This is about fishing but let's start with the motel. It's on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, which is the place people mean when they say "God's country."
There's no sign out front. You have to know about it to know about it. The rooms are behind a big farmhouse. On one border is an endless corn field: out back is an immaculate red barn. The rooms are spotless, huge, airy and homey.
The proprietress asks you inside to sign in. The living room is an antiques showplace. She gives you room 5, which connects to the big house.
The sweet smell of organic fertilizer (manure, friends) wafts on a summer breeze. The room is cool because she knew you were coming and started the air conditioner. There are two double beds with crisp linens, and on the shelf of the headboard are two bottles of Coca-Cola, two glasses and a fresh bucket of ice.
Your partner, who comes here often, says that when he called "she apologized for having to give us this room because there's no hot plate. Usually she leaves coffee for the morning and a plate of homemade cookies."
The fee for this room is $15.75. That's for two people. A single is $12.
In my dreams I am the Eastern Shore correspondent of The Washington Post and never have to go back west over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. In the winter I hunt ducks and geese, quail, deer and rabbits; go oystering on a sturdy waterman's boat; trap muskrats in the marsh, and write my memoirs when the hard freeze arrives.
In the summer I fish the Bay for sea trout, rockfish, perch and blues; patrol the creeks trotlining for crabs; grow a patch of sweet corn, tomatoes and cantaloupes in the rich Delmarva soil; pick blackberries. And on the pretiest days I meander around the tidal rivers in a flatbottom boat, plugging along the tangled shoreline for stripers and largemouth bass.
Which brings us to our story.
Glenn Peacock is my bass-fishing guide. When he says the fishing is hot somewhere, I grap the tackle box. He called last week to say it was hot in the Eastern Shore's Nanticoke River and Marshy Hope Creek, which fees the Nanticoke.
Both are lovely, mostly unspoiled streams framed by tall tress and impenetrable jungles of green. They are homes for egrets, herons, ospreys and kingfishers, and as you fish you can listen to the whistles of bobwhite quails.
Eastern Shoremen say, "Time and tide wait for neither man." On the Nanticoke and Marshy Hope time and tide don't wait, but they do wait together to create a full fishing day.
"The rockfish," said Peacock, "bite best in the Marshy Hope around high tide, on the last of flood and the first of ebb. The largemouth bass bite best in the Nanticoke just before and after slack low tide."
So no matter what the tide is, Peacock has something to fish for and somewhere to go.
When we arrived before dawn the tide was rising, so he put the boat in at Federalburg and zoomed downriver to the rockfish hole. We waited and waited, and finally at about 9:30 he said conditions were perfect. He eased the bass boat into the mouth of a feeder creek, we pitched swimming redfin lures into the murky water and rockfish started smacking the lures.
Sadly, they didn't smack them hard enough. Out of a dozen strikes only one striper stayed on, a two-pounder that went into the catch box.
At slack high tide we slid off to give the stripers a rest, then came back when the ebb began. On one of Peacock's first casts a six-pound striper gobbled the lure as it touched down. He almost fell overboard with shock but recovered quickly and it soon joined the two-pounder in the cooler.
A half-hour later he sized up the falling water and determined it was getting too low for rockfish. Time to move to the bass spot for some low-tide fishing.
We pulled the boat out and drove nine miles to the main Nanticoke at Seaford, Del., to put back in. Just before the tide went slack low the bass started gobbling our plastic worms, right on schedule, and they hit even better when the flood tide began. About the time they quit it was getting right for the rockfish to start biting in the Marshy Hope again. I mentioned that to Peacock, but it was almost dusk by then. He just groaned and demanded sleep.
In both the Marshy Hope and the Nanticoke the only time the fish just plain quit was when the current stopped at low and high tide. Peacock calls those times "the deadly slack."
The choptakn at Denton is another good bass spot, though it's been overfished in recent years.Another good Eastern Shore river is the Pocomoke, but it takes the better part of a day to get there.
Just about all of Peacock's favorite fishing spots are in God's country, and even when the fish don't bite there is the satisfaction of exploring these countrified river haunts.
A lot of fishermen get mad when you publicize their hot spots, but Peacock said he doesn't care.
"Tell'em anything you want," he said. "Just don't tell'em where my motel is."