Based on Pilotwingz’ and other people’s recommendations, I planned a trip to a particular island and ledge on the Potomac. There was heavy rain upstream. The closest Potomac upstream gage showed a quadrupelling of volume the day before - from roughly 2500 CFS to about 10000 CFS. A tributary between that gage and the location we were going to fish went from 1200 or so CFS to close to 8000. So there was an 18000 CFS slug of water coming… The only question was how fast was it coming? More local tributaries had no such increases despite heavy rains the day or two before.
We made a plan to go to the river and check it out. If it was too swift for safety, we’d head either to one of the local tributaries or to some flat-water.
We got to the river. Now, it was deep, but the main area we wanted to fish was above a decrepit dam. The water was spilling over it and through it, but the dam still causes a significant pool and it was having an effect. We got a report from a guy just coming off the river and spent some time looking at the water and comparing to my scout trips. We figured it was safe and so we launched the boat and continued prepping. Just as we were about to move out into the flow, a friend of mine pulled up in a kayak. He gave us an on-water report, which bolstered us in our opinion. After chatting a few minutes, we headed out into the flow. It was no problem for the 2.5hp Mercury to push the canoe upstream. There were no squirrelly currents. We made the ledge easily with no scares. The ledge was a different story. An island narrows the river and pushed water through two channels. The wider of the channels was far too swift to anchor and fish from a canoe. A bass boat would have been OK, but not a canoe. That ledge was where we wanted to fish. But the island creates an enormous eddy - on that day probably 250 yards long and 50 feet wide. So we fished the heck out of the head, the tail, the island bank, and the current seams from within the safety of that eddy. We spent about three hours casting everything we could and didn’t have any fish landed to show for it.
When the air temperature dropped ten degrees in a few minutes, and the clouds turned from battleship overcast to deep charcoal gray, we chose to get off the water. Just as we returned to the launch, lightning had changed from striking between clouds to striking downwards. The biggest part of the 18000 slug had arrived, as the water bacame noticably muddier and swifter during our return. It was a good choice to leave the water, though from a precipitation standpoint we received just a few drops.
Well, we considered going back to my house to trade the gas engine for a trolling motor and heading to the flat-water. We called my wife, and she asked that we stay away for a while. It was my birthday, and I expected that she was prepping some surprises for me. So my friend and I went to a winery for a tasting and afterwards to a pub for a bite to eat. It’s not the first time I’ve “fished” in a pub.
When we got back to my house, my suspicion was confirmed. My wife had prepared one of my favorite meals, a cake, and had some presents for me from her and the kids. As is our birthday tradition, we had dessert first and enjoyed some spice cake with dessert wine from the winery trip. Then we had a terrific pork chop dinner with some Sauvignon Blanc also from the winery.
In all, it was a fantastic fishing day despite the lack of seeing anything with fins. There was a good friend, adventure, exploration, family, presents, a delicious meal, and delicious wine. We sat at a comfortable table in a warm and dry house. It could have been a lot worse, and so rather than curse being skunked we toasted our good fortune.
I will return to that ledge. Now that I know how that part of the river reacts to gage numbers I’ll be all that much more informed and prepared.
- Big D