An Unpredictable Hatch

There is comfort in knowing that, just before dusk of a mid-June evening, mayflies will emerge above the silt flats off Exile Island. For twenty minutes, it’s the closest to a sure thing we’ve got around here, at least when it comes to fishing. Hatches come off, not quite like clockwork, but with enough reliability that some anglers are confident enough to head over early to sit and wait for the show to start.

Once the heat of summer sets in and the “major” hatches end, it gets trickier, but one can still find certain places at certain times to pick up a few fish rising to one thing or another (as in “you’ve got one thing and they want another“).

The majority of flies flung upon and into Fish in a Barrel Pond represent life forms that originate or live in its water. The places they live are places where fish congregate. Find those places and another part of the puzzle falls into place.

My favorite hatch is not really a hatch at all. It involves insects that are desperately trying to avoid the water in the first place, and conditions must be perfect, so it happens only as the result of tragic accidents.

Winged Ant

Winged Ant

Carried on the breeze, or abandoned by it as the case may be, ants — flying for the first and only time in their lives — looking for a nice place to dig a hole and start a family, sometimes fly off-course, landing on the water instead. The only predictable things about ant falls are that they happen in late summer and that, when ants are on the water, trout eat them like candy (ants taste like lemon).

Flying Ant

The Hatch, Matched

The dispersal of new ant queens is one of those phenomena, often overlooked, that mark the passage of the seasons. An annual event with no set time, at least as far we humans can tell, it happens when it happens and the trout exploit the food source as long as it lasts, just as they do with every other hatch we fish. And, for a day or two, nobody makes fun of all the darn ants in my fly boxes.

Rainbow Trout

Rainbow Trout

There must be 37 ant flies in my boxes. I fished two over the course of four late-afternoons this year. Think of the space I could save if I’d just clip the tail off a Royal Coachman.





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An Angler’s Guide to Bar Glasses and Beer Goggles

For some, alcohol is an important part of the overall fishing camp experience, and I often find myself being reminded of the need for proper glassware to more fully realize the potential enjoyment of the finer things in life. More than once I’ve heard, “Why are there no glasses for red wine? These are all for white!”

Only once have I replied to an indignant angler, “Drink your Merlot from a mug like a man!”

I shouldn’t have. She was offended, and with good reason, of course. Any fool would have known she was drinking a bold Cabernet. Continue reading

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The Same Old Thing

There is a lightning-scarred hemlock on a “corner,” where a small cove projects from the main body of Fish in a Barrel Pond. I know that casting a red humpy into the shade of that tree will often bring a trout rocketing to the surface from six feet down, up the face of a submerged ledge. If a humpy doesn’t do it, a fluttering stimulator usually will.

Down the shore a bit, that same ledge is more exposed, and it’s always worth skating an elk hair caddis over the drop-off on a warm afternoon. Adding a pupa imitation, about 18″ down, can add to the excitement, creating the potential for double hook-ups.

In the gloaming of a late spring evening, yellow drakes can come off so thick that it’s tempting to catch one fish, to show I can, and spend the next fifteen minutes just watching the orgy. Anglers lucky enough to hit the Hexagenia hatch will talk about it for years and if they never hit it again they’ll say things aren’t like they were in the old days.

I am always ready for the ant falls of August, carrying imitations as early as Opening Day, and I like going out on gloomy days because drizzly afternoons bring hatches of blue-winged olives.

blue-winged olive

Stylishly Fringed Wings

It’s possible to scare up a trout or two more often than not and, after ten years of fishing this one small lake and nowhere else, things are sometimes so dialed-in that it almost appears I know what I’m doing. Dark visions fill my head of ending up some earth-bound Mr. Castwell, doomed for all eternity to catch those same fish at the same corner “for ever and ever.” Continue reading

Categories: Fly Fishing, Humor, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

That’s All?

As if surviving at the bottom of a lake or stream, passing through two dozen or more life stages (instars), shedding their skin each time wasn’t enough, mayfly nymphs eventually rise to the surface and shed their skin one last time, emerging as winged adults. Having dodged all manner of fishes on the way, they breathe air for the first time and then fly off into it, also for the first time. Bypassing the traditional insect pupal stage, one morning a nymph is eating algae off a sunken log and that evening it’s flying for its life, trying to get to a bush or a tree before the birds and the bats can get it.

I wonder if mayfly nymphs realize what’s coming and how their lives will change. Would they do anything different?

Mayflies rest and get their bearings after their initial, panicky flight. One might think they’d be hungry after all they’ve been through, but it just doesn’t matter; they have no working mouth parts and couldn’t eat if they wanted to.

