It was a busy but relaxing 10-day visit. From the fishing dead-start in Virginia (reported in previous post), the action heated up. Brookie Joe managed to fish and push beyond his usual boundaries, casting over Shenandoah Park’s Staunton, Conway, Rose, and Rapidan rivers, in addition to Hogcamp Branch and Pocosin Hollow. Hiking with his wife and brother-in-law, Joe F. enjoyed the mountain waterfalls, the wildflower carpets and the haunting songbird phrasings.
The stream levels moderated comfortably and allowed some crossings, though another shot of rain by week’s end kept the hiking trails in a swampy state. Joe traveled back to metropolitan D.C. and set up for a first-time wade in rural Maryland. Big Hunting Creek is located in Catoctin National Park near Thurmont village and the Camp David presidential retreat. Big Hunting was Maryland’s first catch-and-release fly-water. Acknowledging that executive shenanigans have occurred on the stream throughout the decades, and that a deep angling history could be invoked beneath its hemlock-shaded pools, Joe found a pleasant afternoon of casting there with Chester2.
A few stoneflies and caddis hatched from the creek that afternoon, but the catches came from hook-ups on Quill Gordon and Hendrickson dries. While family members hiked on for a visit to Cunningham Falls, Joe’s first brown in Maryland rose to a fly beyond two fallen trees. The trees (substantial logs) divided the creek almost down the middle.
Brookie Joe risked the straightness of his legs by dancing through a white-water hole, then clambering over logs to free a wild trout tangled in the underwater branches. The event became a fun tale to embellish later by the streamside or in the craft-beer haunts of Arlington, VA.
Brookie Joe kept his threads and tippets tied throughout the week by doing odd jobs such as contemplating the inferno at Notre Dame Cathedral, shuddering at news of killings in Sri Lanka, reading Ceremony, a fine Native American novel by Leslie Marmon Silko, and laughing at the latest bit of wisdom tweeted from the White House. With another Earth Day just around the corner, he was treated to a tour of Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge on the eastern shore of Chesapeake Bay.
An eco-friendly museum, adjacent to the refuge– the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitors Center– provided a fascinating history, a sobering reintroduction to the trials of one for whom the notion of freedom was truly a matter of life and death. Beyond the Tubman site, the Blackwater’s acreage beckoned with its wonderful birding opportunities across the blend of salt and freshwater marshes.
Depending on the season, some 100-300 bald eagles might be found hunting over the 28,000-acre ground. Joe and family observed a couple of eagles, a lot of osprey, flocks of gulls and terns, the thrashing of carp mating in the cordgrass, muskrats, turtles, egrets, and herons. The walkers listened to the clacking of king rails in the April greenery and to the calling of brown-headed nuthatches in the towering loblolly pines. The blossom of a lady’s-slipper almost lulled them to the presence of over-reaching poison ivy. To top it off, they stopped at the rara brewery in Cambridge for an awesome beer and soft pretzel treat.
To Joe’s way of thinking, Earth Day, the day he started setting up his southern recollections, isn’t just a one-day celebration. It should signify an everyday appreciation of Earth’s diversity, accented by an effort to recognize and preserve a share of our planet’s natural bounties. To catch and release a wild trout on a fly rod is a gateway action (one of many) toward appreciating earthly beauty. Joe’s vacation was winding down, but his Earth Day fling wasn’t finished yet.
His son and daughter-in-law, who helped make the whole trip possible, had arranged for Joe to catch a special concert in D.C. on his last night out. Pink Floyd’s drummer, Nick Mason (along with Saucerful of Secrets, his band of P.F. alumni) would present a final U.S. performance of early Pink Floyd music at Constitution Hall. The show, absolutely stunning, “set the controls for the heart of the sun” and helped an old fisher get a dazzling view through music of that aqueous planet sailing through the dark.