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Sporting Life by Dennis Doyle

There’s no better time to experience this graceful sport

     It was a still morning, and the early chill of fall was in the air. Stripping about 50 feet of line from my fly reel and allowing it to pile on the deck at my feet, I stretched successive sections of the thick strand between my hands to lessen its coil memory while reversing the pile of line to my right side. It was an old habit, and I didn’t have to think much doing it.

Top-water fishing is invigorating

     Top-water fishing for rockfish is one of the few things that can get me up well before dawn. To have the quiet of an early Chesapeake morning broken by the explosion of an attacking striper will undo your nerves.

They’re big, fat and catchable

The four of us were remarkably restrained as the first bunch of steaming, fiery-red crustaceans was deposited in the middle of the well-protected tabletop that evening. There were several monsters in the pile, and pains were taken to ensure everyone got two or three to start.

We’ll soon be dividing shares of a diminished striped bass pie

     Once again our rockfish are in trouble. They have been overfished, commercially and recreationally for some time. The overall Atlantic population, including in the Chesapeake, has become depleted and the larger fish of the species seriously so. That is an accepted fact, based on thorough studies by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.

There is no single solution for everything

     A rockfish had just consumed my live spot. As it swam off with its prize, I knew that it was a good-sized fish from its forceful and deliberate pace.      Having hooked it at the base of a bridge support, I was also prepared for the fish’s next move. As it bored away and cornered on the first nearby concrete support, it was right where I wanted it.

A boy is not likely to forget his first Chesapeake Bay rockfish

     Six-year-old Logan Doyle grimaced in concentration as he gripped his slender rod. Arranging his hold on the cork grip was a bit of a challenge for his small hands. As he pulled back against the fish he had just hooked, his eyes grew large. The fish was pulling way harder than he was.

Take a Lab to water, and he’s a cool, happy dog 

      The zoomies, a recently coined term in the lexicon of canine behavior, describes sudden instances of dog hyperactivity characterized by brief periods of high speed and circular runs. What precipitates the zoomies, no one knows. We always marked it up to exuberance.       It is generally harmless — except for collateral damage to delicate furnishings, appliances and knickknacks.

Even the Bay’s leftovers can be transformed into a heavenly feas

      As I gazed into my refrigerator, I was impressed by the quality of the items that jammed its shelves. Chesapeake Country is bountiful.      I found leftover ears of locally grown sweet corn that had proved very good the day before. There, too, was a platter of sliced, rich, red tomatoes from the Eastern Shore, the ragged remains of a roasted chicken, a large handful of fresh green beans and a few blue crabs that had escaped consumption two days previous.

The day’s beginning and end are fine times to fish in summer 

     The light wind brought a welcome coolness to my cheeks as I drifted ever closer to the ripline at the mouth of the river. I lifted from the live well a struggling spot already pinned just in front of the dorsal with a light-wire 6/0 circle hook. It was full dark on a very quiet evening, and I was by myself.      One of the better times to fish in summer’s heat is after dark. You will have scant company. And on the right night with the right tide there can be some incredible action.

Why risk a big fish when you can respool a reel for just a couple bucks?


    My wife is off to the sweltering south to visit with two of our three sons as well as our two grandkids. I’m alone at home with our young Lab, Hobbes, a long to-do list and a pile of dirty tackle. My skiff is outside awaiting a good scrubbing, and there are a couple of disassembled reels on the dining room table.