Recently Seen (Photo Gallery)

It is a photo-rich environment around here, which explains why there is nearly always a camera in the truck or slung over my shoulder. No need for sneaking around or hiding and waiting to see interesting things; I can stop along the road through the swamp or look just offshore, on the ice, and see something worth photographing.

Winter is over and spring is gaining ground.

(Click a photo to enlarge and/or open a slide show.)

Categories: nature, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Flashback Friday: Fly Fishing Time

south bend

 

Weeks away? More like days. Opening Day at Fish in a Barrel Pond is next weekend, provided the ice goes off the pond and I can get the camps up and running again (See Quill Gordon and The Nonesuch Mountain Howler). Every day I find a string of messages from angst-filled anglers asking about the ice and if they will be able to fish in a week but I have yet to hear someone (other than my supervisor) ask if the faucets flow and toilets flush or if the woodland creatures have been evicted from beneath the beds. My head is sore from knocking on wood but every year the ice goes out and the camps open on time.

The ad above appeared in the April 1948 issue of Outdoorsman magazine. From the first trout to the last fightin’ bass, South Bend was there to make your sport complete. With split bamboo rods starting at $16 and nifty automatic reels for $10, an angler could still splurge on a nice double taper line and be fishing for $35! It is a virtual certainty that at some point in the season someone is going to show me a new rod that cost what I make in a month and tell me “you get what you pay for.” It’s also a good bet that same guy will be the one who asks who to speak to about the fishing around here.

Today’s dollar is a different animal than the dollar of 1948, and today’s anglers are different, too. Or are they?

masland

The weather on Opening Day can be as unpredictable as the fishing but C.H. Masland & Sons had every angle and angler covered in 1948. Their handy “opening day check list” consisted entirely of clothing items from their catalog, for all kinds of weather, including a nylon rain cape, knee-length for the same price as a South Bend reel.

One of the best things about C.H. Masland ads from the late 1940s was the cartoon at the top of each one. Illustrator Tom Rost (1909-2004) began his series of “Opening Day” hunting and fishing cartoons while at the Milwaukee Journal in the late 1930s, after a stint as an artist with the Civilian Conservation Corps (two of his watercolors were purchased by Eleanor Roosevelt as a Christmas gift to FDR in 1937). He enjoyed a long association with Field & Stream and other wildlife magazines and had a very successful career as an illustrator and artist.

I just can’t imagine where he ever came up with the things he included in those Opening Day cartoons.

Opening Day 1948

Opening Day 1948

Opening Day 1947

All of us at The View from Fish in a Barrel Pond wish everyone out there the most successful of Opening Days, no matter the weather or the cost of their rod. Of course, the definition of “successful” will vary from angler to angler; Quill Gordon will be happy if the toilets flush.

 

 

Categories: Flashback Fridays, Fly Fishing, Humor | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

A Visit to Sugar Bob’s

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I see Sugar Bob at the hardware store now and then and I see him and Ann at Boxing Day parties but usually that’s about it. This time of year, though, I see him almost every day (or at least hear him) as he drags his trailer with a tank on it through the mud on our road, collecting sap from scattered stands of maples he’s tapped. Sugar Bob and his crew are acutely aware of the relationship between sugaring and Mud Season. “If the roads are good, you are not making sugar,” he says.

Not everyone has a sugarbush on a hillside, with sap collecting right there at the sugar house like Skye and Tina on Bobo’s Mountain. Enterprising, hard-working sugar makers like Sugar Bob tap trees where they can, spending a good part of the day driving to collection points and hauling the sap back home. The rest of the day and most of the night are spent boiling it down before the next batch comes rolling in.

Sugar Bob makes his syrup somewhere in this vicinity, but in the other direction:

Somewhere in the vicinity of Sugar Bob's

Somewhere in the vicinity of Sugar Bob’s

With daytime temperatures nudging above freezing and nights dropping below, the roads were falling apart and the sap was running, so — after finagling an invite when he stopped by Bobo’s one afternoon — it seemed as good a time as any to motor through six miles of mud a couple of weeks ago and pay a visit to Sugar Bob.

Sugar Bob's

Sugar Bob’s

Ask any reasonable person if there is a reason for the white bucket on the roof and they will tell you there is. Sugar Bob is no exception. Ask him to tell you about his sugar house and one of the first things he will point out is that it is not so much a sugar house as it is a sugar cabana.

The Sugar Cabana

The Sugar Cabana

Tea, made with boiling sap, flowed in both “fortified” or “non-fortified” versions and, after a song, small cups of “fortified” syrup were hoisted to celebrate the day’s boil. A handy barber’s chair offered a comfortable seat for those who might find themselves overly fortified.

Inside the cabana

Inside the Cabana

Sap Tank

Sap Tank

Unfortunately, because my visit was during the day, I missed the excitement of the night life at Sugar Bob’s but it’s probably just as well that the disco ball comes down in the morning or I might have hit my head.

Sugar Bob's Disco Ball

Sugar Bob’s Disco Ball

Sugar Bob can make syrup with the best of them, without vacuum collection, reverse osmosis or a big Steam-Away unit, and he sells a lot of what he makes at the local farmer’s market. What really separates Sugar Bob from the rest of the pack, though, (aside from his big, glittery ball) is the way he puts Yankee ingenuity to work, embracing “Venturi injection principles” to create something really special.

