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General Questions

Where are you located?
Our home office is located in Silver Spring, MD. We run float trips on the Potomac River. Float trips are based at River & Trail Outfitters in Knoxville, MD near Harpers Ferry, WV;  bass schools are conducted along the Potomac River in Harpers Ferry, WV. Back to top

How do I book a trip or school? What is your cancellation policy?
Visit our Booking Information page for all the details regarding bookings and cancellations. Back to top

What accommodations are available in the area?
All of the following locations are less than 10 minutes away from our Harpers Ferry float trip and fly school locations:

It's hard to beat the Angler's Inn Bed & Breakfast located on Washington Street in Harpers Ferry.
Bryan & Debbie Kelly run this fine B&B that caters to anglers.
Rates: $140 to $185
Phone: 304-535-1239

Clarion Hotel
Located on Route 340 just outside Harpers Ferry.
Rates: $100 to $210
Phone: 304-535-6302

Econo Lodge
Located right off Route 340 at the edge of town.
Rates: $100 to $115
Phone: 304-535-6391

Knights Inn
A 1950's style, painted cinder block design that's comfortable and inexpensive.
Located in Maryland just off Route 340 near River and Trail Outfitters.
Rates: $60 to $80
Phone: 301-660-3585

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Float Trip Questions

Where do you run trips? 
We offer float trips on the Potomac River near Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. Back to top

When do you run trips?
From March to November, river conditions permitting. Back to top

When and where do I meet the guide for the trip?
Trips begin at 8:00 a.m. at the C&O Canal boat ramp in Brunswick (click for directions), where you will leave your car (and where the trip will end). MKFS will provide transportation from Brunswick to the put-in north of Harpers Ferry. Back to top

Do you provide food?
Yes. We provide lunch. Usually sandwiches, chips, fruit, and dessert along with snacks, and drinks. If you are a vegetarian or have other special dietary requirements please let us know when you book your trip. In the interest of safety, we allow only a small amount of alcohol on our trips. We do not provide breakfast or dinner. Back to top

What happens if it rains?
If it rains, the trip still runs. Cancellation from weather typically results from heavy rains upriver that occurred prior to your scheduled day causing the river to be dangerously high, discolored and unfishable. If this happens, we can either reschedule your trip or refund your money. Back to top

How safe are your trips?
We have run thousands of trips without any serious accidents. Our rafts are designed for safe navigation of whitewater areas. Care must be taken when wading, but guides will choose the best areas. Back to top

How can I check on river water levels? What levels are safe and/or fishable?
U.S. Geological Survey river levels can be obtained through the Web (see our info and conditions page).  3.6 feet or lower on the Point of Rocks gauge is fishable, although higher water is fishable in Spring. Wading is good throughout the area when the gauge is at 2 feet. Back to top

Do I need to wear a PFD (life jacket)?
The Potomac River trip is run in an area that the State of Maryland has designated as a special whitewater zone. Boaters in this area are required by law to wear PFDs and the Maryland Natural Resources Police strictly enforce this law and fine all violators. MKFS provides inflatable PFDs that are small and unobtrusive but can be inflated by a pull cord if the wearer is in distress. Back to top

Do I need a fishing license?
State laws dictate that all anglers 16 years old and over must have a fishing license. For Potomac trips, a Maryland non-tidal license is required as Virginia or West Virginia licenses can be used only for a portion of the trip. Rates for a Maryland fishing license vary based on state of residency (the cost for MD residents is $20.50 annually or $7.50 for 7 days). Prices for non-Maryland residents are based on what a Maryland resident would pay for a fishing license in other states. See the Maryland Department of Natural Resources page for current out of state license fees.
Maryland fishing licenses can be purchased through the DNR website, by phone at 1-855-855-3906, and at area sporting goods stores. Back to top

What do you catch?
Smallmouth bass is our primary gamefish. The ones we catch average 10"-12", but sometimes can exceed 20" and 5 pounds. We also catch red-breasted sunfish, a few bluegills, walleye (sometimes up to 8 pounds), and channel catfish. We occasionally encounter muskie and carp. Back to top

When is the best fishing?
Spring is usually the best time for big fish. Pre-spawning fish generally stack up in classic holding spots. Unfortunately, high turbidity water conditions are common during April and May, usually requiring several trips to be rescheduled. If the river is fishable, however, the rewards are high. Techniques are big and heavy - spin anglers who like to fish Jig & Pigs as well as spinner baits do well. Tubes and Senkos can also be productive. Medium to medium-heavy action rods loaded with 8 to 12 lb test line are recommended. The fly rodder is challenged by the need to present big, heavy flies to the fish. The small stream trout angler may feel outclassed. The saltwater flyrodder will feel at home. 8&7 weight rods are the norm. Large streamer flies are the most common. Sink tips can be helpful.

