Wednesday morning was overcast with a little light rain, but that didn't deter the regulars who fish from the Nicodemus Bridge over Liberty Reservoir.
With the exception of an occasional passing car, the only sounds were birds and the old-timers reminiscing.
"This is our home away from home," joked Gilbert Edwards, who caught a 15-inch trout and a nice-sized perch, which he promptly gave to his buddy Walter Bosley.
"That's a meal," said Bosley, smiling.
Edwards has been "fishing since the bridge was here. I used to drag race across this," he said waving his hand toward the span. "There used to be nothing but black tire marks."
Liberty Reservoir, as locals know, is a tremendous fishery. Four current state-record, freshwater fish were caught there: striped bass (47 pounds, 2 ounces) and white perch (1-5), both caught last year; rock bass (1-3) in 1998; and smallmouth bass (8-4) in 1974.
But fishing was interrupted last year, when the Baltimore Public Works Department, which owns the reservoir and bridge, decided to enforce the "no fishing" regulation that had long been on the books. Watershed police cited safety concerns such as anglers stepping backward off the narrow sidewalk and into traffic and boaters getting tangled in fishing lines dangling from the bridge. One or two of the officers were downright nasty and profane in chasing people away.
The crackdown ended fishing for a lot of elderly and disabled adults and folks without boats.
"That was just dumb," said angler George Tyler, a retired construction worker who has called the reservoir and bridge his fishing hole for more than 40 years.
After 11 months of lobbying by angler Larry Grochowski, the city reversed its decision. But instead of just changing the rule book and taking down the signs, public works director George Winfield put some money and effort into welcoming everyone back.
The sidewalk has been widened and a chain-link fence separates the anglers from the road. Access ramps for the disabled were installed, and the new signs say "fish at your own risk."
Grochowski is satisfied.
"We can close this book now," he said. "We've seen its beginnings, the drama unfold, its ups and downs, and its conclusion. What really counts is the fishermen got back what belonged to them all along. I'm happy for them more than anything else."
The next step is to coax back all the anglers who were turned off by the watershed police.
And after that? How about fixing up the Beckleysville Bridge over Prettyboy Reservoir?
It couldn't hurt
Most of us who thrash around in the woods or on a boat have been hurtin' buckos a time or two. A sprain here, a wasp sting there, a nasty nick or two. Spitting on an injury or ignoring it ("it's just a flesh wound") isn't always the wisest choice.
The Wilderness Safety Council, a nonprofit group out of northern Virginia, is offering an 18-hour course at Camp Letts, just south of Annapolis, June 9-10. The cost is $140. Council executive director Christopher Tate says the course is designed for scouting and youth group leaders, camp counselors and trip organizers. Even if you don't aspire to leadership but spend a lot of time outdoors, the course is worth considering.
Tate has taught about 1,000 people in the region what they need to know to travel safely and comfortably and with confidence.
The best thing you can bring on any trip outdoors "is better stuff between your ears," he says. "What we do is provide a good, solid foundation and introduction to medical practice. We give people tangible skills they can use right away to make a difference in an emergency."
The first day of class will cover patient assessment, muscle and bone injuries, dislocations and splinting. Day 2 is soft-tissue injuries, shock, head injuries and heat- and cold-related injuries. About 25 percent of the course involves hands-on training.
Tate also will go over the first-aid stuff everyone should carry in their daypack or boat first-aid kit. To register for the course or others in the region, log on to www.wfa.net or call 703-836-8905.
One of the things Tate carries (and I do, too) is a SAM splint.
What in Sam Hill is a SAM splint? It's a very lightweight strip of foam-covered aluminum that you can cut or bend to protect an injured limb. As a hiker who splinted the leg of a companion with two magazines and boot laces during an ill-fated White Mountains weekend a dozen years ago, I can tell you I wish I'd had a SAM.
SAM is Sam Scheinberg, a retired orthopedic surgeon who lives in Oregon, "where the 45th parallel hits the ocean." SAM also is "structural aluminum and malleable" splint, his invention.
As Scheinberg tells it, he was watching "The Beverly Hillbillies" after a grueling session in the emergency room and absent-mindedly twisting a chewing gum wrapper around his finger. He noticed that the thin wrapper was remarkably strong, and from that he got the idea for a splint. Scheinberg, who had been a MASH surgeon in Vietnam, thought his splint might be a great in the field.
"I said to myself, 'We're going to be rich.' We weren't, but that's how it started," he says.
He sold the rights to a manufacturer who did nothing with the splint, and Scheinberg bought them back in 1984. He and his wife, Cherrie, started making splints by hand.
"We sold 12 and lost a dollar on each one," he says, laughing. "I said, 'This is great, honey. If we keep selling them, we're going to be absolutely bankrupt.' "
They found a machine to make the splints, and profits rose.
Why are the splints orange on one side and blue on the other?
"I'm a Broncos fan," he says. "Also, the nice bright orange is easy to see from a rescue helicopter, and the blue doesn't show up on athletes on TV."
But as a concession to fans of other teams and those who prefer their bandages understated, the splint also is being made in staid, banker gray.
Today, Sam and Cherrie Scheinberg's firm, The Seaberg Co., employs 10 and has more than $3 million in annual sales. It has about 600 distributors and sells splints in 22 countries.
The SAM Splint is stocked in many professional sports training rooms and is considered standard equipment in the military. Seaberg made more than 400,000 splints for Operation Desert Storm.
For us regular folks, the splint comes in a 36-inch-long roll (it looks like a jelly roll or an elastic bandage) and weighs less than 5 ounces. The roll costs about $15, and a finger splint two-pack costs $3. Outdoor retailer REI sells them.
The splints are recommended by experts such as Dr. Buck Tilton, curriculum and development director for the National Outdoor Leadership School's Wilderness Medicine Institute. And Tate is such a fan, he sells them to his students.
"You don't think you'll need them until you need them," he says.