- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 27, 2004

If you’re the type of angler who’s willing to go after any fish species anyhow, anywhere, anytime, then it’s good to go without a boat for a while. It forces you to search for your roots.

Surely, every boat-owning fisherman remembers the days when all activities concerning the hooking of a bass, or whatever else, had to be done from shore. There were times when owning a boat — no matter how small — was out of the question either because you lived in an apartment and there was no place to keep it or there wasn’t enough money in the till to even think about buying one.

I returned to my sportfishing roots a few days ago. All my fishing pals were busy, so I grabbed a lightweight flyrod, a small box filled with tiny flyfishing poppers and spiders that float, as well as slowly sinking ants and bumblebees.

The flyfishing stuff actually was only one of several choices. I could have done just as well with an ultra-light spinning rod and reel and 1/32 or 1/16 ounce shad darts and thumb-sized plastic floats, or small snelled hooks to which a smidgen of nightcrawler was attached.

It didn’t matter. I was after bluegills, shellcrackers, sunfish of any type. In my neighborhood, the nearest place to offer a fruitful outing is a public 50-odd-acre lake in Charles County’s Gilbert Run Park. The good part about this lake is that during normal weekdays, you’ll have the lake pretty much to yourself. On its worst days, it’s not unusual to have grade school children visit on field trips that almost always include the little ones scampering about in paddle boats and screaming at the top of their blessed little lungs. Gosh, I’d forgotten how 6- and 7-year-olds believe that fun can’t be had unless they squeal like banshees.

But I arrived on a day when the only noise I heard came from a gaggle of Canada geese, a few mallard and black ducks and a blue heron.

My graphite 9-foot-long flyrod is a good one, but it’s attached to a cheap 1-to-1 retrieve reel that is loaded with decent 5-weight rocket taper or bug taper flyline, which means it has a little added weight in the forward section. I’ve added a home-made, tied-together, piecemeal monofilament leader line that starts with 12-pound test, tied to 8-pound test, tied to 4-pound test. It’s the 4-pound line that holds a size 10 or 12 fuzzy fly or spider.

With less than 10 minutes of practice, you could whip that line back and forth (easy does it) and set the bug down on the water where you’d just seen a big swirl when a sunfish or bass devoured a live insect.

My first cast resulted in a big splash and an audible “Whoosh!”

No more than two feet from a rock-lined shoreline, a red-breasted sunfish attacked my tiny foam-bodied spider with authority. It was useless to reel the fish in with my cheap reel, so all I did was hold the rod and line together with my right hand, while with my left I slowly pulled in the line that dangled down between the reel and my right hand.

Continuously pulling and letting retrieved line fall to the ground before me brought the fish to shore. I removed the feisty sunfish from the hook and put it on a stringer. The sunfish would mark the beginning of a delicious evening meal.

Within two hours, I hooked 20 or more sunnies and two bass. I released most of them but kept 10 bluegills for dinner.

Can you do the same from the shoreline? Of course, you can.

Here are six fishing places that will serve you well. There are many others, but start with these:

Virginia: Try Lake Brittle, Fauquier County, Route 793, off Route 29. Brittle has bass, bluegills, crappies, catfish, even walleyes.

Next, go to Burke Lake, Fairfax County, on Route 123. Burke offers sunfish, bass, perch, catfish, crappies, even muskellunge.

Check out also the large Occoquan reservoir, also off Route 123, but the lake straddles Fairfax and Prince William counties. Occoquan has bass, pike, sunfish, crappies and catfish, even landlocked stripers.

Maryland: Gilbert Run Park in Charles County is fine. It’s located on Route 6, east of La Plata, offers sunfish, crappies, catfish, bass and some trout.

Now give St. Mary’s Lake a try. The lake is south of Leonardtown, off Route 5, on Camp Cosoma Road, in St. Mary’s County. Fish for bass, crappies, bluegills or shellcracker sunfish, pickerel and catfish.

Little Seneca Lake is a fine choice. It’s in Montgomery County, off Route 117, near Boyds. Fish for bluegills, bass, catfish, tiger muskies.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column every Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com.

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