Category Archives: reviews

Mid September Gunpowder Fishing Report


After a week of favorable flows in the 70s, the river has dropped back down to its typical summer flow of ~30 cfs. We recommend wading as little as possible and fishing long leaders with 6-7x tippet as the trout are quite skittish. Stop by the shop for some Trout Hunter 6.5x tippet, which is absolutely perfect for fishing low water when you just don’t want to commit to using super delicate 7x.

Fishing a dry dropper is a good way to catch fish in the early mornings. I recommend cutting off the dropper around 11am when the water begins to warm up. Terrestrials have been successful recently, but it doesn’t hurt to downsize your ants and beetles. Crickets can be heard chirping along the river banks this time of year. So don’t be afraid to play around with a small, dark colored hopper or Chernobyl ant.

Tricos have not been particularly prevalent on the river this summer, but there are plenty of midges and the fish are almost always feeding on them. A small trico pattern in the #20-22 range will oftentimes work for the trout sipping midges in slow water.

The weather has taken a pleasant fall-like turn recently. So enjoy your time on the water and if all else fails swing a wet fly!

BWA goes west/Gear review

Like many fly anglers, I was sucked into the hobby by visions of casting dry flies to rising trout surrounded by the sweeping hills and vast skies of the American west.  However, not long after breaking into the hobby, I found myself being drawn to the excitement of flats fishing in the Florida Keys and the idea of taking a trip out west became distant.

Finally, five years after casting my first fly rod, I made the journey to Salt Lake City and then north to Wyoming.  The first full day of fishing was one of the most memorable I’ve had.  My fishing buddy and I explored the massive Wind River Range, following miles and miles of dirt roads.  I could have stayed there forever catching those eager cutthroat trout, but eventually we came to an impasse that our rental car just wasn’t up for.

On our second day we put the Wind River in the rear view and headed to Yellowstone.  I found the rivers in the park to be incredibly diverse.  The lower Gardiner River is fast flowing and full of pocket water where gullible brown trout will almost always rise to a well drifted hopper.  The Lamar is a truly epic river with big mayflies, big cutthroat, and big scenery.  The final day of our trip was reserved for fishing the infamous Slough Creek.  The hiking, the landscape, the weather, and the fishing on slough can all be described as intense.  On the slow meandering bends of Slough Creek the cutthroat act more like carp than trout.  Before casting to the undercut on the opposite bank, it pays to carefully watch the shallow gravel bar on the inside of the bend for cruising trout who may be in less than a foot of water.  These cruising fish are very eager to rise to a well presented terrestrial, albeit the slowest and most cautious rises I’ve ever seen.  To sum it up; those aforementioned visions of casting dry flies surrounded by vast landscapes came to fruition on Slough Creek.


Anybody who has fished out west knows that covering ground is key.  That being said, the gear that allows you to hike further and fish longer will far outshine things like your rod and reel setup.  On this trip I was fortunate enough to use the new Chota Hybrid High-Top Rubber Soled Boot.  These boots are a great value for the price and resemble a lightweight hiking boot more than a wading boot.  Chota purposefully built these boots with a removable insole.  So they can fit comfortably with regular socks, neoprene wading socks, or the booties on your waders.  However, my favorite quality of these boots is undoubtedly their light weight and how easy they are to slip on and take off whether wet or dry!

Another item I found to be invaluable on my trip was my Patagonia Stormfront Sling pack.  Yellowstone is known for its hot and dry summer days, but I can assure you that thunderstorms can pop up in an instant.  This pack was not only comfortable, but great for keeping my stuff dry when I couldn’t avoid a rain squall.  It’s important to keep in mind that this pack is basically one big compartment.  So organizing your gear inside takes a little consideration, but I find the Patagonia Black Hole Cubes to be the perfect for compartmentalizing.  The not so obvious benefit of the Stormfront Sling is the fact that it’s not only water tight, but also fairly air tight.  This means that the delicious smelling sandwich I stashed in my pack is pretty unlikely to lure in that big grizzly we spotted from camp the night before.


Heading out west yourself? Feel free to stop in the new shop at 16829 York Rd and we’ll outfit you with plenty of Chubby Chernobyls (basically the only fly you’ll need west of the rockies)!

