THEAUX LeGARDEUR wrecked his car, quit his job, and found happiness on a trout stream. That's good news for anglers who consider the Gunpowder their home water.
LeGardeur is the new owner of the Monkton shop formerly known as "On the Fly." Now it's called "Backwater Angler." With fiancee Sarah Hoffman, LeGardeur has cleaned and painted the rooms, installed an 1860s general store counter, and added paintings and prints of anglers and fish.
And in their spare time, they're planning a May 19 wedding.
Even though things are kind of chaotic, LeGardeur has opened early to sell fishing licenses and let people look around. "We're seeing eight to 10 cars every day. We were going to wait to open, but we can't," he sighs.
The real opening is Thursday, when guides and representatives of tackle makers will be on hand to welcome the two owners to the fishing community.
LeGardeur, 29, is a former guide and tackle rep. It was the latter job that drove him - literally - to his new one.
As the East Coast representative for Winston Rod Co., LeGardeur traveled 28 states, mostly in his Volvo wagon. On a January morning during one of our rare snowflake events, he decided to keep an appointment at Angler's Sporting Goods on U.S. 50.
LeGardeur got just a few miles from his home in Upperco, when he lost control of his car on Dover Road and smashed a fence.
"I had an epiphany," he says, ruefully. "I decided I didn't need to be on the road anymore."
LeGardeur and Hoffman stopped by On The Fly during its closing and struck a deal with owner Wally Vait, who will stay on to guide and teach fly tying classes.
"Because of my old job, I have a pretty good idea of what a good fly shop should look like," says LeGardeur. "I also know what drives fly fishing sales, and that's service."
The shop will have a separate room for waders, a selection of almost 30,000 flies, and artwork from Charlie Ports, Mary Kay (a founder of Tennessee Brookies, a woman's angling group) and Eastern Shore resident Carol Rowen.
Oh, yes, and more parking out back.
LeGardeur grew up fishing and hunting just outside New Orleans. He ran a tackle shop and guided for a while on the edge of the Smokies in North Carolina. When he became a tackle rep, he chose Baltimore as home base because of its central location.
Hoffman hopes to start fly fishing classes for women and youngsters. She knows how to relate to kids and what it's like to be intimidated by veteran male anglers.
"Our first date was on the Davidson River, and I was terrified," recalls Hoffman of that 1997 outing with LeGardeur in North Carolina. "Theaux looked like an artist making music. I didn't want to look like a nerd."
What she remembers of that date is, perhaps, the most important detail: "I caught my first fish - a rainbow trout - on an ant!"
Hoffman has climbed Grand Teton and Mount Hood and taught outdoor skills to youngsters as part of a national program called "Wilderness Ventures."
With the shop and wedding plans taking up most of her time, Hoffman has cut back on classes at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, where she's working on a master's degree in social work.
The wedding will be near the scene of the first date, after which the two will head off for a few days of fishing. Unlike most weddings, their reception might be quieter than the ceremony.
"We wanted to keep the wedding small," says LeGardeur, "but then we found out that everyone wants to fish."
The wedding party will not wear waders, at least not until after the ceremony.
As clear as mud
In last week's column about the contamination of a Cecil County trout stream, a twitchy finger (mine) deleted part of a sentence that it shouldn't have.
The Superfund hazardous waste site next to the unnamed stream is being treated for buried chemicals and carcinogens. The pond that burst held runoff water from construction, not nasty stuff.
What has destroyed the stream, a tributary of Basin Run, is the mud and glop from the pond, not toxins from the landfill.
Trout to go
It's only an experiment, but the Department of Natural Resources has, for the first time, stocked Tuckahoe Lake and its spillway in Caroline County with 1,500 rainbows.
The trial will give folks on the Eastern Shore a chance to catch trout without having to drive a great distance.
Anglers must have a non-tidal/ freshwater fishing license as well as a trout stamp to keep fish. There's a two-trout limit each day.
It's not too early to start thinking about the spring turkey season, which opens April 18 and runs to May 16. I'll bet you think the turkeys are thinking about it, too. (How else do you account for their wily ways?)
To prepare the humans, Dick's Sporting Goods is having seminars at its White Marsh and Hagerstown stores with two experts: Michael Waddell, a professional with Team Realtree, and Matt Morrett, a world champion turkey caller.
"Turkeys are the most aggravating things I've ever hunted," says Waddell, 28, who shot his first gobbler when he was 12. "Every time you go out, you should learn something - especially when you didn't bust 'em."
Waddell says the seminar will cover tactics that will bring success with smart birds that have been hunted hard. "I would describe turkeys as wily. They're not the smartest animal, but their instincts are unbelievable," he says.
The experts will preach patience, good scouting, and knowing when to be aggressive and when to stay put.
"The good Lord makes you earn the first one," says Waddell. "Once you belong to the club, you can just about get one whenever you want."
Admission to the seminars is $5 for adults; children under 16 are free. Proceeds benefit the state chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, the youth programs of the Washington County Sportsmen's Federation, and one of my favorite charities, Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry.