My River ... My Island
(A Fisherman's View)
by George Malusky
It's not the Ganges or the Amazon; it's not Pago Pago or Fiji ... but it's mine! Some members may take offense at my taking possession of this river and the Island, especially our senior members who were around long before I came on the scene. However, I spend many beautiful moments on the water and on the shore that become very special to me; thus, I feel justifies in taking possession.
It was a typical hot and humid July (for the Washington, D.C. area) when we climbed down the cliffs for our first picnic. My family was looking forward to getting away from the city and its noise. Peter Day (previous Caretaker) came across for us and then helped setting up tables and canoes for the children. When everything was settled down, young son George asked if we could go fishing across the river and, after promising his mother we would get back in time for the picnic (by five o'clock if I remember), we pushed off into the channel and rounded the Island to the Virginia shore.
We must have dropped anchor about three o'clock and started to let out lines. With the sun high in the sky, I wasn't too optimistic that any fish would be active in the heat. But within minutes we had action. The lines started to pull and go under and as soon as we brought in one batch of fish and reset the lines, the other lines would repeat ... This went on all afternoon! That first day we must have kept a dozen "keepers" of fat catfish and blue gill which went very well for breakfast the next morning. With all the excitement, we forgot the time and got to shore very late for our picnic. We got into trouble...
The following weekend we had another picnic. This time Dorothy was most emphatic when she told her "fishermen" that we would have a picnic first before hitting the canoes! So son George just walked up to the end of the Island to a little cove and dropped a line into about two feet of water. The water exploded with a 15" bass on the line! Two weeks later George took his classmate with him to the same spot. He was elated. He got a bass well over 15"
. We figure it must have been a momma-pappa pair nesting, or so the ol' timers tell me... (That cove is still there and I don't know if anyone has been fortunate enough to get any bass out of there since. I'm sure someone must have, but I haven't heard anything about it.)
Some of the best kept secrets in the world are the "deep holes" in the river where the fish are deep and are staying cool just waiting for the hook! I have not found any of them but my friend Warring Barnes has been trying to tell me for years where they are located. I don't think they are shifting with the currents but I haven't been lucky enough to discover these "sink holes" where the fish congregate.
Much of the bass can be found up river among the rocks and boulders and it has always been fun to beach the canoe on one of the many sandbars in the area. You can stretch your legs and partake of lunch and hope the fish won't disturb you in the serene setting. The silent distance, with an occasional blue heron standing guard only fifty feet away, makes your sandbar lunch a memorable event. However, these rocks and boulders can be dangerous if you get your boat or canoe caught between "watery sentinels" as happened to us one day. We were almost swamped with a strong current hitting us broadside. With much effort we were able to break loose and drift away to a safer spot.
The river is such a lady. And, like all ladies, you must show her respect. She can be so placid -- but she can also become so angry! This happened one clear afternoon when, all of a sudden, we discovered our boat was heading up river without any effort. The wind came up and suddenly we were watching whitecaps where a few minutes before it had been as smooth as a lake. It was then that we made a wise decision to head back to Sycamore . The winds got stronger and the water choppier. Somehow, fishing didn't seem that important....
Spring is now with us and I shall once again go out with some worms and lures and look for the "mystery holes" that have eluded me for so long. There will be days when we won't catch anything, but who cares... Just the fact that you are on the river with good weather and good friends is enough. After putting away the gear and climbing back up the cliffs, I will look over my domain and head for home --- hoping I am not too late for dinner.