Okay, so you bought a starter fishing kit at one of the big-box stores, packed a cooler full of beverages, found out a tip for the best "little known" fishing spot in the area and …"crack!"
Your precariously placed rod falls to the ground, breaking one of the ceramic guides. Now what? Luckily for locals, Phil Evans has seen it all during his years running the Rod & Reel Repair Shop in Arlington. Focusing mainly on repair and restoration, patrons can have their equipment serviced at reasonable prices by Evans, who has been in the business since the early 1980s.
With many repeat customers coming to the shop, Evans says the lion’s share of patrons visit to have their equipment cleaned, but that’s not all.
"I do some restoration and have a little bit of tackle that reflects my own fishing," he said.
Sure, Rod & Reel Repair is an old-timey shop with a tin ceiling, one that can fix a variety of gear problems. But the real draw here is the owner and his experiences fishing in the area.
A LIFE-LONG resident of Northern Virginia, Evans’ first memory of fishing was during his formative years, when he and his friends would skip school and fish in Alexandria’s Roaches Run.
"I think as kids we skipped school and had to do something so we would ride our bikes to the river," he said.
Now 72 years old, Evans can still be found along the banks of Roaches Run fishing for crappie. Over the years, Evans has expanded his own fishing venues as he’s watched the sport grown in popularity and the area waterways transform into premiere sites.
"Lyndon Johnson, during his tenure, pushed in the Clean River Act," said Evans. "We can thank him for cleaning up the rivers and there’s been quite a resurgence. The Potomac has become a premiere spot for bass fishing tournaments."
EVANS SAYS HE ventures out to his favorite fishing spots about two times a week — whose locations are not something he’ll easily divulge.
"The neatest spot?" he said. "I’m not going to tell you — everyone keeps one or two things under their hat."
General tips from the veteran: Great Falls is a great place to fish. But while "climbing around the rocks is exciting, I don’t recommend it," he warned. There’s also night fishing along the Potomac to catch catfish and, for a weekend excursion, the point at Cape Hatteras, where "two great currents come together."
Among the different types of fish Evans noted are popular in the area, there are crappie, striped bass — which can get up to 40 lbs. — fletchers, and the big new fish in the area, the blue catfish. Evans says this type of catfish has the potential to grow to 100 lbs. Quite a surprise for an unsuspecting angler.
Interested in finding a new fish to eat? Evans can help with that, too. He likes to eat white perch, which come to the area each spring. There’s also blue gill, which Evans says is "considered by most people to be top of the line fresh fish." Scrape the scales off, remove the head and gut the fish. Add a touch of oil and throw it on the grill.
FOR THOSE wanting to get started with the sport, Evans can point you in the right direction. Depending on the type of fish, Evans says the first choice should be matching a reel to a rod.
"Rods are labeled," he said. "They’ll tell you what size to use and what line strength."
And while the area was once peppered with "mom and pop" fishing shops, the best places to buy fishing gear these days are the big-box shops like Dick’s Sporting Goods and Sports Authority.
"I have dads bring their kids in and say ‘how do I get started?’" said Evans. "They got the stuff and by golly there are guys behind the counter that can set them up. They even sell worms."
But the best way to get started, Evans believes, is to pair up with a veteran.
"I’d tell them to get a mentor," he said of novice fishermen. "You need to be nosey and see what the other guy is doing."
But when a fish that is caught is too big for a rod, or when mishandled equipment puts a fisherman out of commission, Evans will be waiting at Rod & Reel Repair — that is, of course, unless he’s gone fishing, a life-long past time he plans to continue.
"There is a mystique there," he said. "To throw something out there and fool a fish. Or have it at the end of your line, put it on the stringer and fry it — or show it off. It’s like hunting, it’s basic stuff."