Gone Fishin' - Oct. 26, 1987
October 26, 1987 By Charlie Taylor
Friday was the day I had to introduce a fellow outdoor writer to Mattawoman Creek. This writer was involved in a tournament on Saturday and wanted to learn a little more about this marvelous creek. In guiding him around, we had a great day, caught a lot of fish and learned a lot about the present pattern that was holding fish.
This led me to the decision to take my Saturday and Sunday clients to Mattawoman Creek. Sunday morning dawned with 20 mph winds and the decision was an excellent one in view of the winds. This creek is protected more than any other creek off the Potomac River. The wind was out of the Northwest and was very cold.
I had informed Alan Goodman of Reston that he and his son John should dress very warmly and in many layers. This would enable them to peel the layers off as the sun came out and the temperature warmed up. Temperatures were predicted to be in the 60's on Saturday. The morning started out at about 40 with a strong, gusty wind. As the day wore on, the temperature did not appear to climb, as the wind was still cold and negated the sun's influence.
Alan and John were shivering very noticeably when I put the boat on plane and headed to a good fishing spot. Once there, we were in a mostly protected area and began to warm up a little. We put on crankbaits and started casting. Cast number two produced a nice bass and the day was a success.
I had been informed by Alan that if we did not catch at least six bass, I would not get paid. This was fine, as we had been loading the boat all week.
I did inform Alan that the fish would probably not turn on until 11:00 or so, as the dead low tide was scheduled for about 3:00 and the fish did not bite well until the last part of the outgoing tide. Normally this is the last two hours of the outgoing tide, but today's wind was blowing all the water out of the creek, so the tide would fall a lot faster.
After the sun came up and warmed up the air a little, we ran back down the creek and headed for a particular spot. This was an area between a set of pilings and a log up on the shallow part of the bank. Unknown to my clients, there was also a submerged log running from the shallow water to the deep water off the dropoff. This log provided a "highway" for the bass to move along from the deep water to the shallow flat on the bank. The shallow flat holds baitfish and crayfish on which the bass feed. They will also check out the log and the pilings for additional food.
By anchoring in the deep water off the bank, we could retrieve crankbaits and worms along the shallow flat and catch the fish when they were actively feeding on the flat. We could also probe the deeper water for bass with grubs and worms.
My prime objective this day was to enable John Goodman to catch his first largemouth bass. Pursuant to this objective, John was taught the fundamentals of casting, use of lures and general information about largemouth bass and their habits. This would enable him to understand where he should be casting and why the fish were likely to be there. Understanding the operation of lures and their attraction for bass would make him more likely to fish them correctly and thus, catch fish.
We cast lures for a good hour or more, discussing WAVA radio, of which Alan is the general manager, without catching another fish. We switched lures a dozen times, trying to find a particular lure to which the fish were attracted. I finally put on a Bill Norman Tiny Deep N in crayfish colors and started casting it on an ultralight rod with six pound line. While retrieving the lure on the second cast, it did not feel exactly right, so I set the hook. Sure enough, a bass had nailed the lure. After putting the fish in the boat, I removed the lure and put it on John's line.
He began casting the lure on the flat and suddenly yelled, "I've got one". He began cranking very fast and bringing the fish in. He was cranking so hard that I thought he was going to wind the fish through the guides on the rod. I cautioned him to slow down and relax. The fish was well hooked and was not going anywhere. He calmed down and the fish was landed without further incident. This was one proud boy, especially since his dad had not caught a fish.
The next hour or so was punctuated by directions given to dad by John. Now that he had caught a fish, he was the acknowledged expert and could give directions. Alan was a great sport and took the ribbing like a true gentleman.
We continued to cast and retrieve crankbaits and plastic worms and caught fish throughout the falling tide. as the tide slowed down and went slack, the catching also slowed down. We determined at that time, that we should move back in the creek and attempt to catch fish on the first part of the incoming tide.
As we moved back into the creek, we remarked on how much warmer the air was now than this morning. We also discussed the bountiful wildlife we had seen during the day, even though this creek is always heavy in boat traffic. We had seen a 175 pound whitetail doe early in the morning. This doe is around the creek all the time and is normally browsing on the banks in the early morning. Ducks and geese by the hundreds abound in the bays and coves in the back of the creek. Herons, ospreys, owls and all manner of songbirds are abundant throughout the creek and beaver are working all year, maintaining their lodges.
As we arrived at one of the better banks in the back of the creek, we started casting plastic worms to a shallow bank. Almost immediately, I had a strike and set the hook. A bass came out of the water and spit the hook. I had evidently not hooked him solidly enough, and the hook pulled out.
We continued to fish the area, and I had two more strikes. Alan told me that he must be doing something wrong, as he had not had a strike. I then showed him where the pilings ran underwater and where he should fish. The pilings are submerged, even at dead low tide. They do, however, go all the way across the channel and hold fish most of the time. We continued to fish the pilings, but could only get a few more strikes and no takes.
Since time was moving on and other activities were planned for the evening, we decided to call it a day. We bundled up and headed back for the ramp.
While we were loading the boat, John struck up a conversation with a couple of boys who were fishing on the dock. Since they had not caught any fish, John volunteered to give them each a bass from his catch. This 13 year old boy just beamed from ear to ear, when the other boys thanked him for the huge bass that he had given them.
Alan and John had already decided that they would keep three or four fish for eating, so giving away a couple of fish still left them with plenty. Tired and hungry, we packed up and headed back for Reston with an excellent day of fishing and companionship behind us.