After jaws, smaller fry are Shore target

ON THE OUTDOORS

July 30, 2000|By CANDUS THOMSON

Ron Franks has a yin-yang existence.

As a dentist, he fills people with stress as he fills their teeth.

But across the driveway from his Grasonville practice, Franks brings peace and contentment to fly fishermen as owner of Winchester Creek Outfitters.

The two-story shop along westbound U.S. Route 50 opened in June. With its wood stove, high ceiling and lots of natural light, it's an inviting space. But what sets Winchester Creek Outfitters apart from other shops is what's out back.

Franks has a casting field, where individual and group lessons are offered. Beyond the field is Winchester Creek, where students can test their developing skills on the water.

He's having a pier built to give guides a place to tie up their boats and a spot to launch kayaks and canoes for fishing trips to Queenstown Creek and Eastern Neck Island.

Franks, 58, said he wants to offer a "soup-to-nuts" experience for newcomers to the sport, with four hours of instruction in the morning followed by an afternoon of fishing.

"In some people's minds, fly fishing is an elitist activity, but it's not," he insisted. "We want people to feel comfortable here, both in asking questions and in the amount of money they want to spend."

For example, Franks stocks rods ranging in price from $85 to $600. Reels are priced from $29 to $735.

"No one should feel intimidated or pressured to spend more than they want to," he said.

Store manager John Baker and casting instructor Joe Capozzoli ask a lot of questions as a customer explains what he or she is looking for. After making a few suggestions, they'll take the customer out to the casting field to narrow the options.

That's as it should be, Franks says.

"We are trying to create an atmosphere where even a novice can come in and feel comfortable. That's one of the reasons for the wood stove, to create a down-home feel," he said. The fly selection at Winchester Creek Outfitters is heavily weighted with Eastern Shore creations.

"The local flavor is important. When a customer comes in and asks what's going to work, we can tell them that all the flies in here are the flies John and Joe use in this area," Franks said.

Upstairs at the shop, Franks has a classroom for fly-tying lessons that can seat six students. Again, Franks has added a slight twist to make the experience interesting.

A video camera and monitor mounted behind Baker's workbench and vise gives students a second angle on the process.

It also allows him to tape the class for replay or to review their technique.

Franks, a lifetime angler, was a late convert to fly fishing.

A state delegate for four years, he finished third in the 1994 Republican primary for U.S. Senate, behind Bill Brock and Ruthann Aron.

Franks found himself out of politics with time on his hands. He picked up his spin-casting rod, but it wasn't long before he turned it in for a fly rod.

"It was 1995 and we were at Love Point," he recalled. "We weren't having much luck so we started throwing everything we had in the tackle box into the water.

"Over next to us was a guy with a fly rod with a little white Clouser pattern and he started catching on every cast," said Franks. "That was it for me."

Urban fauna

A little closer to home, you can learn about fly fishing from Joe Bruce of the Fisherman's Edge shop in Catonsville and get a lesson about city wildlife during an outing with the Friends of Gwynns Falls/Leakin Park on Aug. 13.

"There's wildlife between Edmondson Avenue and Baltimore Street," said Douglas Brown, the hike's coordinator. "Herons, enormous turtles, carp, catfish, smallmouth bass."

Last year's hike was a big success, despite high temperatures and humidity, he said.

"We didn't do much walking because once Joe Bruce got us into his fishing net, we were content to sit under a big tree and watch him catch fish after fish," Brown said.

The hike will begin at 1 p.m. at the Leakin Park tennis courts parking lot off Eagle Drive. Bring water, sunscreen and bug spray.

For more information, call Brown at 410-945-2365.

Eastern Neck hunt

With $10 and a bit of luck, you could land one of the permits for the special deer hunt this fall at the Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge in Rock Hall.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is accepting applications for the hunt, which will have five divisions: archers on Sept. 11 and 15; youths, ages 10-15 on Sept. 23; the disabled on Sept. 18; muzzleloaders on Oct. 2, 6 and 9, and shotguns on Oct. 16, 23 and 30.

Refuge spokeswoman Susan Talbott said an informal survey each year tells the agency how many deer it has on the 2,286-acre island.

Although a one-day hunt in January was successful, with 131 hunters killing 128 deer, refuge managers believe a fall hunt is in order to keep the population in check.

"If we can do a quick count and get to 100, we know we have a large population," she said, adding that the island herd is augmented by deer swimming over or walking across the bridge.

A change in regulations means deer killed in the refuge will count toward the regular state bag limit.

To get an application, call the refuge office at 410-639-7056. The non-refundable $10 fee, which helps offset the costs of administering the hunt, must accompany all applications.

Archery applications are due Aug. 16, with the winners announced the next day. All other applications are due Sept. 6, with the drawing for permits the next day.

To read an expanded Outdoors Journal or the fishing report online, go to www.sunspot.net/sports/outdoors.

To hear the fishing report, call SunDial and enter category 5378 on your touch-tone phone. The phone number is 410-783-1800 in the Baltimore area; 410-268-7736 in Anne Arundel County; 410-836-5028 in Harford County; and 410-848-0038 in Carroll County.

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