Patuxent River Fishing Guide
Trout Special Regulations Area, Near Damascus, MD
Patuxent River Fishing Guide - with map - download this guide as a PDF with map (620 kb) Patuxent River Fishing Guide - no map - download this guide as a PDF with no map (438 kb) Patuxent River Trout Fishing Map - one page printer-friendly PDF, map only (198 kb)
The Patuxent River near Damascus, Maryland is about 12 miles of Catch and Release water. If it wasn’t for the fact that the Patuxent is a huge river where it empties into the Chesapeake Bay, this section would more appropriately be called a creek or stream. This section flows almost entirely within the Patuxent River State Park.
The definitive authority to this river is the “Guide to Maryland Trout Fishing,” 3rd edition published in 2014 by Charlie Gelso and Larry Coburn. Henceforth referred to as GTMTF.
The stream averages about 15-20 feet wide. It occasionally widens out to 30-40 feet but these sections are relatively few. It’s a low gradient stream with lots of flats about 1-3 feet deep (depending on the time of year) and a few sections of faster moving water where it flows through the more narrow chutes.
The bottom is mostly gravel with some sand and clay– and a few areas with the standard mountain stream boulders. You won’t be doing a lot of boulder hopping on this river; it’s more walking through ankle-deep water or along the gravelly sides of the bank.
There are lots of bends and undercut banks, as well as fallen trees. And the fallen trees are everywhere. Several trees up to 2-3 feet in diameter look as if they have been down for decades. The good news is that these trees create a lot of holding pools. The bad news is that it can make it hard to wade. Forget about climbing up 3-4 feet out of the stream bed to walk along the bank. The briars along the bank of this river can be fierce. I thought Gelso and Coburn might have been exaggerating in their description of the briars. They were not. In many areas it can be hard to forge a trail through the brush, even in the winter. It can be impossible in the summer.
The Patuxent River is stocked with both rainbow and brown trout. The Maryland DNR stocks about 2,500-3,000 at several locations between Route 97 and Annapolis Rock Road. The Potomac-Patuxent chapter of Trout Unlimited (pptu.org) float stocks the brown trout and the DNR stocks the rainbows, typically near the bridge access points.
Gelso and Coburn also report in the GTMTF that there have been holdover rates as high as 30% in recent years. Of course this could be highly dependent on the severity of the seasons. That being said, there is plenty of fishable water with only wild brown trout. The fish upstream of Annapolis Rock Road will be almost exclusively native stream-bred browns.
There have been reports of fish in the 20-26 inch range (per Gelso and Coburn) but my limited experience on the river lead me to believe that these fish are few and far between, or might only be enticed by fairly elite fly fishermen. This river could be difficult to fish for the novice. Maybe not too difficult to fish, but difficult to actually catch anything other than some small dace or fallfish.
See the full-page map on the back page of this guide, or download a printable PDF at dcangler.com/fishing-guides to see the five main access points.
Long Corner Road has parking for 4-5 cars. It is easy to access the river here and there is a walking trail on the north side of the river for about a mile. You’ve got about 2-3 miles of upstream fishing from the bridge access where you’ll find mostly wild brown trout.
The next access downstream is Mullinix Mill Road. Here you’ll find a nice small parking area (4-5 parking spots) with a DNR notice board. You can fish either up or downstream from this access. The stream is about 30 feet wide at the bridge but fairly shallow and in some seasons you’ll have to wade for a bit to find deeper water or any fish-holding holes. Again, this section is mostly wild brown trout but the further downstream you get, the more likely you’ll be to encounter some of the holdover stocked fish.
Go back to Route 108 and head east and you’ll shortly run into Annapolis Rock Road. There is a much larger parking lot here, but it is about a 75 yard walk to the bridge from the lot. The stream is narrower along this stretch (typically 25 feet or less) but there is some deeper water and lots of fallen trees that create deeper pools and some nice fish-holding areas. This is a beautiful stretch of the river and one of the more promising areas to fish. You’ll still encounter plenty of wild browns but downstream of Annapolis Rock Road you’ll start finding more of the recently stocked and holdover fish. Along with all the fallen trees, you’ll find plenty of undercut banks that look like promising holding spots for some of the bigger browns the stream holds.
Hipsley Mill Road has another decent parking area. Just upstream from the bridge is some very narrow and hard-to-fish water but there is a trail on the north side for about a mile and you can walk it for a bit, then cut across the briars to get back to the river. I have encountered hunters at this access on my last two trips to the river so having an orange cap to wear is not a bad idea. In fact, it’s probably a good idea if you’re fishing anywhere on this river during prime hunting season as much of the area is designated as part of the State Park’s hunting land. There are no significant trails downstream from the bridge here so you’ll end up wading the river banks, in and around more fallen trees.
The last access point for this stretch of the river is the bridge at Howard Chapel Road. There is parking for a few cars here and the water is very similar to the section just upstream at Hipsley Mill Road. There are a lot of feeder streams emptying into this stretch upstream of the bridge so in warmer weather you can find stocked and holdover fish at the confluences where the smaller (colder) streams enter the Patuxent.
Nearby Fly Shops
The nearest fly shop is Hunting Creek Outfitters in Frederick, MD (huntingcreekoutfitters.com, 301-668-4333). They are an Orvis-endorsed shop and their website says they carry several of the brands fly fishermen know: Simms, Redington, Sage, Patagonia, Fishpond, Scientific Anglers and many more. The shop is about half an hour from Damascus, heading west on I-70.
Per their website, “Hunting Creek Outfitters is the hub for Central Maryland’s fly fishing community. A place where people receive excellent, reliable customer service and the best and latest products available.”
Nearby Food and Shopping
There are plenty of places to grab lunch in the nearby town of Damascus. You have the standard fast food restaurants: McDonald’s, Burger King, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut. And a few pizza places, Chinese restaurants and some deli-type eateries. There are a couple of grocery stores in Damascus. There is a Walmart Supercenter about 5-10 minutes away in Germantown– just off Route 27.
Hatches and Flies to Use
The hatch table shown below was created mostly from Gelso and Coburn’s GTMTF as well as from a few days of personally fishing the stream. Of course the dates are fairly general and the hatches could easily start a week or two earlier than expected or last longer in some cases. Like any hatch table, take it as a rough guide as your best option is often to look under the rocks or see what you can see flying in the bushes.
The Catch and Release section of the Patuxent River is a decent fishable stretch of trout water within about an hour of Washington, DC. With a mix of wild brown trout and stocked rainbow and browns, one can fish this water year-round. At times it can be challenging fishing for the novice, but it’s generally not overcrowded. Unlike the nearby Gunpowder Falls, if you fish this stretch you may find yourself the only one on the river for hours at a time.
Gelso, Charlie. Coburn, Larry. Guide to Maryland Trout Fishing: The Catch-and-release Streams. N.p.: 188. Stackpole/Headwater, 2014. Print.
Moore, Steve. Maryland Trout Fishing: The Stocked and Wild Rivers, Streams, Lakes and Ponds. Place of Publication Not Identified: Calibrated Consulting, 2011. Print.