Monday, July 11, 2011

Beaver Swamp Fishing on the Little Patuxent

The American beaver swamp is either a magical or a horrifying place, depending on who you are and under what pretense you find yourself there.  As you move from the woody uplands, down the slope of tombstone stumps, and toward open water, your legs are the first to tell you that you may not be welcome. 

In the Appalachians it is the grueling tear of the blackberry against dry skin, on the piedmont, the impossible snare of the wild rose in clothing and soft flesh.  Further down on the coastal plain, where I found myself on this day, it's the deep, quick slice of the greenbriar - a plant who happily takes my blood and in most cases, allows me to pass.

I predicted the insects would be thick...
they did not disappoint.
I am proud of myself on this day.  I have been beset by many problems recently, and in some cases, have handled them deftly.  More often, I have opted to stay at arm's length, and have been able to watch those problems collapse under their own weight - a result which always makes a manager look smarter than they are, particularly in the case of someone like myself who is not known for their hands-off approach or their patience.  Relief.  I felt the relief as I stepped on swollen, rotten logs left dry in the recent drought.  However, the relief did not stop the gnats.

I have known of this beaver swamp along the Little Patuxent River for many years.  I'm not aware of how long it has been public, but I have been scouting it this year, and finally fished it after work one evening.  In a beaver swamp, especially in summer, it's sometimes amazing that things - anything - survive.  The dark, tannic water is stained deep brown with pine oil from beaver-felled trees. The water has little oxygen.  But life thrives here.

I felt a calm that I haven't felt for a long time as I reeled in my line, stained darker brown with every cast.   My goal for the evening was to work heavy cover and try to entice big mid-summer bass.   Just a few.  Just for photos. My lone bass strike was a crusher, who immediately ran my size 8 white in-line spinner under a stump.  No fish. No lure.  The remainder of my tackle fared better.

Very quickly, some large green sunfish, many 6-10" long, started demolishing small, unweighted and weedless-rigged plastics in chartreuse and pumpkin.  The BPS goby and Yo-Zuri gold shiner goby both scored impressive fights from awfully small fish.  The fish themselves are stained from a life in that acid brown water, but I cannot understand what made their heads so gigantic compared to their little bodies.  I was a little surprised to not land a bass in my 90 minutes there, but it was 94 degrees outside at 7pm, so I'm not sure why I expected such an outcome.  I do know that fishing earlier in the evening would have been totally fruitless.
Ugly photo of an ugly fish...look at the size of that head!

After about the 30th green sunfish, and with the sun no longer blasting rays into the swamp, I sized up on lures to increase my odds of finding a giant bass.  A 2" pumpkin craw, 2" chartreuse tube, and 2" white/black BPS popper all produced results that really transcended "frustrating" and seeped into "humiliating."  I was done for the night.

I watched the moon rise as the chorus of wood frogs, carpenter frogs, and green frogs grew into the darkening night.  Unsettled osprey, geese, and herons periodically shattered the frog symphony with their own notes - acquiesing to the end of another day.


Unknown said...

Looks like a nice little spot!

Kirk Mantay said...

Yeah, I think on higher water and cooler temperatures, there would be quite a few bass biting. Probably nothing over 3-4lbs but likely tons of 1-1.5 pounders.

Mike Sepelak said...

Lovely place!!!

Sanders said...

Beautiful photos! Looks like a pretty cool little place.

Justin Mayer said...

Ugly fish!?!? I love those little green sunfish!

e.m.b. said...

My feet are full of ant bites. I wasn't prepared on my fishing trip out yesterday. I need to get that undercover look of yours going on. "greenbriar - a plant who happily takes my blood and in most cases, allows me to pass." -- I loved the images you conjured in this post....thank you!

Kirk Mantay said...

Erin - the buff is much easier to deal with than a skeeter mask, and more adaptable too. Like any gear, the most frequent problem with it is that it gets left in the truck!

Justin - they can be beautiful fish - but these guys were stained from the water - like a mini sheepshead!

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