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Fish Are Biting

TThe cold front that moved through over last weekend should jump-start the recent shallow-water slowdown. Blues, stripers and a few trout are schooling at the river mouths and providing sport for deep jigging, trollers and a few die-hard live-liners who can still find small spot. The Bay Bridge remains productive for both bait and lures, and nice perch susceptible to bloodworms are continuing to gather over hard bottom.

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Volume 15, Issue 42 ~ October 18 - October 24, 2007

Abandoned by Lady Luck

Look what happened when I washed my fishing hats

It all started two weeks ago when I washed my fishing hats. That’s two identical hats, both my luckiest. My finest hours on the water had coincided with the wearing of one or the other. I couldn’t tell them apart, and one of them was generally misplaced at any given time, but they were interchangeable in the luck department. They were my mojo bonnets anywhere on the Chesapeake.

But over the past season, they had been getting distinctly rank with a wide strip of perspiration and sunscreen stain saturating the bands and creeping out over the brims. Not that I minded, but they had begun to elicit second glances from more civilized types.

In a moment of extremely poor judgment, I threw them in the washer. Checking on them a few minutes after the agitator had begun its machinations, I was horrified to find that the fabric was already being worn away from the front edges of both brims.

Along with their dirt, the very color and character seemed to have been drained from the hats. They looked flayed, pale and weak. I plucked them out and finished the cleaning by hand, but it was too late.

They were distinctly distressed. I was distraught. The lesser damaged of the two I attempted to wear, but that was before I recognized the true import of what I had done.

I stopped catching fish. My luck didn’t just drop off; it suddenly and totally abandoned me. The hot fishing on the Bay near my home went inexplicably sour. I not only ceased getting nice stripers, I stopped catching anything.

Skunked Far and Near

A scheduled adventure to South Carolina to chase some redfish and specs on the fly turned into a disaster. I had selected one of the more expert guides from an area renowned as one of the finest destinations in the U.S. for redfish and second to none for spotted sea trout.

My guide, whose name I will withhold to protect the innocent, was shaking his head and muttering to himself in the last hours. He had exhausted the best of his prime locations to no avail.

As a rule this time of year, the fish are thick up in the Carolina tidal marshes; four or five redfish is a low score for an outing. Sea trout are even more numerous, virtually yours for the asking.

We fished hard for a lot of hours and saw but one redfish and no trout. And we only caught sight of that redfish because it nearly ran into the boat in its panicked exit of the creek we were quietly poling.

Upon my return to the Chesapeake, nothing improved. The first two outings were abject failures. My first was interrupted by a freak squall that moved in just as I started to fish. It chased me all the way back to the ramp with lightning bolts, gusts of wind and large hurtling drops of rain. Once I was safely home, the sun came out and mocked me the rest of the day.

The second trip was worse. The weather, the wind and the tide were all perfect, but there were no fish — anywhere — though I searched for hour upon hour. I returned home arm-weary and despondent.

At the end of this second long week with no relief, I consulted a spiritual advisor. I guessed that I had at the least offended the fishing gods with the aforementioned treatment of my valuable talismans. How could I make amends? I had no idea, but something had to change. I was sinking deeper into despair by the day.

My advisor recommended that I not take fishing so seriously, try to have more fun and to perhaps seek out fish farther from my home grounds. I had expected something more arcane. Nothing was said about my hats. I doubted that the seriousness of the situation had been understood.

Or perhaps it was understood all too well. Next day, instead of fishing, I took my middle son and his friend skeet shooting. We had a great time. After I missed the usual number of clay pigeons without incident, I began to relax.

I bought two new fishing hats. Christening them with a bit of the special oil I was using on my reels, I cleaned up the rest of my angling equipment for a fresh start. I washed the boat.

It’s blowing outside now; too rough to do anything on the water. But I know things will calm down soon, and my fishing will return to its previous levels of ecstasy. In the meantime, I am trying to take things one day at a time. After all, it’s just fishing … right?

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