Fishing the Savage River in Western Maryland

By Mike Holland

I recently had the opportunity to fish the Savage River area in Western Maryland with PVFF President Andy Mekelburg, Vice President Dave Keane, and member Denny Grizzle. We were joined by Denny’s friend, Randy Augustine, of Charleston, West Virginia, who is a member and Past President of the Ernie Nestor Chapter of Trout Unlimited.

Randy Augustine at Spring Lick, which runs into Savage Reservoir.

We camped in the Savage River State Forest, where the 1989 Whitewater Canoe and Kayak World Championships were held; it is located along the Savage River Road. The camp site is fairly rudimentary – with just a port-a-potty – and reasonably priced at $10 per night. Importantly, it is just across the road from the Savage River, affording easy fishing access. Reservations can be made by calling the state forest headquarters. The Savage River is a tailwater and offers the opportunity to pursue wild and stocked brown, rainbow, and native brook trout. As is well-known, it does experience significant pressure, which makes its fish famously resistant to anglers’ offerings, as Andy and I can unfortunately readily attest.

We tried all of the usual suspects – Wooly Bugger, Copper John, Stonefly, San Juan Worm, Prince Nymph, Hoppers, Caddis, and others – to no avail. Andy did greatly enjoy using his Tenkura rod on Licking Creek, a tributary of the Savage River just up the road from the campsite.

Denny had a lot of fun trying to catch some brown trout that were rising in a pool near a bridge below the dam. While he and Randy both got a lot of rejections, they did manage to hook a couple of fish and exercise their excellent “quick release” skills. According to Denny, the key to their success was using some 6X tippet and some very small flies, including a Blue Winged Olive (BWO) around size 20 and one of Randy’s self-tied fly that he calls the “the usual.”

However, regardless of fishing success, the Savage River affords an incredibly beautiful and peaceful setting in which to enjoy nature and test your fly-fishing skills.

Finally, if you decide to visit the Savage River and surrounding areas, you should be aware that Savage River Outfitters offer flies and other fishing equipment as well as guide service.