Years ago a friend and I stumbled onto a Maryland sporting doubleheader. We had planned to float a stretch of the upper Potomac for ducks on opening day, but the weather was so bright and clear I tossed spinning rods and a few lures into the boat too.
Our expectations were modest, but as luck would have it we encountered scores of birds, including a huge flock of wood ducks that burst from thick cover along the bank when we poked the nose of the canoe up a feeder creek.
Hunting occupied the morning. When we neared the takeout at the height of the day, we hauled out the rods and spent an hour or two catching and releasing hungry smallmouth bass and bluegills at the head of a big set of riffles, completing our unexpected doubleheader.
A couple of years later I enjoyed a similar surprise in very different surroundings. Three friends and I took two boats to a marshy island in the lower Chesapeake to camp during Maryland's two-day October duck season.
The first day was windy and rough -- perfect for hunting -- and we came away with a wonderful mixed bag of wigeon, pintail, teal and mallards. But the following day was clear and still, horrendous for duck hunting.
Again, someone had had the sense to pack fishing rods. We quickly found a place where spots, croakers, blues and black sea bass greedily gobbled our baits.
Such successes make one feel like king of the world and offer cheerful counterpoint to long days spent futilely casting for bass without a strike or waiting in vain for geese to fly.
Still, I don't like to press my luck and in the years since haven't scheduled any other attempts at doubleheaders. Then, a few weeks ago, Ebbie Smith down in Prince Frederick came up with a proposal for opening day of Maryland dove season that sounded foolproof.
"Come on down in the morning and we'll catch some big crappies on the 11-acre pond," he said. "Then after lunch we'll go up to Shockie's farm and try for the doves."
I had done both with Smith before, and knew his farm pond was chock full of panfish and that his friend, Shockie Wood, set aside a small wheat field every year strictly for dove hunting in the fall.
It promised to be a day worthy of inclusion in my budding doubleheader hall of fame, so off I went on Saturday, and did not return disappointed.
For a change, fishing came first. We pushed Smith's fiberglass johnboat into the murky pond, following a track trampled through the tall grass by his frequent forays there.
He knew right where to go. As blue and green herons took flight, Smith idled up to the earthen dam and pointed to a stick poking up from deep water. "There's a big hang under there where the crappies ought to lay," he said.
Sure enough, my first cast yielded a nine-incher, and Smith set the hook on an even larger fish on his first offering.
Up and down the banks we cruised for three hours, casting at spots where he had sunk cedar trees in the spring to provide cover. The action was steady; if it wasn't a crappie tap-tap-tapping at the lure, it was a bluegill or a scrappy largemouth bass.
By noon we had a mess of fish, most of which Smith donated to the farm owner. I took six of the biggest crappies and filleted them for a Labor Day fry so good, even the kids couldn't find anything to complain about.
After a trencherman's lunch at Smith's favorite restaurant, the Surrey Inn on Route 4, we headed west to Wood's farm, where prospects were not so bright.
"The only thing I've seen flying since I got here," said Wood, holding the door to the tobacco barn open so we could pull the truck out of sight, "is that butterfly over there."
It was slow going in the hot sun. I took a perch under a locust tree and must have dozed off, waking to hear Smith whistling and shouting at me. When I got up to see what the excitement was about, I spooked a half-dozen doves out of the tree overhead.
Lesson learned, I kept awake the rest of the afternoon, and as the sun sank lower and afternoon breezes grew cooler, the graceful doves started to move nicely. It was no shooting gallery, but we all had our chances.
The Prince Frederick experiment thus marked my first attempt at a planned doubleheader. The fact it was so successful, despite much wasted time, inconsistent performance and a relative shortage of doves, suggests that a greater challenge might be in order next year.
New Zealand, for example, offers a sporting tripleheader: Bag a marlin, a deer and a trout in one day. But that requires use of a helicopter, not to mention the considerable expense of getting to and from New Zealand.
So how about about a Southern Maryland tripleheader: a bushel of crabs, a four-pound bass and a limit of doves in a day?
It would mean getting up before dawn, of course, and probably skipping lunch, but you would eat like a potentate for a week afterward. Anyway, what kind of challenge doesn't require a little sacrifice?