Favorite Place for Bass: Kayaking on the Monocacy

by Karen Baker

One of my favorite places is the Monocacy River in a kayak.

Why do I like the Monocacy River? The river is very accessible with many boat ramps and access points. The scenery is lovely with lots of wildlife such as deer, bald eagles, hawks, kingfishers, egrets, ducks, and an occasional Osprey. There are some simple rapids to add to the fun and you can beach your boat and wade fish, picnic, or go for a quick swim when it’s hot. There are many insects that live in and around the river and you often see swallows and even hummingbirds swooping to catch them as they lift off the water. There are a variety of fish in the river: small mouth bass, largemouth bass, various types of pan fish, eels, catfish, musky, carp, and probably many others. It’s always a surprise!

What sections of the Monocacy River do I most often fish? I usually fish the lower section of the river and take out at the Aqueduct at the Mouth of the Monocacy. I can paddle under the aqueduct and out into the Potomac River, too. Although I have floated and fished this section many times, it never gets old. There is always something different: fledgling eagles, water levels and currents, and you never know what might take your fly.

How do I fish the Monocacy River? I always fish from my kayak, but sometimes beach it and wade to wet fish. I usually use a streamer. Almost any type of weighted streamer will do. I’ve used traditional black and olive, bead head or not, crystal buggers, egg sucking leach (I got a cat fish on that one time), or streamers. There are lots of downed trees and woody debris along the banks, so it’s fun to stop along those and toss the fly in.

What is my approach to fishing the Monocacy River? I generally use a 5/6 weight rod with 4X tippet with the weighted streamer. There are sections where the bottom is smooth rocks, but most often there is debris so it’s easy to get snagged if the fly is too heavy or it isn’t moving swiftly enough. I often cast out and then gently paddle or drift with the current. I can be paddling along watching the clouds or the train passing over head on the trestle and my reel will start to sing when a fish takes the fly.

What do I consider the degree of difficulty to fish the Monocacy River? The river is easy to float, except in high water. After a heavy rain it can be very muddy and fast and not good to float or fish. The best times are several days after a rain, or mid-summer or fall when the weather is nice and it doesn’t rain as much. The rapids are small (Class 1) but it’s important to keep your wits about you and watch for rocks. Parking is usually not a problem as the take out is at the National Park and there is a large lot there.

How difficult are the fish to catch on the Monocacy River? It’s hard to not catch anything on this river. There are some days I don’t, but most often in a 2-3 hour float I will get several bass and assorted pan fish. The advantage here is even if you don’t catch much you have a lovely day on the river.
Bring a picnic and cold drink and stop along the way to enjoy. Be careful if you have an adult beverage, as no alcohol is allowed once you step out of your boat and set foot on the park grounds.