- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 9, 2003

HILLTOP, Md.

The chill in the morning air made a body glad that it wore a long-sleeved shirt and jacket, but the rewards for being on the Nanjemoy Creek this particular autumn day already were great.

The parking lot was almost devoid of boat trailers and tow vehicles — quite a lot different than during the sometimes hectic spring and summer months, when visitors had to use overflow parking areas if they wanted to fish the scenic, mostly narrow waterway that is a tributary to the Charles County portion of the tidal Potomac River.

But now all that could be seen was Red Liverman’s pickup truck with a small trailer hitched to its rear bumper. Liverman and his ever-present canine companion, Henry, were somewhere up in the winding creek with Red casting for bass and Henry standing in the bow as was his custom, staring intently at the dark green waters and waiting anxiously for a fish to grab the lure.

Henry, a mix between a water spaniel and something else equally smart and handsome, is no fool. He knows what his master does, and he’s wise enough not to interfere when a fish is brought to the landing net.

In the blue Southern Maryland and nearby Northern Neck Virginia skies, a bald eagle soared high. Soon another of the great birds showed up, and the two aerial acrobats showed off big time — that much was clear.

The sharp report of a small-bore squirrel rifle was heard somewhere in the deep woods, and not far from Henry’s craft another boat quietly maneuvered into position with the help of an electric trolling motor. Mike Guy had taken the day off from his busy work schedule to fish for the very critters the boat was designed for — largemouth bass.

“Man, this is the life, isn’t it,” said the younger of the brothers who are part of the Guy Brothers Marine Sales & Service shop in Clements, Md. As he talked, he suddenly lifted his rod sharply, in the process setting the hook to a chunky largemouth that had mistaken his firetiger-color crankbait for something edible. Or could it be the bass struck at the colorful lure in a fit of anger, as predator fish who zealously guard their territory often do?

It didn’t matter. Mike had a fine bass and after a couple of photos were snapped by a fellow fisherman, he removed the hook and set the fish free.

Mike’s partner, Andy, also stuck a hook to a bass, and it appeared the day would be wonderfully productive. It wasn’t. High, slack tides do not lend themselves well to fishing. Actually, the fishing is OK, but the bass simply aren’t driven into feeding binges when there’s no movement in the water that urges minnows and shiners to flit about, so the predators generally lie low and wait.

The humans, meanwhile, didn’t care. They kept casting and casting, occasionally hooking an errant bass while the unseen squirrel hunter let it be known with his rifle fire that he had found his targets.

One of the anglers used a small, scent-filled grub and after casting it into a deep creek bend, letting the lightweight jig hook inside the fake bait sink to the bottom, suddenly felt a hard jerk. It was a white catfish, one of the catfish species that inhabit the tidal Potomac and its many feeder creeks.

Moments later, another whiskered character — this time a channel catfish — latched onto the grub. The white catfish was put into the boat’s aerated livewell to provide a sumptuous dinner later that night; the channel catfish was released.

A red-tailed hawk flew over, followed by a riot of insolent crows who dared to think they could do combat with the fierce hawk. The crows eventually left for other parts of the Nanjemoy’s densely wooded shorelines — probably to locate an owl they would harass without mercy.

The fellow with the scented grub suddenly latched onto a well-fed crappie, and Mike Guy had yet another bass that attacked his crankbait. When told that the fishing would improve as the ebb tide began, Mike simply laughed and said, “I’m not complaining. Dad, Francis and Tim are back at the store, taking care of things, and I’m fishing. What’s wrong with that?”

Fall can be a spectacular time of year.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column every Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: [email protected]


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