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A teen discovers love’s bliss and pain

The year is 1983. Elio (Timothée Chalamet: Lady Bird) is a precocious 17. His professor father (Michael Stuhlbarg: The Shape of Water) and translator mother (Amira Casar: Night of 1,000 Hours) have raised him on poetry, music and philosophy.
    Despite his familiarity with culture and the arts, he hates his family’s annual summers in Italy. Each year, his father brings along a graduate student, who’s always a suck-up and who takes over Elio’s room.
    This year’s student, Oliver (Armie Hammer: Cars 3), breaks the pattern. Handsome, confident and only mildly ingratiating, Oliver attracts Elio’s interest. He delights in their intellectual sparring and craves the older man’s company.
    Feeling the building tension, Elio slowly realizes that he is feeling not dislike but longing. As he tumbles into sex and love for the first time, Elio discovers that he doesn’t know it all.
    Sensual, beautiful and impeccably acted, Call Me By Your Name is the sort of sweeping pastoral romance that stays in mind long after the credits roll. Based on a bestselling book brilliantly scripted by James Ivory, it’s about the heady joys and bone-deep aches of love. Think of it as a bodice-ripper for literature majors.
    Director Luca Guadagnino (A Bigger Splash) uses lush visuals of nature coming into bloom as both metaphor and message. Elio is burgeoning, and nature inspires his character to self-discovery and happiness. Like the slow-building passion between the lovers, pacing is unhurried, with long shots and sweeping landscapes.
    Speaking three languages, playing piano like a prodigy and falling in loving with a man when homosexuality was taboo, Chalamet masters every challenge. Yet his articulate, vulnerable Elio can’t find the words to tell Oliver his feelings.
    As Oliver, who comes from a far more conservative family, Hammer is charming. He makes it easy to see how Elio — and half the sleepy Italian town — fall for his easygoing smile. Despite Oliver’s appearance of confidence, Hammer shows layers of loneliness and sweetness as he tries to do the right thing for both the teen and his family.
    Call Me By Your Name is an endearing, honest portrayal of first love, where the only real villain is time. It will make you smile, and it’s likely to make you cry. Expect its excellence to garner award nominations for both Chalamet and Hammer.

Great Drama • R • 132 mins.

