1000 Words + 1 Picture

Startled awake by who knows what, Quill Gordon came-to face-down at his fly-tying bench. Slowly, he realized the wail he heard was not banshees at the door, just cold wind in the chimney. In the thin, feeble light of dawn, on the first day of the new year, he saw in his hand a Mason jar, the one in which he stored head cement thinner, now empty. Belching, he came to grips with the fact that, apparently, he had consumed the entire contents, no doubt in some sort of shack nasty-induced rage.

Shaking off a shaggy coating of cobwebs and dust, he sat up. Clipped deer hair covered the floor like whiskers in a sink. Afraid it might not actually be deer hair, and fearing the influence of such volatile fluids as blackberry flavored head cement thinner, he felt with his hands for his beard. It was festooned with hackle feathers but, much to his relief, largely intact, though noticeably grayer and longer than he remembered, as if an entire decade had passed.

Disoriented as to both place and time, he shook off more dust, looked again at the empty jar and said to himself, “I don’t know what they put in this stuff but that was one hell of a dream.”

He’d dreamed a world where he was surrounded by nothing other than nature and scenery and fly fishers, all day every day. He did not dream of being named Worldwide Guide of the Year, ten years running. He did not dream of flying in helicopters to bake mini soufflés for taimen anglers in Mongolia or even vacuuming shuttle vans in Montana.

No, the world Quill dreamed was full of fly fishing traditions and fellowship in the embrace of Nature. In fact, it practically overflowed with Nature, and everywhere he looked there was scenery. As for fly fishers, he was up to his elbows in anglers and some of them had been coming around for 80 years. In pursuit of the mythical ideal of fly fishing’s Golden Age, those anglers had become an eclectic lot. Why, some were perfectly content to bake their own mini soufflés — as long as the camps had enough ramekins and appropriate stemware.

Their lake became a familiar friend, and its trout worthy adversaries, as time flowed by. Eruptions of midges after ice-out, mayflies flitting in June’s solstice dusk, and late summer ant falls marked the days as season after season slipped past. Late one Sunday afternoon (so no one would be around to see he was fishing), Quill Gordon cast a #14 red Humpy near the base of an ancient bank-side hemlock for what must have been the 1,000th time and, for the 999th, it was taken by a trout.

Quoting Theodore Castwell, he said, “Hell.”

A leech pattern over a big rock pile brought much the same response, as did a tiny little Pheasant Tail nymph into the skeleton of a downed birch. Fishing the same tussock over and over again was in danger of losing its luster.

But no one ever questioned Theodore Castwell’s worthiness to wield a fly rod and Quill’s dream took a turn toward the surreal when someone wondered aloud if he deserved to be fishing. He dreamed he was so upset that he called his mother and she was devastated by what he told her. She thought he’d been playing piano in a Montreal whorehouse and the fact he was involved with fly fishers nearly broke her little heart.

Quill dreamed he took solace in activities like cleaning bacon grease from septic filters and seeing to fishing camp things like lemon zesters and melon ballers — he even learned to tell the difference between a glass for red wine and one for white — but, somewhere along the line, someone called “bullshit”, someone else called it right back, and then things got really weird. The dream acquired a soundtrack and Clint Eastwood started singing. That was followed by fat Elvis and eastern Europeans with outrageous pompadours doing Led Zeppelin.  Then, with Harpo swinging from a light fixture, Groucho Marx sang on a circus train, so Quill cut the grassSalvador Dali and a giant singing clown appeared and, after that, all he remembered was some guy named Natty Bumppo and swarms of baby spiders before waking up.

It was one hell of a dream.

Or was it?

For the last 10+ years we’ve been playing around on these pages, relating the fictional exploits of Quill Gordon, the fictional Caretaker of The Neverwas Nonesuch Angling Society, a fictional fly fishing club. A small, non-fictional lake has stood as visual proxy — an avatar of sorts — for the place known as Fish in a Barrel Pond and a small pencil sketch of a perplexed moustache has served as the avatar for Quill Gordon. That small lake shall remain unnamed, out of respect for the privacy of others, but most anyone with a search engine and a couple of minutes to spare can figure out of whose imagination Quill Gordon is a figment.

