The orange-beaked geese that parade around Ed Allen's bait-and-tackle shop in Lanexa, Virginia, sound a good morning for new arrivals. It's a fine greeting that only a kazoo band could rival, quite different from the push and grumble on the early-morning Metro.
Their clamor soon dies out in the spurt and gurgle of a johnboat launched from a sandy shore.
Two anglers in a 14-foot aluminum craft have loaded their gear and cut through the hundred-foot swath toward open water. Smug looks were forming on both faces, nurtured by the knowledge that we weren't going to work. No meetings. No 9 to 5. No rush-hour.
So what if it was raining and a 15-mile-an-hour breeze was blowing from the south? So what if we hit the water an hour late? We were going fishing.
"I've got three appointments and have to sign eight contracts today," said John Horshok, a restaurateur reminding himself of responsibilities he'd shirked to ride for two hours in a beat-up jalopy, just to sit in the wind and rain and watch a bobber bob.
Lake Chickahominy is a swampy flat land in Virginia where herons build huge nests in the tops of cypress trees and cruise up and down the watery terrain, their wings missing the wet of the lake by a feather with each flap.
Wood ducks scurry with every sound.
Heading east along the shoreline I tossed the concrete-filled tin can over the side as an anchor, hooked up a jumbo river shiner for bait -- and waited.
And waited and waited and waited.
From the damp of the afternoon to the chill of the early evening, Horshok filled the boat with funny stories. Otherwise, it would have been empty. Not one fish thought so much of our minnows as to stop by for a visit. Compared to the geese on shore, they were quite rude.
"I can't believe this. I always catch fish," said Horshok.
"Believe it," said the fish.
We headed for the western shoreline, rounded an island and found someone actually fighting a fish. A Richmondite, Rick Nelson, had found the solution to the fish question by using what would ordinarily be considered the wrong gear in the wrong place -- what some would call The American Way.
He tossed his saltwater top-and-bottom rig out into the channel with a minnow on each hook.
"I got another one, Harold," he yelled to his companion while hauling in a four-pound grindel, or bowfin. Another cast produced another catch.
"This is great," muttered Horshok. There's nothing like watching other people catch fish."
We took a look at the four-pound large-mouth bass Harold caught that morning and proceeded to look for another spot until we got slightly lost.
Rounding a marshy island I saw several swirls erupt from a patch of lily pads and chucked one of the few surviving minnows overboard into the foilage. As soon as the bobber hit the water it disappeared.
Darting through the underwater flora, a three-pound pike sought refuge in the cover. But he was well hooked and alongside the boat in a couple of minutes. Horshok emptied the beer from the cooler, grabbed the toothy creature and put him on ice.
"At least we didn't get skunked," he said.
Half an hour later I caught a ring perch on a bad cast to keep the pike company.
We docked the boat under a reddened sky with Ed and Allen and the geese there to greet us.
"Well how'd it go? Either you did or you didn't," he said.
"That's right. We did and we didn't," I said and showed him the two fish.
Horshok tossed a minnow near the dock where Allen's pet bass live. Even there, Horshok could not get a bite.
"For 17 years my father used to make me go fishing. No matter what, every weekend he took me fishing," said Horshok, age 32. "It's been seven years since the last time I went and now I remember why," he said. "I hate to fish."
The geese replied, "Honk, honk, honk."