A reader recently asked about the first time I went fishing. "What made you go?" she said. "My uncle," I told her. I was a five-year-old kid with big ears, freckles and two cowlicks. For some reason known only to Uncle Bill, he drove to our house in Pennsboro, West Vitginia, in his gleaming white 1955 Buick, told me I was going fishing, and that was that. At first, he was chipper, instructive and catching a lot of fish. I was more interested in what was crawling on the shoreline than what was swimming in the water, watching my bobber with all the languor of a cat in summer shade. Then Mother Nature became more involved; she ordered a large bass to gorge himself on my minnow and hang on till I could plop him on the bank. I thought it was grand. My uncle thought otherwise. Whether this thrilled but befuddled youngster had flogged his uncle's ego by catching a fish larger than his, I don't know; but he hardly spoke to me on the way home and never took me fishing again. Ten years passed before I fished again when a friend took me. He caught a whopper and I landed an aspiring minnow. And we remained the best of friends for many years.
WSSC -- The press release didn't even have to mention the name. All it had to say was that someone recently caught "the largest reported smallmouth bass taken from a Washington Suburban Commission Reservoir this fishing season." Everyone would have known it was Peter Congedo. His latest weighed four pounds, 12 ounces. The fish took a crawfish, a bass favorite that likes to crawl under rocks and tie up the line.
POTOMAC RIVER -- Joan Bennet and her friend, Ann Miller, who both work at Walter Reed Hospital, often spend their time off fishing near Fletcher's Boat House. Ray Fletcher said Bennett had an eight-pound catfish take her cutbait offering. Then Miller nailed a 12-pounder. Catfishing is always good in the Potomac, but bass and crappie anglers should be enjoying the early spate of cool weather, which generally wakes those fish up.
SHENNAHDOAH RIVER -- The rainfall has improved the flow. Smallmouth bass fishing is excellent.
LAKE ORANGE -- The Virginia Commission of Game and Inland Fisheries has opened the first of a series of experimental mini-piers for public use near Orange. "The pier, which is designed to be accessible to the handicapped, will enable an evaluation of what piers have to offer fishermen at Commission owned lakes," said fishing director Jack M. Hoffman. The pier is 24 by 12 and has a galvanized steel railing. The fee is 50 cents for half a day. Only 10 anglers can fish from the pier at a time.
LAKE ANNA -- "The fishing has been awful because of the hot weather," said Delmus Moon. Surface temperatures have reached 80 degrees. But that's changing, and the fishing is improving. Gene Hoard caught three largemouths, including a six- pounder. Ray Beaver caught a 31/2-pounder. All were hooked in six to eight feet of water; the lake has been low. It's rising with heavier rainfall. Crappie are hitting well, as are bluegills. Locals complain that the striper fishing is poor: "That's the one thing that is really disturbing us." A few schools of stripers feeding on the surface have been seen, but not caught. For more information, call: 703/895-5207.
CHESAPEAKE BAY -- Hooray! Ken Lamb says the flounder are still in Cornfield Harbor. Overall, the Bay fishing is excellent. "This will be a very intense time of fishing, a very, very good time," he said. Sea trout and bluefish are schooling together. Trolling is superb south of Cove Point, in both channels. Spot and perch fishing are thriving in the Lower Potomac. In the Patuxent, near the mouth, 20-pound trout are commonplace.
FARM PONDS -- Now is the time to slap on a smile, hit the dusty roads and ask friendly farmers for permission to fish in their ponds. Paul Norris from Callaway, Maryland, caught a seven-pound, two- ounce largemouth near his hometown. Anglers, especially those new to the area, will enjoy the excess of small lakes and ponds in a 50-mile radius. In Fauquier, Loudoun, Prince William, Howard and Clarke counties, ponds are plentiful. A few landlords will charge $1, but most say, "Help yourself." All they ask is that you leave the property unharmed.