GONE FISHIN' - Oct. 12, 1987

October 12, 1987 By Charlie Taylor

Dawn on Sunday was beautiful. The mist was rising off Mattawoman Creek while the ducks and geese fed and rested on the calm waters of the shallow bays.

My clients this day were Pam Rafonowicz of Springfield and Claudia Baldwin of McLean. These two women were dressed for an arctic expedition as the temperature was 37 degrees and the wind was beginning to pick up. This was the day that the weatherman promised was going to be in the upper 60's and bluebirdy skies. If it ever reached that temperature, we were unaware of it.

We launched the boat at Slavin's Ramp in Indianhead, and proceeded to motor slowly up the creek. As we moved along, the ducks, geese, herons and other species of birds took to the air along our path. We marveled at the beauty and grace of these magnificent creatures and continued to the back end of the creek.

We rapidly found that the water level in the creek was as low as I had ever seen it. This fact was borne out vividly as the outdrive struck bottom rather forcefully in an area which normally held two feet of water on dead low tide. We were still more than three hours away from dead low tide.

We did select an area with a little deeper water and lots of wood in the water. We fished this area with crankbaits and plastic worms without much success for a while. The wind was blowing quite a breeze and it was difficult holding the boat in position. Another distraction was a beautiful beaver who had everyone's attention. As we would probe the depths with a plastic worm, here would come the beaver through the middle of the hole.

We finally got tired of fighting the wind and decided to motor back down the creek to a protected bank where we should be able to pick up some bass. We arrived at the section of bank, only to discover that the wind changes direction every two or three minutes, and we would have to constantly reposition the boat to fish. Since this bank dropped off into about ten feet of water, we tied on shad- colored crankbaits and began to probe the depths.

We were about ready to accept the fact that there were no fish here when my lure felt funny. I set the hook and the rod started pulsating as a good fish started a powerful run. The drag on the reel started slipping and the fish just kept going. All I could do was to hold the rod and wait for the fish to tire. Although Pam and Claudia were excited at the prospect of this fish being landed, I already suspected that I had snagged a carp. When the fish had tired sufficiently, it was brought alongside where it was indeed identified as a carp. This specimen weighed about 7-8 pounds and the hook was firmly set in the fish's belly. The hook was removed and the fish was returned to the water.

We continued to fish this bank, moving down the creek as we fished. The tide continued to go out and the waters receded more and more until only the channel held water. It was no at all productive to fish the channel, so we continued to move downstream. We finally came upon a cove with quite a bit of water in it. As we moved along the banks of the cove, we retrieved our lures parallel to the bank, attempting to learn what depth the fish were holding.

As we came upon a patch of lilly pads adjacent to a dropoff to ten feet of water, the graph depthfinder on the bow drew a picture of many, many fish holding on a hump just off the pads. Backing off a slight bit, we started casting to the outside edges of the lilly pads and retrieving over the hump. Immediately, the lure did not act exactly right so the hook was set. Sure enough, a bass came out of the water and started fighting. The fish was landed and we knew that we were in a honey hole.

The action was fast and furious as we attempted to catch all the fish that were showing on the meter before the tide slacked off to the point that the fish would not bite. An hour and a half later, we finally decided that we already had more than 15 fish in the livewell and we started releasing bass. Pam and Claudia were like kids with new toys. Totally forgotten was the cold, the wind and the discomforture that had been plagueing them all day long. It is truly amazing what a fisherman will put up with when a bass is tugging on the other end of the line.

When the tide stopped rolling, the bass quit biting as quickly as they had started. Since it was getting late, we packed up and headed back to the dock. When we arrived there and put the boat on the trailer, we counted the fish in the livewell. It was here that we discovered we had 22 bass ranging from 1-3 pounds. I knew that we had a good day, but this was unbelievable. We threw back 6-8 fish and still had 22 good fish aboard. The other amazing thing was that we did not catch a fish under the 12 inch minimum size limit.

All in all, it was an excellent day. All three of us agreed that freezing in the morning was worth it when the results were as good as these. A fish fry was emminent as the girls discussed filleting the fish and various ways to cook them.

Claudia had warned me that she was considered a little "crazy" by her friends and co-workers. This did not prove to be true, however, as she was a very congenial fishing partner.

Pam had been out with me on a prior trip and I knew how enthusiastic she could be when she was catching fish. These women proved once again that fishermen come in all sizes, shapes and colors and each of them has the same basic ingredients. Enthusiasm, however, is exhibited best by women, who are much more thrilled with accomplishment than most men. These two were no exception and they are welcome to fish with me anytime.