- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 14, 2003


I’m not sure whether I heard the Dueling Banjos while driving through the Garrett County mountains, but after I spent a day with a high-country fishing guide who is built like an NFL defensive end, plays bluegrass music and slapped succulent T-bone steaks on the grill in the middle of a thunderstorm, it dawned on me that I should have come here a lot sooner.

The 6-foot-4, 300-pound-plus Brent Nelson is all those things, and it’s not likely that you’ll ever meet a more likeable human being.

Nelson is a popular fishing guide on the 12-mile-long Deep Creek Lake, a 3,900-acre mountain impoundment in the westernmost corner of Maryland, a mere hop from West Virginia and Pennsylvania. It is home to smallmouth and largemouth bass, pickerel, yellow perch, northern pike, trout and some of the biggest bluegills in the entire state.

To say that Nelson is popular is an understatement. The man isn’t able to walk more than 100 feet before somebody will stop him to chat about the fishing — and the ebullient guide generously supplies helpful hints. He can’t idle the boat for more than 100 yards before another angler comes alongside in his craft to greet him and pump him for fishing information.

After we launched his 21-footer at the Deep Creek Lake State Park ramp and Nelson exchanged a round of greetings with several Pennsylvania bass anglers, he whispered, “They’re going down the lake to practice for a club tournament. We’ll head up-lake to a large eel grass bed I recently found some bass in while casting topwater lures.”

Oh, one more thing. Before we charged across the suddenly windswept lake, we had to slip on warm jackets and zip them up clear to the chin — it was that cold in the late days of summer. During the same time, my Northern Virginia and Southern Maryland pals later told me, they perspired as they hunted doves or sat on the tidal Potomac waiting for the river’s bass to cooperate. That’s the difference between mountain and lowland temperatures. (Deep Creek Lake, in fact, is a popular destination for ice fishermen in the winter. Try that down in tidewater country, and you’ll get an ice bath.)

Eventually, Nelson headed to his spot to check for either species of bass that inhabit this manmade lake. In the wind and wave chop, it wasn’t possible to properly work a topwater lure, so Nelson tied a chartreuse-and-white spinnerbait to his line. Bang! On his second or third cast, he nailed a smallmouth bass. He continued to cast and retrieve the spinnerbait, occasionally hooking a brown-skinned smallmouth or the black-barred, dark green largemouths that also live here.

Me? I was stubborn and ignored my guide’s advice. I tried to convince the bass to snatch up a white, soft plastic Zoom Fluke jerkbait, but only one little smallmouth went for it in gin-clear water.

Nelson eventually said, “Let’s go and check out the floating docks on the lake. We’ll skip Senko worms under the docks and see what happens.” Within minutes he found a long wind-protected cove, picked up a rod that had a plain, small Shaughnessy hook tied to the line. He inserted the hook into the middle of the greenish, 4-inch-long, stubby, plastic worm, allowing the hook point to emerge fully from the other side. This style of fishing is known as “wacky worming.” It looks it, but it works. There was no weight attached, simply the Senko worm that was skipped across the water, kind of as we did when we were children and skipped small, flat stones across a pond’s surface.

Nelson proved to be a master at this kind of fishing, and he soon set the hook to a largemouth bass of about two pounds. That was followed by a smallmouth and another largemouth.

“They stay under these docks this time of year,” he said, “but when the water levels were higher, the bass would be in the shoreline brush and stumps that you now see sitting high and dry.

The guide hooked more bass. I finally snatched up a chain pickerel, let it go, then lost what appeared to be a bass — all the while admiring the big man’s skills and dexterity when it came to firing the little imitation worm into narrow openings under the floating docks, rarely missing his intended target.

Before we knew it, the noon hour arrived. “Let’s go grab a bite to eat,” said the guide. “I know a deli across the lake that makes dynamite sandwiches, then we’ll keep on fishing.”

We ate and chatted about everything from deer and turkey hunting to bluegrass music — three things Nelson loves dearly.

Would I recommend this fellow? Absolutely. I had a wonderful outing with him.

To reach Nelson, call 410/799-9326; e-mail [email protected] If you want to do your own thing, you can learn more about Deep Creek Lake on the Web at www.fishdeepcreek.com.

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

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