Once caught, book is hard to release

On The Outdoors

March 05, 2000|By Candus Thomson | Candus Thomson,SUN STAFF

As a psychologist and a professor at the University of Maryland, Charlie Gelso can tell you what rattles around in the brain pan and why.

As a trout-stocking volunteer for the state and a fishing guide, Larry Coburn knows that what you set free doesn't usually return to you.

Together, the two old friends have written a lively book that explores the tiny but devious minds of Maryland's trout and offers advice on how to get them into your net.

Their "Guide to Maryland Trout Fishing, The Catch and Release Streams," came out just before Christmas. With 3,000 copies sold, their publisher, K&D Limited, Inc., has ordered a second printing. It sells for $15.95.

Lefty Kreh, a fisherman who knows a thing or two about a thing or two, said he's not surprised at the book's success.

"For anybody who is into this kind of fishing in Maryland, this is unquestionably the finest [book] that's ever been done. It's detailed and it's accurate," he said.

The idea for the guide hatched about seven years ago. Neither man is sure who thought of it first.

"We batted it around, wrote a couple of chapters and let it go," Gelso said.

Then Coburn sold his business, Laurel Fishing and Hunting, and Gelso took a sabbatical.

"We hit it hard then," Coburn said.

Gelso, 58, did the writing. Coburn, 43, handled the photos, maps and chapter on flies. The two men edited each other's work.

"We're honest with each other," Gelso said. "We know how to argue."

The book came together in less than a year, but the information was years in the gathering.

The two men met 19 years ago at a Trout Unlimited meeting. Both say they "cut their teeth" fly fishing the Patuxent River. They began trading information and sneaking off to midge fish in southern Pennsylvania.

"We were the kind of guys who should have come home and found Dear John letters on the table," said Coburn, laughing. "Our wives put up with a lot."

"But we've calmed down now," Gelso said, "to the level of being maniacs."

The attention to detail shows in the book, which gets you to Maryland's catch-and-release waterways and tells you what to do when you get there.

There are separate chapters on 12 streams and rivers -- seven in central Maryland and five in the western part of the state.

The book ends with an illustrated chapter on flies -- 18 of them that Gelso and Coburn swear can give a Maryland angler the edge.

The writing style is easy on the eyes and the ego. And you won't find any photos of the authors posing with big fish -- a conscious decision, Coburn said.

It delights them when anglers approach them at fishing shows to say how much they appreciate the down-to-earth style.

"You can't get academic. You can't get stuffy. You can't write down to people," Gelso said.

The psychologist laughs when asked if his professional pursuit helps him with his fishing.

"It produces an analytic quality. Psychology involves the study of behavior and conditioning. Fish have patterns," he said.

Has he cracked the code?

"Some patterns can be so complex that there's a challenge," he admitted, grinning.

The two Laurel residents -- Gelso lives in the Prince George's part and Coburn in the Howard portion -- are toying with the idea of another book, this time something a little more esoteric: midge fishing. Tiny flies. Big fish. Delicate touch.

"Once you learn fly fishing, it's the next level of success," Coburn said.

But for now, the two are enjoying the success of their first book and looking forward to a season of fishing after Gelso recovers from hip replacement surgery.

"I may not be able to wait," Coburn said. "I may just have to come get him and drag him down to the river."

A fresh assignment

Finally, an introduction.

Some of you in Anne Arundel may remember me as the editor of that county's edition of The Sun for eight years.

And some of you knew me as the D.C. suburbs reporter for three years.

But a lot of you don't know me at all, so here's a little bit of background that explains why my latest assignment as outdoors writer is the job of my dreams.

I was born to a fishing family. My granddad and his friends on the Lehigh Valley Railroad had a fishing camp northwest of Wilkes-Barre, Pa., between the Susquehanna River and the tracks.

The furniture didn't match and you had to check the outhouse for copperheads, but the rent was $1 a year and the river was 50 yards from the front-porch door. We loved it.

The middle years were spent in the northern suburbs of New Jersey. The less said, the better about the lack of wide-open spaces up there. Summer vacations not spent on the Susquehanna were spent at the Jersey shore or my grandma's house on Fait Avenue in Baltimore County (hello, steamed crabs).

The post-college address for almost 11 years was New Hampshire. Hiking and camping, canoeing and sea kayaking, deer hunting. And fishing on Lake Winnipesaukee in its liquid and frozen state.

Most folks don't appreciate ice fishing. "You catch perch, fish this big," said Kreh, holding his hands about 12 inches apart, "and stuff you wouldn't eat otherwise."

My spouse and I have hiked across the Grand Canyon, in the Swiss Alps and along many of the fine trails here in Maryland.

You can reach me with comments, ideas or to tell me about events for coverage or for listing in the Outdoors Journal. Here are four ways to stay in touch: Mail (Sun Sports Dept., P.O. Box 1377, Baltimore 21278); fax (410-783-2518 or 301-608-9453); phone (410-332-6889 or 1-800-829-8000, ext. 6889); or email (just click on my byline on www.sunspot.net).

Don't be strangers.

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