Day at creek teaches young fisherman a lifetime of lessons about patience


April 11, 1993|By PETER BAKER

The other day, several days after the heavy rains had stopped and the sun shone for several hours at a stretch, a crowd formed around the dam at Tuckahoe Lake and along the banks of Tuckahoe Creek.

From the far side of the semicircular dam, a young boy shouted to his older sister, who stood along the rail in the center of the wooden bridge that crosses the creek, "I got one! Yes, I got one! Finally, I got one!"

The sister, wise already by the age of 12, shouted back to her brother, who was furiously reeling line against a deeply bowed rod and a grudgingly yielding drag, "You got a whale or you got a snag."

The brother shook his head and began to speak, but at that moment the hook bent or broke free from the snag, and the line shot back past the young boy's ear.

The brother smiled sheepishly at his sister, at the fishermen to either side of his position, and then he laughed, re-rigged, rebaited and cast back into a pool below the spillway.

The boy was not alone in his frustration along the upper stretch of the Tuckahoe that day. During an hour there, none among the several dozens of fishermen was seen catching a fish -- neither the hook-and-liners nor the handful of dip netters.

But the prospect of catching the building white perch run or the end of the yellow perch run upstream to spawn, had fishermen out in force in several areas of the Eastern Shore, from Martinak State Park to Red Bridges on the Choptank River.

The heavy rains of March and early April had left the river and its tributaries high, muddy and fast -- poor conditions for these rites of spring.

At Martinak, a half dozen, shiny bass boats rumbled past the launch

and a sea wall sparsely lined with anglers, out of Watts Creek onto the Choptank in search of better fishing.

A man and his two sons, aboard a drab green jon boat that probably serves as well for duck hunting as fishing, followed the parade by a few minutes.

As they came into the ramp, an older fellow called out, "How'd ya do?"

"Better'n we thought we would," said the father, unloading a few large yellow perch and a couple of bass from a bucket. "Everywhere we've been had been muddy. Best fishing was down around Williston, though we didn't get a single white perch."

The older fellow shook his head and said that Williston had been the best he had heard of -- except maybe Greensboro.

At the local ramp in Greensboro, a kid named Johnny had stationed himself at the downriver end of the sea wall with a heavy casting reel, and the last of a tin can of worms he said he had dug himself.

Across the river, families had come down to the banks, and small children laughed as they played in the sun and cast their baits into the river.

Johnny, an old man of perhaps 10, wore a serious countenance. He was about the business of fishing, not playing in the sunlight of a perfect spring afternoon.

"Just a few small white perch," Johnny said when asked how the fishing had been. "Nothing big here today, but maybe something will come along like it did the other day, when my mom was with me.

"Big catfish hit and pulled my rod right in the river. My mom jumped in after it and pulled it out. It was my dad's good rod, and well, we weren't supposed to be using it.

"But that big catfish sure tasted good for dinner."

Johnny seemed to be well-known by the fishermen who came in from the river and the tradesmen who pulled into the parking lot to pass the time.

The young old man roamed from boat to car to catch up on where the fishing might be best.

The consensus seemed to be upriver, where word had it that the white perch were running thick and fat.

"Had some money for real bait and a car," Johnny said, "and I'd be there, too."

When offered the balance of our grass shrimp, the kid declined.

"My mom told me never to take from strangers," Johnny said, "and to make my own way."

As we drove out of Greensboro, Johnny was turning into the sidewalk along the main drag, walking with his rod over his

shoulder, his worm can in his left hand.

With his right, he managed a brief wave.

Somehow, you got the feeling that Johnny already knows the real living is in the fishing, not the catching.

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