The folks who live along this quiet stretch of flatland leading to the Carolina Outer Banks have the best of all possible words.

The soil is rich and loamy, the air is warm and sweet with the pungent smell of saltwater. Five miles across Currituck Sound is the longest, prettiest sandspit on the East Coast with thundering waves and, bless us, no road.

In the fall, great waves of black ducks, canvasbacks, pintails and teal arrive and the natives make for duck blinds that dot the little coves and ponds in the marshes. And in spring there are bass.

Not big bass, granted, but enough mid-sized largemouth to keep an angler's mind busy when the sound of wind over marsh grass and glimpses of sunlight glinting off the distant dunes haven't captured all his concentration.

Currituck, for all its saltwater influence, is almost pure fresh water. The Outer Banks are narrow enough in some spots, to toss a minnow from sound to ocean. But that's enough sand to keep the Atlantic out all the way from Virginia Beach to Oregon Inlet, some 75 miles.

Currituck is broad and shallow. It heats up fast and by the time Bob Mason and I met up with our guide Wednesday morning , the water temperature was around 68, perfect for bass to spawn in the shallows.

I'll call the guide Johnny because he'd rather not use his real name, he'd just as soon not get any more business.

Johnny's got a spot smack on the water, a tired old farmhouse with a little hand-hewn pier. His boat is as humble as you'd want, a sturdy 14-foot flat-bottom rowboat. Tacked on the back are a monster 50-horsepower Merc and a 4-hourse Johnson for working the shallows.

We had a frisky wind out of the southwest, which meant nothing to Johnny. There's always wind on Currituck.

He took us on a pounding joyride across the Sound to outcroppings of marshing islands. Mason had a fly rod and an assortment of topwater poppling bugs and I had spinning gear.

I've heard tell of fishermen outcatching pluggers but I've always regarded those tales with suspicion. Today I'm a believer.

Mason's good with the long wand. He flipped the small poppers up agains the low-lying marshes and popped them once or twice, then hauled back in and moved a few feet down the bank as Johnny poled us along.

I could do somewhat the same, but after I'd worked over the fertile area close to the bank I'd have to reel back to the boat before I could cast again. Mason already was onto the next spot and thinking about a third.

He was getting five and more hits to my one, but hook-setting is tricky business on flies and only a few fish were in the boat.

By noontime I'd guess Mason had better than a dozen fish and I'd caught four or five. I tried every lure in the box - hula poppers, jittersbugs, Johnson silver minnows, Rebel floater-divers and even, a few diving plugs.

But the plugs just didn't have it. For the last decade or so Currituck has been plagued with infestations of milfoil grass, tall water weeds that choke up many of the ponds by mid-summer.

The plugs picked up grass quickly, while Mason could skip over the top.

I asked if the milfoil was what drew the great flocks of ducks later in the year. Johnny said no. "They'll eat it, but there ain't much value to it. You can take that stuff and lay it on the seat and by the time it dries up it doesn't weigh a thing. It's 90 percent water.

The fishing slowed asevening closed in by we kept picking up a few.

Practically all the fish we caught were keeper size, but not by much. They averaged about 13 inches, with a few up to 15 and others 10 or 11.

"Looks like all these fish hatched the same day," Johnny said.

By dusk we had rounded out our limit of 24 for three fishermen and thrown about half of those back. Mason kept a dozen for the pan, plus one handsome bream that went over a pound.

We packed it in and headed for dinner at Caroland Farm.

The ride back was evern hairier than the ride out. We pounded along in 20-knots winds, smashing into Whitecaps and plowing through troughs.

"Reminds me of what a friend told me after I took him out for a rough day on the Bay," said Mason.

"He said I should have warned him so he could have his wife kick him in the behind every night for a couple of weeks to get him ready."

But it was worth it. At the Caroland, a grand old farmhouse converted to a fishing and hunting lodge, we feasted on softshell crabs and fresh rockfish and sea trout. Delectable. Afterwards we sat rocking on the screened porch, watching thunderclouds gather and finally erupt.

Caroland Farm arranges guide service for visiting anglers and is one of the pleasantest places to sleep and eat I've ever encountered. For information write to Dorothy Grandy at Caroland Farm, poplar Branch, N.C. 27965.

But hurry. The milfoil is growing by leaps and bounds and it makes for rough fishing in July and August.

The Ocean City crowd will be happy to know that flounder have invaded Sinepuxent Bay in earnest. Last week's issue of Coastal Fisherman, the weekly guide to Maryland's ocean angling, has so many pictures of flounder stringers there's barely room for the captions.

The most surprised flounder-chaser has to be Robert Johnson of New Jersey, who was fishing shiners near the Thorofare last weekend and hooked into a 55-pound black drum. He landed it in half an hour on 15-pound line. Local folks claim it's a first for Sinepuxent.

The Coastal Guard's National Safe Boating Week is June 1-7 and the guard will man boat examination stations around the area from June 3-11. Two stations will serve the Washington area. The phone numbers are 373-7213 (Potomac Virginia shore) and 292-2196 (Potomac Washington and Maryland shore).

Examinations are free and boats approved get the CG safety seal.