Gifts they’ll really appreciate

     What to give the dedicated Chesapeake Bay angler on your list?
     The most helpful suggestion I can offer — if you haven’t already received exact, specific instructions from the individual in question — is to remember the Rule of Don’t.
     Don’t guess. Don’t rely on your instincts (unless you fish a lot more than they do). Don’t ask a friend who kind of knows something about the sport. And don’t ask a sales clerk. If you’re not 100 percent sure that you’ve found a gift that will be gratefully accepted, don’t buy it. 
     There are, however, some exceptions, including a few of my favorites. 
Lenny Rudow’s Guide to Fishing the Chesapeake contains verified, critical information on all the brackish water locations for all the species available hereabouts. His thorough coverage of every fishable honey hole on the Bay and when it is most fruitful remains remarkable and reliable. It should be in every angler’s arsenal.
     Chesapeake Bay Foundation naturalist John Page Williams is a treasure trove of information. The Chesapeake Almanac: Following the Bay Through the Seasons continues to be the best work that thoroughly describes the workings of the watershed’s ecosystems throughout an entire year, knowledge useful for every dedicated angler.
      My third book recommendation, Beautiful Swimmers: Watermen, Crabs and the Chesapeake Bay by William Warner, has been around for almost a quarter-century. That means there are now a lot of adults who were too young to appreciate the Pulitzer Prize-winning book when if first appeared in bookstores. Beautiful Swimmers remains the most readable, informative book ever published on Maryland’s favorite crustacean and the watermen who pursue them.
      Technical gadgets for the angling and sporting adventurer include The Personal Locator Beacon. It may be just the answer for outdoorpersons who insist on traveling to god-knows-where, in any kind of weather, at all hours, in fanatical pursuit of their passion. If catastrophe befalls them and other forms of communication have failed, these small devices can lead rescuers promptly to the exact location of our more foolish loved ones.
      New electronic flares are safer to use, have a signal far more visible and last far longer than the older, fire-breathing versions. A set will be appreciated by any boater.
     My final suggestion is an item essential to any outing yet often overlooked: a small, good-quality flashlight. The newer light-emitting diode (LED) models are more compact, brighter, and longer lasting. These small wonders are invaluable when accidents or breakdowns occur or whenever operating in the dark. They make excellent stocking stuffers as well as presents at gift exchanges. I’m partial to the Surefire G2X and the Nitecore EA41.
You’ve gotta have hope to wring the last fish out of the season
     The pictures Mike showed me were what I hadn’t seen for too long, two nice 35-plus-inch rockfish with heavy bellies and dark, shiny stripes. They’d been caught by friends earlier that day.
      Then he made an offer I ­couldn’t turn down.
      “Ryan’s picking up the menhaden, chum, snacks and water in the morning,” he said. “Meet us at the dock at 7am.” 
      The morning was cold, in the 30s, but no wind. I dressed in my usual: thick fleece unders, flannel-lined heavy canvas shirt topped with a foul-weather vest. 
      We headed out believing that sizeable fish could still be loitering in the neighborhood. Ryan set the anchor at the channel edge off Sandy Point while Mike and I cut bait, put the chum bag over and set out rigs.
       Chunking the remainder of the two baitfish we had used, we pitched the pieces off the sides and stern and settled down to await the action. So far this fall, big fish have been darn few and far between. But you’ve gotta have hope, and those photos had prompted a lot of it.
      The first bite, not long in coming, hit a rod next to Mike. He picked up the rig and thumbed the spool as the fish slowly took the bait out cross-current. After a long count, he put the reel in gear. The line came tight, and he set the hook. The rod arced over, and the fish started its first run. A glorious moment, it seemed.
      About 10 seconds later, the line went slack. Mike cranked madly, hoping the fish had turned toward the boat. Then he dropped the bait back in hopes the fish was still following. Finally there was nothing but despair. How could it have come off after running that long after the hook set?
      It was easily an hour before the next bite. This time Ryan was the fall guy. He picked up the rod to check if the fish was still mouthing the bait.
      It had not only tasted the bait but absconded with it. Ryan was in the hot seat trying to explain how a fish could unbutton a piece of menhaden from a needle-sharp hook 30 feet down.
     We had a number of other tense moments as rods quivered suspiciously and otherwise acted as if something were molesting our baits. But nothing developed. By noon we had exhausted our bait and chum and headed home before the onset of hypothermia.
      We decided on the way in that we would immediately make plans for doing it again, soon, before the season ends December 20. 

Fish Finder
      Anglers out on the rare good day with calm winds are finding nice rockfish and getting limits, sometimes promptly. The warm water discharge areas of the shoreline utility companies are concentrating nice fish and sometimes really big ones. 
      Farther south (mouth of the Potomac and down) and north (the Patapsco and above) fish 30 inches and above are coming in from the ocean. In-between areas (the Magothy to the Thomas Point Light, down to Chesapeake Beach and over to the mouth of the eastern Bay) are finally holding fish into the mid 20s.
      Fresh alewife and sizeable bull minnows are producing when fished deep over good marks. Trolling with mid-sized and smaller plastics, spoons and surgical hoses along the shallow shorelines near the mouths of tributaries and deep along channel edges are doing well. Trollers also have an advantage in searching out schools still on the move. Shore anglers are beginning to score in the evenings on fresh menhaden or jumbo bloodworms.
      White perch are gathering in deeper water (30 to 50 feet) over shell bottoms.
Hunting Seasons
Whitetail deer and Sika deer, firearms season: thru Dec. 9
Seaduck: thru Jan. 12
Ruffed grouse: thru Jan. 31
Rabbit: thru Feb. 28
Squirrel: thru Feb. 28