Sugar Bob infuses syrup with smoke.

IMG_1569I’m not a foodie but I sure like to eat, and it is no secret that I love maple syrup. I’m also a big fan of smoke flavors but Sugar Bob is not kidding when he tells you that Sugar Bob’s Finest Kind Smoked Maple Syrup is probably not for your pancakes. It is, however, pretty amazing as an ingredient, especially combined with savory flavors. The blend of sweet and smoky adds a whole new dimension to sauces, glazes, marinades, and even whisky.

Someone with a more advanced food vocabulary or repertoire of recipes could describe Sugar Bob’s Finest Kind better than I and really do it justice as the versatile ingredient it is. I have no doubt there is some fancy-pants chef out there using it to create some fancy-pants “experience” involving tiny portions to make foodies swoon, but that’s not the type of cooking that takes place in my kitchen so we’ll leave that stuff to the experts and stay close to home.

Snuck into a batch of beans, Sugar Bob’s Finest Kind adds sweet smokiness that comes through in waves without swamping other flavors. Drizzled over chicken in the oven, it brings the taste of a summer cook-out indoors but without the mess and, as the highest compliment I can pay, Sugar Bob’s Finest Kind Smoked Maple Syrup is the secret ingredient in Quill Gordon’s Super Top Secret Recipe Hot Wings and we can’t wait to try it in barbecue sauce once grilling season gets here.

Learn more about Sugar Bob’s Finest Kind by visiting their web site or check it out on facebook. Order yourself a bottle or two online. It’s a heck of a lot easier than driving through six miles of mud.

IMG_1541

Thank you, Rob, Ann, Carl, Harry and everyone else who was at the cabana the day I visited. I had a great time!

 

 

 

Categories: Maple Syrup, Product and Gear Reviews, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Maple Syrup Time

The sap run seems to have hit its peak with this week’s mild weather, and sugar houses across Vermont have been very busy places. Boiling it down as quickly as possible, just to keep up with the flow, sugar makers put in long hours during the short, unpredictable sugaring season. The sap was still coming off the hill when yesterday’s boil ended on Bobo’s Mountain but there was room in the tanks for more, to be boiled down today.

To celebrate, I took a picture of the next to the last draw of warm hot syrup we made.

2:30 a.m.

2:30 a.m.

That would be 2:30 a.m., close to seventeen hours after we started.

It was the 10th day in a row of boiling sap on Bobo’s Mountain. The run could end tomorrow or it could end next week and, when it finally does come to an end, all my sticky, sugar-coated friends will be able get some sleep.

Sweet Dreams.

Categories: Maple Syrup, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Flashback Friday Shaving Edition: Chuck Heard a Scream

The chill I feel lately is due to more than just ditching the long-johns earlier than might have been prudent. Every fall a beard grows on my face and every spring I hack it off. It’s a bit of a shock to the system, not to mention friends and the cats, but it is spring and an old man’s thoughts turn to shaving.

A barbaric ritual that has been taken to extremes, the shaving of our various body parts supports a multi-billion dollar industry that pats itself on the back for selling us razors with as many as six(!) blades because, well, we’ll buy anything. Or steal it; most modern multi-blade razor cartridges are so expensive that they are kept under lock and key, or behind the counter with the ingredients for crystal meth.

Shaving didn’t used to require a “system,” as pointed out by Remington in this ad, aimed at outdoorsmen, from 1964.

remington 64

Civilized? Maybe, at least until the “rechargeable energy cells” start to run down, turning those 4 roller combs and 348 cutting edges into a low-power clam shell, yanking dozens of whiskers at once and leaving a fellow to return from the woods half-shaved and looking like his shaving kit included a weasel. Continue reading

Categories: Flashback Fridays, Humor | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Little Mister Sunshine

(The following was begun not quite a fortnight ago, while we were still waiting for winter to quit throwing stuff, finish packing, and just get the heck out. Other than the potential for a spiteful squall or two, we believe winter is gone. We hope so because a certain somebody shaved.)

One year, on the second day of February, while the rest of the world whooped it up with Punxsutawney Phil, a small group of Vermonters gathered in Waterbury to establish some traditions of their own. Because so much is wrong with the spectacle of dragging a large rodent (everyone knows it’s a “woodchuck,” not a “groundhog”) from its den on a cold February morning, and because this is Vermont, Woodchuck Day participants vote, electing an Honorary Woodchuck to perform the prognosticating.

Also because this is Vermont, the standards are a little higher when it comes to the meaning of shadows. Six more weeks of winter might seem dire enough to the good folks of Gobbler’s Knob when Phil is hoisted before the cameras but if our Honorary Woodchuck’s shadow appears it means we get another twelve.

Having not read the news reports, I am assuming a shadow was cast this year.

Tradition holds that when someone says “Happy Woodchuck Day!” in February the proper response is to shout “Bug off!” so readers may infer whatever they wish regarding the temperament of Vermonters with three feet of snow in the woods toward the end of March.

