In last week's Maryland Weekly, captions with the photographs of Bruce Adams and David Robbins were transposed.

Politics is a fishbowl; and in Montgomery County, where council candidates have been known to wait until the filing deadline to announce, most potential 1986 candidates are still lurking at the bottom of the bowl.

But even 17 months before the primaries, a handful of hopefuls are making cautious forays out of the fronds.

Probable council candidate Bruce Adams of Bethesda, at 37, is political beyond his years. He took his first Democratic Party position in 1971 as a precinct official, and drafted his first legislation, Maryland's Environmental Policy Act, in 1973 while serving as administrative assistant to State Sen. Victor Crawford.

Adams has amassed a broad circle of political acquaintances that he says proves his ability to "bring both sides of an issue to the table."

In and around spending nine years on the national Common Cause staff, five of them as national research director, Adams has served on dozens of commissions and committees appointed by the General Assembly, the county council and County Executive Charles Gilchrist.

Since leaving Common Cause two years ago, Adams has been working as a consultant on public policy and written a series of articles on the political appointment process and public perception of politics and policy-making. Adams is married to Washington Post reporter Margaret Engel.

Adams is the author of more than one essay suggesting that Americans "make it too hard to go into public service," what with post-Watergate media watchdogging and the stereotyping of wasteful bureaucracy. But it's a glare he's prepared to squint into.

"The people in Montgomery County want a bridge builder," Adams said. "The current political system is set up for confrontation."

"Between November and January I talked to 30 or 40 people" about running for County Council, Adams said, "and almost everybody said, 'We're not looking for somebody to agree with us all of the time; we're just asking for somebody who's not always against us."

Although the song of the 1960s has been sotto voce in recent years, two voices will echo through Adams' campaign: President John F. Kennedy and Common Cause founder John Gardner.

"Nineteen eighty-six will be the 25th anniversary of Kennedy's "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country' speech," Adams said. "It's time to ask that question again, to make Montgomery County a model for social programs around the country.

"You can't do everything with volunteers. It's not a panacea. But there are going to be cutbacks in federal aid, and substantial efforts have to be made to protect the quality of life. Gardner talks about a 'constituency of the whole,' a concern for the greater community . . . . It's not for government to say, 'You do X, Y and Z,' or, 'There's a problem, we'll solve it' anymore. It's for the community itself to find solutions."

Montgomery County recreation director David Robbins is also talking about volunteers and bringing people together and quality of life; but Robbins is more concerned with the willing flesh than the flagging spirit of the Democratic Party.

Although he has not "officially" announced, Robbins is a candidate for county executive. Robbins, a former HEW official and White House public liaison under President Carter, and his wife Anne Mahoney Robbins, a member of Rosalynn Carter's mental health commission, say it's an underdog campaign; and they have been flooding the local media with press releases and clippings for months in an attempt to heighten Robbins' public profile.

"We're not going to have anything like the kind of money the other candidates will have," Robbins said recently. "But we're going to get a lot more accomplished, because I've gotten so many promises of volunteer support."

The Robbins campaign is already sounding like Mr. Smith Goes to Rockville. Anne Robbins often says her husband is "running against two millionaires" (announced candidate State Sen. Sidney Kramer and rumored candidate council member David Scull) and getting shortchanged on media coverage.

As an example, the Robbinses point to the Wheaton News, which cropped Robbins out of a photograph of Gilchrist's proclaiming Senior Physical Fitness Month, at the bottom of a page that featured a photo of Kramer and his family at the top.

Most of what Robbins describes as "contributions of moral support" have come from senior citizens and retired federal workers, a constituency to which Robbins has paid particular attention.

In recent months, in speeches at local senior citizens' centers and to NARFE (National Association of Retired Federal Employees) chapters, Robbins has talked about working for a high quality of life for retired persons; his department's record on increasing recreational opportunities for older citizens; and his sympathy for the problems of federal workers.

Robbins is also blowing softly on the embers of antimachine sentiment. "I don't come from the usual background candidates do," he said. "I'm not a businessman or a lawyer or an elected official. I'm a public employe.