You can catch a fish, but take care not to catch hypothermia

     Yes, it can be uncomfortable but it can also be exhilarating to catch fish this time of year. Even in the low 40s, you can catch fish, particularly rockfish and white perch.
     But before you even think of going out, take two precautions.
     Do not go out on the water when temperatures drop below 40 degrees.
     Do not go out alone this time of year. The chief danger, hypothermia, manifests first in clumsiness and confused thinking, neither conditions you should deal with by yourself. 
     If you go, your keys to success are clothing and tactics.
     Layering is the primary consideration, with the innermost layer being key. Always start out with expedition-level undergarments. Fleece is warm and comfortable, but high-tech synthetics excel at wicking moisture away from the body, an important feature if part of your trip involves strenuous exercise, such as kayaking, hiking or flyfishing.
     Heavy shirts, sweaters and vests are intermediate layers to give you an added edge against cold temperatures. In this category, wool is excellent. Insulators such as down and down-like synthetics don’t function well when compressed, and almost all are poor to non-performing if they get wet. 
     A good warm hat, particularly one that covers your ears, is essential. It conserves your body heat and, in the case of flyfishing, can protect your ears against an errant back cast. Carry a backup. Motoring by boat, a hat can easily be lost overboard, and if you have a ways to go to reach home, you will quickly be miserable, if not in pain, without one.
      Complete your angling outfit with a waterproof breathable shell or insulated jacket. The Gore Tex models or their clones (the patent for Gore Tex material expired long ago) are the best and will keep you dry and immune to frigid winds and high-speed slipstreams.
     Shoes or boots should also be waterproof and, if not insulated, must be roomy enough to allow for a thick pair of wool socks. Neoprene is excellent for waterborne footwear, as is any shoe designed for winter sailing, the only other aquatic sporting activity that has a similar, fanatical following.
     Gloves and mittens are a final necessity. Mittens are superior in the warmth department though they sacrifice dexterity. For digital angling activities, I prefer simple fingerless all-wool gloves that can be coupled with air-activated hand warmers such as Hot Hands. 
     Always place the handwarmers in your gloves or mittens on the back of your hands. They are less likely to get wet there and the back of your hand is where the veins are most exposed. Warming up your blood will warm up the whole hand.
     The tactics of the wintertime angler may also require some modifications from traditional techniques. 
     Fish are cold-blooded, and their metabolisms slow down significantly with low temps. They will feed more tentatively and become much more reliant on their sense of smell/taste to find food, although they will take an artificial bait if presented properly. That generally means low and very slow for everything.
     Don’t stay out too long. Don’t give in to that urge to prolong a good bite while suffering extreme discomfort. Extended exposure to cold can produce poor mental functioning and bad decisions. Stay safe, go home early and save some fun for tomorrow.
Filling Your Thermos
     Drinks for cold weather angling should definitely exclude alcohol, the only liquid that can give you the impression of warmth while actually reducing your body’s ability to produce it. A large thermos of hot water, tea, coffee or similar beverage (I know of one gentleman who prefers steaming Dr. Pepper) will keep your core temperature up and maintain your hydration.

