June 20, 2015
An informal biking group that meets at Fletcher’s each month asked me to give a little talk yesterday about the history of the Boathouse. I was happy to oblige, though sad that Joe or Ray Fletcher weren’t around to present a more authoritative account. The last two Fletchers to operate the boathouse are happily tending to grandchildren in their well-earned retirement. I love to talk about Fletcher’s past. After 46 years of feet-on-the-ground in that one magical spot there’s a “river” of stuff flowing through my memory. Stories told to me by old-timers long gone I now dutifully pass on to those younger than my children. A few of the youngsters truly absorb, others merely listen.
Some of the folks in the bike group were also members of the Sycamore Island Club, itself an old boating and social organization upstream from Fletcher’s. Those people in particular, understood when I said that it was still a badge of honor among present day Fletcher’s Cove employees to be called “a river-rat.” In a true river-rat, the river is never apart but rather flows within your heart. You love it, fear it, respect and sometimes even hate it. It gives you nourishment, while taking your sweat and shaping your dreams. To a river-rat, everything about the river is woven into your very spirit. You give yourself up to it as in a marriage. The new generation of river-rats are those who absorb the experience and the stories just as the
old-timers did in their day.
The bikers rode off. I went back to my river-rat work (much of it mundane) never knowing when another little piece of history worthy of storytelling would be added to the rich tapestry of this historic place.
As for fishing, the heady and hectic days of the spring shad, perch and striped bass runs seem distant memories now. May’s record breaking heat ushered in the early arrival of summertime angling along the Potomac. The fish to seek out now are the resident species: smallmouth bass, walleye, blue catfish, carp and (that fish people love to hate) the snakehead. Even with the recent heavy showers in the watershed, angling success has been possible by those willing to slow down and adapt to the prevailing conditions. The water is warm and the fish like a little siesta now and then.
With school systems around the region wrapping up the year, why not bring the kids down for a breath of fresh air and a little fishing along the C & O Canal. Thankfully, it was left full this past winter by the National Park Service and that really helps the aquatic population of the canal. Turtle spotting is another fun kid-centered activity available to young and old alike.
Speaking of the canal, I would like to send out a word of thanks to the C & O Canal Trust for organizing several volunteer trash and debris removal events along the river and canal this spring. It would be great if these efforts were not necessary but the reality is that in spite of educational efforts and available personal trash bag dispensers, trash happens. It never stops making me sad and a bit cynical about human nature that people can come into such a beautiful environment and then walk away from their litter. (Wow, even cats cover up their poop!)
Please think, and be considerate… and a hearty thank-you to the various business and school groups that have taken part in the clean-ups. They are “cynicism neutralizers”!
Thanks for reading!