Ultralight Fly Fishing the
Historic Casselman River...
in western Maryland
...with Bill Byrd.
This is the second in my series of articles on fly fishing the western Maryland area. I hope you will enjoy reading these articles and maybe visit and fish some of these little known wonderful fly fishing destinations.
I received an email from Ron Wells, a frequent visitor to my website and a West Virginia resident, inviting me up to fish the Savage River located near Grantsville MD with him. He successfully fishes this water and several streams in the area with tiny flies and ultralight gear. Although I didn't see the trip happening soon, things have a way of working out when you make them!
The next month my son announced he was getting married in eastern Maryland in mid September 2006, so my wife and I decided to stage an extended trip to include western Maryland sight seeing and fly fishing. It was a long trip that took us through 8 states, but it worked out very well.
After my son's wedding in eastern Maryland, we drove southwest by Baltimore on highway 70, then split off onto highway 68 west past Frostburg to Grantsville, Maryland. This is some of the most beautiful country I've seen with miles of rolling hills, mountains in every direction, quaint towns, agriculture, and fishable water everywhere.
Grantsville was the perfect town in which to base our lodging for western Maryland fly fishing. From Grantsville I could reach many western Maryland streams within minutes and enjoy cozy, relaxed lodging at the Stonebow Inn.
Actually it was just a short stroll from the deck on our cabin to the Casselman River, as you see in the image right.
The Casselman River, formerly known as the Little Youghiogeny flows by an historic area of western Pennsylvania in the town of Grantsville. The portion that I fished lay down stream from the famous Casselman River Bridge built in 1813, at the time one of the oldest arch bridges in the US. It was built tall and arched to allow riverboat traffic on the C&O canal to pass under it. The C&O canal was never completed past Cumberland MD, so the bridge became a landmark over a small stream instead of allowing riverboat traffic to run on the canal.
In 1911 the Casselman bridge was repaired and listed on the national register and has been protected ever since. It now stands as an interesting example of our westward expansion and history.
When I arrived on this section of the Casselman it was about 230PM after our journey to Grantsville. I found a beautiful but shallow stream with a VERY low water flow. My plan was to try to get "dialed in" to fishing super clear VERY shallow water and not spook the fish. I was told that there was no use in fishing this stream because of lack of water, but since it was in my backyard, I decided to see what I could do. I began to wade and patiently fished upstream about 600 feet to the Casselman Bridge.
I fished my Orvis T3 2-weight with a size 14 subsurface fly, and probed many pockets and shallow runs. I could have fished a size-16 or 18 Elk Caddis depending on hatches, but I would have kept it small. This was truly technical fly fishing. I had to crouch low near gin clear pools to keep from spooking fish. I had extended length 6x tippets and kept my false casts to a minimum. The slightest detected movement would send pods of fish fleeing for cover.
My success depended on moving VERY slowly, keeping low, and fishing the slower flat water from the tail to the head of the pool. Finally I fished the current tongue feeding the pool. I also fast fished my fly in isolated pockets and runs. These tactics paid off.
I didn't carry my camera because I was going to just fish and enjoy this time OUT OF MY VEHICLE! Therefore I don't have images of the fish that I caught on this short afternoon excursion.
I caught fast smallmouths up to a half pound, a few river chub that looked like small carp without lips, some small but strong and fat goggle eyes or rock bass. I cast no tiny trout flies so I didn't catch any trout. Most of the fish were small. As is the case so much of the time, they hit like lightning, so a slow response with the rod and they were missed! Actually I was able to sight cast to several smallies that I could see holding in current.
Images or no, I fished until 5PM, caught 25 of these high speed critters and promptly released them in about an hour and a half, surprising at least one Casselman fisher who knew the river's condition that day.
At breakfast prior to our trip to the Savage River the following day, I met a very interesting fly fisher and part time guide named Ken Pavol. Ken is well known in these parts as the primary fisheries biologist for over 32 years in charge of improving and protecting the waters he and western Marylanders fish today. Ken is now retired from Maryland DNR, and guides part-time in addition to helping TU and other friends and organizations protect and improve the waters of western Maryland. You'll hear more about Ken Pavol in my Savage River article.
According to Ken in the spring under much better water flow conditions, the Casselman is stocked by Maryland DNR and has nice trout and even some trophy trout released into the stream. It has produced some really large trout under those conditions. In March and April it is a VERY active fishery and full of fishers. As Ken said, "bring your own rock to fish from" because it is crowded and active in the first days of the season.
Even though it is located right by a small town I saw much wildlife on the Casselman: A pair of bald Eagles were hunting in the area, deer, and Ospreys also inhabit that part of the river, plus a great blue heron, and a green heron live and fish there as well.
You may choose to fish the Casselman in the spring, and possibly the second month of the season will be less crowded, but this beautiful stream is well worth exploring for smallies and trout whenever you can fish it. Since you will be centrally located, you can schedule trips to any of the many waters within 30 minutes drive time of Grantsville.
At the time I fished here, my wife and I stayed at the historic and friendly Stonebow Inn. Located in Grantsville the Stonebow was 100 feet from the Casselman River, and a short drive from the Savage River, the Upper Potomac, and the Youghiogheny River. Sadly the Stonebow Inn has closed its doors. There are state parks and many activities for everyone in the immediate area.
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