from John Shields’  Chesapeake Bay Cooking

     “I traveled around the world in search of fine cuisine only to learn that some of the finest eating to be found was in my Chesapeake homeland,” writes John Shields. As author of Chesapeake Bay Cooking, host of the PBS show Coastal Cooking with John Shields and proprietor of Gertrude’s Restaurant at the Baltimore Museum of Art, Shields has introduced the world to his native cuisine. 
     To those who ask what exactly is Chesapeake Bay cooking, Shields replies with this litany: the sweet meat of blue crabs, briny Chincoteague oysters and pan-fried rockfish … homemade country sausages and salty, smoked Smithfield hams, crisp fried chicken and roasted wild goose … freshly picked silver Queen corn and vine-ripened tomatoes … pies filled to nearly overflowing with fresh peaches, apples, blackberries or strawberries laced with simmered rhubarb. 
     Season by season, those delicacies shift. For this year’s Thanksgiving feast, Shields shares his favorite seasonal recipes, with oysters replacing crab and black walnuts instead of berries filling pies.
The Main Course
      Turkey? Use your favorite recipe. Add the flavor of the Chesapeake to your dressing. Shields offers two distinctive recipes.
Oyster Dressing
     The flavor of Chesapeake oysters imparts a subtle seafood tang to the dressing, complementing the succulent meat of the roast turkey.
     Mace, Shields notes, is made from the ground outer covering of the nutmeg seed and has traditionally been used in Chesapeake cooking to season everything from seafood, stews, meats, poultry and game to desserts. In 18th century Chesapeake cookery, before mace was sold ground, recipes for seafood soups or stews called for a blade of mace, which referred to a single strand. 
½ pound (2 sticks) butter
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
7 cups day-old bread cubes
2½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black popper
¼ teaspoon ground mace
1 pint oysters, drained, liquor reserved and coarsely chopped
½ to 1 cup milk as needed 
      Melt butter in skillet and sauté onion and celery until soft. Combine in bowl with remaining dry ingredients. Mix well. Pour in oyster liquor, then slowly add enough milk to moisten stuffing. Do not make it too wet. Makes 10 cups.
     Stuff turkey loosely with dressing, or bake separately in a buttered pan the last hour of turkey roasting. 
Cornbread Stuffing
½ pound (2 sticks) butter, or use part or all bacon drippings 
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
1¼ cup cooked corn kernels
7 cups cornbread pieces
3 eggs, beaten
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
½ to 1 cup milk as needed 
      Melt butter in skillet and sauté onion and celery until soft. Combine in bowl with remaining ingredients. Mix well, using only enough milk to lightly moisten. Makes 10 cups.
     Stuff turkey loosely with dressing, or bake separately in a buttered pan the last hour of turkey roasting. 
Roast Goose
Goose is the bird of Chesapeake Bay. Invite a hunter to bring a goose to the feast; or buy a farm-raised one. Shields offers advice as well as a recipe for adding goose to your Thanksgiving feast.
     When approaching a wild goose with the intent of cooking it, it’s a good idea to check its credentials, such as age. Senior birds are best stewed or braised, while younger ones are better for roasting. If a goose weighs more than five pounds and was bagged in the fall, it is most likely an older bird. 
     A farm-raised goose has a sweeter, less gamey flavor but requires a slightly longer cooking time, (about 20 minutes per pound) since it is not as lean as a wild bird.
     Traditional apple-chestnut stuffing is perfect for accentuating the dark, succulent meat.
1 goose (4 to 5 pounds)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 onion, halved
Apple-Chestnut Stuffing (recipe below)
4 tablespoons flour
     Preheat oven to 400 degrees
     Wash the cavity of the bird with cold water; dry with paper towels. Sprinkle cavity with salt and pepper. Rub goose with the onion. Fill the ­cavity with stuffing and truss the bird. Place on rack in a shallow roasting pan. 
     Reduce heat to 365 degrees and cook for 2 hours, basting frequently. For the first hour, place an aluminum foil tent over the goose, roasting without the tent for the second hour.
     Remove goose to heated platter and keep warm. Pour pan juices into a pitcher and degrease, reserving about 3 tablespoons of fat. Heat fat in saucepan and whisk in flour. Cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in 2 cups of pan juices, adding water or chicken stock to supplement, and whisk over medium heat until thickened, about 3 to 5 minutes. Carve the goose and serve with stuffing and pan gravy.