By June, river conditions are more stable. Fishing is good, and all methods of angling work well. Fish size and catch rate have been above average recently, and June is typically our busiest month. July and August are the best months for fly fishing. Low, clear water conditions are persistent. Smaller, natural colored flies work well. 7-weight rods are usually used.

Fishing in September and October is similar to that of July and August, but the foliage along the river can put a smile on the face of any outdoor enthusiast. As the water temperature drops, the metabolism of our cold-blooded friends in the river slows down and fishing becomes slower. Fishing techniques similar to those used in the spring become the most effective. Back to top

What is your kill policy?
We follow a catch-and-release policy for all smallmouth bass. We strongly encourage catch-and-release for all other fish species. However, taking home some sunfish or a walleye for the table is certainly an acceptable activity. We enforce all applicable state fishing regulations and kill limits. Back to top

Will you provide lures, flies, rods, etc.?
Flies, lures and outfitted rods are provided at no charge by the guide, however if you lose or damage something you will need to pay for it. Back to top

What spin tackle should I use?
We recommend the following:
Rods & Line

  • Medium to medium heavy spin with 8-12 lb test line.  Power Pro and other braided lines are recommended.  The sensitivity they add to tube & jig fishing is amazing.  We usually tip them with fluorocarbon leaders.

Lures

  • Tubes with 1/8 and 1/4 oz. lead heads, 2 ½ " to 4" bodies.  Favorite colors are green pumpkin, mudpie, brown/olive w/wo flake.  Case, Mizmo and Zoom are good.
  • Plastic jerk baits - these finesse plastics have been our best lures in recent years. Zoom Super Flukes and Bass Assassins are among the leaders.  Bubble gum is a hot color.
  • Jig & Pig - Hair & rubber jigs form 1/8 to 3/8 oz.  heads with plastic chunks and crayfish trailers.  Strike King jigs and Zoom trailers are good.
  • Senkos - 3” to 5”  White, copper w/ green flake, greenpumpkin w/ gold or black flake, smoke & black w/ purple flake are good.
  • Grubs (twister type) with 1/16 and 1/4 oz. lead heads, 2" to 5" bodies. Favorite colors are white, chartreuse and yellow on the light end and black, olive, brown, and purple combinations on the dark side. Berkeley, Yamamoto, Zoom and Kalin's are all good.
  • Crank baits - minnow and crayfish imitations. Rapalas, Cotton Cordell Big O's, and Rebel crayfish are consistent producers.
  • Top water - Tiny Torpedoes and buzz baits can cause some explosive strikes.
  • Spinner baits -  White, white/chartreuse and black/chartreuse.

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What fly tackle should I use?
We recommend the following:
Rods & Line

  • 8' to 9' rods
  • #6, #7, or #8 line
  • 6' to 9' leader, 3x or larger. 12 & 14 lb strength tippet material is commonly used with large streamers.
  • Weight forward and bass bug tapered floating line is usually used, but sink tips are helpful in Spring high water

Flies
The majority of our fish are caught below the surface. This makes for very productive streamer fishing. Streamer size ranges from 2" to 6" long, with hooks from #6 to #2/0. Most of these patterns are weighted.

  • Wooly Buggers, Zonkers and Clouser deep minnows are good
  • Diver patterns like Dalhberg Diver and Clouser wounded minnows can also be productive
  • Local specials like the Butch Minnow and CK Baitfish have been known to roll some big fish

Favorite colors are white, chartreuse and yellow on the light end and black, olive, brown, and purple combinations on the dark side.
Hellgrammite patterns (Critter mite) in black and brown as well as crayfish patterns (Clawdad) in brown, tan, and olive can be dead drifted or bounced along the bottom in order to get results.
Top water - There's not many angling experiences as cool as watching a bass bounce on a popper or slurp a hair bug. Most simple patterns are effective. Potomac poppers and Whitlock hair bugs in yellow, white, and brown have rung many a bass's dinner bell. Also, don't forget your Sneaky Pete's as they make for nice appetizers.  Boogle poppers in electric damsel are great midsummer fair. Back to top

What about live bait?
We discourage the use of live bait on our trips. Back to top

What should I wear?
During the summer, we recommend that you wear a light-weight long-sleeved shirt along with shorts or light-weight long pants. You can wear sneakers, but felt-soled wading shoes or boots are recommended.  Your feet will get wet.   Always bring rain gear in case of an afternoon thunderstorm.
During the spring, we recommend that you dress in layers so you can easily remain comfortable as the temperature changes. A sweater or light jacket is good protection from chilly morning and night air. Bring hip boots and waders to keep you warm when wading in the cold water.
To protect yourself from stray hooks, we recommend that you wear a hat and glasses (polarized sun glasses are best, as they cut down on glare from the water). To make your ride home more pleasant, bring a change of clothes and a towel.  You should leave your change of clothes in the car as it may get wet in the boat. Back to top

