November 12th, 2006

The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
This is where our readers tell their stories . . .

My Little Amazon River
By Marta E. Rivas-Olmeda

My fascination with the Amazon Rain Forest began when I was a little girl. I was in love with its exotic flora and fauna, rivers and tropical climate, and hoped that one day I could find myself surrounded by all of its beauty. My interest in this amazing forest grew even more after learning to fly fish. I really wanted to have the experience of catching and releasing a big "tucunaré" (peacockbass) and other types of fish native to this enchanted forest and its rivers. But, pursuing a BA in Music Education, a Master's degree in Guidance and Counseling, and a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology took a lot of my time and money, as well. Instead of going fishing in the Amazon, I had to settle for going fly-fishing in places closer to where I lived. Don't get me wrong, though. These places had their own enchantment and plenty of fish to catch and release. One of them in particular, became My Little Amazon River. Little, because it is a creek by comparison, but with plenty of nature and wild life to make you feel like you are in the Amazon.

I cannot recall exactly how many years ago we first went fly-fishing in My Little Amazon River, but I believe that seventeen is a rather reasonable number. We were driving towards Rehoboth, Delaware (two hours from Philly) on a sunny spring day when suddenly a canoe rental sign to the right side of the road caught our attention. The only thing that was visible from the road was a little pond. Interested in knowing where it was possible to go canoeing in this area, we decided to check out the canoe rental place. After all, we were carrying our fishing equipment just in case we could find a place to wet our lines. Following the signs, we arrived at a small house hidden behind several trees and bushes. The owner of the canoe rental place was behind his screened door, waiting to see who had arrived. After introducing ourselves, we expressed our interest to go canoeing and, if possible, fishing. Mr. Plummer, who was a very polite and nature-loving gentleman, asked us several questions. We answered his questions, and asked him some ourselves. After all was said and done, we rented a canoe for the day and that's when our adventures in My Little Amazon River began!

Jorge and I followed Mr. Plummer through a little forest area behind his house and soon we reached the canoe launching area. While we were loading our fishing gear, paddles and canoe cushions, Mr. Plummer gave us the following instructions: "You are not allowed to fish in this part of the pond. To get to the other side of the pond, you have to paddle to the bridge were you saw the canoe rental sign and go underneath it. On the other side of the pond you'll see two little entrances. If the water level is too low, you may have to portage the canoe through a path that takes you a little bit to the road and goes back into the creek. If not, you can continue canoeing until you reach the wider area of the creek. Enjoy your day, and I'll see you here at 6:00 p.m." Thanking him, we got into the canoe and began to paddle away, eager to begin our expedition.

Paddling to the bridge, we found out that Mr. Plummer wasn't exaggerating when he said the bridge was low! To go underneath it we had to lower our heads and push ourselves from the ceiling of the bridge or from one of its walls.

Under the Bridge
Getting the canoe under the bridge was quite an experience!

Under the bridge, we found swallows' nests and spider webs. The swallows began to make a lot of noise because we were too close to their nests, but Jorge and I managed to push the canoe from the middle of the bridge without disturbing their nests. Once at the other side, we noticed that the water level was high and decided to get the canoe through the narrow passage towards our right-hand side. We hadn't paddled more than a few feet from the trees' entrance when another obstacle appeared. There was a big fallen log in the middle of the creek! Studying the situation, we put our muscles to work and cleared the area, but we had to go through yet one more narrow passage before entering the wide area of the creek.

Getting under the log
Raquel, my sister in law, helps me get the canoe underneath the fallen log.

It felt like we were in the jungle. There was water underneath us, trees and plants on both sides, birds singing, fish and turtles in the water, snakes sleeping on some of the bushes, and spider webs and tree branches almost touching our heads.

Paddling through the passage of My Little Amazon River.

A few paddles later, the passage became a little wider and was surrounded by lily pads. As we continued to paddle, we arrived at the wide entrance of the creek. I thought I was seeing a mirage! Almost breathlessly I said to Jorge, "Wow! This place is really beautiful!"

Jorge among the lily pads
Jorge among the lily pads
The sun was shining, the wind was calm, and the river, like a mirror, reflected the sky and trees in it. The air had a sweet and sour smell combination - sweet because of the fragrance of some flowers at the edge of the creek and sour because of the decomposition of dead leaves at the bottom of it. Looking around, I didn't see any other fishermen. A grin appeared on my face. "The gods and goddesses must be on our side," I thought. We had this creek all to ourselves! I immediately felt in love with it, and from that moment on, I began to call it My Little Amazon River.

I set up my 7Wt rod, selected a sneaky Pete slider and began to cast towards the shady structured areas. Immediately, a fish took my fly and my rod bent as if there were a giant creature pulling at the other end. Excited, I began to retrieve my line thinking that I had caught a large-mouth bass. But the fish began to swim fast and sideways, and right then I knew I hadn't hooked a large-mouth bass, but a bluegill.

One of many Bluegills!