Apple-Chestnut Stuffing
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter
1 onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 cups peeled and sliced apples 
2 cups corn bread cubes
1 cup chestnut pieces (see note)
2 tablespoons dried sage
½ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 egg, beaten
½ milk or water, as needed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
     Melt butter in a small skillet and sauté onion and celery until soft. Mix together apples, bread cubes, chestnuts, sage and thyme in a bowl. Add sautéed vegetables and egg. Toss well. Sprinkle in as much milk as needed to moisten. Season with salt and pepper
     Whole peeled chestnuts can be bought in jars. Or buy fresh chestnuts. To shell, cut an X on the flat side of each nut and roast on a pan in a preheated 425-degree oven for about 15 minutes. Remove and, when cool enough to handle, peel away the outer shell and fuzzy membrane.
Side Dishes
Kent County Corn Pudding
     Corn was manna for both Indians and colonists. If you’re not serving cornbread dressing, add this delicacy to your Chesapeake Thanksgiving, substituting frozen for fresh summer corn.
2 cups corn kernels 
2 eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon grated onion
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1¼ cups milk
1 teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoon white pepper
     Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 1-quart baking dish.
     Combine all ingredients and blend to coarsely chop corn. Pour into baking dish.
    Bake about 50 minutes or until set. Serve immediately.
Maple-Glazed Sweet Potatoes
      If your family, like Shields’, demands sweet sweet potatoes for this traditional feast, use this recipe and advise skeptics that it’s Chesapeake authentic as cooked by John Shields.
6 large sweet potatoes
¾ cup (firmly packed) brown sugar
½ cup water
4 tablespoons (1⁄2 stick) butter
¼ cup maple syrup
Grated zest of 1 orange
Juice of 1 orange
½ cup chopped black or English walnuts
     Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Generously butter a 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking dish.
     Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add sweet potatoes and boil until just tender, 30 to 35 minutes. Drain, peel, quarter and spread in baking dish.
     Combine brown sugar, water, butter, syrup, orange zest and juice in heavy-bottomed pan. Stir to dissolve sugar, bring to boil and cook to syrup, about 5 minutes. Pour over sweet potatoes and sprinkle with chopped nuts. Cover tightly with foil.
     Bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake 10 minutes more. Remove and let stand 5 minutes before serving.
Black Walnut Pie
     The black walnut is the most prevalent nut tree growing in Chesapeake Country. This pie is a mildly bitter version of Southern-style pecan pie.
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1 cup sugar
4 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons flour
1⁄8 teaspoon salt
1 cup dark corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup black walnut pieces
Sweetened whipped cream for accompaniment
     Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
    Cream together butter and sugar in a mixing bowl. Add eggs, flour, salt, corn syrup and vanilla. Mix well. Stir in black walnuts. Pour into pre-baked pie shell (see recipe below).
     Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake 40 to 45 minutes more, or until set. Remove from oven and cool on rack.
     Serve warm or cold, topped with whipped cream.
Pastry Dough for a Single-Crust 9" Pie
1½ cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup vegetable shortening or lard
3 to 4 tablespoons cold water 
     Sift flour and salt into a mixing bowl. Work shortening into flour with your fingertips or a pastry blender until the mixture is the consistence of a coarse meal. Add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and mix with a fork after each addition.      Dough should not be wet but just moist enough to hold together. Form into a ball. Wrap and refrigerate for at least 15 to 30 minutes before rolling.
     Line pie pan with dough, flute edge and prick bottom. Press aluminum foil into bottom and along side edges and fill with pie weights (raw rice or uncooked beans will also work). Bake 8 minutes at 425 degrees. Remove foil, and bake another five minutes. Cool. Add filling, and let sit until firm.

