The hen and the drake mallard banked low around the point, dropped their feet as if to land and, before the specter of an unusual intruder, flogged away over the marshy backwater a mile or so upstream from the dam at Tuckahoe Lake.
Red-winged blackbirds chattered nosily. Great blue herons stalked the shallows patiently. Frogs called from deep cover. Northern water snakes swam the edges of the spatterdock.
And another largemouth bass had hit a crank bait and was taking line.
Tuckahoe Lake is one of those curious places in Maryland, off the beaten path in Caroline County and at first glance a basin to control water runoff from surrounding farmland.
But the main feeder creek is a treasure to be explored by canoe, kayak, or in my case an 8-foot rowing dinghy with a persistent miss in the power plant.
Below the dam, a tidal fishing license is required and each spring yellow and white perch run upstream to spawn and attract hordes of fishermen.
The lake and waters upstream require a freshwater license and are restricted to human-powered boats or craft with electric motors -- and therein lies perhaps the greatest attraction, solitude and an almost natural pace.
While rowing into the backwaters of Tuckahoe, the freshwater wetlands unfold with the morning.
Turtles bask on partially submerged logs, chain pickerel lie in ambush along edges of submerged vegetation, wrens and swallows flit among the low tops of stunted trees and tall bushes.
A gaggle of resident Canada geese is raucous in the distance.
And the crank bait picks up a small largemouth from the back eddy along the mouth of a tiny cut in the spatterdock field.
The dinghy, with the draft of a canoe, bumps over logs and hummocks and slides up channels too shallow for a bass boat, too narrow for a more spacious vessel.
The upstream work is easy enough, shipping oars once in a while and poling when necessary.
A water snake slithers onto the blade of an oar left in the water and hesitates only an instant as a rod tip nudges it away. A red-winged blackbird hovers close by, noisily intent on chasing me away from its nest.
A great blue heron moves in the blink of an eye to catch a small fish in its beak and quickly swallows it.
And another largemouth has the crank bait and is heading for sanctuary in the submerged root system of a stump shrouded with hemp weed.
The joy of a small boat in small water is the trip downstream -- drifting with a slow current, carrying gently onto banks buffered by a variety of plant life and having the time to cast to cover that has been lightly fished if at all.
Probably it is not the stuff for small children, for those who dread flying insects or swimming snakes or anglers with an eye on a pro bass tour.
But the upper reaches of the Tuckahoe is a great place for an angler comfortable with a small boat, a handful of lures and willing and curious nature.
And when a 3-pound largemouth takes light line and runs for thick cover, the excitement is as good as it gets anywhere.
There are a number of small impoundments on the Eastern Shore that are well suited to small boats, and most are limited to electric motors or manpower. Each is small water best explored at a slow pace.
Small waters for small boats
On the Eastern Shore there are several small impoundments with facilities to handle small boats. All hold largemouth bass, chain pickerel, yellow perch and crappie.
Tuckahoe Lake, 86 acres, Tuckahoe State Park
Smithville Lake, 40 acres, state Route 404 east to Noble Road
Urieville Community Lake, 35 acres, state Route 213 north of Chestertown
Queen Anne's County
Unicorn Lake, 45 acres, state Route 313 south of Millington
Wye Mills Community Lake, 50 acres, state Route 662 south of U.S. Route 50
Johnson's Lake, 108 acres, Salisbury
Pub Date: 6/08/97