Copyright 2013 James Marsh
Fly Fishing Guide to the Potomac River, North Branch, Maryland

Freestone Stream Section Above Jennings/Randolph Lake:
The upper part of the North Branch of the Potomac River in Maryland is a freestone stream
and like all freestone streams, its water temperatures can rise and fall with the changes in the
weather. Its water levels are subject to the fall and snow fall during the year. About nine miles
of the river flows along the Potomac State Forest line and is stocked very heavily. This section
is located in a fairly remote section of Maryland and is heavily forested.

For almost one-hundred years, the river was totally void of life. The rebirth of this river is an
amazing feat and proof that with some thought, planning and work, almost any stream can be
reconditioned to support trout. Acid runoff from mining was the cause of the problem and is still
a problem in many areas of the country. This area of the United States in coal mining country
and coal mining was what destroyed all of the life of the river at one time. Now, things are quite
different. The state installed four limestone dosers that changed the PH of the water enough to
support trout and aquatic insects that they rely on for food. Now twenty-one miles of the river
supports trout. Eight miles are below the lake and thirteen miles above the lake.

Tailwater Section below Jennings/Randolph Lake:
The tailwater section of the North Branch of the Potomac River is the best section to fly fish
and gets the most attention from serious anglers. It is one of the few streams in the Eastern
United States that has the cutthroat trout. In fact all four species of trout exist in the river - the
rainbow, brook, brown and cutthroat. The locals call catching all four species catching the
Grand Slam of Trout Fishing. The dam releases water ranging from fifty-five to sixty degrees

As mentioned before, the best way to fish the tailwater is from a drift boat. The water levels
can vary and there are a lot of rock and boulder outcropping that you have to maneuver
around. An ideal drift boat is a rubber raft type pontoon boat. The rocks can damage a boat
quickly. You can also fish the stream from the banks but you cannot cover near as much water
as you can from a drift boat and your chances to place your fly in numerous ideal lies is much
less. There is not near the access that you have when drifting the river. The stream is difficult
to wade in some places and others it is fairly easy to wade. You can certainly catch trout
wading so don't let the fact that drifting the river may be the best method to use keep you
away from the stream. The river is lightly fished, rarely crowded with anglers and in a very
remote area of the country. It is worth the trip to check it out if for no other reason, just to be
able to fish for cutthroats in the East and to have the opportunity to catch the Grand Slam.
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Potomac River, Maryland