To some people fishing is a sport; to others it's art.
A fellow named Bob is an artist. All week he works hard doping out baffling designs for a slick magazine, working under the deadline gun. Then at week's end he heads for the streams that course through the Blue Ridge foothills.
And gets arty.
"I don't care if we catch any fish," he said as we headed west out of the city one gray morning. "That means nothing to me. I can't think of anything worse than going out on the Bay and catching 200 bluefish."
What Bob likes to do is play in the shallow, cool mountain streams on a fall or summer day. His fishing rod is a wand he uses to paint a timeless picture that stays in his mind. The fish are only props. If one takes the bait, so much the better.
Bob led us to a stream he knew - Hungry Run on Route 50 near Aldie, Virginia. No one fishes there. It's far too shallow to support any trophy bass and access along the tangled web of shoreline is a battle every step.
But once inside it's gorgeous.
He walked one bank and I walked the other. He carried a spindly graphite rod, the best you can get, and a tiny spinning reel loaded with two-pound line, which is as fine as human hair.
He had tied a popping bug onto the line. This is a lure about the size of a thumbnail that sits on top of the water. It has six legs fashioned of rubber strands and a scoop for a head. When it's drawn across the surface the legs wave tantalizingly and the head emits dainty burbling sounds.
Bob fought his way through the vines and tree limbs to a dry spot along the shore. He threw the bug downstream and worked it back with great patience; a cast might take five minutes to complete.
If the joy of fishing is the remembrance of a single captivating scene, as Norfolk angler Bob Mason has written, we were into it thoroughly.
Overhead a brisk northwest wind scattered bottom-heavy winter clouds and shook yellow leaves from the trees; behind us from a farm field we heard the crunching and grinding of a corn combine as it knocked over dried stalks, stripped ears and tossed yellow corn into a bin; the little bug slurped along the dappled water.
Even the fish cooperated. Small bass roiled the surface from time to time, nipping at the bait. We caught only two all day, and put them back in the stream. We landed some sunfish, too.
But the joy was in the scene. Not what little success we had.
There are others like Bob. One Chesapeake angler I know loves to skim over to Poplar Island, a low-lying, uninhabited stand of sand and trees in the middle of the Bay. He anchors off a gut where the tide runs fast and he pitches rockfish lures up against the bank.
As far as he knows, there hasn't been a rockfish landed off that point in years. But it's classic rock fishing, working the shallow grass beds where once the big stripers lay in wait, gobbling minnows and crustaceans.
So what if they're not there anymore?
City sportsmen have to take their recreation where they can. The curtain is drawing closed on this fishing year. The deep-freeze is packed with a fair share of summer bounty.
That's winter sustenance for the body. For the soul, we count on a few images of things just the way they ought to be.