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.

The long front legs of male mayflies are useless for walking, which a mayfly doesn’t do much of, anyway. Their purpose, or at least the use to which they are put, is to grab a female — any female — mid-flight, in order to mate with her. Some liken mayflies to faeries and call what they’re doing “making love” but it’s a quick, business-like affair, with hardly a handshake let alone a cigarette afterward.

I wonder if some mayflies, disappointed when their first time wasn’t what they’d hoped for, realize it was also their only time and get even more disappointed.

That's it?

That’s it?

Spent, adult mayflies settle to the surface and die, having mated so others of their kind will live and feeding a little bit of everything else with their carcasses. I wonder if they realize that the moment was all there was?

While allowing myself the luxury of imagining the musings of mayflies, I wonder what philosophical dilemmas (if any) are presented to those who don’t get to continue their kind. The ones that are snatched up by fish and birds and bats probably never see it coming and don’t have a chance to think even Oh shit before the light goes out but there are other hazards waiting for mayflies who are out in the world for the first and last time.

The eaves of buildings can be convenient way stations for newly “hatched” mayflies. It’s one of the “secret” ways I seem to usually know what the trout might take. Their shed skins collect all season long.

Made it this far.

Made it this far.

The eaves of buildings are also convenient places for spiders to set up shop and, directly below the shed skin above, we found a mayfly who was going no further.

All that work for this?

All that for this?

Even Houdini couldn’t get out of the trap just around the corner. Caught as a newly-minted dun, this mayfly went into its final shed only to crawl into more sticky web.

Houdini, he's not.

Houdini, he’s not.

I wonder if they realize what’s happening, but with no previous experience of any kind against which to frame it, probably not. It is what it is, living in the moment, where everything is as good as it gets.

I yam what I yam

I yam what I yam

Benjamin Franklin also pondered the musings of mayflies and related a soliloquy he’d heard one give in a letter he wrote in 1778, titled The Ephemera

Life is short, people.

Mayfly disaster, spider boon.

Mayfly disaster, spider boon.

 

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.

mayfly

You can click this one, too.

Categories: nature | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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.

texaco

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

Categories: +Uncategorized, Fly Fishing, Humor, nature | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pink and Purple Pictures Because People Are Like Pistachios

Some are quite average and run of the mill. Some are pleasant, others merely tolerable, while still others exude goodness and make you wish there were more like them. Overall, as a group, they’re not so bad, even easy to take, but every so often one finds a bad taste in one’s mouth.

A really bad taste. The kind of taste there’s not enough root beer in the world to cancel. Jarring and traumatic, it lingers long after the initial shock has worn off, inspiring great trepidation at the thought of chancing another experience like it and putting one off one’s feed in general.

People are like pistachios. Continue reading

Categories: nature, Rural Life, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Back by Popular Demand: A Timeless Product from Eugene and Purly!

Originally introduced in December of 2012, Eugene and Purly really hit the mark with this one!

Listening to the radio while painting a barn last fall, my friend, Eugene, and his pal, Purly, were inspired to create another timely product. Originally planned for release but delayed by concerns about toxicity, I am pleased to announce those concerns have been addressed. Once again, against my better judgement, I present one of their ideas to the general public:

Eugene and Purly’s Political Discourse Paint by Numbers Kits

We are faced with many issues in these troubled times, and some people would have you believe that these issues are complicated, difficult to understand, and worthy of thoughtful conversation.

Poppycock!

Everyone knows it’s winner-take-all these days, so quit screwing around with careful reasoning and listening to the other side! You need bold rhetorical strokes to shut the other guy up, and you want the broadest brush possible to paint him into a corner when logic fails. Our selection of new products gives you everything you need to win any argument!

Available in a variety of sizes, our large-capacity brushes will allow you to slap it on, real good and thick. Go ahead, load ‘er up and marvel at the complete coverage!

Our 12" 'mini' brush.

Our 12″ ‘mini’ brush.

 Our 12″ mini-brush is just the right size to put a stop to those pesky “conversations” at the dinner table. Your guests will be stunned at how quickly you put them in their place, even those at the other end of the table, who will be surprised as all get out by the extra long reach of our six foot handle! Other models include proverbial ten foot poles for touchy subjects, and our extra-large, two-handed model (currently under development for internet use) will cover any subject simply, completely and thoroughly. All of our brushes are sturdy enough to be used with all the force you can muster, filling corners and gaps with ease. For especially stubborn opponents, they also work with tar!

With our new Political Discourse Paint by Number Kits, stupid stuff like “subtlety”, “nuance”, and “facts” will be things of the past. “Details”? Who needs ’em? Not you, when you’re spreading it thick with one of these babies! Those things just get in the way for some folks, but with these kits you will achieve smooth, even coverage and a flawless finish that will leave those morons speechless.

Just as “facts” and “logic” can gum up the works, many people find themselves also struggling with complications like “choices”, but we’ve got that covered too! No more messing around with green, red, blue, or any of those other confusing colors used by eggheads and dummies, because we have narrowed our selection down to the only two colors that matter these days!

Choose one:

#1- BLACK

#1- BLACK

#2- WHITE

#2- WHITE

Our own special proprietary formulas ensure that these two colors absolutely will not, under any circumstances, mix together, enabling you to make your case with no shades of gray! They actually repel each other, and are also permanent, so no one (not even you) will ever be able to change your mind!

Our Political Discourse Paint by Numbers Kits will allow you to cover any issue you can think of simply and easily. Everyone else seems to have one, shouldn’t you?

Stop thinking and order yours today!

(Specify color, brush size. May not be available in all areas.)

Other products by Eugene and Purly include Vermont Hand Crafted Tenkara Rods, Vermont Hand Crafted Tenkara Flies and Mouse Pie.

Categories: politics, Stories About My Good Friend, Eugene | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Spring Black-out

For a while there in April it felt like we were on the verge of May. Then, March-like conditions swept in and we were on the verge of tears. It doesn’t seem fair, having one’s chain yanked like that, but that’s the way it is around here.

“… You know how it is with an April day
When the sun is out and the wind is still,
You’re one month on in the middle of May.
But if you so much as dare to speak,
A cloud comes over the sunlit arch,
A wind comes off a frozen peak,
And you’re two months back in the middle of March…”

~From “Two Tramps at Mud Time” by Robert Frost

Of course, if you’re anything like me, you just sort of black out in mid-April and, before you know it, it really is the middle of May and swallows are chasing down mayflies among snowflakes. Continue reading

Categories: nature, Rural Life, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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