Because Lurmon Foxwell can no longer see the stars from his backyard in Overlea, it especially pleases him to be able to fish for trout not more than 20 miles north of Baltimore.
And he caught one yesterday, too, a 10-inch brown trout plucked from Bee Tree Run in northern Baltimore County on the opening day of Maryland's 1993 trout season; a fish that was Mr. Foxwell's dinner last night with fresh asparagus and creamed corn.
"I was born in the city on Bentalou Street, and we moved to Overlea when I was in the third grade. I used to be able to go out back at night and see all kinds of stars," said the 49-year-old machinist while fishing off of Bentley Road in Parkton. "Now, with all the lights and pollution, I can't see stars from my backyard anymore.
"But I can still catch trout in a nice setting like this. The river is high, and the water is pristine."
Mr. Foxwell was especially happy that he had angled, or so he thought, for a fish raised by nature in one of the streams that feed the Gunpowder Falls.
By the time trout season opened before dawn, nearly 96,000 rainbow and brown trout raised in hatcheries had been stocked in waters throughout the state -- half-pound yearlings and 2-year-olds weighing a pound or more.
Mr. Foxwell was content that he had snared one raised by the river.
"The [wild] browns are a lot harder to catch. They'll run and hide from you," he said, standing in hip boots. "The [hatchery-bred] rainbow are so used to being fed they'll stop for you."
Driving along the banks of the Gunpowder and its many tributaries yesterday, it seemed there was at least one person fishing for every trout released.
Among them were a trio of volunteers from the Save Our Streams project -- who were fishing for something besides trout.
Working along Bentley Road, they were collecting insect larvae samples from the Bee Tree stream bed. University of Maryland researchers will use the samples to gauge the quality of the water -- the more larvae, the cleaner the water.
Said Mr. Foxwell: "They're working to see if the stream can support the fish that I'm trying to catch."
And the three that 14-year-old Eric Shiflett of Dundalk caught, too.
"I got here about 5 a.m. and cast in about 5:30," said Eric, who came out with his father. "I caught three but gave one of them to these people who were collecting fish for the homeless. I got two browns and a rainbow."
Of those fish, one was big, one was small, and one was in-between.
Eric gave away the one that was in-between. "I believe in Jesus, and Jesus gives," he said.
On the receiving end was the food bank of the Hereford United Methodist Church, which had tables set up, urged anglers to donate a part of their catch.
State law limits each angler to five trout a day -- five more than Mary McGurrin caught yesterday.
"I saw a lot of people catching fish. A lot of people must have the secret today," said Ms. McGurrin, a Timonium senior citizen who in the past 40 years has fished all over the world, from Alaska to the Caribbean. "The important thing is being out here in the outdoors, seeing such nice water. It looks clean, and the river is up."
"Up" means high, and the Gunpowder was up because of runoff from snow still melting after the blizzard of two weeks ago and 7.47 inches of rain, already a record for this month.
The water was moving green and fast over gray rocks in the stream beds, the fields were brown, and the sky was gray with clouds.
"It's usually colder than this," said George Hayter, 55, who lives just over the state line in Stewartstown, Pa.
When raindrops began to fall a little after 2 p.m., Mr. Hayter called it a day and blamed his choice of bait for his failure to bag a trout.
"I was using this stuff called 'Power Bait,' " Mr. Hayter said. "It's purple, and it smells awful. All I caught was a tree. I usually have more luck with Velveeta cheese."