Scientific Anglers Absolute Leader and Tippet Review

Scientific Anglers have long been known for outstanding fly lines.  This year they have released their premium line of “Absolute” leader and tippet.  Here at the shop, we’ve received the full line of leaders and tippet from 7x-20lb and have been very impressed with the quality and performance.  Both the Absolute Flourocarbon and Nylon are supple, strong and boast a 30% increase in wet knot strength. SA has done a great job of increasing breaking strength without increasing diameter. The Absolute Streamer leaders are 4 ft and great for use with a sinking line or a floating line on those days fishing in higher water.

To top it off they are packed in biodegradable pouches, continuing a trend of environmentally friendly fly fishing innovation.  The new tippet spools feature a line cutter and a tight band that should mean less chance of unknowingly walking down the trail dragging 20 ft of tippet which we’ve all done once -at least I have!

 

Scott Radian Review

It’s a real statement in the current market when a rod truly stands out from the rest and remains one of the most popular freshwater rods 8 years after it’s introduction, but that’s what the Scott Radian series does.

Despite their fast action, they have a very unique feel which allows for a wide range of uses from delivering small dries on light tippet to banging weighted streamers against the banks. The quick recovery rate and springy action really makes for easy casting rods. Many modern fast action fly rods simply don’t offer this level of control from short to even long range casts.

We have a 9’ 4 weight in stock which is an ideal rod for the Gunpowder. If you don’t know whether you’ll be fishing streamers or fishing an evening spinner fall, this rod has you covered. The 10’ 4 weight has much more backbone and the extra reach allows for easier mending and presentation at longer distances. It would easliy be at home on the larger rivers such as the North Branch in Western Maryland, Little Juniata, Penns or Pine Creek up in Pennsylvania. 

Former staffer Ethan Lawson recently took a 10′ 5 weight to Colorado. It makes presenting dries in often windy conditions a breeze!

Ethan Lawson putting his Scott Radian to good use in 40mph gusts on the Colorado River

 

Abel VAYA in Stock!

We have in 3 gorgeous new VAYA reels from Abel.

These are partially ported, leaving just enough surface area to highlight the hand anodized finishes. The frame interior also features varying sets of milled fly patterns for those who appreciate the attention to detail. The large arbor spool features a precision-balanced dual-pawl drag engagement design with a fully sealed adjustable drag. The rigid machining, design and finishes are of the highest quality as you’d expect from Abel.

We currently have the following:

 

 

Patagonia Danner Boots & Patagonia Middle Fork Packable Waders Review

Over the past 4 years at the shop, I’ve been blessed to try and use the best waders and boots offered by both Simms and Patagonia.

Since April, I’ve put a lot of time on the river wearing the Patagonia Middle Fork Packable Waders and taken them through dense brush and green brier, and they are holding up fine. They breath fantastically well on the hottest of days whilst having extra security from biters on your legs, particularly ticks, having dealt with Lyme disease before. I tend to wear waders even in July and August. The Durable Water Repellent Finish is really nice too; they are dry in no time after being in the water.

Patagonia Middle Fork Packable Waders

I’m currently in the River Salt Wading Boots from Danner and, like the waders, I’ve put these through their paces. I’ve tried them on rivers such as Penns Creek and the Little Juniata earlier this spring and the North Branch of the Potomac recently this summer. These rivers are well known for being a absolute chore for wading. With just two studs in the toe and two in the heel, I’ve never felt the level of traction and ankle support. They are better than any other other boot I’ve owned.

Patagonia River Salt Wading Boots

I also tend to walk a distance to get to lesser traveled areas and for this aspect also, they are incredibly comfortable. I know these are a hefty investment in wading boots, but if river fishing is important to you, you won’t be disappointed.

SPECIAL: Purchase a pair of these waders and boots and get a free Patagonia trucker hat!

North Branch Potomac Fly Fishing

 

Review of 4 weight fly rods

 

The Gunpowder River is an ideal river for 4 weight (wt.) fly rods. Some anglers have fun with 3 wts., and  a 5 wt. is understandable, but 4 wts. are the choice for many anglers. At Backwater Angler, we have an impressive range – regardless of your budget or experience level – of 4 wts. for your fishing adventures.

 

Entry level ($180 – $320)

St. Croix Mojo Trout – The 9’0 model provides fast action and some extra stretch for nymphing. An ideal rod to start one’s fly fishing life, the Mojo trout features a Kigan hook keeper, solid cork handle, aluminum reel seat, and smooth, black snake guides. This is a very reasonably priced rod.

St. Croix Imperial – The 4 piece 8’0 of this model is my favorite as it provides light, fast action. Growing up as a spin fisherman, I often used ultra light rods, and this model emulates that action well. Complete with slim-profile ferrules, Sea Guide snake guides, an uplocking reel seat, premium-grade cork handle, and a Kigan hook keeper, this rod is another ideal port of entry into small stream trout fishing. Landing some wild browns with this one should put a smile on any angler’s face.

Mid-level ($350 – $500)

Echo 3 – The 4 piece 8’6 and 9’0 versions of this medium-to-fast action rod are advanced, high-modulus graphite rods with modern resins, making it light and sensitive while maintaining backbone to go 10 rounds with an angry fish. It’s crisp on that 70′ cast, but not so fast you can’t feel the rod. These rods fish dries to nymphs, lakes to rivers, and various fish. The ECHO 3 is arguably the most well-rounded family of rods we offer. They also come with a lifetime warranty, which is hard to overlook.

Scott Flex – These 4 piece 8’6 and 9’0 rods are light and handcrafted and excellent for generating line speed and effortless tight loops. The strong butt section is ideal for strong hook sets, and the 9’0 model gives an extra stretch for nymphing. I prefer the 8’6 model myself, but the 9’0 is equally effective and feels more like a 4/5, which depending on your preference could be a real advantage.

St. Croix Legend Elite – This 4 piece 9’0 rod is slightly higher-end for this category, but is a rod that will cover a lot of fishing for a long time. Its gorgeous finish and incredible balance impress. With the first cast you’ll revel in the smoothness and deceptive power of the crisp SCV graphite blank with Advanced Reinforcing Technology and Integrated Poly Curve technologies. The rod feels like a one piece but is a four. 

Higher-end ($745 – $795)

G. Loomis NRX – The NRX is perfect for the Gunpowder, with the high modulus carbon and a softer tip than the original NRX, which allows for delicate presentation with protection on fine tippet. This rod feels lighter and active, ideal for dries yet strong enough for streamers, yet at 9’0 allows for that extra stretch when nymphing too. This is a versatile rod that covers lots of bases for the novice to experienced fly angler.

Scott Radian – The greatest strength of the 4 piece 9’0 and 10’0 Radians, arguably, is their blend of power, line speed, touch, feel, and accuracy. It’s hard to find rods that combine those elements, but the Radian has them all. The React technology brings together X-Core with new complex materials and a taper system to dramatically increase recovery speed. Meanwhile, the X-Core technology offers an enhanced feel, incredible stability, and unparalleled performance. Fiberuse resin provides stronger bonds between fibers, and the Advanced Reinforced Carbon technology reduces torque and increases rod strength.

10 Foot Fly Rod Review

As ‘Euro-Nymphing’ has grown in popularity here in the states over the past few years, longer 10’ and even 10’6’’ and 11’ rods have become increasingly popular as well. Typically, these rods have an extremely sensitive tip section and a stronger backbone in the mid and lower sections of the rod.  The sensitivity in the tip section allows the angler to feel their nymphs/weight/shot throughout the drift. One often over looked benefit of a 10’ rod for dry fly fishing and indicator nymphing is the ability to manage line across different seams in the river. The longer rods make reaching tough to reach areas much easier than traditional 9’ fly rods. We currently have the following 10’ rods in stock in the shop:

Echo Shadow II 10’ 2WT

Echo Shadow II 10’6 4WT

Echo Shadow X 10’ 3WT

Echo Shadow X 11’ 3WT

Scott Radian 10’ 4WT

Winston BIIIX Super 10’ 4WT

A personal favorite of mine for fishing the Gunpowder is the Echo Shadow II 10’ 2WT.  Not only is this an excellent euro-nymph rod, I also find it delivers dry fly’s at short to medium ranges pretty well.

A short description from Echo on the Shadow II series: “Light and fast, the Shadow II offers critical line feel and control with an action that will also toss a loop when the bugs start flying.”

