Floatin’ and fishin’ from Taylor’s Landing
Success is measured by many different standards.
When spending a carefree day on the Potomac River, success has as many fathers as there are people to chase the fun. Some just want to relax away from a daily grind. The sun that warms the day is often enough. Others come to the river with more serious intentions — they want to catch some of the fish the water holds. Leaving the soothing current for a stay on the bank to polish off a picnic lunch is just what others would call a perfect interlude on a perfect afternoon.
For those whose visits to the river became more and more infrequent as the years rushed past, just being in the quiet of nature is a utopia of sorts.
Some preparation has been made for a float trip to Shepherdstown from Taylor’s Landing just a ways up river in Washington County.
An aluminum canoe and several wooden paddles begin the short list of basics. Some cushions to hold our backsides are located.
And then the same fun that has made itself available for decades can begin in earnest.
Earthworms or night crawlers from moist ground kept that way by the shade of giant sycamores near a farmer’s pond have always made themselves available to help us have a good time. Minnows that have been seined are in a bait bucket.
Often-neglected fishing rods are placed with a reverence along one side of the canoe. The licenses are pinned on shirts.
We are ready to get up to Taylor’s Landing and get “on the river”.
Navigating the long and narrow ribbons of rock outcroppings that slice their way across the river is just a part of the tale to be embellished when the little adventure is too-soon completed.
Once away from the putting-in spot, the sun feels almost as welcoming as we thought it might when planning the trip back in January.
A bonus comes our way almost immediately when a deer sees us at the moment we see her. On other such long ago days like this we have seen muskrats, raccoons and red-tailed hawks soaring above.
Our earthworms are supposed to tempt the hunger of bass and sunnies for the most part, but if the same karma that was living on the river in decades past, there might be some small catfish that are unlucky enough to be taken.
About noon time, the meandering canoe is guided to a sandy point on the shoreline that should hold our appetites in good stead. It’s lunch we are after, and the fried chicken, egg salad sandwiches, sliced apples, iced tea and chocolate chip cookies move to the top of the totem pole for at least a half-hour.
Back on our way, we spot a blue heron wading and wondering if we took most of the minnows he routinely seeks. Later an osprey sails by on the thermals the sun has created.
Our stringer is not too taxed by our minimal catch.
Finally moving within sight of the Rumsey Bridge towering above the river, we will glide on down to the ghostly piers standing as silent sentries since becoming obsolete following the Flood of 1936 that swept way their roadbed.
The shade provided by the piers and deeper water at their bases are where fish congregate as the temperature rises.
We have come to where the Town Run empties its cool waters into the receptive Potomac. It’s an area, especially on the Maryland side of the river, where flat-bottomed johnboats were chained to trees by owners whose summer evenings were spent on the river. Those fishermen would stay past dusk, using a lantern to provide light.
Some would fish nearly every evening. On the Shepherdstown side of the river, longtime residents were there, sitting in their folding chairs and bringing in the fish with their baits of chicken necks or gizzards. Those men put food on the table. What an avocation!
The physical nature of the river has changed very little. But the once-constant number of town people who come after work to fish in the evening is now barely a trickle.
A freight train lumbers across the bridge, also a replacement for one that fell prey to the Flood of 1936.
We paddle as slowly as possible to the landing at the base of North Princess Street. Make the day last another two minutes if possible.
On the river. If for only one day in 4,000.
You can’t keep time from sliding headlong into history.
But if you can get back “on the river”, ole Father Time can be looked in the eye and asked, “Did you ever have this much fun?”