Maryland's latest addition to a small but growing list of fly-fishing-only, catch-and-release trout streams is Morgan Run, a small, cool, forested, boulder-strewn stream west of Baltimore.
Since early spring Chuck Allen of Orvis Sporting Adventure in Ellicott City has been singing the praises of Morgan Run, I'd listen, tell him I'd give it a try, and then head for my favorite haunts on the no-kill streams in Pennsylvania. After all, real trout fishermen know that trout fishing isn't so good in Maryland. The fish are small, stocked rather than wild, and therefore so unsophisticated as to fall for almost any offering. Hardly the challenge of those educated, sophisticated, stream-wise and wild Pennsylvania brown trout that get caught and released so often that they turn their nose up at even the most beautiful handtied creations of fur, feather and steel.
Last week Allen told me that a run of big rainbows from Liberty Reservoir, into which Morgan Run empties, is starting up the creek. "A twenty-incher was just brought into my shop," he said and I started asking for directions.
This week a never-before fly fisherman, Kenny Powers, and I wet a line in Morgan Run. We shared a rod, spend much of the time in instruction, and fished briefly in the late afternoon. I was there to explore the stream, and by the time we walked out of the woods with the last light fading and the birds suddenly silent, neither of us could wait to return. Here's why.
Most of the fish in Morgan Run were eight to twelve-inch brown trout. But the first that I cast to, a somnolent 17-inch rainbow, humiliated me by turning a cold eye to every dry, wet, emerger and nymph pattern that I floated across his nose. "Where the hell did you come from, Pennsylvania?" I thought.
"The only way you'll get him is with dynamite," said Kenney, prodding me on to the next pool. I handed him the rod and attributed my failure to having not had time to tie appropriate flies. Kenny was new enough to accept the excuse. He flailed away at a riffle as I explained where trout lie. "Like people, trout don't like to work hard against the current, but the current carries food - like a moving dinner table - so they will hold behind rocks from where they can dart into the current to grab food, or they will hold below riffles where the current slows and the food settles."
As Kenny cast and I sounded as if I knew what I was talking about, no fish rose to the tiny deer-hair caddis dry fly imitation as it bounced down the riffle. In one pocket over which the fly passed was a faint greenish-silver blur. It never moved. I pointed it out, but Kennedy couldn't make it out amid the tumbling currents.
Greed took over, and I took over the rod and tied on an emergent caddis fly, figuring that the translucent seal-hair body and undulating wood-duck fiber wing would mimic the real-insect as it struggled from the bottom to the surface to take flight, I cast. The blur didn't move. It had to be a fish; I could swear I could see it. How it would add insult to injury if I were casting to some inert object, such as sheet metal, in the blur of the riffle.
I cast again, still hoping to hook a good-sized trout only a few miles from Baltimore. The blur shifted almost imperceptibly in the twisting currents. Once more and the blur shifted again, more this time, and settled back behind the rock. Then a cast and nothing. Then a cast and a solid movement. On a gamble I set the hook and the water exploded with an 18-inch rainbow thrashing to rid its lip of my tiny emerged caddis.
But life is just, so greed is confounded by error. I played the fish well for a moment, using just enough tension to control him, but then I forced it too much and the sudden sting of the hook spooked the fish. He darted toward me and circled some rocks. I held the rod high to keep the line free of the rocks, but I was responding to the fish rather than it to me. I had lost control and the delicate 1.8-pound test leader parted as it passed over a rock.
Kenny and I worked upstream, hooking and landing two browns and scaring many more, but the one that got away had made me fall in love with Morgan Run. Its beauty, solitude and quality fishing changed my notion of Maryland trout.