There are mo prettier words in the world than the names of the smooth rivers of the Chesapeake Bay. Eastern Shore side.
They start at the top with the Susquenanna, the river from whose stream bed the Bay evolved. Close by are the Northeast and the Bohomia and the broad-mouthed Sassatrass. To the south lie the Chester and the Choptank, the Nanticoke, Marshy Hope Creek, the Wicomico, the Blackwater and the Pocomoke.
Beautiful names for beautiful places. Tehy are all slow-moving streams, no kin at all to the fast water that runs from the mountains to feed the Bay from the west.
Eastern Shore rivers often stem from sources no more than a few feet above sea level, and when the Chesapeake tide floods, that force overwhelms the downstream flow and the rivers run backward.
At their mouths these rivers may have extensive salt intrusion from Chesapeake tides, but near the headwaters they are almost completely fresh. It's in these upper reaches that freshwater fish thrive, and these fish are what drew Glenn Peacock and me to Sharptown last week.
Peacock is 23 years old, living with his parents in Silver Spring, growing prematurely bald and completely nuts about bass fishing. He wants to become a professional at it, hit the tournament trail and guide bass fishermen when he isn't competing.
To that end he has fished the Eastern Shore rivers for bass almost to the exclusion of all other pursuits for the last five or six years. He knows them all, and he guarantees that there isn't one that doesn't harbor excellent populations of largemouth bass.
"Show me". I said.
And he did.
He picked Sharptown because it rests on the Nanticoke, and he picked the Nanticoke because I had asked for a little variety. "You want to catch some pickerel, too?" he asked. "Then we'll try the Nanticoke. There's plenty of pickerel there."
We put Peacock's swift bass boat in all the Lions Club ramp at 7 a.m. He watched the water and frowned. "Still coming in, but it's almost high. We won't have any lock on a high tide, but when she starts running out we're going to catch fish."
Predicting Chesapeake tides is something like betting on the Redskins. You never know what they're going to do.
But Peacock hit it right this time, and about 9:30 the upward flow began to ease and we sat out the hour of slack high tide way up Broad Creek, which feeds the Nanticoke.
The water was dark and clear, the sky was ladem gray, and as we moved slowly on the silent trolling water we scared up great blue herons and small flocks of blacks ducks. But we didn't catch any fish.
"We will," said Peacock.
The water turned on schedule. We watched leaves that had sat still begin to bob gently downstream, and within five minutes the first bass had struck and was boated. It was a keeper fish, about two pounds, the hit one of Peacock's home-made combinations - a lead-head bucktail jig with a bull minnow attached to the hook.
Next came a pickerel, as promised, a 22-incher that hit the same white bucktail. And then all hell broke loose.
We had worked our way up to a narrow stretch of the creek where blown-down trees stretched halfway across the water. We were casting the jig-and-minnow combinations into the submerged trees, and we soon discovered that in every tree lay a cluster of hungry largemouth bass.
Peacock had switched to a black and yellow jig and he was getting the lion's share of the strikes. I found another one like it, only a little bigger and with a flattened head.
I put the jig on, hooked up a minnow and in one half-hour stretch managed to hook and land three straight champion bass - two four-pounders and another over three.
Peacock had seen enough.
"Gimme that jig" he said. He wasn't kidding.
We fished this stretch of Broad Creek, which was no more than 150 yards long and 30 yards across, for four hours. We landed 20 bass and three chain pickerel, lost a half-dozen more fish and went home with a setting sun and chilly northwest breezes splattering our happy, smiling faces.
It was quite a day.
But not unusual, according to Peacock.
"Oh, it was a little unusual for the Nanticoke this time of year, I guess" he said. "But I fish the Eastern Shore all year long. I almost always catch fish and I've had many a day better than this."
I asked him why he was so fond of the Eastern Shore, hoping for an answer that included a few words abou the scenery, the character of the water, the added challenge of tidal factors in freshwater fishing.
But Peacock said he fishes here because it's the only game in the state. "There's no impoundments or lakes in Maryland where you can take a bass boat" he said, "and without a bass boat you can't fish it right."
He did have one addendum: "I like the people over here. You really meet some characters."
He mentioned a fellow on the Chester River who sells him minnows for 50 cents a bucket and lets him use a house trailer for $10 a weekend.
And there was Mr. Wright, the deputy sheriff who met us at the Sharptown ramp in the morning to warm us he was going to lock the place up at 4:30 and if we weren't back we'd be sleeping in the truck.
"Do you like fish?" we asked Wright, who had a very round belly and only three teeth.
"Sure do," he said with a smile. We promised to bring some back.
He was waiting at 4:30 asking "Did you catch me some fish?"
"Sure did," we said.
"Good," said Wright. "Just put 'em in here."
He held out a brown paper sack about big enough for a half-gallon milk carton.
We chuckled, opened the live well and pulled out a stringer of six bass that weighed 20 pounds.
Wright has given us his name and phone number. He said anytime we want to come down early, just give hime a call and he'll be there to open the gates at the crack of dawn.
How sweet is success?
Peacock, as mentioned, is hoping to turn professional. He has just started offering guided bass trips to the Eastern Shore and the Potomac in the Washington area.
For information, write him at 2025 Glen Ross Rd., Silver Spring. Md.