Weekend wilderness is hard to come by, and a quick and easy route to it is almost a contradiction in terms. During the summer wilderness generally requires backpacking into a remote area or paddling through one. Nothing against backpacking, but in the heat we get around here during July and August, I prefer to walk in other months and paddle an easy pace whenever the air is so humid you can almost drink it. After all, you can't tie a six pack to your back and expect it cool off any.
Summer canoeing does present one problem. Many of the streams that were wild whitewater highways in the spring are now little more than trickles. Luckily, Washington is within driving distance of four great waterbeds - the Potomac, the Shenandoah, the Susquehanna, the James. Each usually has sufficent flow to carry you far from cars, people and noise, except for an occasional freight train, which can be a thing of rustic beauty. Much of it isn't gentine wilderness, but if you let the humidity cloud your mind and focus instead on the herons, the ducks and the racoons that visit at night, you'll never know you're a few hours from Washington.
Before even picking a trip, however, get firmly in mind the basic rules for safe and sane canoe tripping.
First, know the water you plan to canoe. Most rapids in this region are relatively easy to run, but some, such as Great Falls, are dangerous torrents that should never be attempted and others are for experts only. Placid water at the bridgehead can become tough or deadly downstream, so make a practice of asking outfitters and local people about water conditions and reading river guide books. Once you're on the water, scout any rapids where a safe course is not immediately apparent.
To scout a rapid, stop well upstream, beach the canoe solidly so it won't float away. Walk the entire length of the rapids to plan your course and alternate courses if you don't stay exactly where you intend. It may help to erect rockpiles or other sign posts at the water's edge to mark waves, currents or rocks. A river viewed ashore looks different from a river viewed afloat. If the water looks too difficult, portage around it or line the canoe, which means tie six to ten-foot ropes to the bow and the stern and walk the canoe in the shallow side water past the rapids.
Always carry life vests or flotation cushions and a spare paddle. Put anything you want to stay dry in a plastic garbage bag and then into a pack or whatever. A canoe always collects water, so if you've got camping gear, put the spare paddle, fishing rod cases or boughs beneath the gear to keep it above the sloshing puddle.
The heaviest person should always be in the stern, and if the river has many riffles, keep your tennis shoes on. The stern person in particular will be in and out, walking the canoe wherever summer conditions make the water too shallow. Shoes save the feet.
When boarding, put the canoe fully in the water, rather than leaving one end suspended high on a rock so you don't put your foot through the bottom. Board a canoe with a hand on each of the sides - gunwales they're called, though few canoes carry cannons.
A long trip should have more than one canoe in the party in case one is damages or someone gets hurt. An extra canoe also may require more than one car, so you will be able to drop a car at the destination point of the canoe trip. Convenient foresight.ots of white perch southward to Kent Narrows; use chummed clams and peelers. White perch and a few pan rock on drift peelers at mouth of Magothy. Perch on bloodworms and peelers at Fort Smallwood. MIDDLE BAY
Trust in early at the mouth of the Choptank; soft crabs, peelers, bloodworms and shrimp work well. Rock good on both ends Bay Bridge; most are taken on soft crabs or live eels, but some on cast bucktails. Blues have been good on the Chesapeake Beach charter boats; sometimes chumming is best and sometime trolling hoses halfway down. A few blues in the mouth of the Choptank, at Sharps Island Light, Bloody Point and Poplar Island. Occasional rock and trout at Sharps Island Light. Black drum are also excellent; try bottom fishing with softshell and peeler crabs. Perch and fair catches of rock on bloodworms in Severn River at the old drawbridge; bloodworms best. Bottom fishing turning up jumbo spot in mouth of Choptank and Highland Point. LOWER BAY
Trolling for blues hasn't been working well lately because of heat but chumming is still very effective. Bottom fishing is excellent. Good spot and croaker in most of the lower Potomac and Patuxent Rivers. Try bloodworms for spot at both plus St. Jerome Creek, Drum Point, Broom Island, Clark Point, Wycomico River, Smith Creek. Trout and hardheads near Smith Point. Sea trout, hardheads and jumbo spot have suddenly become scarce on Deale and Chrisfield charter boats with only scattered catches. Good sea trout south between buoys 50 and 52 in 90 feet of water; troll bucktails. Surf fishing for blues with cut spot has been fair. Try Cedar Point, Point Lookout and Point No Point. Trolling and chumming for blues, three to five pounds, is good throughout most of the Lower Bay, from Patuxent southward. More channel bass from 30 to 70 pounds between buoys 50-54 just off Point Lookout. MARYLAND FRESHWATER
ROCKY GORGE/TRIADELPHIA: Bass deep, slow. SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: Troll small red hoses or cast plugs for rock; bottom-fish bloodworms for white perch. Some cat and bass below the dam on bloodworms, night crawlers, bucktails and spoons.
LIBERTY: Some crappie on minnows and some bass on minnows and plastic worms.
CONOWINGO ABOVE DAM: Bass and crappie fair; minnows best.
LOCH RAVEN: Plenty of eight-inch crappie under bridges; minnows best. Some bass on plastic worms.
POTOMAC: Smallmouth in the riffles below Harpers Ferry should be hitting if the river continues to drop. Try small spinners of floating rebels at dawn or drift nymphs or streamers through the pockets. At dusk try large caddis flies and white millers.
EASTERN SHORE: A few bass in the Transquaking River on spinnerbaits in early morning. Some rock at Chancellor's Point and Chlora Point; bloodworms and grubs best. Fair perch and spot at the Route 50 Bridge on Peelers and clams. VIRGINIA FRESHWATER
BURKE LAKE: Catfish are fair; use night crawlers or chicken liver. Bass tapering off. Some bluegills and lots of croppie. Some small sunfish on night crawlers and red wigglers.
OCCOQUAN: Water is leveling off. Good catfish, minnows best. Bass are slowed and deep, purple plastic worms will take some 12 to 13-inchers. Some crappie in the coves and off the points, troll minnows.
Lake ANNA: Bass picking up. Topwater baits best for two-pounders in shallows in late evening when surface water cools. Bigger bass deep during the day; try blue plastic worms and lizards at 15 to 18 feet around structure. Some crappie back at the bridges try minnows.
MAKASSAS: A number of small bass; spinner baits and minnows are best. Many bluegills; night crawlers and garden worms are working well. Cats too.
SHENANDOAH RIVER: Smallmouths fair in the riffes but should improve with no rain. Try spinners rebels and streamer flies. OCEAN
OCEAN CITY: Over 125 white marlin taken but the big news is a 533-pound blue marlin, caught last Saturday by Vince Orlando of Olney, the first this year off Ocean City and the fourth largest on record there. Some tune and occasional dolphin. Small flounder plentiful in the bay and good sea trout at night at the inlet when the tide is running. Try minnows, bucktails, squid and grub-type lures. Plenty of blues offshore.
CHINCOTEAGUE: Some flounder and sea trout on squid, minnows and bucktails.
VIRGINIA BEACH: Tuna scarce but marlin and blues excellent. Some gray trout on bucktails and flounder on minnows.
HATTERAS: White and blue marlin strong. Boats getting billfish, dolphin, a few tuna and wahoo. WASHINGTON
Mostly cats are coming in, so use cut bait. Rock on bloodworms have been fair. Some bass on surface plugs in the early morning and evening, or try plastic worms for less action during the day.