**********

It takes more than mild sunshine one day out of four to make it feel like spring, especially when it snows the other three and the temperature is below freezing on all of them. More than one person I know has sworn to let the next snow sit, they’re so tired of moving the stuff around, and no one I know is digging into random piles just for grins, but sometimes we must take matters into our own hands when spring isn’t making much headway and even seems to be losing ground.

Cropped to resemble a random pile of snow, this picture is of a roof:

A Load of Snow

A Load of Snow

Continue reading

Categories: Humor, Maple Syrup, Rural Life, Vermont, Winter | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Fishing Fools

It certainly has been an unusual year, and it all started when my friend Eugene (see Careful with that Axe, Eugene) told me of a fish he had seen. Even allowing for his usual inflation percentages I had a hard time believing him when he described its immense size. Certain that between the two of us we could catch any fish that ever swam, I went along with his plan to hook this behemoth, hoping at least to prove the outrageous nature of his exaggeration.

Only one bait would do for a fish such as the one Eugene described and I knew it was best to gather such bait early, before the warmth of the sun made them active and more difficult to subdue. Starting at noon was certainly not to our advantage but it was good sport nonetheless and it wasn’t long before we had a good supply.

Gathering Bait

Gathering Bait

Continue reading

Categories: Fly Fishing, Humor, Stories About My Good Friend, Eugene | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Flashback Friday: The R Word

(It is the end of March and Opening Day is less than a month away and the days of the week have lost their meaning around here. With the countdown on, Flashbacks can occur at any time.) 

One of the great things about America is that one has the right to go on being offensive, even as the offended holler, “Stop!”

Some of us get offended that others are offended by our offensiveness and take a stand against Political Correctness by continuing to offend, maybe even ratcheting it up a notch or two. Some of us just say whatever we want because it is our right to do so.

Some of us will say that, whatever it was, it was meant in a good way and no disrespect was intended. Unfortunately, attempts to atone for these inadvertent offenses often come up so short they only make matters worse and give critics another bone to gnaw on.

Some of us will stay on the sidelines, so to speak, and not speak at all, listening in wonder as others say the things they are free to say. Daniel Snyder can call his privately-owned football team whatever he wants as far as Quill Gordon is concerned. It’s a free country and it is his team, but he’s not been doing himself many favors lately by clinging to a seven letter word beginning with “R”.

Very few people will agree that the treatment of Native Americans has been exemplary. Even famous outdoors writers like H.G. “Tap” Tapply, who wrote regular columns for Field & Stream, used offensive distortion to help his readers realize how good they had it compared to dirty savages.

sportsmans notebook

At the end of one column in the late 1950s, dispensing advice for avoiding bug bites while outdoors, Mr. Tapply closed out with a bit of what he no doubt saw as appropriate humor.

 

Pork Rind?

There ain’t much right about that sentence, other than the last 11 words. Some day we’ll pull out another of Mr. Tapply’s gems like the one where he recommended carrying a gun on fishing trips because you can always just spend the day shooting crows, snakes, turtles and frogs if the fishing is slow. Continue reading

Categories: Flashback Fridays | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Flashback Friday: Size Matters

A better writer than I once wrote something about the measure of an angler being not how large a fish he or she can catch but how small a fish he or she can catch without being disappointed. I think it was John Gierach, whose forthcoming book is titled, “All Fishermen are Liars.”

Another writer, better than anyone ever, is credited with something to do with never lying about the fishing where others know you but especially never lying about the fishing where others know the fish. That was Mark Twain, who was pretty sure all men, fishermen or not, are liars.

fish ruler

Overstatement, exaggeration and embellishment are vital components of our fishing heritage and culture. With a wink and a nod, we chuckle at what a bunch of good-natured rascals we are, telling all those stories like we do, as did our grandfathers and others who have gone before. Telling lies is a time-honored tradition of our sport and some of us find it no great insult to be called a pack of liars. Continue reading

Categories: Flashback Fridays, Fly Fishing, Humor | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments

Cold Water, Colder Air

IMG_1276

Instead of glancing off at low angles, the sun shines more directly on surfaces these days and, in spite of the unseasonably cool temperatures we’ve had, eaves drip and the sound of running water is heard in the stream beds.

Dark surfaces become warmer than the air that surrounds them, and even a light coating of dust is enough to tip the balance and allow ice to become water, if only for a minute. Melt water on the road flows to the shade of the cedar tree by the drive and hardens to a smooth, slippery finish and opaque ice builds beneath the eaves like stalagmites in a cave.

Slowly but surely, this year’s snowfall makes its way to the ocean, advancing as far as it can during the day before the angle of the sun changes and the chill of night sets in. Each day brings another few minutes of sunlight that is increasing in intensity, and each day the snow, the ice, and even the woods themselves react.

Water flows year-round from springs in the valley, and streams run throughout the winter here. Some of that constant flow makes a short stop on its way to the Atlantic, coating everything it splashes as it drops from the outlet of Fish in a Barrel Pond. Cold water meets colder air and fantastic forms arise.

Continue reading

Categories: nature, Rural Life, Vermont, Winter | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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