Fishing is a multilayered experience: You have to go to where the fish are, you have to know their habits, you have to have patience. It doesn’t matter if you catch a fish. Simply being in contact with the natural world brings a joy and peace that are hard to find in our hectic lives.
I’m a catch-and-release fisherman: I don’t keep what I catch, and I try to send the fish back unharmed. I even remove the barbs from many of my hooks.
Most of the fishing I do nearby is freshwater spin-casting with light tackle. I also fly-fish—a more demanding sport that requires a lot of skill in putting the flies and bugs right under the fishes’ noses—but the best places for that are farther away.
Finding fishing spots is half the fun, offering glimpses of wildlife and flora in gorgeous settings. The Potomac River is one of the best spots on the East Coast. The Boathouse at Fletcher’s Cove (fletcherscove.com) , on the C&O Canal above Georgetown, is a good place to procure a boat, equipment, and bait to get started. There’s also the Triadelphia and Rocky Gorge reservoirs, in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, respectively; Loudoun County’s Goose Creek; and Fauquier’s Lake Brittle.
Sports Authority, Kmart, and Sears have basic equipment, but Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World in Hanover, Maryland (410-689-2500; basspro.com) —a straight drive out the Baltimore-Washington Parkway—is a fisherman’s paradise. Staff can suggest gear and places for the kind of fishing you want to do.
If you don’t have a bass boat to get you to the most productive spots, spin-casting (using lures) and bait-casting (using live bait) are easily done from the banks of streams and ponds. Another option is still-fishing, in which bait is suspended by a float in the water until a fish decides it wants a snack. Freshwater fishing for bass and other species is generally best around daybreak and dusk, when the fish like to feed.
Allan Ellis of Bass Pro Shops recommends these books: Gone Fishin’ . . . for Beginners by Manny Luftglass; Gone Fishin’ . . .With Kids by Joe Perrone Jr. and Luftglass; Rudow’s Guide to Fishing the Chesapeake by Lenny Rudow; Guide to Maryland Trout Fishing: The Catch-and-Release Streams by Charlie Gelso and Larry Coburn; and anything by fly-fishing expert Lefty Kreh.