Thanksgiving novels now in season

     In novels, everything happens for a reason. Thus the coexistence of Thanksgiving and National Novel Writing Month in November can be no coincidence.
     Our national holiday is a cornucopia of potential plots.
     Food, for example. Since Like Water for Chocolate, novels linking food and life stories have seized the popular imagination and risen to the top of the charts, spilling over into movie adaptations. Imitate Laura Esquivel and write a story tracing a life in food. You might even start at the Thanksgiving table. Perhaps your own.
     Speaking of the Thanksgiving table, what better place to look for the conflict that novels thrive on? Comedy, murder mystery, nostalgia, romance, redemption, young adult and children’s: ­Novels of all sorts can evolve out of that table setting. Take my word for it. Even Louisa May Alcott wrote an Old Fashioned Thanksgiving.
     The challenge of National Novel Writing Month is writing in 30 days 50,000 original words for the first draft of a novel. 
     Are you up for the challenge?
     Novelists typically work in solitude, but this month you have options.
     “Anne Arundel County Public Library has always been a great space for writers to work,” says library head Hampton ‘Skip’ Auld. For the challenge month, libraries throughout the county are offering workshops and tips to help writers create their own masterpieces. Events include:
     Thursday, Nov. 2: Tips From Author Meg Eden, 3:30pm, Severn Library.
     Thursday Nov. 2, 9 and 16: Weekly Write-in meet up, 5-9pm, Deale Library.
     Monday November 6, 13, 20 and 27: Weekly Write-in meet up, 6pm, Severna Park Library.
     Tuesday, Nov. 7: Tips from Author Mary K. Tilghman, 6:30pm, Linthicum Library and Write-in meet up, 6:30pm, Brooklyn Park Library.
     Wednesday, Nov. 8: Write-in meet up, 6:30pm, Riviera Beach Library.
     Thursday, Nov. 9: Teen Writers Workshop, 2:30pm, Broadneck Library.
     Sunday, Nov. 12: Murder on their Minds: Sisters in Crime, 2 pm, Crofton Library.
      More at
Getting equipped to clean your tackle will postpone that day of reckoning
     First it was wind and plenty of it. Then rain. Gazing at the dreary, sodden, gale-racked scene from my writing chair, I admitted that foul weather is finally descending on us. We will get days on the water, but more often than not, we won’t.
     Behind me was the tangle of gear I had ignored for some time. Two rod racks hold more than 20 outfits, sufficient for most of the rigs I commonly use. When I’m in a sweet run — weather, tides and fish all cooperating — I don’t put the rods where they belong. I lean them somewhere convenient. My room looks like a forest of falling timber. 
     With fishing in the near future doubtful, I considered cleaning my gear in preparation for wintertime storage. Taking stock, I saw missing maintenance items, mostly products that had been hijacked for household use.
     A list was what I needed. I liked the idea. A list would take me a while. Then I would have to make a trip to buy what was missing, thus putting off cleaning anything. Perfect. 
     The first item on my list is Soft Scrub. A wonderful cleaning product containing a mild abrasive, Soft Scrub is perfect for resurrecting a fresh gleam from a fish slime-encrusted rod. I made a note to get the kind without bleach, as I always get some on my clothing and it leaves its mark.
      The Soft Scrub is used on a sponge so I’ll need a few of those. There are at least one or two in the kitchen, but my wife would not like me using them on tackle contaminated with menhaden residue or worm goo. She might think I would return them for further use on pots or pans, though I assure you I would not.
     A toothbrush is also handy for cleaning the guides on a rod or the crevices of a reel. They are useful for many applications and, with a good dollop of Soft Scrub, can make a tedious job much easier. I added a couple of inexpensive brushes to my list. I offer a word of caution: To avoid embarrassing confrontations, an angler should not purchase any toothbrush in the same color that anyone else in the household is using.
     Regular powdered sink cleanser is also a necessity for a thorough cleaning job. I don’t recommend it for rods or reels as it is too abrasive, but it can bring a dirt-encrusted cork or foam rod handle back to great condition. It should be applied with a sponge. Never use a brush to clean cork as it can easily erode the softer parts of the surface.
     A can of WD-40 is also on the list. Both a cleaner and a preservative, it is wonderful for a quick cleaning of the surfaces of any tackle; a light covering will protect most metals during winter storage. Do not spray it directly onto reels; it is not a lubricant. As it contains a potent solvent, it can dilute or displace heavy grease or other interior petroleum lubricants. 
     As a final item, I include line conditioner. Monofilament and fluorocarbon fishing lines can dry out in storage, becoming stiff and brittle and retaining spool memory. As a last step, a thorough and generous application of a good-quality line conditioner on your spooled reels will minimize these effects and keep all types of fishing lines soft, fresh and ready to use come spring.  
     Now I’m ready to go shopping. When I get back with my replenished supplies, it will be too late to start cleaning.

Fish Finder
     On the fifth anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, another nor’easter descended on us. Expect the gale to break up and relocate the large migrating schools of baitfish as well as the rockfish that have been following them. All bets are off on how or where the bite will resume. The storm will also close down crabbing, and any spot, croaker or Spanish mackerel action. 
Hunting Seasons
Wild Turkey: thru Nov. 4
Sea Duck: Nov. 4-12
Duck: Nov. 11-24
Snow goose: thru Nov. 24
Whitetail deer, antlered and antlerless, and Sika deer: Muzzleloader season thru Nov. 21; Bow season thru Nov. 24
Woodcock: thru Nov. 24
Ruffed grouse: thru Jan. 31
Squirrel: thru Feb. 28

