Cold Days and Smallmouth Bass

A parade moves through the small town that sits on a hill overlooking the Potomac River. It is Veterans Day and the celebration rouses the sleepy streets. American flags adorn shop windows and families gather to watch the procession. I wait in my car watching the parade until a police officer motions that it is my turn to cross the intersection.

Just below the town is the boat launch where I meet my friends, Charlie and his wife Lauren. They have already loaded the raft in the water and readying for the float. It is an entirely different scene at the boat ramp; quiet and empty.

The river is remarkably clear considering the rain we had earlier in the week. The day is flawless. The striking blue sky and intense autumn sun penetrate the water, illuminating every rock and ledge on the river bottom and soon fish begin to appear. At first we only see the occasional catfish and sucker darting away from the shadow of the raft. As the flat bottom gives way to rock ledges, smallmouth bass appear. Even with maximum visibility, the fish are brilliantly camouflaged and more often than not spook before they are spotted.

Charlie and I take turns rowing and fishing while Lauren sits quietly reading The Fellowship of the Ring in the front of the raft. When it is my turn on the oars, I selfishly position the raft so that the sun falls squarely on my back, warming my body against the crisp November air.

Charlie and I love to catch fish, but we also love to see others catch fish and thus a natural partnership began. We alternate between fish, insisting that the other take up the rod. When the current allows, we both fish and let the raft drift freely. My first bass comes at such a moment while I am watching Charlie fight his first fish of the day. My dead drifting crayfish pattern neglected deep in the current attracts a bass which graciously hooks itself while my attention is diverted. Through no skill on my part, we have doubles in the raft and the day is off to an abrupt start. With renewed focus, more fish soon follow.

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 Photo: Charlie Church

Photo: Charlie Church

 Close up

Close up

 Photo: Charlie Church

Photo: Charlie Church