Is there anything else I should bring besides clothing?
You may want to bring a camera. We recommend a waterproof camera as water does splash in the boat and grips can slip.  Wear sunblock, as you will be in the sun for the entire day.  Anything that you bring in the boat has a good chance of getting wet, so you may wish to store some of your gear in small water-proof bags. Back to top

 

Fly Fishing Class Questions

Where are the classes located?
The summer and fall smallmouth bass classes are conducted in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. Harpers Ferry is 20 minutes west of Frederick MD, which puts it between an hour to an hour and a half out of the Washington or Baltimore metropolitan areas. We base at the Quality Hotel and have a coffee equipped conference room ready to go at 8:30 a.m. Back to top

Do I need to have my own fly fishing tackle?
No. An outfitted fly rod and reel along with a fishing vest equipped with flies can be provided for your use at no additional charge. Don't feel that you have to go out and buy lots of gear before your class. We suggest you wait until after the class because you will be a much wiser consumer. Back to top

Do I need hip boots or waders?
During the summer smallmouth schools the river will be warm and wading wet is the norm. Wearing shorts and sneakers is fine. However, felt soled wading shoes do add a great deal of traction on slippery rocks and ledges. Back to top

Do I need a fishing license?
State laws dictate that all anglers 16 years old and over must have a fishing license. Maryland non-tidal and West Virginia licenses may be used for bass classes.
Rates for a Maryland fishing license vary based on state of residency. Rates for a Maryland fishing license vary based on state of residency (the cost for MD residents is $20.50 annually or $7.50 for 7 days). Prices for non-Maryland residents are based on what a Maryland resident would pay for a fishing license in other states. See the Maryland Department of Natural Resources page for current out of state license fees.
Maryland fishing licenses can be purchased through the DNR website, by phone at 1-855-855-3906, and at area sporting goods stores.  Back to top

What should I bring?
If you have fly fishing tackle, bring it. Frequently we help people sort through gear they received as a gift. How to rig a rod and reel is covered during the class.
Most people take notes during the tackle, bug, and casting talks, so bringing along a pad of paper and pen is a good idea.
A brimmed hat, polarized sun glasses and sun screen are basic accessories for fishing and casting practice. Bug dope can also be helpful on the casting field as those little black gnats can be bothersome at times. On the river or stream, most of the insects are friendly. Back to top

How should I dress?
For summer schools, the weather is usually warm and shorts and short sleeve shirts are fine. Again, check the weather forecast and dress appropriately. Since we will be wading wet, it is a good idea to bring along a change of clothes, shoes, and a towel in order to make your ride home more comfortable. Back to top

What do we do for lunch?
During the summer smallmouth schools, we eat at the Quality Hotel dining room. Lunch is included with all classes at no extra charge. Back to top

How does the day run?
We meet in a conference room that's strewn with fly fishing tackle. Rods, flies, fishing vests and handouts are laid out for your edification.  We start at 8:30 a.m. with general introductions and move into a tackle talk and demonstration. Rods are talked about and passed around to hold and flex. Fly lines are discussed and fondled. Reels are cranked, spools removed and drags inspected. Knots for tying leaders, tippets, and flies are demoed and tied by all. Fishing vests/packs and the gear that fills their pockets are discussed. Bugs get covered too with an overview of the stream creatures that fish eat. Pickled insects are passed around in jars along with the flies used to imitate them. All of the topics covered are backed up with catalogs and handout materials along with a folder to put them in.
Although casting and rod handling tips are scattered throughout the morning session, a more detailed description of the mechanics of casting is presented after lunch. Straight and slack line casts are covered. The typical problems beginners experience along with the methods used to correct them are also discussed.
For application we move to the casting field where rods are rigged up and casts are performed. Mark and his fellow instructor will be working with each student to make sure the basics are understood and can be applied.
After an hour or two of casting, we graduate to the river and experience the real world of fly fishing. On the water, you'll receive information on reading water and methods used to fish dry flies, poppers, nymphs, and streamers. And if you're lucky, you may be rewarded with the ultimate in positive reinforcement - a fish in hand. Back to top

Will I be able to fish on my own after taking the class?
Sure! Fly fishing is truly a sport for life, for it can take a lifetime to master all its facets. You can dive in head first or dabble on its surface. It takes time to become proficient in any sport. Many casts will be made before you hit every target you aim at. The questions you need to answer are: Are you having fun in the process? Does it make you smile? Can you laugh at your mistakes? Relish in your skill, no matter its level?
Remember, this class is designed to give you the "big overview." It is a one day crash course in fly fishing. It will give you, the rookie, a big head start over any angler who is trying to learn it on their own. Many of the class handouts will refresh your memory and expand your knowledge on gear, fly selection, fishing techniques, and reading water. Reviewing these materials before your next outing will certainly improve your chances of success. Back to top