At the Shadow II’s price point ($249.99), I think you will be very pleased with its feel and performance. With that said, the 10’ 3WT’s and 4WT’s we have in stock will be far more versatile.  The 3WT and 4WT rods will allow you to fish larger rivers through heavier water and offer more fish fighting control.

If you enjoy fishing the waters of Western MD and up in to Pennsylvania, the Echo Shadow X and G. Loomis NRX Nymph would be my choice.  The Shadow X is 20% lighter than the Shadow II leading to reduced fatigue while nymphing. Both the Shadow X and NRX Nymph are extremely sensitive while maintaining a relatively stiff backbone for positive hooksets on fish.

The Winston BIIIX Super 10’ and the Scott Radian are my favorite rods aesthetically and I feel they are the most versatile if you are routinely fishing water larger than the Gunpowder. Both of these rods are truly crafts of art and built with the quality we have come to expect from Winston and Scott.  If I were to choose between the two, I would choose the Radian if I were looking for an all around performance rod, and the Super 10 if I were looking for a more dedicated nymph rod.  The Super 10 has a softer tip and is a bit heavier than the Radian.  Winston added a 2’’ fighting cork to reduce arm fatigue.

I picked up a Scott Radian 10’ 5WT expecting to fish Colorado run-off last June.  Turns out, it was one of the lowest snowpack’s in Colorado history last season and rivers were flowing well below normal. I still fished the 10’ 5WT and was not disappointed at all in the rods ability to cast size 16 and 18 dry fly’s at rising fish.  This rod is incredibly accurate at long distances.

All of these 10’ rods will help you manage line on the water and perfect your drift whether you are tight-line nymphing, indicator nymphing, or dry fly fishing.  Swing by the shop and give one of these rods a cast!

Patagonia Wading Boots built by Danner in-stock in Maryland

Danner’s reputation for building the best boots is unrivaled the world over. So much so the US Military has been using Danner Boots for years. Now they have partnered with Patagonia Fly Fishing to create a revolutionary wading boot that is not only comfortable, supportive with excellent traction but also the last pair you’ll need to own. As is with all soft goods that are put to good use, the original stitching and the sole won’t last forever but these boots are made to be completely recraftable and resoleable in house, by hand in Danner’s factory in Portland, Oregon.

We have a size run of both the River Salt & Foot Tractor (rubber sole) boots here at Backwater Angler.

Stop by the shop – have a look, try them on & see for yourself what all the hype is about.

I was able to try the Foot Tractors last June for 2 weeks both on the Delaware & the Gunpowder and I was amazed by the level of comfort & traction. They’re in a different league from any other wading boot I’ve worn. Having broken through other boots in the $180 range in less than a season and then having no further use with them. Just knowing that these won’t end up in a landfill makes sense in what is undoubtedly an investment in comfort and safety whilst enjoying your time out fishing.

Patagonia River Salt Wading Boots

Patagonia Foot Tractor Boots – Sticky Rubber (Made by Danner)

 

New St Croix Rods at Backwater Angler

With the holidays right around the corner we have a great selection of St. Croix rods from Park Falls, Wisconsin!

These include the new Mojo Trout series, these rods are silky smooth casting suited for beginners and intermediate anglers alike. Featuring high modulus SCIII graphite these are superb rods which, for $180 – $210, don’t break the bank.

The Imperial USA rods set the standard for a premium US built rod; lightweight, fast action rods these are extremely versatile and performs like a rod you would pay twice the money for.  The Bank Robber streamer rods are designed by Kelly Galloup on the Madison River, he knows what goes into a great rod and with the state of the art technology provided by St. Croix, this is the result. The Legend Elite is their hallmark rod which has the look and feel of a rod that is worthy of a brand which has been at the forefront of rod building for 70 years.

Whether you’re new or seasoned in fly fishing we have you covered, stop on by and give them a go! We have received the following in store.

  • NEW Mojo Trout 9′ 4 wt $200
  • NEW Mojo Trout 9′ 5 wt $200
  • Imperial USA 9′ 4 wt $300
  • Imperial USA 9′ 5 wt $300
  • Bank Robber 9′ 5 wt $460
  • Legend Elite 9′ 5 wt $460

NOTE: We still have a space available in our upcoming streamer clinic this Saturday at 11 AM. Please call the shop to pre-register.