The air is crisp and the shadows are long and the wind plucks the red yellow leaves from their branches. For many fishermen, this is striper season.
I met a friend and his canoe for a quiet Sunday afternoon on the Occoquan River. Neither of us had fished the river before, so while we waited for the outgoing tide to bring movement back into the water, we paddled up river towards the dam. Along the way, I threw several exploratory casts but the fish were as stagnant as the current. A mile from our launch point, the river narrowed and the scenery changed. The concrete lined banks and dilapidated industrial relics gave way to brush and boulders. The water grew shallower and protruding rocks prevented us from going any further. The river almost looked wild but for the concrete wall of the dam in the distance.
As the tide began to move, thousands of baitfish too small to see began breaking the surface looking like a soft rain dimpling the water. I tied on my smallest olive Clouser minnow and paddled to where a corrugated pipe pumped water of unknown origin into the river, churning its way down an artificial waterfall. In the frothy mixture of currents, mystery fish began breaking the surface with increasing frequency. I cast in the direction of the disturbances with a couple quick strips the line became taut and my first striped bass of the season was in the canoe. The second and third followed shortly.