The poet and avid angler Wallace Stevens penned a phrase that could best describe experiencing Allen Pond Park: "the pleasures of merely circulating."

It is not the most striking body of water, and the bass weren't too interested when I dropped them a line, but time spent moving along the Bowie pond's edge, amid daytrippers removed from the four walls of routine, seemed enough in itself.

Allen's tranquil effect, in part, can be attributed to its proximity. It's removed from the cacophony of Route 197 by a short drive and a few turns. One minute, you're looking at a shopping plaza, the next, you're gazing at a blue heron, its legs weed-thin, clamped to the tip of a log extending above water.

People tend to return to Allen Pond. Miguel Collado of Landover, a cardiac technician at Greater Southeast Community Hospital in the District, has made a regular pattern of visits with his 6-year-old daughter, Alysia. They've settled alongshore four or five times this summer, among ducks and geese and picnickers, and baited a hook in search of nibbles.

"It doesn't matter what you use," said Collado when asked his bait of choice. "Bread, ham, hot dog meat. They'll bite on anything."

Alysia, who recently completed kindergarten at the Montessori school in Mitchellville, glances over the pond's retaining wall. She keeps balance in nylon running sneakers.

"I wanted to do something different," said Collado, 39, who heard about the spot from a friend. "I make it a ritual to bring her out here."

Alysia's cousin, Lissette Collado, 11, accompanied them to the roughly 10-acre pond that has a boat house, an amphitheater and is inside approximately a 40-acre park filled with playgrounds, baseball and softball fields. Their ham-baited line, tossed into water containing catfish, largemouth bass, bluegill and the remnants of April's rainbow trout stocking, arouses interest from a sunfish.

Yanked over the stone wall on one side of the pond, the shank hook detached from its mouth, the sunfish wriggles in Lissette's palm as Alysia pinches the tail for a better grip. The girls drop the sunfish into the pond and Alysia jumps away wiping her hand through the air. She bounces excitedly. A few moments later she asks, "Daddy, can we go bowling?"

The Collados head home past dropped bicycles, the ends of pedals stuck into the turf. I move along the perimeter looking for a place to fish, cutting through a collection of geese hard at work picking through grass, and stop at a bench where the width of the pond closes to a few dozen yards.

No notice is taken of the lure I cast and reel in through muddy water. The slicing lightness of the hook and line remains unchanged. Maybe I should have taken the hint when the reel I'd bought less than an hour earlier turned into a useless snarl in the parking lot and I had to reach into my car's trunk for the rod left behind by a friend's child.

By now the gear in my hands felt like the parts of an awkward contraption. The fishing license in my wallet was not an accurate form of identification.

But if you can't perform acts of grace, you can observe them. On the opposite shore, three kids appear in the underbrush in a crash of sound. A dozen yards away a heron darts from the low growth to the edge of a fallen log, emits a screech and in a wide-winged jump glides to the near shore in majestic flight. The heron tracks the children until they disappear up a wooded slope.

On the way out I met Rodney Cherry, also returning to his car. Like the Collados, the 39-year-old Largo resident makes Allen Pond part of his rounds. He had dropped by to see if the largemouth bass would take to his new shad lure.

"I know it's not the right time, but you have to play your odds. You never know when they'll be biting."

The best way to play the odds is to keep circulating through places such as Allen Pond Park. If given time, the pleasures will reveal themselves.

Questions? Comments? Do you know of a special place in the outdoors? We'd like to hear about it. Get in touch with John Mullen by writing him at: The Outsider c/o The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington D.C., 20071. Or e-mail him at mullenj@washpost.com

ALLEN POND

Directions to Allen Pond Park:

Take the Capital Beltway to Route 50 East. After seven miles, exit at Route 197 south (Collington Road). Make a right on to Northview Drive. The park's access road is to the right.

Parking is available in front of the Bowie ice arena. For information on boat rentals and other park activities call 301-262-6200.

For fishing regulations and license information, contact one of the state's Department of Natural Resources service centers or inquire at stores that carry bait and fishing equipment.

CAPTION: Nine-year-old Jarrad Wilson gets set to cast his line into tranquil waters of Allen Pond.

CAPTION: After reeling in his catch, 6-year-old Elijah Wilson steadies prize as father Craig helps him unhook fish during family trip to Allen Pond. Standing in back is Wilson's older son Jarrad.