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Sporting Life by Dennis Doyle

Clean up, clear out, stock up

     Yes, there’s fatality in the air. We all know the season is winding down. The bite is hot right now, and there will still be a few good days. But the traditional weather this time of year is increasingly cold with wind and rain followed by more rain, then more wind. Then the holidays will be on us, so it’s not too early to begin tidying up.

My gradual approach keeps the door open for late excursions

      Preparing your boat for winter should be the last item on this year’s to-do list. The many mistakes I’ve made over my 65 years should qualify me as experienced if not expert. One of my frequent mistakes is to refuse to admit the season is over.       Because of this, I’ve adopted a gradual wintering schedule over the course of a month or more, prioritizing chores in such a way that any sudden boating re-activation will not set the schedule back to zero.

Even when the fish don’t bite, energy runs thru it

"In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing." –Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It           I eased off of the deserted beach at early morn and made my way carefully toward deeper water. There were sunken tree limbs, water-logged and partially buried, scattered across the bottom, and I had to be careful not to stumble on them.

Feeder fish are faring well, not so much for baitfish

      This year’s Juvenile Striped Bass Survey (Young-of-Year) looks good. Overall, 33,000 fish of 12 species were netted in the extensive survey. The 1,741 stripers among them were a welcome relief, as six of the last 10 spawns have been below average for our favorite sport and eating fish.

Angling early and late takes quiet self-control

      Darkness was closing in, and I had almost exhausted my repertoire of lures and presentations. Surface lures and swimmers had drawn no attention. My last resort for this location was a fresh-water bass rig, a dark-hued but sparkly anise-scented Bass Assassin, rigged snag-less with a lightly weighted (1⁄8-ounce) hook and its point buried just under the surface of the soft plastic body.

Time to fill your freezer

      Long before the Colorado Rockies baseball team trademarked the term Rocktober, Chesapeake anglers used the clever moniker to describe the fall rockfish feeding frenzy on the Bay. Rocktober is prime time to put some fish in the freezer for the long winter ahead.

Try tricks for lure handling

       My memory of that event is as painful as an abscessed tooth. Just this time of year, a bit later in the morning than is best for top-water, my last stop was unusual. It offered no real underwater structure other than a nearby inlet to a tidal pond. But I knew from experience that rockfish would sometimes cruise the length of the shoreline looking for shrimp and minnows pulled out of the pond by the falling tide.

Today we call it renewal

      “There are no second acts to American lives,” Jazz Age novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald told us. That may have been true back then, though I doubt it; today it is certainly a falsehood. Many people move on to second or third acts better than their first.
Brook trout are native, but many imports are stocked in our streams
     My first trout was long ago, but I remember it like yesterday. The early morning mist was still clearing off the small stream. The sun had just begun to make its presence felt as I fished a five-weight, seven-foot fly rod about 20 feet off to one side of the creek to avoid spooking fish.

On the other side, chill nights and cold rains will prove our allies

      The sporting life can be a dirty, thankless job, but someone’s got to do it.       This past week proves my bromide true. After battling relentless heat and uncooperative fish, we are pelted by rainsqualls, wind and more rain. Not much fun.        Already we’re dealing with one Hurricane Florence, and a number of as yet unnamed tropical storms are queuing up in the Atlantic.