Recently we learned federal cutbacks had forced an end to 40 years of delivering free horse manure to the public Victory Gardens in Washington, where it was used as fertilizer.

Now Reaganomics has claimed another local triumph, this time over fish handouts.

It seems the government has been raising trout to give to states for about 20 years. Maryland was getting up to 100,000 federal brown trout a year, which it stocked in a number of streams, including the upper Patuxent near Damascus, where they thrived.

Maybe Maryland shouldn't have flaunted its gift so close to the source. The Patuxent is only 22 miles from the White House. Some high-ranking official driving to Camp David in one of those bargain BMWs might have spied folks having unnecessary fun at federal expense.

Whatever the reason, the trout giveaway ended last year, which is how Jay Sheppard and Jack Scanlon became fishing guides.

Sheppard, who works for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Scanlon, a physician, are fly-fishing stalwarts of Potomac-Patuxent Chapter, Trout Unlimited.

They had watched with delight as the wooded upper Patuxent, primed with U.S. fish, developed over the years into a seminatural trout stream where some stocked browns survived the hot summers and occasionally produced young in the fall, creating a year-round trout fishery in the suburbs.

But they knew that without a continuing annual input of new brown trout, the population would dwindle away. Since Maryland raises and stocks only rainbow trout, which won't survive in the stream beyond July, Scanlon and Sheppard made it their club's mission to pick up where the feds left off.

The club is raising $2,500 to buy 2,000 browns to put into the Patuxent late this month. Scanlon and Sheppard are contributing by hiring out as Patuxent trout guides on their days off.

They charge $50 a day to guide one or two anglers, including a snack and a little wine, and, because the fee is a donation to Trout Unlimited, it's tax deductible. So the government still is paying for Patuxent trout, whether it knows it or not.

For $50 the guided trip is a good deal, particularly if you liked your drill instructor.

"Roll cast. Roll cast!" Sheppard shouted last week, deriding my feeble fly-rod efforts. "You can't roll cast from the side. You're waving the rod. Snap it! Use your wrist. Now fish that. Strip line! Not that fast. Slow it down. No, no, no. Don't stop it. Just slow it. But keep it moving.

"Here," he said, "like this." And I felt his nasty little grip on my wrist, snapping the rod forward, and with fiendish, unnecessary precision the fly dropped smack in the fish zone and started lurching back at me, until a trout came up and gobbled it.

Sheppard, who when not teaching fly fishing is a portrait in gentle moderation, said he tailors lessons to the needs of each client. Evidently he thought I was hard of hearing.

But he did locate some fish, technique notwithstanding, and by morning's end we each had caught a half-dozen trout, which is nice fishing.

We released them all unharmed. That's how it's ordained in Maryland's "special areas" like the upper Patuxent, where trout angling is for fun only and no fish may be kept.

But that's not always how it's done. Sheppard said poaching is a constant problem in the 13-mile fish-for-fun stretch of the Patuxent upstream of Georgia Avenue. Some poachers even carry pistols, he said, and have threatened those who challenge them.

Happily, we encountered no pistol-packing poachers. In fact, we encountered no one at all in four or five hours on the stream, which runs through wild parkland.

The only predators we saw were a pair of hawks dive-bombing each other above the trees and a phoebe, a little flycatcher, which fluttered around screaming "Phoebe! Phoebe!"

Scanlon and Sheppard will guide trout trips on the Patuxent through the spring. Anglers must have a Maryland fishing license and trout ANGUS PHILLIPS Keeping Trout Fishing Above Water

Recently we learned federal cutbacks had forced an end to 40 years of delivering free horse manure to the public Victory Gardens in Washington, where it was used as fertilizer.

Now Reaganomics has claimed another local triumph, this time over fish handouts.

It seems the government has been raising trout to give to states for about 20 years. Maryland was getting up to 100,000 federal brown trout a year, which it stocked in a number of streams, including the upper Patuxent near Damascus, where they thrived.

Maybe Maryland shouldn't have flaunted its gift so close to the source. The Patuxent is only 22 miles from the White House. Some high-ranking official driving to Camp David in one of those bargain BMWs might have spied folks having unnecessary fun at federal expense.

Whatever the reason, the trout giveaway ended last year, which is how Jay Sheppard and Jack Scanlon became fishing guides.

Sheppard, who works for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Scanlon, a physician, are fly-fishing stalwarts of Potomac-Patuxent Chapter, Trout Unlimited.

They had watched with delight as the wooded upper Patuxent, primed with U.S. fish, developed over the years into a seminatural trout stream where some stocked browns survived the hot summers and occasionally produced young in the fall, creating a year-round trout fishery in the suburbs.

But they knew that without a continuing annual input of new brown trout, the population would dwindle away. Since Maryland raises and stocks only rainbow trout, which won't survive in the stream beyond July, Scanlon and Sheppard made it their club's mission to pick up where the feds left off.

The club is raising $2,500 to buy 2,000 browns to put into the Patuxent late this month. Scanlon and Sheppard are contributing by hiring out as Patuxent trout guides on their days off.

They charge $50 a day to guide one or two anglers, including a snack and a little wine, and, because the fee is a donation to Trout Unlimited, it's tax deductible. So the government still is paying for Patuxent trout, whether it knows it or not.

For $50 the guided trip is a good deal, particularly if you liked your drill instructor.

"Roll cast. Roll cast!" Sheppard shouted last week, deriding my feeble fly-rod efforts. "You can't roll cast from the side. You're waving the rod. Snap it! Use your wrist. Now fish that. Strip line! Not that fast. Slow it down. No, no, no. Don't stop it. Just slow it. But keep it moving.

"Here," he said, "like this." And I felt his nasty little grip on my wrist, snapping the rod forward, and with fiendish, unnecessary precision the fly dropped smack in the fish zone and started lurching back at me, until a trout came up and gobbled it.

Sheppard, who when not teaching fly fishing is a portrait in gentle moderation, said he tailors lessons to the needs of each client. Evidently he thought I was hard of hearing.

But he did locate some fish, technique notwithstanding, and by morning's end we each had caught a half-dozen trout, which is nice fishing.

We released them all unharmed. That's how it's ordained in Maryland's "special areas" like the upper Patuxent, where trout angling is for fun only and no fish may be kept.

But that's not always how it's done. Sheppard said poaching is a constant problem in the 13-mile fish-for-fun stretch of the Patuxent upstream of Georgia Avenue. Some poachers even carry pistols, he said, and have threatened those who challenge them.

Happily, we encountered no pistol-packing poachers. In fact, we encountered no one at all in four or five hours on the stream, which runs through wild parkland.

The only predators we saw were a pair of hawks dive-bombing each other above the trees and a phoebe, a little flycatcher, which fluttered around screaming "Phoebe! Phoebe!" Scanlon and Sheppard will guide trout trips on the Patuxent through the spring. Anglers must have a Maryland fishing license and trout stamp and must use either flies or spinning gear with artifical lures and single, barbless hooks. No bait is permitted, and all trout caught must be returned to the water alive.

Write to Dr. Jack Scanlon, 10000 East Bexhill Dr., Kensington, Md., 20895. CAPTION: Picture 1, Until this year, the federal government stocked trout in the Patuxent River. (WP) stamp and must use either flies or spinning gear with artifical lures and single, barbless hooks. No bait is permitted, and all trout caught must be returned to the water alive.

Write to Dr. Jack Scanlon, 10000 East Bexhill Dr., Kensington, Md., 20895.Picture, Until this year, the federal government stocked trout in the Patuxent River. By Angus Phillips--The Washington Post