Research is what you call it when you’re not catching

      Thumbing the spool, I cast my lure just off a placid riprapped Chesapeake Bay shoreline. The morning had been perfect for surface plugging to cruising rockfish: The tide was in flood stage, there was little wind and the water was 66 degrees. Yet there were no fish.
      Having just worked about 50 yards of rocky shoreside with my favorite popper, a black Smack-It, I switched to a Rat-L-Trap-type lure in gold, a sub-surface producer. The three-quarter-ounce lure was easy to cast long distances, and I often used it when prospecting large unknown areas for stripers.
     “Research is what we’re doing when we don’t know what we’re doing,” Albert Einstein said, and that popped into my head after another half hour of casts and retrieves. I imagined this as angling research, unproductive but still research.
      That stretch of shoreline was one of the last resort locations for the day. Farther up the river, I had already tried a half-dozen prime spots, all places where over my many years I had caught a fish. But the results so far, no matter where I fished, were zip, nada, nothing, a big smelly skunk. This was not my first skunk of the week; it was more like the third.
     I was now into a desperate pattern, working locations where I had never caught a fish but that looked as if I should have. 
      It’s easy to remain focused when I’m fishing areas that have been productive in the past or after I have caught a few fish. I can envision the slamming strikes, the angry boils, the charging fish that I experienced in the past. But when I’m getting tired after long episodes of no fish, my shoulders starts to ache, my back begins to complain and my attention can wander.
      Long stretches of no fish can also result in depression. This will never get you any sympathy from your spouse or friends. Plus, you’re actually getting a beautiful day on the water. But any serious angler knows what I’m talking about.
      So I have to hope. I concentrate on my casting. When throwing plugs with a spin rig, you simply gauge the distance and make the throw. You’re either on target or not. But with the revolving-spool casting rigs that I use, that action can be more complicated. 
      If the initial throwing effort has caused the lure to tumble in the air, you can steady it with very light thumb pressure on the spool. Steadying the lure will cause it to become more aerodynamic, increasing your distance, and also minimize the chance of fouling the lure on the line that trails it.
       The angler with revolving-spool tackle can also alter the trajectory of the cast. Holding the rod tip off to the appropriate side and thumbing the spool will cause the lure to move to one side or the other. Thumb pressure will also shorten the cast and, if it is done just before the lure hits the water, soften the landing.
      I imagined instances where these actions might be important and practiced variations.
     At this point, a large bird wafted overhead. I looked up and realized it was a juvenile bald eagle giving me the hairy eyeball. I love to see eagles flying over the Chesapeake; they’re the only creatures I don’t resent for out-fishing me. 
       By that point the day had worn on past lunch. Hungry, sore and still fishless, I decided that the eagle would have to do it for the day. Tomorrow would be another cause for hope. Tomorrow things would be better.

Calvert Marine Museum scientist helps solve the mystery of the ­plesiosaur’s teeth

