Where are you located?
Our office is located in Silver Spring, MD. We run float trips on the Potomac River. Float trips are staged from River & Trail Outfitters in Knoxville, MD near Harpers Ferry, WV; clients meet here for these trips. Trout fly fishing schools are conducted at Big Hunting Creek in Thurmont, MD; bass schools are conducted along the Potomac River in Harpers Ferry, WV.
How do I book a trip or school? What is your cancellation policy?
See the Booking Information page for information regarding bookings and cancellations.
What accomodations 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.
Hilltop House Hotel - A turn-of-the-century
hotel located in Harpers Ferry that looks over the river.
Rates: $70 to $155
Phone: 800/338-8319 or 304/535-2132
The Hilltop House Hotel has new owners and is currently closed indefinitely for reconstruction.
Cliffside Inn - An independent motel (used to be
a Best Western) located on Route 340 just outside Harpers Ferry.
Rates: $65 to $110
Comfort Inn - Located right off Route 340 at the
edge of town.
Rates: $85 to $150 (generally $110-$125)
Hillside Motel - A 1950's style, painted
cinderblock design that's comfortable and inexpensive. Located in Maryland just off Route
340 near River and Trail Outfitters.
Rates: $45 to $50
If you're a couple, it's hard to beat the
Angler's Inn Bed & Breakfast located on Washington Street in Harpers Ferry. Brian
& Debbie Kelly run this fine B&B that caters to anglers.
[ General | Safety | Fishing | Tackle & Gear | Clothing & Personal ]
Where do you run trips?
We offer float trips on the Potomac River near Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.
When do you run trips?
From March to November, river conditions permitting.
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.
Do you provide food?
Yes. We provide lunch (sandwiches with a selection of rolls, meats, cheeses, and condiments), fruit, 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 and do not provide any alcoholic beverages.
We do not provide breakfast or dinner.
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.
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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.
How can I check on river water levels? What levels are safe and/or
U.S. Geological Survey river levels can be obtained through the Web (see our links section) or by calling (703) 260-0305 extension 3. 6 feet on the Point of Rocks gauge is fishable, though high water is more fishable in Spring than at other times.
Do I have 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.
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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.
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.
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 grubs can also be productive. Light 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-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. Spin tackle can drop to ultra light action and 4 lb test line.
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.
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.
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What spin tackle should I use?
We recommend the following:
|Rods & Line
What fly tackle should I use?
We recommend the following:
|Rods & Line
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.
Favorite colors are white, chartreuse and yellow on the light end and black, olive, brown, and purple combinations on the dark side.
Hellgrammite patterns in black and brown as well as crayfish patterns in brown, tan, and olive can be dead drifted or bounced along the bottom in order to get results.
Topwater - 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.
What about live bait?
We discourage the use of live bait on our trips.
Can 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.
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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. Always bring raingear 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 (there are changing rooms at River & Trail Outfitters.) You should leave your change of clothes in the car as it may get wet in the boat.
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. You may want to consider purchasing a disposable waterproof camera.
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-resistant bags.
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Where are the schools located?
The spring trout schools are conducted in Thurmont, Maryland, near Camp David, the President's retreat. Thurmont is about 15 minutes north of Frederick, Maryland, which puts it between an hour to an hour and a half out of the Washington or Baltimore metropolitan areas. We base at the Cozy Inn and meet in a conference room at 8:30 a.m. Fresh coffee and donuts will be waiting for you.
The summer and fall smallmouth bass schools are conducted in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. Harpers Ferry is 20 minutes west of Frederick, which puts it between an hour to an hour and a half out of the Washington or Baltimore metropolitan areas. We base at the Hilltop House Hotel and have a coffee and donut equipped conference room ready to go at 8:30 a.m.
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.
Do I need hip boots or waders?
We fish a small trout stream during the spring schools. It is a freestone mountain stream and the water is cold. Wading gear is a must. Hip boots are fine for this creek because it is rather shallow. Chest waders are OK as well. Because of all the variations in people's foot sizes we are unable to provide wading gear. If you are still not sure this sport is for you, see if you can borrow a pair. If you are going to buy some, we recommend a pair of felt soled chest waders. They provide more flexibility as your first wading gear because they'll keep you dry on small shallow streams or medium deep creeks.
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.
Do I need a fishing license?
State laws dictate that all anglers 16 years old and over must have a fishing license. A Maryland fishing license with a trout stamp is required for trout schools. Maryland non-tidal and West Virginia licenses may be used for bass schools. Rates for a Maryland fishing license vary based on state of residency.
What should I bring?
If you have fly fishing tackle, bring it. Frequently we help people sort through gear they recieved 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.
How should I dress?
Dress comfortably and casually for the day's weather. The spring trout schools are in the Catoctin Mountains which frequently runs 10OF cooler than the city forecasts. Bring along an extra shirt, sweater, or jacket. 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.
What do we do for lunch?
The Cozy Inn Restaurant, where the spring trout schools are held, is known for its buffet. Everyone can find several things to eat. During the summer smallmouth schools, we eat at the Hilltop House Hotel dining room. They also have a buffet lunch with seating that can offer several beautiful views of the river. Lunch is included with all schools at no extra charge.
How does the day run?
We meet in a conference room that's strewn with fly fishing tackle. Rods, flies, fishing vests, books and handouts are laid out for your edification. There's a coffee service with baked goods among the gear as well. 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 and the gear that fills their pockets are discussed. Bugs get covered too with an overview of stream creatures 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 stream or 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, nymphs, and streamers. And if you're lucky, you may be rewarded with the ultimate in positive reinforcement - a fish in hand.
Will I be able to go out and fish on my own after taking the class?
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 headstart 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.
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