How did I know this? Well, if you spend as much time fishing for bass and pan fish as we do, then you can certainly tell what type of fish you have at the end of your line before pulling it from the water.

When feeding at the surface, bluegills sometimes attack the fly the moment it lands on the water. Then they begin to swim very fast and sideways, which gives them away immediately. Large-mouth bass and crappies attack the fly differently. The crappies bite the fly very softly, and once hooked, they give up very easily. That is, they don't give a big fight and are easy to reel in. The large-mouth bass, like the good predators they are, ambush their prey. Once hooked, they begin to jump with all their might trying to get rid of the fly. This is an action that any fly angler, or any fisherman, for that matter, loves to see!

What a Bluegill!

Gender differentiation is also something that I learned after fly-fishing for bass and pan fish for a while. The fish color, shape and size can help you determine if you caught a male or female fish. For instance, during the panfish's spawning season, females tend to be smaller and light in color, while males tend to be bigger and are brighter in color. In some species (e.g. peacockbass), the males develop a hump above their heads to impress the females.

As I continued to cast, I kept on reeling in beautiful bluegills, one after the other. Some of them had orange bellies, while others had a mixture of orange, red and black on them, just like pumpkinseeds. Several of them were in the one-pound range and I couldn't help thinking how it would feel to land one of these fish if they were bigger and heavier. Seeing all the surface action, Jorge decided to anchor the canoe in a pool area of the creek and began to cast as well. And let me tell you something...that day, we caught hundreds of bluegills (and I'm not exaggerating)! In fact, I began to count how many fish each of us had caught when, suddenly, Jorge said, "In a book I recently read, the author mentioned the type of people an angler shouldn't go fishing with."

"And?" I asked, waiting to see what he would say next.

"His list included those who count how many fish they have caught," added Jorge.

I began to laugh, remembering reading the same thing in one of the many fishing books we have. "Are you trying to tell me to stop counting?" I asked. Jorge's facial gestures told me I should stop counting, and for a while I did; but catching more fish than he was catching - and not just bluegills, but other species as well - I just couldn't help not to count. I guess I wanted him to know that the pupil (me) was out-fishing the master (him). Although I must admit that he really enjoys seeing me fishing, just as much as I enjoy having him as my husband and fishing partner.

Jorge with fish
Jorge with some of his catch from My Little Amazon River: a crappie and a chain pickerel!

The day passed quite quickly, as always happens when one is having so much fun. We were so much into fishing that we almost forgot we had to return the canoe by 6:00 p.m. Paddling as fast as we could, we managed to get back a few minutes passed six. Mr. Plummer was already waiting for us at the canoe launching area. "How did the fishing go?" he asked. Almost at unison we both said, "We had a great time."

On our way home, we talked about all the positive points of fly-fishing in this creek. My Little Amazon River proved to be a fantastic fishing spot for panfish that day. We enjoyed it so much that, from that day on, we went back almost every weekend and rented a canoe at Mr. Plummer's place. Not wanting to drive two hours back and forth from Philly every time we went fishing there, we asked Mr. Plummer if he could recommend a motel around the area. It turned out that he knew the owner of a bed and breakfast in Middletown, Delaware and, for four consecutive years, we became regular clients of Mr. Plummer, as well as of Mrs. Ruth, the owner of the B&B.

Jorge with fish
My 1st large mouth bass and 1st carp from My Little Amazon River

One evening, the phone rang in our home. I picked it up and heard Mrs. Ruth's voice. After greeting each other, she told me the reason of her call: Mr. Plummer had been found dead in his house. I was speechless for a moment because I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Mrs. Ruth added that the police had under custody the young man Mr. Plummer hired to help him in his canoe rental business, because they believe this young man committed the murder. The motive for Mr. Plummer's murder was robbery.

Having been regular customers for quite a while, we remembered seeing the alleged perpetrator at Mr. Plummer's, helping customers launch their canoes at the pond or taking care of the canoes. He was a quiet fellow, who didn't look like someone capable of committing such a cruel and awful crime. Jorge and I felt very sad and unable to understand what could have prompted this young man to take away Mr. Plummer's life. Not only had we liked the convenience of Mr. Plummer's canoe rental business, but we also developed a respectful camaraderie and friendship with him. He was a fine gentleman, and we learned a lot about nature from him, especially about the flora and fauna of My Little Amazon River. On many occasions upon our return from fishing in the creek, he had made us coffee or had given us refreshments, and there were times when we returned home with fresh produce that Mr. Plummer had given us from his vegetable garden. It was hard to believe and understand how something so bad could happen to such a good person.

Several months passed before Jorge and I decided to take our ten-foot inflatable dinghy fishing at My Little Amazon River. The creek still possessed its magical attraction, as well as plenty of fish to catch. However, Mr. Plummer's presence, as well as his knowledge of nature and his advice, was missing. I truly hope that wherever he is, he finds himself surrounded by nature and all the beautiful things he loved. ~ Marta E. Rivas-Olmeda

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