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Fish Are Biting

We’re wondering where the fish are this winter. Some pickerel are hitting, but the white perch have become moody and the yellows haven’t started yet. Adventurous folk are headed down to the mouth of the Chesapeake and even farther south to Oregon Inlet for cold weather striper excitement. But here in the mid-Bay, it’s slim pickings.

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Volume 16, Issue 3 - January 17 - January 23, 2008

Memories Are Made of This

Every misplaced object reminds me of a story

In spite of a firm intention to put my sporting gear away promptly and properly, once again it just hasn’t happened. As I gaze across my disorganized workroom, I spy a boat bag that’s been missing.

It’s right in front of me on a chair under the upland brush chaps and shooting vest that I temporarily dropped on it a month or so ago.

Behind that chair is a large, mirrored armoire designated as my storage cabinet. Its purpose is to make this room appear more civilized. No one would think that such a handsome piece of furniture would contain rank fishing bags, reels, shotgun shells, cleaning rods, cartons of lures, fly tying materials, vises, shell bags, dog whistles, retrieving dummies and so on.

Nor are most of those articles in the armoire. They are stacked and strewn across the bookshelves and chairs that flank the armoire. It’s a mess.

As I sigh at the distasteful chore I have created for myself and try to comprehend how all of this chaos evolved, the discordance oddly begins to dissipate.

The Pheasanting Was Perfect

The sight of the brush chaps and vest that are effectively concealing my boat bag has brought to mind a particular moment last November. I had been working through some dense, chest-high broom-grass, moving up a draw while pheasant hunting in Nebraska.

My friend Rick Carty was moving parallel to me about 20 yards to my right. Our bird dogs, Sophie and Harley, were barely visible in the tall growth, though we could hear them out in front of us and knew they were red hot on bird scent.

I didn’t realize that a big rooster would explode out of the thick cover in another 20 steps, but I do remember that right then the exertion, the tension and the anticipation felt just about perfect.

The Bluegill Wouldn’t Stop

On top of the bookcase in front of me I note a small, scruffy tackle pack containing what’s left of the fly-rod poppers I started out with last April. The second hot, sunny day that month on a small Eastern Shore lake, I encountered the first run of bluegills marking out their shallow-water spawning territories.

The biggest male bluegills show up early in the spring, and these guys were brutes. I had a light, seven-foot fly rod, and for four hours it was bent to the corks almost continuously. When the bite finally died off, I was grateful.

My arms and shoulders ached painfully, I was tired, thirsty and my face and arms burned in spite of the sunscreen I had slathered on earlier. I’d had a great day.

The Rockfish Wanted to Play

My old plug bag is stuffed sideways into the middle shelf of the bookcase and is almost empty. I’m not sure where all of the surface lures and swimmers have gotten to, but I do remember, not too many months ago, fishing on a late afternoon with an old friend when the stripers were big and wanted to play with their food before they ate.

My nerves got pretty much shot to hell that evening as our top-water plugs would disappear in explosions of water again and again — but we couldn’t hook up.

When the water would finally calm and we would ever so slightly twitch the plugs as they lay there unharmed, the fish would come back and gently (and sometimes not so gently) engulf them. Then the real battle would start.

Like a Hot Torpedo

My fly fishing satchel is on its side in a far corner of the room. It makes me recall a late night in early fall on the Magothy. I was cruising by a dock light on the way back to the boat ramp.

It had been a long and disappointing evening. The tide was wrong as I returned, and the solitary light showed only a dull and unremarkable scene. No baitfish jumping, no swirls of feeding rockfish; just a dead-quiet night, slack water, a tired old dock and me, a tired old fisherman.

I stripped out some fly line anyway and cast to the far edge of the light’s shadow. As I wearily retrieved the streamer, a seven-pound striper launched out from under the dock 20 feet away, pushing water like a hot torpedo.

The fish smashed into the fly. I thought it would wake up the whole neighborhood with the noise of the water it threw when it discovered the hook in its meal.

Just One More Time

There are more stories like this all around me, but I choose not to take on too much right now. The jumble of equipment has to be picked up, of course, and put away, but I’m not ready yet. There are too many memories to be savored just one more time.

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