Washington, D.C., August 11, 2012
I was in an experimental mood. I wanted to test a couple of things--one involved casting and the other involved some brutal walking conditions and there was only one place I knew of that would work. The rock garden at Chain Bridge on the Potomac River.
I wanted to test cast a Beulah 10’6” 6/7 switch rod and wanted some moving water to load the rod. And I was also interested in checking if any snakeheads were active in the eddies around that area but the real reason for being there was to try out a set of wading boots I outfitted with some aluminum bar cleats--like the new Patagonia Rock Grip wading boots. Unlike other wading boots that utilize spikes or studs, these boots have aluminum bars fastened across the soles and according to some reviews on blogs and websites these are supposed to really stick to rocks and offer better traction when wading.
I had a pair of Cloudveil boots with aquastealth soles which were perfect for my DIY cleat experiment. I picked up 4 feet of 1/8 x 3/4 inch bar stock aluminum and several packets of #10 x 5/8 inch flat head Phillips wood screws. I measured and cut the bars with a chop saw then drilled and counter-sunk the holes so the screw heads would be flush with the bars. I used liberal amounts of Marine Goop on the bars and screwed them into the soles of the boots. After letting it dry for a day I took a quick walk around the forest behind my home and they held up well. I used a screwdriver and gave them the pry-up test and the bars seemed to be well secured. The real test would be rock jumping at the observation platform at Chain Bridge.
I arrived at the parking lot around 5:30am. An older couple was there unloading their fishing gear but they were going after whatever was swimming in the C&O canal. I geared up--taped up the joints on the switch rod and put the DIY boots on for my walk to the Potomac River.
It was a nice morning and I expected to find other anglers already on the water but when I arrived at the observation area there was no one fishing. I decided to head for the area near Center Rock and took the high path rather than cut down low along the shore. The boots worked. The aluminum gripped the rocks and there was no slippage. It was way better than using spikes or rubber or felt with studs. The aluminum bars bit in and I had no trouble walking on some pretty slick boulders. When I got down to the water the tide was out so I tried walking on some exposed slime-covered rocks and the results were the same--traction was excellent.
I fished my way down towards Chain Bridge. The rod worked well with the Rio Windcutter line but the fish weren’t cooperating today. I swung several sizes of Clouser minnows and Bunny flies but had no takers. I even downsized to very tiny size 12 baitfish flies and even tried a few shad flies but had no takes. I tried lengthening out the leader to 45 feet, added split shot and went down to 5X fluorocarbon but it didn’t make any difference. No fish were interested in biting today.
I finished the day below Chain Bridge. It was a beautiful day, was still fishless, but the rod and boots were performing great. Folks who rented kayaks were beginning to appear and all of them were considerate and stayed clear of me while I was fishing. I was just about to reel up and move when one of the kayakers rolled over and was dumped into the Potomac.
This person was not one of those hard core whitewater kayakers (one guy appeared at Center Rock a few hours earlier) and after watching his reaction for a few seconds I knew he did not know how to flip his boat back over and get in. Falling in anywhere in this area can be extremely dangerous so I watched him closely. His partner circled nearby but he was draped over his boat, trying to hold onto his paddle with one hand while attempting to kick his way upstream against the current to reach shore. I yelled at him to swim with the current downstream and angle towards shore. He listened and soon was up against the bank below Chain Bridge. It was a sit-inside kayak, a cheap rental, and he was trying to drag the flooded boat up onto the rocks. They had no pump to bail the water out so I told him to look for a drain plug or just try to flip the boat several times to get most of the water out.
It was time for me to move on, but as I looked downstream I saw a huge flotilla of kayaks approaching. I decided it was time to leave.