As the possessor of that imagination and as the newly former Caretaker of an old New England fly fishing club, I find myself living nearer the summit of Nonesuch Mountain, in the woods, at the end of the road, considering what comes next. With eleven seasons of All Anglers All the Time under my belt, I’m sure just the debriefing alone would hold some value to certain sectors of the fly fishing industry. Or, maybe, a memoir of sorts, like one of those early 20th Century explorers, returned from life among the cannibals?

I do know this: Just as surely as Rip Van Winkle bowled nine-pins with the crew of the Discovery and Sparse Grey Hackle was once yelled at and beat up by a trout, Fish in a Barrel Pond and the members of the Neverwas Nonesuch Angling Society are always just a jar of head cement thinner away.

Not exactly Brigadoon, but closer to it than we thought.

Tight lines, wubbas

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Harder Than Counting the Stars

 

 

“The only thing harder to count than the stars is baby spiders.” — Natty Bumppo in “The Pathfinder” by James Fenimore Cooper, 1840

 

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

Even More Macro Mayflies and Musical Mayhem (But Is It Art?)

Some say a well-cast fly line is art. The graceful flex of a rod and a tight loop unfurling is exquisite unless, of course, someone is using their “art” to poach your hole while you’re still fishing it; then those 80-ft casts are something else entirely.

Some say a well-tied fly is art. There is certainly skill involved, getting everything just-so but, from personal experience, I say the fish don’t give a fig about thread wraps or the number of tails an imitation has. There is also the question of “imitation of what?” but even so, you have to hand it to folks who can wrap some feathers, tinsel, and what-not onto a hook and create a marvelous thing of beauty.

I, myself, tend to rely on rough deer hair, bunched-up dubbing, and tufts of Antron® to achieve my results, choosing representation and function over beauty. Some people go the other way, creating as close to an exact copy of a food item as they can produce. Still, even the fussiest among them probably leave out little details in their replicas.

Details like the moustaches of mayflies.

Mayfly with a Moustache

They are actually antennae but their position, in front of those compound eyes and above that (non-functioning) mouth, makes them look like a moustache to me.

Another Mayfly with a Moustache

As adults, mayflies don’t generally live more than a day. There are some exceptions (not by much) but, by golly, you’ve got to admit that they spend the time they have looking good. There might just be some art in that.

Not Around for Long, but Looking Good While I’m Here

There might even be some art in these photos but who am I to say? They do, however bring art to mind, especially when I realize what those mayfly moustaches resemble.

Salvador Dali

Say what you will about his paintings, that moustache is art.

A surrealist in life, in death Salvador Dali has become the subject of a nearly surreal court battle in Spain, with Madrid’s Supreme Court recently ordering his remains to be exhumed in order to settle the paternity claims of a woman born 61 years ago.

Unlike Salvador Dali’s tightly waxed lip hair or the antennae of mayflies, my own archaically spelled moustache is bushy and a bit droopy but, in my own special way, I consider it art.

Not everyone agrees what is and what isn’t art. Some people think The Who were artists. Others believe Johnny Cash to be an artist unsurpassed. Heck, some people even find clowns and clowning to be high art, although I think we can all agree that paintings of clowns are, to say the least, a little creepy.

If only there were a way to combine The Who, Johnny Cash, and a clown. Now, that would be art, even if it didn’t include moustaches. Fortunately, just such a thing has occurred, thanks to Big Mike Geier and Puddles Pity Party:

Again, you’re welcome.

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Neatly Trimmed and Ready for Inspection

Don’t worry — it’s been a very long time since Quill Gordon was neatly trimmed so this post is not about that. This post is about cutting the vegetation on an old earthen dam, something that must be done at least twice a year to inspect the embankment for animal burrows or changes that might go un-noticed if hidden beneath vigorously growing grass and pretty flowers.

There is always an outcry from certain quarters when the wildflowers get cut but the rule is that the person operating the machine gets to decide what stays and what goes. I’ve even offered to help get them geared-up but, so far, not a single 80 year old woman in a floppy hat has taken me up on it.

Before

For some, work is a spectator sport and some folks can watch it all day. I appreciate that not everyone has that much leisure time to spend watching someone else work so, with the aid of my trusty tripod, several hours of work has been compressed to less than two minutes for your enjoyment.

