In Cumberland, MD for a birthday party (for a 1 year old), I took Sunday morning to go fish the North Branch of the Potomac River at Barnum. After my previous shot at fishing the river near the paper mill at Bloomington/Luke, I was pumped to try the trophy trout waters farther upstream. The river didn’t disappoint.
The river has a healthy population of rainbow trout, and while very few hatches were occurring (outside of a few scattered midges and mayflies), the fish were hot for streamers. I and my buddy fished 2″-3″ long streamers (size 4-8 hooks), stripping them rapidly across deeper, moderately fast waters downstream of riffles. The trout were happy to chase them across the seams, and we both hooked around 20 trout over the course of four hours.
The best flies were tungsten, cone-head woolly buggers in olive and brown, with flashabou/krsytal flash tied in with marabou. I did see some small minnows (dace or chubs) in the slower, still pools along the river’s edge, but not in any quantities. We fished these on 9′ leaders and floating lines. The river flows were lower, around 250 cfs, but the wading is still challenging. The bottom of the river is covered in round stones that are covered in a thin layer of what must be Teflon – the stuff is insanely slippery. If you fish it, take your time and if needed use a wading staff.
All the fish were rainbow trout, in the 10″ – 14″ range, but at least one fish was sighted that was significantly larger. That said, our hands were full fishing with 5wt’s, as the current was strong enough that the fish could run us downstream easily. The rainbows were also extremely adept at throwing the hook, leaping into the air or changing direction in the current to put some slack in our lines.
In summary, this is a gorgeous river, clean and clear, and full of hard fighting rainbows. In terms of Maryland’s trout fisheries, this river has now established itself as one of my favorites.