Gunpowder River Fly Fishing – A Year Round Maryland Haven for Anglers
Located in northern Baltimore County of Maryland, Gunpowder River has remained a trout fisherman’s favorite. This river is a tail water which means that its source is controlled by a dam and in this case, the Prettyboy Dam and the reservoir hold the water that flows into the river. The river starts at the dam and travels many miles and deposits into the Loch Raven reservoir. Loch Raven is one of the main water supplies for the city of Baltimore, Maryland. The watershed surrounding the water is all park land and is maintained by the Maryland Dept. of Natural Resources. The valley created by the flows has created a beautiful natural landscape complete with rhododendrons, laurels and ferns. It stays very lush all year and the changing of the seasons is truly a thing of beauty with the smells and colors. The Gunpowder watershed is enjoyed by not only fly fishing anglers, but hikers who use the miles of trails and paths that border the river on each bank.
For many years, Gunpowder Falls has remained a perfect environment for holding trout and for the natural reproduction of trout. Because the release from the dam is from the lower gates, 50-100 ft., the water going into the river stays at a relatively constant temperature, somewhere in the mid-50 degree (F) level. These temps are where trout thrive. The trout that are found in the stream are brook, brown and rainbow. The top seven and a half miles of the river are designated as “catch and release” which means that no fish can be harvested; only artificial lures or flies can be used with single hooks. No bait fishing is allowed! Because of these restrictions, this part of the river allows the fish to propagate in a controlled setting. The food sources available for the fish include many species of mayflies, caddis, stoneflies and midges. Fly fishing is ideal here and anglers are in their element in this river. The most notable hatch in the river is the late spring emergence of what the locals call, “Sulphurs”. This is a species of mayflies that has a distinct creamy yellow or orange color, similar to the mineral, sulphur. These hatches can occur in great numbers and the fish are fully aware. In the mid to late summer, terrestrials become more prevalent and these are also high on the menu for the fish. Ants, beetles, grasshoppers and crickets are the perennial favorites. Along with the local bugs, there are many species of forage fish, including sculpin and dace. These species can be found along the entire length of the river.
Below the catch and release section, there is a short “Wild stream” designation which allows two fish to be kept and the use of bait is permitted. Below that is what is termed the “Put and Take” area. In this area the State stocks up to 7,000 rainbow trout a year. In this section, the fisherman is allowed to harvest up to 5 fish and the use of bait and multiple hooks is permitted. This section does heat up in the summers and may freeze over in the dead of winter. There are many other smaller creeks and streams that flow into these parts of the river which add to the temperature shifts and amounts of sediment. Summer thunder storms can greatly affect the conditions in the lower river. Run-off can muck the river quickly with a downpour. The top of the river does not fluctuate as readily due to very few tributaries and the dam flow are relatively constant. The Geologic Survey has two monitoring stations on the river in the top and lower sections. This can be monitored on the internet to find out the flow rates of the river.
The Maryland Gunpowder River has remained a “blue ribbon” fishery for years. Access to the river is easy due to many public parking areas at cross streets and where roads intersect the river. Summer makes the river a much busier destination due to swimmers and hikers taking advantage of the pastoral setting and cool waters, but that is not a deterrent. The Gunpowder River fly fishing is challenging and very rewarding. Being close to a major metropolitan area, the river sees a fair amount of pressure, which adds to the challenge. This forces the fisherman to adhere to the tenets of the sport and in a word, presentation is the key. A well-chosen and well-presented fly will yield the desired result; a beautifully colored and healthy native trout.