Everything's Different Now

Everything’s Different Now

Even after a complete change of form and relocation to another world, mayflies are still not mature. They shed their skin one more time, trading their dull, lightly fringed wings for shiny ones that sparkle like crystal, sometimes changing the color of their bodies, even to the point of becoming nearly transparent. Plus, their sex organs function! All grown up and decked out in new duds, now it’s time to get it on. Continue reading

Categories: Humor, nature, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Girl with Kaleidoscope Eyes

Deer Fly

Deer Fly

Deer flies are persistent and their bites are painful. In some places they are important pests of both humans and livestock. Strong fliers, they can move several miles from their breeding grounds in search of a meal or just following their chosen target, waiting for a chance to strike. Males are typically mild-mannered, feeding on pollen and flower nectar; females, however, feed on blood, using two pairs of “blades” to lacerate skin, soaking up flowing blood with a sponge-like tongue.

Some species have iridescent eyes, which almost makes them pretty. After nailing me but good on the arm, this deer fly agreed to sit still and let me take a few close-ups of her eyes. Actually, gripped in the jaws of a pair of pliers, she agreed to nothing, having no choice in the matter.

Deer fly

Look into my eyes…

Continue reading

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

For Want of a Nail

Beyond dues, assessments and other monetary considerations, there is a price to pay for membership in an organization like the Neverwas Nonesuch Angling Society. They say a person can’t truly enjoy fly fishing until they have a family of their own to ignore, but ever since the first shower was installed, all those years ago, part of that price has included, at minimum, a weekend at Fish in a Barrel Pond with at least one’s spouse, maybe even the grand-kids.

Not steeped in the lore and traditions of grand old fishing clubs like this, those spouses and extended families are prone to confusion, fear and misunderstandings. It often falls to me to assuage their fears and explain how things are done around here, though I think some anglers harbor secret wishes that that everyone will be so miserable they never want to come back.

This spring I was approached, for the fifth time in as many years, by one of those disoriented spouses I find wandering around from time to time, who said, “Quill, there’s a spider in the shower.”

He was clearly distraught but there wasn’t much I could do since I’d been paid good money to put that spider in the shower in the first place. Continue reading

Categories: +The Neverwas Nonesuch Angling Society, Fly Fishing, Humor, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

They Have Very Short Bucket Lists

Having reached the ripe old age of 420 minutes, there’s not much left for these two to do. They don’t even have mouths. If you look closely, though, they do have little moustaches like Salvador Dali.

Click to Enlarge

I’m sure these two will be sharing their wealth of life experience and dispensing advice to this evening’s duns before heading off to procreate and die. Their get-ups are pretty elaborate for a one night stand that will last only a second but at least they’ll go out in style.


You can click this one, too.

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The Nearest Fly Shop

The nearest fly shop is not all that near to here and sells a lot of stuff besides flies, but it’s better than nothing, I guess. With a couple hours off and a specific pattern in mind, I motored over the mountain this morning, hoping for the best but willing to settle for a nice drive.

Hay fields and the Battenkill gave way to signs of civilization as the road passed through a golf course, and I once again wondered if golf wasn’t really invented by fly fishers, to keep a certain type of people off the water.

Just past the Range Rover dealership, I turned right, in front of the kind of hotel that has real bellboys stationed at the door, wearing plus fours and argyle stockings. Proceeding through one of those five-way intersections every New England town has at least one of, I was soon at the doors of the closest thing to a fly shop in this neck of the woods.

Above the Doors

Above the Doors

Continue reading

Categories: Fly Fishing, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Flashback Friday: Want to Touch It?

It used to be that, when someone caught a fish good enough to keep and showed it to you, common courtesy dictated that you at least touch it. Pumping gas at the marina offered plenty of opportunities to do just that, as shown in a Texaco ad from the May, 1959, issue of Outdoor Life magazine.


Tickling another man’s bass.

Common courtesy is fine out in public, where others are looking or tickling another man’s bass is just part of the job but, as illustrated by a dusty batch of recently found photos, among family, such courtesies only extend so far. Continue reading

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

“Some are born anglers; others have anglers thrust upon them.”

“Some are born anglers; others have anglers thrust upon them.” ~Quill Gordon

The summer season is upon us and millions of people are hatching plans for a little recreation, adventure, and a chance to be closer to nature. The View from Fish in a Barrel Pond is dedicated to those who work hard so they can play hard in the Great Outdoors but it is especially dedicated to those who take care of them when they get there.

Here’s to the guides and drivers and pilots and the people who keep the roofs on. Here’s to the guys and gals who keep the water flowing properly (both in and out). Here’s to those who handle the reservations and scheduling. Here’s to the folks who make the beds and wipe whiskers from the sinks. Here’s to the outfitters, medical staff and rescue teams, the dish washers and cooks and the guys who clean septic filters. Here’s to the people who bang the nails and turn the wrenches, stock paper towels and stack wood. Here’s to the people who try their darndest to make things as right as possible when things don’t quite go as planned, dust everyone off and move on. Here’s to those who pick up the trash, fold the towels and clean unmentionable messes.

To everyone who works hard so others can play hard (or at least pretend to), here’s to you. Continue reading

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