Like a mangy dog, the Potomac River can be a little off putting at times but it is always loyal. No matter how much trash and waste we dump into the river, the shad return every spring. Anglers eagerly await the arrival of these fish, desperate to be outside fishing after a long winter.
A wooden row boat with Charlie on the oars brings us towards the center of the river where there is a little more current and the depth is around 20ft. Here, a rope tied to a rock anchors us in place. The fish are somewhere below us, so we row and anchor in several spots until we find where they are holding. Once the seam is located, the excitement begins.
Repeating the same cast with the same drift and the same retrieve brings in dozens of shad, one after the other. If this sounds repetitive, it's because it often is, but only in the literal definition of the word. There is no lost excitement in catching fish after fish and even when the next bite is expected, the thrill remains.
I often wonder where old fishing tropes find their origins. I can remember watching the cartoons of my childhood where the character reels in everything and the kitchen sink without catching a single fish. Tires, tin cans, and after fighting what finally seems like a trophy catch, out pops an old boot. The fisherman sits defeated, watching the boot drearily bobbing at the end of the rod, slowly draining a soggy heel full of water back into the river. Yes, the old boot is a classic, and while I never learned its origin, it remains the most iconic.
Perhaps this explains my excitement when I saw a hiking boot floating 30ft away in the Potomac current. I knew this was my chance to fulfill the old trope (albeit intentionally), and pay homage to the cartoons I grew up watching.
I cast in the direction of the boot, which was now downstream of the boat, and I missed. I picked up the line and recast, stripping my flies back until I felt tension. The boot fought harder than any fish that day and seeing it attached to my line produced the biggest smile of the day. Landing the boot was met with triumphant chuckles and joyful hoots from neighboring boats. I felt like I had officially joined an elite brotherhood of anglers, initiated into the Brotherhood of the Boot.