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Angler's Journal: Westward Ho for Good Trouting

October 12, 2009

By King Montgomery

The North Branch of the Potomac River holds brook, brown, rainbow and cutthroat trout.  (Photo Courtesy of King Montgomery)
All four of Western Maryland's rivers have their own personality and special regulations of one sort or another in certain stretches: catch-and-release, delayed harvest, artificial fly, lure-only, etc. Although Maryland's Department of Natural Resources (DNR) posts the rules along waterways, it's always a good idea to check the regulations before fishing.  


Western Maryland is family-friendly with a lot of non-angling activities to keep everyone occupied during all seasons of the year. A good source of information for fun things to do is the Garrett County Chamber of Commerce.

Numerous diversions include water sports on Deep Creek Lake, touring historic districts, viewing wildlife and scenic waterfalls, downhill and cross-country skiing, rafting and kayaking, camping and hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, fine dining and shopping, and more.

But it's the four beautiful trout rivers that draw me to the area.


The northernmost of the four, partially looping through Pennsylvania, the Casselman River is a classic riffle and pool valley stream. You can find trophy trout there, but some brown and rainbow bruisers over 18 inches are released each spring in addition to the normal stocking.

Spring and fall delayed-harvest seasons allow only single-hook, artificial flies or lures, and all trout caught must be released. Spring and early summer are known for superb dry fly action.


According to many accounts, the Yough ("Yock"), as the river is affectionately known, is the crown jewel of the big four Garrett County waters. The modified tailwater fishery with a channel connecting it to Deep Creek Lake's outflow travels north until it enters Youghiogheny River Lake, an impoundment astride the Mason-Dixon Line between Maryland and Pennsylvania near Selbysport, Md. The Yough is home to wild trout supplemented by periodic stocking of fingerlings by DNR.

Western Maryland Information

Garrett County Chamber of Commerce: 301-387-4386,

Maryland Department of Natural Resources: 410-974-3061,

The Western Maryland Rivers: 207-846-7000,

Spring Creek Outfitters: 301-387-6587,

Savage River Lodge: 301-689-3200,  

The Middle Yough extends from near the Deep Creek Lake release channel to the Sang Run Road bridge. This four-mile stretch is artificial fly or lure, catch-and-release only and is the popular part of the river for fly anglers. Fortunately, access to this primary fly fishing area is quite good; a trail runs north to south along the east side of the river between parking lots at Hoyes Run Road and Sang Run Road.

A word of caution: scheduled and non-scheduled water releases from the hydro-power plant at Deep Creek Lake rapidly and significantly raise current velocity and water level.


The 4-mile section of the Savage River, from the Savage River Reservoir to its confluence with the north branch of the Potomac River near Bloomington, is governed under special regulations. From the dam for almost a mile and a half to the Alleghany Bridge, only fly fishing is allowed. The remainder of the stream is managed as a Trophy Trout Stream with no bait allowed. 

The majority of the special regulation area is accessible from the Savage River Road off Route 135 at Bloomington. In places the banks are steep enough to limit approach, but there are plenty of trails blazed down to the river. Ample parking is available, particularly on weekdays. There is some posted private property, so pay attention to the signs.


The North Branch Potomac River is actually two fisheries: the area south of the Jennings Randolph Lake containing a delayed harvest section in the relatively remote Potomac State Forest, and a put-and-take section from the lake to the State Forest. The lower (northern) part of the river is the tailwater fishery with a put-and-take stretch and two sections devoted to catch-and-release. The areas are usually well-marked.

The North Branch forms the border between Maryland and a salient of West Virginia that almost cuts off Western Maryland from the remainder of the state. There are more then 20 fishable miles, almost three-quarters of which are under special regulations. The river is home to brown, brook, rainbow and cutthroat trout. Yes, Western cutthroat trout. Catch all four in a day for a North Branch "grand slam."


Western Maryland is a wonderful place. All four seasons, like the rivers, exhibit their own personalities, and there's always something fun to do for the whole family. Spring, summer and fall are prime fishing times and all four of Garrett County's beautiful streams rise to the occasion like a brown trout to a Quill Gordon.

Going west was a good idea back in the 19th century and, if you're serious about trout fishing, it's a good idea now.

PressBox outdoors editor King Montgomery is a retired Army officer, former angling guide and has a degree in fisheries biology. An award-winning outdoors and travel writer/photographer, he tries to stay afloat or afield all year round. Contact him at

Issue 142: October 2009