In the August 1 outdoors column two Maryland youngsters were featured for their daring trek across the Potomac River to fish near the Virginia shore. Their efforts were devised so they could avoid buying Virginia fishing licenses by never setting foot on Old Dominion land. But the efforts were unnecessary. Several local anglers called to relate information about a relatively unpublicized 1972 law. That law gives Marylanders and Virginians reciprocal rights to fish the Potomac from either shore, as long as they have valid licenses in their own states. In other words, Marylanders can fish from the Virginia shore, as long as it's adjacent to or opposite from the Maryland shore, and vice versa for Virginians.
Now I'll swim ashore, And I know I'll make it Because I'm up to my neck in high muddy water . . .
There are worse things to do in high Washington summer than spend the day up to one's neck in high muddy water.
Especially if it saves $20 and provides access to some potentially super smallmouth bass fishing close to home.
David Lehmann, who just graduated from high school in suburban Maryland, responded to a recent newspaper story about a fine fishing hole in the Shenandoah Valley.
"You don't have to go all the way to the mountains to catch smallmouth," he said. "I've got a great place right here."
What he did not say was that in order to explore his hidey-hole in the Potomac it was first necessary to cross the river from the Maryland shore to the Virginia shore, better than a half-mile away, on foot.
"On foot?" asked his startled guest. "Cross the Potomac on foot?"
"Yeah," said Lehmann. "We do it all the time."
It develops that Lehmann used to wade the fast waters of the upper Potomac near Brunswick, but the 1 1/2-hour drive began getting him down. He looked for a spot closer to home.
He tried Seneca, but found the water slow and deep.
"I'll do some crazy things, but I won't wade where I'm gonna drown," he explained.
He explored some more and discovered Violet's Lock Road off River Road. He followed it to the river bank and found Seneca Breaks, where the Potomac rushes over a rock garden and courses between green islands. He walked out and the farther he went the better the fishing got. He found it best of all on the Virginia side, where the bass came unifromly big.
Well, why not park on the Virginia side?
Simple economics. Lehmann's pay as a part-time pizza chef wouldn't cover the cost of a $20 Virginia license.
But if he parked in Maryland, waded across, kept both feet in the water and brought his fish back to Maryland with him, he would never touch Virginia turf (the river belongs to Maryland) and would need no Old Dominion permit.
The problem was that no one at Violet's Lock had ever heard of anyone walking across the river, and everyone he talked to indicated that it would be suicidal or foolish, or both, to try.
Lehmann, followed closely by his pal Jimmy Mundy, pressed on. In two accident-free years of splashing through the deep he never saw anyone else do it.
Now we are three.
Seneca Breaks is at the base of a long, deep pool. Like most pools it has a lip of fairly shallow, still water at the downstream end, just before the water spills over into the first riffles.
We stuck to the edge, grousing in pain when we cracked bare shins against sharp rock edges and going glug, glug, glug when the shelf occasionally gave out and put us in up to our sunglasses.
But a quarter of the way across, Lehmann paused to toss a small spinnerbait against a submerged tree and promptly hoisted out a thrashing 1 1/2-pound smallmouth.
Even without the fishing it was a startling experience. Below the lip of the pool small islands of green river grasses poked out. Every few yards we would step close enough to one to startle black ducks and mallards from their resting spots in the cover. They flapped off almost from our feet.
Giant blue herons wafted gracefully away when we drew close, and a little green heron pracitcally dared us to share its perch. An osprey soared overhead, looking for fishy food in the deep water.
The rapids boiled and churned below us, sparkling in the sunlight.
On the Virginia side Lehmann led us downstream through a series of backwaters where the water never exceeded chest height.
"This is the easy part," he said. We saw no one else as we pitched our lures against the bank and behind boils where rocks impeded the flow.
We didn't see too many smallmouth dozen along with some angry channel catfish, which surprised Lehmann and Mundy. They count on five or six good-sized smallmouth on an average day, plus some smaller ones and some channel cats.
Violet's Lock long has been reputed to harbor an excellent fish population, but no one else fishes it quite like these youngsters do.
"Now comes the fun part," Mundy said as we headed back after eight hours. "We'll cross the fast water."
Lehmann had a ford picked out."
"Wait a minute," said Mundy, "don't you remember? That's the place we almost drowned in last year."
We moved a little further upstream and pushed out into the fast flow. Slowly we picked our way across the submerged rocks, feeling our feet swept out from under us when the current ran too swiftly.
No one had to call for help, and at last we were back in Maryland, where Lehmann confirmed that he is not completely without regard for safety.
"I'll tell you one thing," he said. "That's one trip I'd never try by myself. Someday you're going to need help."