Gunpowder Deep Freeze

On Wednesday, I took advantage of the first day in recent memory that ambient temperatures weren’t encouraging water to freeze.  I was prodded partially just by the desire to be outside, but also by this:

Gunpowder river frozen
Those flat bars mean that ice is impeding the stream gauge from delivering readings.

I had driven over the river in Monkton last week, and it was frozen over.  Theaux at the shop said this is the first time he’s seen this in 15 years.  But that is nearly 9 1/2 stream miles below the dam.  Could ice be covering the river just over a mile below the dam?  I hoped not.

Gunpowder frozen at Monkton
Looking upstream from the bridge at Monkton

I didn’t even bother bringing a fly rod.  I just strapped on my gaiters and yaktrax and went exploring on the upper Gunpowder (above Falls Rd, where the stream gauge is.)

So, the good news is that the top section of the tailwater is NOT frozen.

Gunpowder RIver
Gunpowder showing one of its pretty sides

It was great to get out on the trail, although calling the stretch by the boulder pools a ‘trail’ is generous.  I wouldn’t recommend going on that trail.  I know it by heart from the hours I’ve spent there during non-snow covered times, but there were still sketchy moments.  It was beautiful, though.

Gunpowder Falls trail covered in snow
The trail…

Despite the frozen gauge, water temps are slowly creeping up.  I’m hoping winter breaks soon and we will see some decent fishing in the not too distant future.

Beaver Creek (Maryland)

Rainbow Trout Beaver Creek
Rainbow heading back home on Beaver Creek

About this time every year I get a bit of wanderlust.  The Gunpowder is definitely fishable 12 months of the year, but if I’m being honest,  it’s not always fun.  The dead of winter can and does produce some great days.  Still, enough slow, cold days in a row and I start pining for my favorite kind of fishing:  sight fishing dries to rising trout.  This time of year, that means spring creeks.

Last year I took a midweek trip to 2 spring creeks in Virginia to sate my dry fly craving.  This week I thought about heading north to the more famous spring creeks in Pennsylvania, but considering that there is a legitimate spring creek less than 90 minutes from Baltimore, I decided to stay closer to home.  Little and lovely, Maryland’s Beaver Creek was calling my name.

My last trip to Beaver Creek was mostly about exploration.  I visited in July (highlighting one of the appeals of spring creeks–they are fishable when other streams are either too hot or too cold), and walked nearly the length of the flyfishing only section.  This time I had less time to explore, so I followed the recommendation of James of Beaver Creek Fly Shop and stayed near the upper end of that section.

Beaver Creek Rainbow Trout
Beaver Creek Rainbow

The reward?  Sight fishing to rising fish.  Really can’t ask for much more than that.  Like last time, I saw some monsters.  The fish I caught were more modest in size, but beautifully colored.  Apparently there is excellent holdover and significant reproduction of rainbows in Beaver Creek, leading to a nice wild population of ‘bows.  Plus I made some friends:

Mini Donkeys and goats on Beaver Creek
Streamside companions

I’ve grown to love Beaver Creek.  It’s a beautiful option when the Gunpowder shows its stubborn side.

Midwinter on the Gunpowder

I apologize for the sparsity of posts as we head into the second month of 2015.  There just hasn’t been much to write about.

Beaver on Maryland's Gunpowder Falls
At least last year frequent beaver sightings broke up the slow winter fishing

My typical winter rig involves a medium sized bead head nymph of almost any variety (basically to attract the trout’s attention and get the dropper fly down) followed by a tiny (sz18-22) zebra midge or thread midge.  Usually I use some added weight and an indicator.  Typically, this method is steadily if not necessarily spectacularly effective until the didymo makes it too frustrating to bother with.  So far this year, didymo has been below average.  Unfortunately so have hookups.  (And it’s not like I’ve been shy about trying other techniques.)

I’m going to be looking around at spring creeks in the near Mid-Atlantic over the next couple of weeks for a much needed respite from the Gunpowder.  If you know of anything that has been working, feel free to share in the comments section.  We should also be seeing some little black stoneflies soon, so look out for that.

Gunpowder fishing in winter
Gunpowder this winter: Pretty scenery, slow fishing


Prettyboy Dam at Gunpowder
Wait, what’s that water doing coming over the top?

One of the general benefits of a tailwater is supposed to be that water temperatures are somewhat regulated.  The water stays cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter than it would be otherwise, allowing trout and bugs to thrive all year.  Seems like Baltimore City (which manages flows on the Gunpowder) is OK at keeping summer stream temps at levels that don’t kill trout, but that’s about it.

Tailwaters work because water passes through the dam from deep in the reservoir (that spout of water 1/4 of the way up the dam in the picture above), where temperatures are relatively constant throughout the year.  When water pours over the top of the dam this either partially or completely negates the tailwater effect.  That’s what happening on the Gunpowder right now.

I measured 2 tributaries of the Gunpowder yesterday as well as the Gunpowder itself.  The tribs were both within 1 degree of the main river.  The water is COLD and fishing, consequently, has been slow.  I’ve heard isolated tales of people pulling out a big fish or two, but fishing has been super slow for me and just about everyone I’ve talked to.  If you do go out, slow moving water is key to target, since the trout’s slower metabolism in cold water makes them seek these low energy intensive habitats.

Good luck!

Breaking Resolutions…

One week in, one resolution broken…  I promised a stream report every week this year, but for the first time in a really long time I didn’t fish this week!  My stream report looks like this:  IT’S COLD!

Gunpowder River temperature
It’s cold!

Winter storm Gorgon brought some snow to the banks of the Gunpowder, so be very careful if you head out.  Winter fishing can be great–it’s one of my favorite times on the Gunpowder–but highs of 18 degrees and freezing line guides are just a bit too much.  Plus, a drop to temps in this range slows down trout and speeds up rock snot…

On the plus side, I did update my site with a slightly cleaner look and a new Guiding Page. Check it out for information on the guide services I provide out of Backwater Angler in Monkton.


Gunpowder Fishing Report, Week of 12/1/2014

This time of year, it seems that nothing is constant except change.  Air temps in the high 60’s give way to sleet, rain, or snow the following day.  Still, the trout are there and willing to take the right well presented fly.  I continue to focus almost exclusively on nymphs (see my post from last week), and continue to have success.

Brown Trout Flyfishing Maryland
Pre-spawn colors make for beautiful fish

Fish are very active and generally are fighting aggressively.  Water temperatures are still warm enough that exploring the lower sections of the river (down to Glencoe, for example) can still be fun and productive.  Minimal didymo means nymphing is still fun.  Generally, this is one of my favorite times of year on the river.

The only caveat at this point is that you need to be careful not to disturb spawning trout…