A couple of weeks ago, a fellow I was buying used darkroo equipment from expressed an interest in fly fishing. After quietly saying that he was fairly new to it and basically self-taught, he asked where he might learn more and meet people with similar interests.
Several possibilities came to mind -- short-term beginners' courses, refresher courses and, probably best of all, some of the trout and fly-fishing associations in the Baltimore-Annapolis-Washington area.
The three groups that came to mind immediately are the Maryland Chapter of Trout Unlimited, the Free State Fly Fishers and Maryland Fly Anglers.
Other groups in the area are Potomac-Patuxent Chapter Trout Unlimited and Seneca Valley (Montgomery County) Chapter Trout Unlimited.
Each seems to offer proper doses of education and relaxation through club outings, youth programs, stream improvement and clean-up projects, fly-fishing clinics and fly-tying sessions.
"But that is only part of their role," said Dr. Robert A. Bachman, director of Maryland's freshwater fisheries. "They provide a source of information to their memberships, advice to the [Department of Natural Resources] on matters regarding management policy and what they think appropriate regulations ought to be."
Their most important role, however, is that they are what Bachman calls the environmental watchdogs.
"They are the ones out there year-around," Bachman said. "They are the ones who see and alert DNR of things that are happening that would have an adverse impact on our resources -- they advocate for protection and lend support when we need it.
"They also are there to say, 'Hey, things are going off the tracks.' "
Among the fly-fishing groups in the area, there are those that are primarily interested in cold-water fisheries and those that become involved with saltwater and freshwater fly fishing.
The chapters of Trout Unlimited, Bachman said, are largely concerned with cold-water fisheries, especially trout and the improvement of trout habitat in the region and around the country.
The Maryland Fly Anglers and Free State Fly Fishers, on the other hand, deal with a broader area of fly fishing -- from weakfish in Delaware Bay to bass in Eastern Shore ponds,
Baltimore reservoirs and Maryland's rivers, as well as trout fishing.
Each organization has monthly meetings and newsletters that get the word out on changes in fishing regulations, updates on tackle and technology, and other clubs that could use volunteer assistance on stocking programs or watershed improvement.
"They tend to reach a fairly good portion of the angling public," Bachman said.
Anyone who has fished the Gunpowder, for example, is benefiting from the work of several area fishing clubs.
The same is true of the Loch Raven area, where the Maryland Fly Anglers have conducted annual cleanups for several years.
The locater map of regional trout streams on this page has been adapted from a Free State Fly Fishers newsletter that was distributed last fall.
The mayfly hatch list for the Gunpowder that also appears on this page is the result of several years of study by the Maryland Chapter of Trout Unlimited.
The cost of joining any of these clubs is minimal when compared to the benefit they provide for fishermen, fish and habitat.
Where to start
The following are addresses and phone numbers for a few of the fly fishing clubs in the state.
Free State Fly Fishers, P.O. Box 614, Annapolis, Md. 21401; president John Scarborough, 757-6411.
Maryland Fly Anglers, C/O S. Shepard, 3847 Canterbury Road, Baltimore, Md. 21218; president Bill Simms, 435-1646.
Maryland Chapter of Trout Unlimited, 1102 S. Rolling Road, Catonsville, Md. 21228; president Walter Vait, (301) 744-8928.
Potomac-Patuxent Chapter Trout Unlimited, 3914 Norway Lane, Bowie, Md. 20716; president John Bobb, (301) 249-6905.
Seneca Valley Chapter Trout Unlimited, 20305 Highland Hall Drive, Gaithersburg, Md. 20979; president Rich Winnor, (301) 869-0925.
(Note: fly-fishing clinics are offered throughout the year by private companies and non-profit groups. Listings for them appear periodically in the Outdoors Journal.)