Copyright 2013 James Marsh
Fly Fishing Guide to the Mad River in Ohio
Writing this seems strange for me. I lived north of Fairborne, Ohio, in the country for a year
when I was in the eight grade. My father was the superintendent over the construction of a
large addition to Wright-Patterson Air force Base. We passed the Mad River many times. I can
remember asking dad to let me fish there. He was never for it because if I remember right, he
thought it was dangerous for me to do that unless he was along with me. There was a small
stream near our house that I found out recently was a tributary stream of the Mad River. I
caught large carp there many times. I would cook dough balls from a recipe I found in Field and
Stream to catch them. Oh well, it was many years later before I fished the Mad River. I didn't
know it had trout in it at the time and as a matter of fact, the lower part probably didn't at that
time, or at least in the area of the river near our house.
Fishing the Mad River is predominately brown trout fishing. Brook trout are present, but mostly
in the headwaters part of the stream. We have only fished this stream one time, or one trip I
should say. We did fish it for three consecutive days. As you can see in the pictures, the water
was a little high and appears to be off-color in some of the pictures; however, its looks are
deceptive. The water was actually very clear. I think the bottom makes it look cloudy. It didn't
take me long to figure out that I needed to look for the larger brown trout around cover and
shade. The only ones we caught otherwise, were small and probably recently stocked.
Although this stream may appear to have few aquatic insects, that is also deceptive. It has
many different species, I must assume because of the low pH the stream due to the spring
water that comes in at its headwaters. By the time the water gets in the area these pictures
were taken, the river receives a lot of non-spring water from runoff. There are a lot of crops
growing along the stream in most places. I would assume the river gets a good dose of fertilizer
at times after a heavy rain. Its bottom has lots of moss which can be both good and bad. The
river flows through a farming countryside. We collected stream samples of larvae and nymphs
from the river and were quite surprised to find far more species than we expected.
I think the best way to fish the river is in an upstream direction, casting nymphs and streamers
close to all the heavy cover you can find, or dry flies during a hatch. The stream is closely
bordered by trees that provide plenty of shade and there's a lot of wood cover and deadfalls in
it. The largest brown we caught in our three days of fishing was only fourteen inches, but I fell
certain there are many there much larger. It reminded my a lot of bass fishing. Every time we
were able to get a good drift by heavy cover, we picked up a brown trout. Even the bridge
columns (foundation around the column) in the picture above provided one.
Most of our success came with streamers fished underneath the overhanging trees very close
to the banks. We did catch several small brown trout in the few riffles and runs we found. Most
of the water flows moderately over an irregular bottom. Most of the cover is near the banks.
Judging from the stream samples of insects we collected, the river should provide some very
good dry fly fishing at times. It has a huge number of different species of Blue-winged Olive
and Trico nymphs. It also has a huge caddisfly population from the amount of larvae we found.
It appears from our research, that like many other trout streams, the Mad River does
experience low water levels in the late summer and fall months at times. Water temperatures
can become marginal for the trout to survive, but the river does have a good population of
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Mad River, Ohio