The Patapsco Spring trout fishery this year combined the old and the new. I met an old friend, had success at my old favorite spot with a new technique, made a new acquaintance and sampled a new spot.
The Patapsco River at Daniels received a stocking of rainbow trout on Feby. 24 and further stockings of rainbow and brown trout on April 2 and 3. The waters were so high and fast I didn't even try until after the April stockings. Fast water continues to a problem for waders.
Equally challenging - and dangerous - is the silt buildup just off fast waters in many areas. In a number of areas, often near usually productive spots, silt buildup makes wading hazardous, as a wading fisherman can easily sink up to his knees in silt. Thigh high waders can then fill with water making extricating oneself from the river difficult to impossible. I urge fishermen to use chest-high waders secured at the waist with a tight belt to seal out water in case of a spill or plunge into the muck. Use a wading staff to test the river bottom ahead of you, and avoid silting areas.
Even some of the firmer, rocky bottom areas can be a challenge, since a slippery layer of silt covers the bottom in many areas. Experience with Patapsco waters can be a big help in navigating the river - but only if one is aware that many places have been changed with siltation, scouring and sunken wood and other debris due to prolonged high waters.
When I arrived at the Patapsco two weeks ago, I began scanning the waters from the bank, when a familiar figure, carrying a 16 to 18-inch brown trout walked up to me. I focused on the trout first, then I recognized the fisherman, Roland Avery, one of my favorite Patapsco regulars. Roland told me he'd taken about a dozen trout, mostly browns, with his favorite outfit, an ultralight spinning rod, matching reel, 2-pound test monofilament and a pink Berkley PowerBait Trout Worm on a small, barbless hook with a large split shot a foot above the hook. You read that right - 2-pound test line.
Roland launched into warnings about river conditions in several spots, information I'd already deduced but good information to newcomers, before he told me about the fishing. He'd taken his trout in a still pool upstream. I figured out that one, too; you would need quiet water to catch trout that size on line that light.
After leaving Roland I hiked to my favorite spot, a complex series of riffles with a couple of slots, shelves and back eddies. The river was raging through the area, but there was a slot and back eddy that looked like it should hold trout. I figured if I could make a long cast over the fast water I might get a drift and swing of about five feet down the slot before the current ripped the lure downstream.
The current would grab a fly line as soon as it touched down and yank a fly out of the slot. So I dug out an ultralight rod with 8-pound monofilament on the reel and attached a silver, #1 Mepps spinner. I found I could barely cast across the fast currents into the slot with the spinner and could only get a drift of a couple of feet before I had to crank like mad to skid the spinner back across the current before it was dragged into trees and brush lining the banks downstream.
But the trout were "right where they should have been," and I took nine browns and three rainbows in little more than two dozen casts. A couple of trout inhaled the spinner, so I had to keep them. When I clipped off one tine of the spinner's treble, I had several missed strikes and several more trout shake off as I retrieved them across the currents, but those I landed all had only a single barb at the very edge of their jaws. Grabbing the hook shank with pliers and giving a quick wrist flip released the other 10 trout unharmed just above the water in a quiet eddy.
Several of the browns were in the 14 to 16-inch range. I could never have brought those fish across the currents with lighter line.
I then drove several miles to explore a spot a buddy had told me about that had received the earlier stocking of rainbows. The description I was given was perfect, but when I arrived I found another fisherman there. He told me his name was Leonard Grier, and he'd fished several places along the river with lures and baits. This pool was the only spot he'd had any luck; he'd taken five rainbows there. I told him the pool was all his, and I wouldn't fish since I wanted pictures more than fish.
But there was one condition: He had to catch a trout for a picture. He quickly agreed and complied. Then he caught another, before he was satisfied with the day's action and left.
With the pool to myself, I made a half-dozen casts and had a couple of hits on the spinner then switched to the pink worm rig to take a rainbow on the first cast. That was enough for me, too.
The Maryland Department of Natural Resouces (DNR) will continue to stock local streams and ponds for another month. Some nice trout are being stocked. But none are worth dying for, so be careful out there.
For a list of stocked water by date, see: http://dnr.maryland.gov/fisheries/stocking/index.asp.
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With rivers still running high and fast spinning gear is the choice with spinners, Berkley PoewrBait Trout Worms and paste and nugget baits.