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Chilly Water

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This is a quick report to laud a newfound fishing hole that my family and I enjoyed during a hot August Saturday. In fact, this honey hole offered respite from the heat, plenty of splishing and splashing fun for the kids, and a natural landscape that felt a world away. Though this stretch of beauty is just minutes from suburbia, once you’ve traversed the trails enveloped in lush deciduous canopy and ambled into the chilly water, you’ll feel a refreshed and satisfying sense of peace with nature. At least we did. So where did we go?

Savage, Maryland.

The Little Patuxent River at Savage Mill features shallow water boulders and deeper pools that hold fish.

Specifically, we drove 30 minutes west of our Crownsville home, along Route 32 and its many opportunities to veer into Patuxent River country. An exit and minute-long jaunt down Route 1, two right turns (Gorman Road, then Foundry) puts you at the historic Bollman Truss Bridge, Savage Mill, the trailhead, and Little Patuxent River. Parking is sufficient along Foundry Road. We found a spot for our minivan, unpacked, and along the trail we started.

A sunshine Saturday in mid-late summer brings the crowds to the cool waters of the Little Patuxent. Here, the stretch of river meanders through boulders large and small creating ripples and cute waterfalls, spits of sandbar, and more than a few fishing holes. In fact, this entire stretch of river, both above the bridge and below it, is prime trout stocking water in the fall through spring. During summer, however, you’ll likely encounter smallmouth bass, fallfish, and assorted panfish. Smallies were the calling card for Dad on this trip.

We trucked along the well worn gravel trail on the left side of the river, passing sizable groups of swimmers and picnickers. Our destination was more solitude than social and it was near the end of the defined trail that we found our spot—a boulder-strewn creek bed adjacent to slightly deeper (3 feet) and moving water, all with a small island sandbar perfect for unloading our backpacks, socks, and shoes. The kids quickly found their fun in the cool, refreshing water. I made way a few yards upstream of them toward a promising looking fishing hole. And Mom made basecamp, soaking in nature. 

This cool, shaded spot offered respite from the summer heat. The shallow water was perfect for wading.

About that hole. This was 3–4 foot deep spot just below a gush of water coming through some slight elevation and boulders, featuring a small laydown tree across, but not into, its depth. The surrounding creek bed was about 1 to 2 feet deep. Having brought my ultralight St. Croix spinning combo, I figured a small 1/16oz jighead tipped with my go-to Mr. Crappie Lightning Shad (tuxedo chartreuse) would entice any fish that might be lurking in and around this water.

And my hunch was correct. A hungry 12-inch smallie took the lure just a few casts into the hole under the laydown. A quick photo and release had me feeling satisfied about this outing already. I made repeated casts to the hole. Actually, I began casting into the gush of water ahead of the hole and let the lure drift into place. Sure enough, a much nicer tug of the line had me very excited. A very frisky and larger smallmouth took the lure! This one jumped maniacally out of the water. So much so, in fact, that she managed to catch the leader line on the laydown. Oh no! Though I tried to play the line off the log, within seconds this smallie shook the hook and off she went. Dang diddedly darn it! No photo, but a great, cheap thrill I’ll remember. You can bet I tried like hell to cast back into the hole for her again, but no takers. Oh well.

Though it’s minutes from urban life, Savage Mill is an easy getaway for slipping into nature and exploring the river system.

Having satisfied my fishing, the family’s fun, enjoying a light lunch on the sandbar, and our connection to nature, we packed up our wet selves and trudged back to the trailhead all smiles. What a very cool—literally and figuratively—way to spend the day.

Of note: this stretch of the Little Patuxent appears to be the perfect inauguration for newbie fly casters, of which I’m one. I expect to return very soon and during all seasons of the year, fly rod ‘n’ reel in hand. See y’all on the water again, real soon!

This tiny smallmouth bass was fun to catch on ultralight tackle.