Guide's knowledge and a weighted fly brighten otherwise gloomy fishing day


BRUNSWICK -- As we enter the river at its confluence with a feeder creek along the Maryland shore, perhaps two dozen Canada geese rise noisily from the Potomac, their rest disturbed by a quartet of anglers traipsing through the rain.

The day is more suited to waterfowl than humans. The air temperature is in the mid-70s, maybe six degrees colder than the river. A thin fog rises in the gloom of midafternoon.

"Wish we could have done this another day, but it is tough to get away except on Thursdays," Joe Bruce says as he steps off into the Potomac a few hundred yards above the Route 17 bridge.

Bruce, an enthusiastic yet soft-spoken fellow in his mid-40s, owns The Fisherman's Edge on Edmondson Avenue. He teaches fly casting and rod building and guides on the Potomac and other area waters.

On the walk upriver from the parking lot beneath the Brunswick bridge, Bruce has been explaining his approach to fishing the Brunswick Pool for bass.

"If you sit back and take a look at the river," Bruce says, "there is a lot of clutter moving along with it -- leaves, twigs, branches, clumps of grass and the like -- and if a fish isn't afraid of those things, why should he be afraid of anything else that size drifting along?"

So Bruce likes to use a fly-fishing rig that might make a hard-core trout fisherman giggle -- a thick and dark, 5-foot sink tip, a 2- or 3-foot tippet and a yellow wolly bugger or a weighted fly he has developed, the PK-40.

"The idea is to get down to the fish," Bruce says. "Because if they are not on the top of a river, they are on the bottom -- at least 90 percent of them are, anyway."

Some fishermen prefer to use small splitshot to get their flies deep, but Bruce believes this takes away from the underwater action of whatever fly you are fishing and interrupts the sense of touch necessary to feel that action.

"You end up feeling and, I guess to a certain extent, fishing the splitshot instead of the fly," Bruce says.

To fish this rig, Bruce recommends casting three quarters up the current or at least across it. Then, as the fly comes down the current a few inches off the bottom, lifting and dropping the horizontal rod tip 5 or 6 inches will give the fly action.

"Horizontal jigging?" Bruce says. "Well, yes, I guess that is what you are doing. You are, whenever you add weight to a fly, in effect creating a fly-fishing jig."

The 5 feet of sinking tip and the short tippet keep the fly in the strike zone, and the rod movement makes it easier for fish to see as it lifts and drops in the current.

Fishing the PK-40 turned up a few sunfish and some small bass in the rain on a day when not even the swallows were sweeping low across the river to snap up insects, and no fish dimpled the surface.

But in early evening, the rain slacked off, the swallows began to fly and the remnant of the white millers began to hatch sporadically.

What bass and sunfish that were hitting were taking yellow wolly buggers fished deep. Bruce and his sinking tip rig caught far and away the most fish.

Perhaps it was as much local knowledge of the Brunswick Pool as anything, but a better bet is that Bruce has honed his sinktip and the fly-fishing jig to a level that can give a fisherman a decided edge.

"I have been in the river since I was 13," Bruce said as we left the river, and two flights of Canadas came in over the trees from the farm fields and settled through the thin fog. "And I have never seen this stretch of water produce so few fish.

"But that's OK. Everyone knows that there are days when you just can't catch 100 fish."

Some days you are lucky just to avoid catching a cold.

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad