* BACKING IN: I'm fast learning that what has been called the "thrill of competency," especially in whitewater kayaking, is fleeting. After more than two weeks out of the boat, the first on-water workouts on the Feeder Canal in Bethesda and the whitewater course in Dickerson, Md., have been humbling. That's part of the lure of the sport: You can't fake it, even to yourself. You always know where you are on the competency scale. Perhaps it's a better idea to take it slow by taking part in a flatwater tour of Kanes Creek on Sept. 12. The creek, set in Fairfax County's Mason Neck peninsula along the Potomac River, is rich in wildlife and places to explore. You don't have to be an experienced paddler to join the group. For more information, visit www.rei.com or call REI's Baileys Crossroads store at 703-379-9400.

* A NOTED CAST: The Northern Virginia Chapter of the Coastal Conservation Association will host its sixth annual fall trophy striper seminar on Friday at 7:30 p.m., in which three Chesapeake Bay charter captains will outline trolling, offshore, light tackle and fly-fishing techniques. Site is the Vienna Volunteer Fire House. Non-members are welcome. For details, visit www.ccavirginia.org. . . .

The Potomac-Patuxent Chapter of Trout Unlimited will gather on Sept. 15 at 7:30 p.m. at the Schweinhaut Senior Center, 1000 Forest Glen Rd., Silver Spring. The featured speaker is Ozzie Ozefovich, who will present a section of "Trout Vision and Refraction," his four-part video series on the habits and habitats of the prized fish. Non-members are welcome to the free event. For more information, call Jim Greene at 301-652-3848.

* DIG IN: The Mid-Atlantic Off-Road Enthusiasts are gearing up for a weekend of trail work. On Saturday a group will head to Cedarville State Forest in Brandywine. Meet at the maintenance building at 9 a.m. with water and work clothes. Event leader is Karen Garnett (301-345-5214). On Sept. 12 MORE will work at Gambrill State Park in Frederick starting at 9:30 a.m. Meet at the High Knob section of the park. Trip leader is Philip van Werkhoven (240-994-6394). For details about the club and its rides, visit www.more-mtb.org.

-- John Mullen

mullenj@washpost.com