       Saur, from the Greek, tells you it’s some kind of lizard, likely a dinosaur, as that’s this suffix’s common use. There’s little else familiar about this Plesiosaur — except its connection to Calvert Marine Museum.
     First, the introduction: Plesiosaurs are stout-bodied, long-necked lizards, from the age of dinosaurs that propelled themselves through their oceanic environment using four flippers.
     Then the connection: It’s not the ancient ocean that is now our Chesapeake. Rather it’s the Museum’s man on such ancient environments, paleontologist Dr. Stephen Godfrey. With an international team of paleontologists from Chile, Argentina and the United States, Godfrey found a plesiosaur from long ago Antarctica that was rather like a whale.
     Instead of a marine predator, like other plesiosaurs, this saur was a strainer feeder like baleen whales, creatures that did live in the Miocene Chesapeake.
     Teeth were the clue that tipped off the team led by F. Robin O’Keefe a globally recognized scientist specializing in Mesozoic marine reptiles. The tiny teeth in the fossil’s lower jaw pointed the wrong way. Nor did they meet tip to tip as in all other plesiosaurs, instead lying together in a battery that acted in straining food particles from the water. This feeding style is unknown in other marine reptiles.
     It may, the scientists concluded, be an evolution “linked to changes in ocean circulation brought on by the southward movement of Antarctica during the Late Cretaceous period.”
     Visitors to Calvert Marine Museum can see what this pivotal plesiosaur likely looked like.
A clever premise and charming leads make the year’s best Halloween scare
      Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe: Tater Tot & Patton) has a terrible birthday. She wakes in a geek’s room after a night of drinking. She’s late to class. A glass of chocolate milk is spilled on her head. Then she’s brutally murdered. 
     Good thing she gets to wake up to try the day over. And over, as she dies each new day. Finally, she decides to stop her serial killer dead.
     As Tree investigates the many people who might want to kill her, she starts learning. She develops fighting skills; plans ways to turn the table on her killer; and tries not to act like a garbage person. 
     Can Tree change for the better? Or is she doomed to be murdered for all eternity? 
     Clever, funny and entertaining, Happy Death Day is a tasty piece of Halloween candy for horror fans. Director Christopher Landon (Scout’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse) takes a tongue-in-cheek approach to this slasher version of Groundhog Day, focusing on comedy rather than terror. 
     There are jump scares galore, but nothing about Happy Death Day is truly terrifying. Even Tree rolls her eyes each time her killer — wearing the worst baby mask ever — tracks her down. 
     Snappy writing and two fantastic performances make the movie work. 
     Rothe is charismatic enough to pull off bad behavior without making the audience hate Tree. Nor does Rothe push the redemption arc too hard, allowing Tree to fix her more egregious behavior while retaining the sass that makes her fun. Her transition from terrified victim to daring heroine is deeply satisfying.
     As the nerd who helps her figure out the rules of her repeating day, Israel Broussard (Say You Will) is both charming and earnest. Unlike Tree, Broussard’s Carter doesn’t retain memories when the day resets. It’s hilarious to watch Tree recruit Carter to her cause in increasingly odd ways. 
     Entertaining as it is, Happy Death Day is far from perfect. Beyond the clever gimmick, the plot is standard. You’ll also figure out the identity of the murderer long before Tree and Carter do. Still, it’s easy to join the cast and crew in sheer fun. 
Good Slasher/Comedy • PG-13 • 96 mins. 
New this Week
The Florida Project
     Six-year-old Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) lives in a motel next to Disney World. Left on her own day after day by her well-meaning but neglectful mother, Moonee has only the harried motel manager (Willem Dafoe) to look after her. 
     Director Sean Baker is known for capturing slice-of-life stories in unexpected places. His filming style, which has included shooting on iPhones, makes his stories seem more like documentaries than works of fiction. 
     See it for Baker’s style, Prince and Dafoe’s rave performances and a story of how the innocence of childhood can make even the direst circumstances an adventure.
Prospects: Bright • R • 115 mins.
     In the near future, a network of satellites controls the weather and forestalls natural disasters. When the system goes down, all hell breaks loose.
     Tornadoes swarm across the plains. Tidal waves surge into major cities. Hail the size of small cars batters the population.
     A climatologist, a secret service agent and a nerd team up to stop these disasters by kidnapping the president.
     After a horrific hurricane season, Geostorm might seem relevant. It is not. This is a big-budget shlock fest that embarrasses its actors. Plus, effects look reused from the equally loathsome disaster flick 2012. 
Prospects: Disastrous • PG-13 • 109 mins.
Only the Brave
     As the Granite Mountain Hotshots battle the flames on Yarnell Mountain, the men think about the reasons they risk their lives to protect others. 
     Based on the true and tragic tale and featuring A-list talent including Jennifer Connelly, Josh Brolin, Jeff Daniels and Miles Teller, this movie should be both tearjerker and excellent drama. 
Prospects: Bright • PG-13 • 133 mins.
The Snowman
     When snow blankets a small town, there’s more to fear than frigid temperatures. A serial killer known as the Snowman emerges from hibernation to dismember women. 
     Detective Harry Hole (Michael Fassbender) teams up with a promising young recruit to finally trap the Snowman.
     This Scandinavian noir has all the components of a great thriller: bleak landscapes, isolation and good actors. Will the script go beyond a moody aesthetic and grotesque murders to make us care about the characters? 
Prospects: Flickering • R • 119 mins.
Tyler Perry’s Boo 2! A Madea ­Halloween
     The newest entry in Perry’s wildly popular franchise has Madea (Tyler Perry) and her friends venturing into a haunted campground on Halloween. As ghosts and ghouls attack, the crew must fight or flee. 
Prospects: Flickering • PG-13 • 101 mins.