Species: Warmouth (Lepomis gulosus) Location: Cosca Lake, Washington, D.C. Date: July 16, 2015
White Catfish checked off, I decided to fish the tiny feeder stream. It was small and crystal-clear which made sneaking up on the spooky sunfish within a challenge.
But I managed.
My go-to Bergie Worm Jr. (now discontinued) tipped with a tiny piece of worm was the ticket, and I landed a number of respectable Bluegill before something smaller darted out from the undercut bank and hit my bait.
I missed the first time, and spent the next few minutes trying to get the little guy to play. This was years before I’d taken up true microfishing, and I desperately wish I’d been up to speed on New Half Moon and other Tanago hooks back them.
Using my fingers, I pinched half of the jig’s rubber body off, leaving maybe a quarter-inch of rubber and the tiny piece of worm on the 1/64th-ounce jighead.
It worked, and I pulled up a tiny, flopping sunfish unlike any I’d ever caught.
Though there are dozens of species in the Centrarchidae family, I quickly narrowed it down to a few: Warmouth, Rock Bass, and Redear Sunfish. I’d never caught any of these three fish, but all three were supposed to exist in the area. The pale complexion made the ID tough at first, but eventually I figured it out.
I’d just caught my first Warmouth.
Strangely enough, it would be the only one I captured that day, despite hauling in more than two dozen sunfish. All the rest were Bluegill with one being an obvious hybrid, but one I couldn’t identify as it was different from the “Hybrid Sunfish” (Bluegill x Green Sunfish) I’d caught so often back home.
Still, it was another new species.
I figured the trend would continue, but apart from some Largemouth Bass, this lake had given up everything it had to offer, and I left.
Species: White Catfish (Ameiurus catus) Location: Cosca Lake, Washington, D.C. Date: July 16, 2015
For most people, a visit to D.C. means history and tours and American nationalism. It meant all of those things to me, too, but it also meant fishing.
After spending a good chunk of time researching where to fish within a reasonable distance of my Maryland hotel room, I settled on my first stop: Cosca Lake.
The urban lake is not easily accessible. It required a long walk from the parking area, and in late July heat, anything more than five feet might as well be the the Bataan Death March.
I arrived on the lawn surrounding the lake and began to setup shop. I only had one rod, so my first bet was a handline baited with a worm while I tied up my one and only rod for the occasion.
Before I even managed to get the tiny jig on my line, the stick I’d tied the handline to started bouncing, and I pulled in what appeared to be a bullhead.
Technically, it was. Just not a Brown or Yellow Bullhead like I’d seen in my native Oregon. This was a White Bullhead, more commonly called the White Catfish.
Heck yeah! I hadn’t even cast yet, and I had a new species on the board. Sticky, sweaty weather aside, I could tell this day was shaping up nicely.
That is, until some strange dude in absurdly baggy pants came up and kept talking to me while I tried to fish. It was obnoxious, and he was just wrong on every account. After I landed a few Brown Bullhead, I decided to pick up and move to the tiny feeder creek leading into the lake.
Species: Bluehead Chub (Nocomisleptocephalus) Location: Thornton River, Shenandoah National Park, VA Date: July 15, 2015
The National Park so beautiful it inspired a song was on my to-do list the moment I knew I’d be spending time in Washington D.C.
I spent my first-ever evening on the East Coast hanging out with my cousin, Adrian Mateos, after I arrived.
We did a quick tour, and he told me to do my sightseeing the next day while he was at work but to save some stops for us to visit together the next evening.
I visited all sorts of monuments and museums but saved “the big ones” for that evening.
If you missed the date, it was late July. Humidity was thicker than tourists, and I was soaking in a swamp every time I sat down. So I just kept moving. I walked and rode and covered two days worth of sights in about eight hours.
After two days and nights of “doing D.C.” like a tourist, I rented a car and decided to head east to Shenandoah National Park.
I stopped along the way for a softshell crab sandwich — damn, those are good — and continued on my way.
The roads became less and less significant, and before I knew it, I was wandering the wilds of rural Virginia.
Shenandoah National Park is huge. Covering more than 311 square miles and stretching north to south from the northern border of Virginia to the fat middle of the state, it’s not a quick tour like some other national parks.
I entered at the North Entrance near the town of Front Royal and was immediately awestruck by the beauty of it all.
Little did I know, I was about to be all up in my feels from the beauty of this place. The first thing I noticed was the lush greenery and the butterflies and hummingbird moths flitting around it, sipping nectar and adding to an already awesome sight.
Now, I’d told myself this trip was more about sightseeing than fishing, but I still wanted to fish. So my first stop was the ranger station.
The ranger told me about the decent fishing to be had there, including lots of native Brook Trout (my target species) and the occasional “massive Brown Trout that you wouldn’t believe.”
Further exploration revealed the latter to be fish as “massive” as 16 inches long. I suppressed a laugh.
The streams on the mountainside proved shallow and nearly impossible to fish. I noticed no poison oak, ivy, or sumac, but I failed to realize the thick vegetation brushing against my bare legs contained some lesser toxin that made me itch like crazy until I washed myself thoroughly in another stream.
The drive wound on, and I began to worry I might not be able to find fishable water. Then, I noticed the middle exit road just halfway through the park. The topography of the map seemed to indicate a drop in elevation, and I noted the single stream that looked large enough to fish: Thornton River.
I made my careful way, enjoying the scenery.
I even stopped when I found my favorite flower (yes, I have a favorite flower) the Tiger Lily. They were scattered around on the roadside, and I had to take a moment to appreciate them.
Eventually, I realized time was running short. I still had to make it back to D.C., through D.C. traffic during rush hour, and back to the hotel in Maryland to meet up with Adrian.
It was Thornton River or bust.
My first few casts with a tiny spinner proved useless, but once I stumbled upon a gorgeous pool with a massive rock hiding me from view, I began catching small fish I couldn’t identify. No Brookies, but I knew it was a new species.
I like chubs. They’re unique fish, and they fill in for overfished trout populations and keep you from getting skunked.