Readers Cast


Dick Taylor - Jan 30, 2012

Living just outside the Washington, D.C. Beltway wasn't exactly conducive to finding a fishing spot that afforded much privacy. However, a chance stop at a small gas/convenience store led to the discovery of what turned out to be a place of solitude and unbelievable quiet in an otherwise frenetic world.

Tucked away in a corner of the store was a counter with a couple of shelves that contained a smattering of fishing items. It consisted of some packets of Eagle Claw hooks, little plastic bags of split shot sinkers, a few standard red and white plastic bobbers and a couple spools of mono line. A single short Zebco rod and reel outfit leaned against the shelf priced at the then exorbitant sum of about $5.99.

Sure enough, a check of the cold drink coolers revealed eight or ten cardboard cups labeled "Crawlers - 99 cents."

With the deductive reasoning of Sherlock Holmes, I quickly came to the conclusion that somewhere nearby there has to be a place or places where this plethora of fishdom would be used.

Placing the requisite "RC" and a "Moon Pie" on the counter the next gambit would be crucial to plying forth the location of any and all nearby areas where the fish counter items might come into use.

The other side of the counter was occupied by the clerk/owner, as I was soon to discover, who was wearing his prized checked red and black flannel shirt, two buttons short of a full count. His bib overalls had almost an entire pocket if you counted the patch sown in the bottom.

The well-worn circular protruding spot in the pocket had to be a can of "Red Man" or similar branded snuff. Topping the ensemble was a grease stained ball cap proudly proclaiming the "Texaco" fuel dispensed at the two pump set up.

Fortunately, I was on my way to a garden supply store and was similarly dressed with knee-holed jeans, dirty t-shirt and ball cap promoting the use of "John Deere" products and the like.

Needing to establish a closer relationship with this possible fountain of fishing opportunities I inquired if he had any hooks for sale cause I was looking for a place where one might be able to find some largemouth's and maybe a few crappie for the pan.

He eyed me over the top of his two dollar "cheaters" from the Rexall drug store and then glanced outside where my ten year old Dodge Dart, three of the four fenders dented, still stood at the pump.

We exchanged a bit more small talk and then it seemed time to try and close the deal. I told him what I was looking for and that the prime object was to find a place where other company would be little and it was quiet enough to nap if the fishing slowed.

After a short pause he said just such a place was nearby and I looked and acted like someone that wouldn't abuse the privilege if the land owner was to grant me permission. He proceeded to give me directions and the owners name and phone number. Also, he mentioned that the owner was a mite finicky about letting anyone on his place so don't be surprised if he refused permission.

I decided to wait a few days and then causally drove by the location just to get an idea of what the place looked like and if it filled the bill of what I was looking for in the way of solitude and not over run with people.

The second right hand turn, just outside the DC Beltway, was a surprisingly short distance away and the road became mostly devoid of traffic almost immediately. Trees and foliage came right up to the roadsides and no houses came into sight for the first quarter mile. This was a good sign.

Another half mile or so and the left side mailbox announced the residence listed on my directions. The gravel road was also tree lined and it wasn't until I'd driven a few hundred yards before the view opened up to reveal a working farmstead complete with chickens running around the house and a tractor making dusty slow circles around a rectangular field that covered several acres from the look of it.

I knocked at the door and it was answered by a pleasant tiny woman in a flour dusted apron. After introducing myself I asked if I might talk to Mr. Simmons and that the proprietor of the service station/convenience store had given me directions to the farm.

She said Mr. Simmons was the man on the tractor and he'd be available when he finished plowing and it would be best if I waited and didn't try crossing the freshly turned field. The broad hint was well taken and I spent the next forty-five minutes not so patiently standing next to the tractor shed.

Looking around as far as I could see produced nary a hint of a pond or stream that might suit my purposes and I wondered if maybe the service station operator was playing a joke on me.

Mr. Simmons finally turned the last furrow and arrived at the edge of the field. Peering down at me with a sun blemished scowl he sarcastically asked what the hell was I doing on his property. This was obviously not getting off to a good start, not even a barely receptive one.

