success on dries and the old reliable soft hackle. About a half mile upstream we hit the first long, deep run. After bombing a cast across the river and mending upstream, Mark set the hook on the first of 10 or so rainbows of 17 inches or more that we would bring to hand from this point onward. Mark pulled another 18 incher out of this hole before hooking and landing a monster approaching 24".
A Real Pig
Adam and mark continued to haul them in as I tied on a streamer and worked the pools for the next two hours. After 5 hits I finally landed a 17 inch 'bow, cut off the streamer and tied on a hopper-dropper rig. Adam hooked a slam pig rainbow that would give Mark's a run for the title of the fish of the trip before it ran between his feet during a landing attempt and broke itself off by snagging the dropper on Adam's boots. He slumped into the current, silently dejected.
Almost all of the fish we caught were hatchery rainbows. Most of them had tiny nubs for pectoral fins resembling vestigial limbs. Some of them were totally missing the tail fin and just had a flap of flesh. One that we caught was almost completely rectangular in shape.
In short, the closer we got to the dam the bigger and uglier the fish became. Some of the few bright spots were the few wild bows and browns pulled from the pocket water of the rapids and the healthy 24"ers that Mark and Adam hooked, with their massive fins.
After 6 hours of trudging through the current we could finally see the dam in the distance. Beneath the 'no trespassing' sign there was a long, deep and still pool. We took turns casting upstream and each of us pulled out a few fish.
At this point we were spent. Starting out the day at 7am, it was now approaching 5pm and we had foolishly brought no food and very little to drink. We left the river and hiked back to the truck, totally content in the experience we had on the North Branch and excited to head to the Youghioheny River the next morning.
Heading west This River is Wild stopped at the Savage River and after two days of fishing, I think it is safe to say I have a new favorite place to fish. If I had to sum up the Savage River in one word it would be nirvana. It has three of my favorite things: scenery, beautiful wild fish, and some of the best pocket water. Combine that with easy access and relatively few anglers and you have the makings for a memorable outing. After we left the Savage, I kept thinking about it and the fish that reside there. I cannot wait to go back and get some more browns and brookies.
A River Runs Through Matt.
Glorious Brook Trout.
Until We Meet Again.
First Nice Brown Out of First Nice Hole.
Contemplating The Approach.
Arriving at the campsite, we geared up and headed to the nearest water to fish until darkness. I initially had a nymphing rig geared up and ready to go. Upon seeing the amount of mayflies on the water and the pocketwater, I promptly switched to a dry dropper. I went to old reliable, my favorite dry fly, the Letort Hopper and put a Gold Bead Flashback Soft Hackled Hares Ear about three feet below. Little did I know, that this would be my setup for most of the trip and it would be the most productive setup at the Savage. I immediately found success with the rig and caught several nice browns and brookies.
Soft Hackle Slays.
More Brook Trout Love.
Another Nice Brown.
Close Up Release.
At night, we settled in to fish the PHD pool. We had no idea the name of the hole, but it looked nice. There were hardly any risers until around 9:30 p.m. when night was falling on the Savage. I took a high position and waited for a riser. There were only two consistent fish rising in the pool and both were relatively small. I waited some more. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness I became extra aware of my surroundings. I noticed a dark shape ascend from the depths of the hole and hover precariously below the surface slowly moving back and forth picking off small mayflies. My eyesight strained to tie on a size 18 flashback pheasant tail on 6x but I finally managed and on my 3rd cast the dry took a slight dip and the large brown was on the end of my line. As with several other browns I caught, this one had an extra large head and mouth when compared to the rest of its body. Next year, hopefully they grow into those megamouths.
PHD Pool Brown.
Our Patagonia Ad.
Adam Working A Pool in the Early Hours.
Brown With Sweet Scar on the Gill Plate.
We spent the night right along the river at the designated campgrounds. Our first fire of the year struggled to get its act together. The firewood picked up from the nearby town was a little waterlogged and would not catch. Once it did we carved our hot dog sticks and roasted some dogs on the open fire. Nothing beats a hot dog over and open fire slowly roasted on a branch of maple. We ate our dogs and preceded to tie flies by headlamp. We assembled our arsenals for the following day, making small tweaks to the days most effective patterns with the hopes that they would be even better the following day on the water.
Thousands of Midges Laying Their Strands of Eggs.
Walking Through the Swarm.
Only Bow on the Savage.
Typical Savage Brown.
Our efforts proved effective, on the following day we were all sporting dry droppers based off my patterns the earlier day. We left no hole untouched and hammered browns and brooks all day with a decent rainbow coming to hand on the upper reaches. I also landed the prettiest brown I have ever caught with perfect color, spots, and fins.
Ah, the Power of Angles.
-Our Neighbors in the Campground Loved Their Country, Horseshoes, and Beer into the early morning
-The Sprained Wrists & Ankles, Sore Shoulders,Knees, & Hips From the Treacherous Wading
-Falling & Breaking Two Fly Boxes in Half & Shattering Two Spools of Tippet (Waistpack Broke My Fall, But My Shoulder Wasn't Spared)
-Matt Battling the Flu & Falling Into the Frigid Water @ 9:30 p.m. All Before Our Mile Long Bushwack Trying to Find Some Random Fire Road To Take Us Back To Camp
-How Much Fun It Is Disinfecting Waders and Boots Between Rivers (Totally Worth It Though)