The park provide canoes and life jackets, and paddlers are encouraged to bring water, lunch and binoculars.
Pohick Bay Regional Park, 6501 Pohick Bay Dr., Lorton. 703-528-5406. www.nvrpa.org/park/pohick_bay. Tours run in the spring and fall. $30, age 16 and older.
Anyone who has seen the 1992 Brad Pitt movie “A River Runs Through It” can begin to understand the romantic beauty of fly-fishing: wading into a mountain stream and casting back and forth until the line is released and lands on the water. If luck is with you, it’s followed by a quick snap of the line as a trout takes the bait.
The allure of the sport has led many to Mark Kovach. A stout man with a flair for stories thick with drama and humor, Kovach has taught fly-fishing for more than 30 years.
A recent basic/intermediate lesson began inside the Cozy Restaurant on Frederick Road in downtown Thurmont. The class was evenly divided between men and women, some of whom had traveled from as far away as Alexandria.
Kovach started by explaining the variations in equipment, including lines, leaders, rods, reels and hooks. He also emphasized understanding what your fish likes to eat. After everyone got a full fly box, he passed around preserved mayflies, caddisflies and stoneflies. Comparing the real insects to the man-made ones gives you a better appreciation for the art of tying flies, which involves tightly wrapping floss, tinsel, fur and feathers onto a tiny hook. But don’t worry about tying your own flies before class. Kovach encourages students to learn about gear before buying and makes sure everyone is outfitted for the day.
After a country-style buffet lunch (included in the fee), it was time to work on casting. Kovach explained the fundamentals and demonstrated his mastery of the cast. Matching his grace and ease proved challenging.
The day ended with students putting their knowledge to work at Big Hunting Creek in the Catoctin Mountains. It may not have been the famous Montana streams of “A River Runs Through It,” but when the trout were biting, it was beautiful nonetheless.
The next basic/intermediate trout classes are April 30 and May 7 and meet at the Cozy Restaurant, 103 Frederick Rd., Thurmont. 301-588-8742. www.mkfs.com. $175. Advanced classes are also offered.
Washington is to white-water kayaking as Aspen is to skiing, with countless enthusiasts, and even a few former Olympians, flocking to the area for its varied kayaking opportunities — from the Chesapeake Bay’s vast coastline to the Potomac’s challenging rapids. But before you don a helmet and take on Great Falls, you must (repeat: must) take a lesson.
Hopping into a kayak is nothing like renting a canoe for a relaxing morning paddle. In addition to be able to control the kayak, you must know how to roll and exit it underwater. You should also feel comfortable getting wet, because — as Potomac Paddlesports founder and president Edwin “Sunny” Pitcher puts it — “everybody swims.”
Pitcher should know. He began teaching in 1999, and about 1,500 people have taken his company’s Whitewater 101 lesson. The five-hour beginner’s lesson is perfect for people who want to see whether the sport is for them. Potomac Paddlesports provides the big-ticket items: kayak, paddle, neoprene skirt, helmet and flotation device. Students are expected to bring proper clothing and ear and nose plugs.
One big difference between white-water kayaking and other paddle sports is that you’re secured to the kayak by a tight skirt, meaning that if the boat capsizes, you go with it. Being comfortable holding your breath upside-down and underwater is vital. That might sound scary, but the instructors make sure that you get used to the unusual sensation slowly and that you’re able to safely exit a capsized kayak. Once you’re confident making a wet exit, the instructors give you a paddle and show how to right yourself by rolling the kayak. Build on these fundamentals with a few more classes, and you’ll be ready for the river.
Potomac Paddlesports Whitewater 101: Saturdays from April 30 through Oct. 8 on the Potomac River near Pennyfield Lock, 12351 Pennyfield Lock Rd., Potomac. Potomac Paddlesports, 11917 Maple Ave., Rockville. 301-881-2628. www.potomacpaddlesports.com. $145.