Being mindful that I had been warned my reception may be less then welcome I ignored the tone of the question and explained my purpose and that the service station owner had said that permission to fish on the property might be granted.

Mr. Simmons alighted from the tractor, broke into a wide grin and stretched out his hand to shake. He said that most folks jumped into their vehicles and skedaddled out of there like a skunk sprayed dog when he greeted them with a scowl and a sarcastic question. Apparently a sense of humor existed behind that gruff countenance.

I handed him an index card with my name, address, phone number and a few other particulars and he went into the house and emerged with a similar card granting me written permission to fish in his pond along with my wife and two small sons if I so desired.

He gave me directions to what turned out to be a beautiful crystal clear five acre spring fed pond about a quarter mile from the house, surrounded by brush I called water willows and with a few open areas suitable for fly flinging.

One more warning was imparted before I left. The local game wardens were friends of his and religiously checked his pond when in the vicinity and many an uninvited "guest" had been ticketed and charged with trespassing over the years. So, don't be surprised if someone shows up demanding a look at licenses.

The pond was home to some beautiful largemouth's and double hand sized crappies and the shallow end contained plenty of cover down to the small cement spillway where the water reached a depth of about ten feet. The volume of spring water was extensive and readily apparent from the strong outward flow.

Anxious to try this hidden jewel a return trip the following day seemed to be next on my list of "chores."

Arriving fairly early for a Saturday morn there was still a skiff of low lying fog on the water even in mid-summer. Soon all manner of what would seem to be appropriate flies were caressing the water without so much as a ripple disturbing their short jerky trips back to shore. This carried on for a couple of hours and the bright promise from yesterday was quickly fading and was replaced by a Mr. Simmons scowl.

In trying to gain enough open space between a stand of pond side brush I spied a dirty, dried up looking red and white fly hanging in the brush almost out of reach. Having already spent the last two hours trying to entice even a look see from something other than the mosquitoes and gnats that were in plentiful supply, I thought what - the - heck.

Off with the beetle and on with the dirty red and white. It had barely touched the surface when a virtual swarm of crappie shot upwards from the depths and attacked it like a band of starving piranhas. I snatched the rod straight upright so hard and fast that the line and fly became entangled in the brush even worst then when I found it. There was no way I was losing that fly short of cutting down the whole stand of brush and out came the trusty Buck knife and the whittling began.
Whew! That took about thirty minutes of careful slashing but the prize was soon returned to its assigned task.

After the first of many oversized crappie came to hand it suddenly dawned on me that one should be equipped with a stringer if the intent is to fill a fry pan later on. What to do?

As previously stated, the pond had many stands of 'water willows" along the banks so a quick slash of the Buck knife and a "Y" shaped gill stringer was soon fashioned for each fish.

In short order the bank next to me looked like an outdoor fish market with the goods displayed one each on a willow switch.

Supper that night was a mess of freshly caught crappie on my new "wonder fly."

One memorable trip almost came to a close a scant ten minutes after I got there. Lost in the solitude, the sudden "Good afternoon" loudly proclaimed right behind me almost resulted in wet pants from a spill into the pond and/or "the other way."

I never heard the approaching entrance of two of Maryland's finest wardens till the greeting. They asked for and I produced my fishing licenses and Mr. Simmons written permission to be on his property and fish the pond. Not till some time later did I find out that Mr. Simmons had sent them over there and told them to see if they could sneak up on me. As previously related he had a good sense of humor and apparently liked practical jokes too.

Subsequent trips produced many crappie and an occasional bass sometimes tipping the scale at five or more pounds.

I always stopped at the house and offered any of my catch to the Simmons's but they politely declined and said they didn't care for fish.

Several great days were spent in that special place and thanks to my secret lure, the "dirty red and white," hardy a day ever went by without a bent rod.

It all ended after a couple of years when a new job opportunity opened that was a couple of hundred miles away.

That was about forty-five years ago and I never returned to the "HIDEAWAY POND."

It's probably a huge subdivision or shopping center now and I would hate to see that scene.

Some things are best left to memory and this will remain one of them.

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