"I can see you boys don't know nothing, about fishing," growled a burly, aging roughneck as our lines tangled in the fast-flowing narrow waters of Allen's Fresh.
He popped the top on another beer and muttered obscenely as we parted rigs. Soon that beer can would be dispatched to one of the huge mounds of trash that dot the banks of the little station.
Welcome to Southern Maryland perch fishing and the people that make it unique.
A Korean-American fisherman invited his father out to Burke Lake a few years back on the older man's first visit to the United States.
"He was so upset," the son recalled. "He was disturbed at the anglers' discourtesy. He said America was the only place he'd ever fished where men in boats would come close to shore and disturb the lines of the anglers on the banks. And they would shout and scare off the fish.
"I told him to ignore it. There are so many fish we would still catch plenty. But he never got over it."
Discourtsey at Burke is generally a matter of too many people in too small a spot. At Allen's Fresh, it than it was last week when the perch-spawning run begins in earnest in the next few years.
Folks are there to fish, but they're there to drink and roughhouse, too. These are men and women to work hard - farmers, contractors, electricians - and when they play they play hard.
"There's some that don't fish at all," fishing partner Bob Bohren said. "They tell their wives they're going down to the Fresh. Then they go do something else. Plenty of times I've had guys come up to me in the evening and ask to buy a couple of fish to take home.
"I just need a few," they say, "Jut somethime to show the old lady."
Like most fishing holes near a roadway, Allen's Fresh is worse the closer you get to the pavement, in this case Rite. 234 just south of La Plata. The angler who is willing to scratch his way through the brambles and bulrushes and slosh through the mud 100 yards or so upstream finds the trash piles smaller and the company scarcer. That makes the fishing better, in my view, and is worth the hike.
Once ensconced in a good hole, it's best to follow your own hunches. Bohrer and I caught more perch than any of the 100-odd fishermen gathered there Wednesday, and many of them had been fishing Allen's for years.
We had started the day at a stretch of South River tributary on Rte. 450 just went of Annapolis.No one was anything so we moved on.
Sure enough, it wasn't an hour after we'd arrived at Allen's that someone was tramping up and down the stream proclaiming. "They're catching them by the bushel at 450." Horsefeathers.
And just as sure enough, all the old-timers at Allen's were swearing by minnows or grass shrimp for bait. Nobody was catching fish, so we decided to jig little doll flies, which look like miniature bucktails. We put them about three feet below a bobber with a single split shot on the line.
In three or four hours on a very slow day, we pulled in better than a dozen perch, which was double what anyone else was doing. Pretty soon we heard "doll flies" echoing up and down the banks.
There's something neat about fishing a spawning run. The females you catch are loaded with roe and the males are fat with fertilizer.
Being ecology-conscious fishermen, we squeezed the roe out of the females we caught, spilling the incredibly long, lacy film of eggs into the water near shore. Then when we caught a male we'd squeeze his juice over the roe (if you don't he'll spritz you with it). Our hope was that we would be doing our bit to propagate the species.
There's also something neat about bobber fishing. In my youth, we bobber-fished in New England for perch and hornpout, the Northern equivalent of catfish.
It's a completely different phenomenon from straight-line fishing. You don't relay on touch but on sight. When the first hits, you feel nothing; you have to concentrate on the little red and white float out in the stream. Even when you set the hook you feel very little drag; the fish is working hard just to pull the bobber down.
The thrill in just about all fishing is the invassion of an alien world - trying to fool the fish on his own grounds. The bobber takes you one step farther away and makes bridging the gap that much more satisfying.
Yellow perch fishing offers few surprises. Generally you won't catch anything else.But there's one exception, and when it happens there won't be any confusion.
Pickerel are spawning these days, too. When you hit one of these bony, ferocious bigmouths, it'll drag that bobber into the next county if you don't play it right.
Bohrer picked up a nice 17-inch pickerel last week and has a hole in one of his fingers to show for it. When pickerel bite, they mean business.
Incidentally, the season on pickerel closes Monday and reopens May 1. So if you're going to catch one, better make it today.