There may be stranger wildlife sanctuaries in the world than Roach's Run, but you would have to search for them.

Roach's Run is off the George Washington Parkway north of National Airport.

Not north enough.

In the last three weeks commuters who zoomed past the little tidal pond off the Potomac River noticed crowds of fisherman swarming the water mornings and evenings.

Some of the anglers came armed with chest-waders or wetsuits and inner tubes. Some brought flippers to propel themselves around in their tubes.

Any time hordes gather that way something must be going on.

We went for a look.

We took the little johnboat and an electric motor, which we learned later was illegal. No one stopped us and we got a four-hour tour of the pond.

There is a cypress tree on a bank of Roach's Run, which is about 50 miles north of the normal range for these thick-rooted denizens of the swamps.

There are beds of lily pads that break into flower in the evenings. There are grass beds where, it turns out, largemouth bass lurk.

Scattered on the mud and gravel bottom are shards from a careless civilization - broken glass from pop bottles, rusty cans and shiny pop tops.

The sign at the parking lot claims ducks and egrets, herons and even occasional eagles visit the sanctuary.

They better fly low.


Flight 867, arriving from Boston, now approaching Runway six. All wildlife please duck.

Bass fishermen are notoriously uninfluenced by their surroundings. The best of them join tournaments, where their reverie in a quiet cove is inevitably sent fleeing by the roar of another bass boat careening by at top speed.

But this is ridiculous.

At one point, Glenn Peacock was casting a buzz bait along a bed of submerged grasses when a 727 blocked out the sun. It was close enough to count the rivets. The little aluminum boat began to rattle and shake.

We watched the plane touch down, then heard the incredible roar double as the engines reversed. We watched a black cloud of exhaust mushroom over the treetops. The stench of burning rubber wafted across the water, mixing with the faint aroma of kerosene.

A man in pale blue work clothes waved from the bank.

"Hey, you guys doing any good?" he asked. "I cought four big bass over by the lily pads last night and two more this morning."

The rest of his advice was drowned out by a jet taking off.

"This," said Peacock, who had managed to hook three bass, "is not what I call getting away from it all."

Perhaps the crowd of spring fishermen was pushed into this noisy back cove by the distressingly poor conditions elsewhere. The National Weather Service counted 30 days of the last 46 where it rained on Washington. Almost all the respectable fishing streams were muddied out for the last two weeks, and off and on before that. Roach's Run, out of the main flow, remained reasonably clear.

All last week both forks of the Shenandoah stayed muddy and high. The Potomac has been coffee-colored and fast-flowing since the start of the shad run three weeks ago, and that run is probably over now.

All this leaves river anglers with little to do. That should change quickly.

It can't rain forever, and it generally takes a river only three or four days to clear up once the downpours stop.

And many among the angling community regard the first days of clear water after a long muddy stretch as the best of fishing times.

"This is normally when the small-mouth fishing gets good up here," said Joe Sottosanti, an expert small-mouth angler who runs Shenandoah Outfitters in Luray.

He said the South Fork of the Shenandoah, his river, was beginning to recede Friday. Barring further gullywashers it should be clear this week.

Fishermen know that fishing is awful in muddy water, presumably because the fish can't see the bait. That would indicate that eating isn't great for the fish, either, and they should be anxious to dine after a protracted muddy stretch.

That spells excellent prospects when clear conditions resume on the Shenandoah and on the Potomac above Great Falls.

Meantime, there's always Roach's Run. Just remember to wear earplugs and keep your casts low. Otherwise you might hook a DC9.