Outing Report: A Savage River Reminder of Lefty’s Legacy

Mike Holland with a Savage River brown trout

Several years ago,  when I finally realized that I was not immortal and that life passes far too quickly, I began to make it a priority to fish on, or in close proximity to, my birthday. So, on Saturday, July 1, 2023, I celebrated my birthday by fishing the Savage River with PVFF club President Andy Mekelburg and Pete Ring. 

I selected the Savage River because it is a beautiful tailwater with wild brown and brook trout relatively close to our homes. Additionally, it is a challenge with difficult terrain and very wary fish; a technical river as they say. 

A few years ago, Andy and I fished the Savage on my birthday. Andy caught a beautiful brown in the Ph.D. pool, and I got skunked. So, this time, we hired a guide, Ryan Cooper, who was referred to us by the Savage River Outfitters.

We were blessed with a beautiful and productive day and saw some things one does not see that often. Specifically, we saw some osprey and a dead timber rattlesnake. It was several feet long and on the side of the road, below a rocky outcropping. Its presence highlighted an uncomfortable suspicion I had about the area; to put it bluntly, “It looks pretty snaky.” To me, this just reinforces the need to be careful when walking in rocky terrain, to step on, not over logs, and to look before you put your hands on or under rocks or underbrush.

I caught two brown trout on the smaller side on nymphs and Andy caught two, including one about twelve inches long. Pete was Euro-nymphing and had a very good day as he caught ten fish, including one about sixteen inches long. In the afternoon, I spent the last forty-five minutes or so trying to entice a very nice brown trout. I tried some dry flies and spent a good amount of time offering nymphs. While I did so, I had the opportunity to make a lot of casts and was quite pleased to be able to consistently make some accurate, long ones. However, the biggest lesson I learned was the need to have an ample supply of small, traditional nymphs like size 18 pheasant tails, hare’s ears, and midges in your fly box.

As for Lefty’s legacy, we learned during the day that he once gave Ryan a casting lesson. Additionally, Ryan’s grandfather worked for the electric company and regularly checked Lefty’s meter. It never ceases to amaze me how many people Lefty shared his knowledge with and the residual impact his life continues to have. In fact, Ryan graduated from Frostburg State with a degree in fisheries management and works for Trout Unlimited managing brook trout habitat projects in five West Virginia counties. 

If you would like to contact him to discuss his guide services, you can reach him at ryancooper3193@gmail.com.

— By Mike Holland