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AAA World | Mid-Atlantic States | Northeast States
Marylands First-in-the-Country Statewide Fly-Fishing Trail


One whipping cast of the fly rod and then the strip-strip-strip of the line. The Clouser minnow fly pattern—famous for catching a variety of fish—submerged into the clean, inviting waters of Assawoman Bay, a sublime marine world on the backside of Ocean City, Maryland’s shores. I pulled the line, and the fly danced.

man showing off stripped bassA fisherman shows off the striped bass he caught at Janes Island State Park; Photo courtesy of The Maryland Fly Fishing Trail Team

In an instant, a striped bass hit, its power bending the rod. After a few minutes’ battle between man and fish, I hooked a gleaming striped bass—the fish Maryland is most famous for—and then released it back into the bay. The excitement of catching and releasing that striper on a crisp, late spring evening is burned into my memory: the silent pursuit, the spirited fight and release of the bass under the backdrop of a spectacular sunset.

Assawoman Bay is one of 48 fishing spots on Maryland’s Fly Fishing Trail, which celebrates its first anniversary this fall. The trail—the country’s first statewide fly fishing trail—spans all 23 counties of the Free State, two for each county plus two for Baltimore City. Maryland’s fishing opportunities extend from the freshwater brown-trout streams and largemouth-bass ponds of the western part of the state to the world-class saltwater backwaters of the Chesapeake Bay estuaries.

“The peace and artistry of flycasting [on the trail] is a journey in itself, though you can, of course, opt to fish with spinning or bait-casting gear as well,” says Rich Batiuk, expert fly fisher and one of the founders of the Fly Fishing Trail. “It’s more about the experience than the actual method of fishing; it’s about getting outside and exploring on your own. There’s a therapeutic element to fly fishing, an artistry of sorts to learn.”

Woman fishing Angling at Gunpowder Falls State Park in Kingsville; Photo courtesy of The Maryland Fly Fishing Trail Team

The Fly Fishing Trail website removes the guesswork for explorers by including lists of species available at each stop and the correct gear to use to lure them. If you prefer, however, you can set your own map on how to fish it. The trail also lists dining and lodging options at every stop as well as suggestions for side trips.

Trail organizers called upon guides, conservation organizations and charter captains to curate the best fishing areas in the state, with a whopping 400 making the initial list. “From there, we whittled it down to 48 spots [so] that anyone can effectively fish and complete the entire trail system across the state,” says Batiuk.

“[The trail] was designed to bring anyone and everyone out, no matter your background or circumstances, to embark on a personal journey,” he adds. “Whether we attract new fishers to the sport or offer the chance to fulfill dreams for experienced anglers, it’s all about sharing a joy and building a lifetime pursuit.”

kayak on water with fishing polesFishing by kayak is among the options on Maryland’s Fly Fishing Trail; Photo courtesy of The Maryland Fly Fishing Trail Team

Anglers can fish nearly year-round for freshwater species such as trout, yellow perch, chain pickerel and largemouth bass, or they can hit the saltwater to cast after rockfish (striped bass), redfish, flounder and spotted sea trout. You can fish at spots along the trail from a kayak or boat, or you can wade along a shoreline.

My experiences of striper-fishing the backwaters of Assawoman Bay allowed me to learn how to fly-fish beyond my usual Jersey backwater locales. A little research on the Fly Fishing Trail site guided me to the ultimate Assawoman Bay striper setup: a nine-weight fly rod and reel large enough to battle the fish, matched with an intermediate fly line and 30-pound shot of tippet leader to get the Clouser minnow fly to dip right into the striper’s feeding range.

Now, please excuse me, as I’ve got a date with a brown trout waiting for me in those hallowed western Maryland streams.

To get started on your fishing trip, visit the Fly Fishing Trail website at