The fish are small, but the action is steady
Warm weather in December is one of the best gifts Old St. Nick and his reindeer can bring.
The unexpected stretch of mild temperatures may have been accompanied by soft rains and waterlogged grounds, but they were welcomed by all — except those looking to plow snow with their trucks for a little extra money.
The local streams became muddy for days, so fishing them wasn’t productive for the most part.
There had to be some way to take advantage of the unrivaled early winter weather.
Finding a long-abandoned rock quarry with its always-available supply of colder and clear spring water becomes a day to be outside.
Planning for such an unexpected warm weather/fishing bonanza is both easy and uncomplicated. No boat is necessary. No getting to a entry point on a river or finding others to wait at a pickup spot is necessary.
Just get the gear, maybe take a sandwich or two, grab a folding chair, hop in the vehicle and get to the quarry where an incline once used by mules to haul the limestone to waiting trucks is where we will throw in our lines.
No fuss. No intricate list of have-to-haves. No schedules to change. Just the fun and actual relaxation of fishing in the quiet of the outdoors.
There is nothing elaborate about the whole experience. Nobody expects a record catch of trophy fish or long fights with a monster fish that could be told once the normal weather pattern forces the angler back inside next to a roaring fire.
The quarry has never been stocked. Its fish population has risen in the decades since a few bass and bluegills were brought there from the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers by forward-looking men hoping for a chance like this to fish again.
Natural fish-foods in the quarry include crayfish, minnows, larvae and summertime swarms of a few insect varieties.
With all the saturating rains, we can look to our paved driveways for nightcrawlers . . . and no fish worth his salt will pass up a fat, six-inch long earthworm at any time.
The incline was made 80 or 100 years ago by the quarrymen and it is a substantial mix of crushed rock and smaller stones. No mud there to confuse us about where to plop down in our folding chair.
In no time, the hooks are baited and cast into the clear blue waters . . . now so different than the murky waters of the nearby rivers.
What happens next could be called “Action in the Afternoon”.
Out come the small but feisty (and hungry) fish.
They take the offered bait like Santa takes the milk and cookies offered him just before he lays his finger aside his nose and rises up the chimney.
There are no large fish, no 15-minute long “battles” to land them.
But they keep biting. Almost as quickly as one is taken off the hook and returned to the water on the other side of the incline another is on the line. It seems we will run out of live bait before the quarry runs out of fish.
December days are short, no matter the warmth or pleasure they have.
This year, even when it wasn’t raining there were clouds hiding the low-in-the-sky sun.
We fish for about two hours and then take the three minutes required to store our few artificial baits, fold our chairs and move up the incline to the vehicle.
Ah, December warmth. What a treat. What a time to quickly get to a fishing spot that couldn’t have been planned for in most years when the cold and the wind don’t have the same enticing lure . . . even for fishing.