There are a some breaks in the action, though, for things other than refueling or getting a drink of water. The first one, early on, comes as a very nice man shares an important tip about using charcoal grills, having to do with the way Pyrex glass baking dishes can explode over such intense heat.

The second passes quickly and is not easy to catch from a distance so I’ll zoom in on a couple of frames and explain.

A Man with a Bag of Wet Clothes

As grandchildren will sometimes do, this man’s had “accidentally” gone swimming, fully clothed, and now he needed a dryer. Not the clothesline on the porch of his camp, a dryer.

Of course, I was happy to oblige.

Same Bag of Wet Clothes, Different Man

In other words, just another typical day at Fish in a Barrel Pond.

Now, take a little break from your work and watch someone else do theirs:

Yep, that darn Quill Gordon, fishing all the time.

After

 

 

Categories: Humor, Rural Life, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

More Macro Mayflies and Musical Mayhem

As if making the transition from aquatic nymph to airborne adult (imago) wasn’t enough, mayflies do so without passing through a pupal stage. Instead, they emerge from their nymphal shuck with fully formed wings as a subimago, somewhat drab and not yet sexually mature. After a short rest with nothing to eat, they shed their skin one more time, spread their clear wings and join others of their kind for the first and only sexual experience of their lives.

Long Arms for Grabbin’ the Ladies

Random handing-off of sperm packets is probably more like it and there’s no regretting one’s choice, for they all soon will be dead. Such is the life of a mayfly. Continue reading

Categories: Fly Fishing, Humor, nature | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Macro Mayflies and Musical Mayhem for Your Monday

People come to these pages for many reasons. Some actually subscribe and come on purpose but others simply stumble in as the result of tragic search engine accidents. Either way, many go away confused, some even leaving before they get to the good stuff.

Short-form posts are not our forte here at Fish in a Barrel Pond. A thousand words is never out of the question, meaning someone could spend four or five whole minutes reading these ramblings. We do our best to reward intrepid readers and most posts end with a treat, whether it finally be the punchline or an interesting photo or video.

No guarantees as to word count, since we’re just getting going, but the plan for this post includes multiple treats. We’ll let you decide for yourselves which are the treats and we’ll also drop the pretense of referring to myself in the third person.

An Unblinking Stare

The so-called “major” hatches of mayflies have begun for the season. Some are sporadic but others come off like clockwork, albeit a different clock than we puny humans watch. Intricate, delicate and very nearly absurd, they exchange the drab coloration and digestive tracts of their nymphal stages for the reproductive organs and gaudy apparel of adults. I find them in boats, on porch screens, clapboard walls, and in spider webs. When someone asks “What’s hatchin’?” I know, and not because I’m fishing all the time. Continue reading

Categories: Fly Fishing, Humor, nature | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

A Correction and an Earworm

I stand corrected. It is not, as I wrote in my previous post, the town of Glocca Morra that mysteriously appears every 100 years. As anyone who has not had three glasses of whisky knows, it is Brigadoon.

This error was delicately pointed out on my Facebook page by a dedicated reader and friend who not only called me “dude” but also suggested a Lerner and Loewe marathon as penance.

The post in question has been corrected, of course, but this penance thing might be going too far. Isn’t it enough to have had “How Are Things In Glocca Morra?” stuck in my head for three days? Must I also suffer the repetition of tunes from musicals like “My Fair Lady” and “Paint Your Wagon”?

Never mind the fact that I already do.

Making mistakes is a part of life. Owning up to, and correcting them, is the right thing to do but this situation also presented me with the opportunity for some seriously manly introspection. In this case, such manly introspection was facilitated by a walk in the woods and, as fate would have it, another Lerner and Loewe song got stuck in my head.

Mark Twain, in “Punch, Brothers, Punch”, suggested that the best way to get rid of an earworm was to transfer it to someone else. With that in mind, I am happy to share that song with you, featuring Clint Eastwood, walking in the woods and doing some seriously manly introspection of his own (after the ad, of course).

You’re welcome.

