Let's tout Bachman's record on trout

Bill Burton

October 30, 1990|By Bill Burton

Dressed in fishing garb, vest and all -- everything but a creel hanging from the shoulder -- and reclining on the bank of the stream, he talked trout, and stream improvement in particular.

Occasionally a dimple appeared on the flat surface near a large rock close to the opposite bank. Each time, talk was interrupted.

"It's time for a hatch," he said. "I'll bet I can catch one."

Angus Phillips and I were skeptical. Maryland trout fishing isn't that simple within sight of a busy road.

Another slightly larger dimple, and he headed for his auto, returned with a fly rod, and waded in, dry casting as he strode.

If anything beats talking fishing, it's fishing.

After two casts he had a rise close to the big rock. Several more casts with a tiny No. 20 dry fly drew nothing. No more time. There was work to be done -- work involving fishing.

Meet Bob Bachman and one of his favorite waters, the Gunpowder just a few casts downstream from York Road. Bachman is a devoted fly fisher who heads the Maryland Department of Natural Resources freshwater fisheries, and the stream is among his very favorites anywhere.

In it, he sees a potential no one would dare dream of a decade ago. Probably some are still skeptical, but they don't know this innovative man with a reputation for saying things as he sees them.

In Maryland the last five years, Bachman has made many precedent-setting changes including the controversial close of the spring freshwater bass fishery, and changing the fishing status of many trout waters.

Now, he wants to make trout'n catch and release between York and Bluemount roads to provide recreational fishing while ensuring the future fishery. The first mile of the Gunpowder below Prettyboy Reservoir is already catch and return, from there to York Road, stock and take, and below Bluemount, stock and take -- with a creel of five in the stocked areas, where it's primarily rainbows.

"We're not phasing out stocking, just adding a new dimension," he said. "We're taking advantage of the potential of brown trout."

A retired Navy captain and academy graduate with a get-it-done attitude, Bachman has climbed out on many limbs since his arrival, but has yet to have one cut out from under him, either by DNR higher-ups, or angling critics.

Among trout chasers who take their sport seriously, he has many supporters. Earlier in the day a band of them worked with him farther down the Gunpowder catching trout one would hardly believe existed there unless they saw them. But, we saw them, nearly 100 in all.

Not only were they plentiful, they were big, like a 17-inch brown, which like the rest turned up in an electro-shocking "observe and release" study farther downstream.

Brownies made up most of the "catch." The remainder were rainbows, and there was one big, wriggly eel. All of this in 800 feet of Maryland stream. Much of my youth was spent on Vermont's Battenkill, and brag as I do about the waters in my former back yard, I can't top that.

As for the Gunpowder's electro-shocked browns, I can't tell you just where; they don't want company, and they're favorites of Bachman, who says the big females need protection to ensure the future of the brownie fishery there.

Don't ask trout activists Bill Pistell and Scott McClelland, or other volunteers who waded in alongside biologists. You will have to explore yourself.

The original egg stock -- of Montana Bitter Root strain -- was put in gravel, and since then things have prospered. The best brown taken in samplings was of 21 inches; 15- to 17-inchers are not uncommon.

This promises an exciting future for Baltimore County's most popular trout stream, which -- and many of you might not believe this -- was recently ranked among the best 100 trout waters across the U.S.

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