 

 

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Objects May Be Smaller Than They Appear

There are those who believe places like this simply emerge from the mist at the beginning of each season, like some rustic Brigadoon.

Fish in a Barrel Pond

Those people have never chased a possum from beneath a bunk with a broom. As long as the lights are on, the toilets flush, there’s a fire in the stove and — most importantly — the ice is off the lake, they are free to believe in magic but, just between you and me, there’s a bit more to it than that.

Getting six old camps up and running by the last Saturday in April is one thing; keeping them running is another. Throw in a bunch of anglers at the height of black fly season and May becomes a bit of a blur, even if one’s left eye isn’t swollen shut by a fly bite in the lashes. They can be enough to make a guy want to thrash his arms over his head and go running into the woods screaming but, deep in my heart, I love them and I try to remain stoic. For the flies, I just try to remember the bug spray.

Emerging

Continue reading

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Say It With Me

Go ahead.

Say it.

You know you want to.

Tufted Titmouse

Titmouse.

Some people can’t help but titter when they hear it or say it themselves, expressing child-like delight at making something so cute and delicate sound so nasty. A single Titmouse shows up at the feeders once or twice a season, events so few and far between as to be worth noting on the calendar. The other day they appeared in droves.

Well, maybe not droves. Probably not even a full drove, if you get right down to it, but the definition of drove is decidedly ambiguous so who’s to know? The point is, there was a dozen of them, which may not seem like many, but they were menacing.

It had only been an hour since I published my post about beard balm, where I wrote that the birds would have to wait if they wanted my winter whiskers for nesting material. The Titmouses came closer and closer and I began to think that maybe they didn’t want to wait, but how could they have known?

After a few photos (for identification purposes later, if needed) I struck what seemed, to me, a reasonable bargain with the Titmouses: In exchange for two cups of sunflower seeds a day in the meantime, I am allowed to keep my beard until the ice is off the lake. Continue reading

Categories: Humor, nature, Rural Life, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

For People with Beards, and Those Who Love Them

For the first time in I don’t know how many years, I’m still wearing my winter beard half-way into April. It is usually so beat up, brittle and tired by the time spring arrives that I just hack it off and hang it in a tree so birds can use it in their nests, but not this year.

My feathered friends will have to wait a while (maybe longer) until I am done with my beard. Yes, it’s kind of grown on me and no, I didn’t lose my clam shell, but my beard is near the top of  the list of things that get me through winter and now I’ve found a way to get my beard through winter, too, thanks to Feared Beard VT.

Frosted Woods Beard Balm

Before anyone goes off the rails and starts in about doing a product review or questions my qualifications to write about grooming, I’ve done reviews here before (a list of them, and a disclaimer for this one can be found below) and this is me after all, so the term “grooming,” is used rather loosely. In addition, there is nothing ironic about my boots, my flannel, or my beard so don’t be thinking I’ve gone all hipster or something.

Frosted Beard

A trip around the lake on snowshoes (or six trips up and down the driveway behind the snowblower) can leave my beard full of ice, frost and frozen who-knows-what. I have yet to find any source recommending that sort of thing for any kind of hair. No silly scarves for me to keep my face warm, no sir, but all that freezing does take a toll.

Then, after the worst of winter is done and it looks like spring might be right around the corner, it’s time to make syrup so I spend hours and hours tending the arch, opening hot cast-iron doors and putting my face close to a roaring, searing fire — something else you won’t find on a hair care “do” list. You won’t find it specifically on a hair care “don’t” list, either, but not just because sugar house stokers are an under-served demographic.

Face to the Fire

The smell of burnt hair is thankfully rare but going to the edge of combustion on a regular basis is as bad for it as being frozen. All that extreme heat and serious cold, along with the naturally unruly behavior of long whiskers, adds up to a beard in need of serious help and I think you can understand why I am sometimes anxious to whip out the old clam shell as soon as spring arrives.

I’ve used different shampoos and conditioners, with varying results. I’ve tried oils for beards and oils intended for salads and didn’t like them one bit. Fly-aways, split ends and breaks were just a price to pay for having a hairy face when the nights turn hoary — until I saw a display at the Vermont Country Store last December, featuring beard balm from Feared Beard VT. Continue reading

Categories: Product and Gear Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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