179 Down

Five days remain in the season at Fish in a Barrel Pond. Just one more round of making beds and folding washcloths and soon it will be six months before I again wipe the Sunday whiskers from the sinks after a bunch of fly fishers clean up for their return to what they call the “real world.” Please note the gender neutrality of that sentence.

After half a year of all anglers, all the time, my wagon is draggin’ and the purposeful stride of spring has become a shuffling autumnal amble, interrupted by the occasional hop as I hitch up my pants. Long summer twilights and the splashy rises of trout taking mayflies seem distant memories as I walk the shore this morning in cold rain, seeing only desultory slurps here and there as a few late-season midges emerge. An entire mountainside disappears as fog works its way down-slope and soon the whole valley fills in, creating for a moment the illusion of being lost in time and that the lake, the camps, and all other things in my own “real world” are nothing more than memories themselves.

That, of course, is nothing more than hogwash its own self as at that moment a terrible noise shredded the foggy mountain silence.

“Quiiiiiiiill! We need paper towels!”

Bless their hearts, the guys staying at the Mickey Finn had used the last of their paper towels in the kitchen the night before, laying half a roll over the shelf liners already in place. It must have felt good, seeing clean glasses and cups put away on pristine white shelves, and I’m sure they slept soundly with pride at a job well done, but while they were sleeping the mice were busy lining their nests and they awoke to a sight I’ve seen before, a bunch of clean glasses and cups sitting on discs of white paper towels with the nose prints of mice all around their rims.

the nose prints of mice

Five days remain in the season at Fish in a Barrel Pond.


October has, for the most part, consisted of several stretches of weather that, when coupled with the colors of fall, would stand as perfectly good answers to the question, “Why live in Vermont?” Under clear skies, with barely a breeze blowing, they were the kind of days when the only thing more silly than attempting to describe them would be to try to take their picture.

October morning 1

October morning 2

A calm October day

Even the evenings were nice, as laughter and light spilled from the camps beneath the rising moon.

full moon rising

Still, there is something to be said for getting up early.

another october morn

I like to believe days like these are earned by those who live here, mostly by enduring the harsh months of winter, the only question being whether this payment is in advance or arrears.


Since the end of April I’ve lived by a calendar and schedule designed by humans to suit human tastes, surrounded by a world that knows no such distinctions. The first loon arrived the same day the ice went out but I doubt it could tell you the date. Neither could I, but that doesn’t make the day any less important in a world that doesn’t recognize dates.

That loon and its mate successfully raised two chicks, choosing to leave once those chicks were able to feed and look out for themselves. They just up and flew away one morning, followed a week and a half later by Young Loon #1. I say “followed” but the truth is that Young Loon #1 had no idea where it was going when it left. Meanwhile, Young Loon #2 stayed put, living the good life on an isolated pond all by itself.

A young loon

It’s hard to say what made Young Loon #2 finally leave yesterday morning, circling higher and higher until it was just a southbound dot, but it’s a pretty sure thing it didn’t consult a calendar or rearrange its schedule to do so. I keep a paper calendar handy to remind myself what day of the week it is and which camps are rented on which days, but the true milestones that mark the passage of time around here are things like the turning of leaves and the departures of loons. My paper calendar ends abruptly this Sunday but the natural calendar of this little valley is more or less perpetual, if not very specific.

Around the same time my paper calendar ends and the anglers disappear, as the leaves come down and cold rains fall, a page of that perpetual calendar turns and the brook trout head uphill to the waters of their birth as they have done for countless generations.

When they are seen gliding over the white sand in the springs at the headwaters of the Neverwas River it is tempting to say they are early, or late, according to the way we humans keep track of such things but, as far as the brook trout are concerned, no matter when they arrive, they are right on time.

Fall brookies in a spring

We like our time neatly ordered and clearly defined, passing in convenient increments, but the world we live in is not bound by such constraints. From the day the ice goes out and the loons return, through the emergence of mayflies and midges, to the day the brook trout return to their natal waters, time passes in a way we can’t pin down. It will continue to do so, despite our best efforts, reminding us that birds and bugs and fish have no need for months, days, or nano-seconds, and that in places like this, in the space between their world and ours, it might just be possible to become lost in time.

lost in time

Five days remain in the season at Fish in a Barrel Pond.

Categories: Fly Fishing, Loons, nature, Rural Life, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

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19 thoughts on “179 Down

  1. Pete

    Hope you were enjoying some fine spirits under that beautiful Hunter’s Moon. Soon your 5 days will be behind you and we’ll begin anew enjoying your fun filled stories.

  2. BuggyD

    Love the narrative and pictures. You are so right about attempts to describe or take pictures of what our eyes see plus, pictures don’t capture what we’re hearing (the incredible insect chorus that’s been the sound track of this fall) and smelling (the dried maple leaves and field grasses, not to mention the wood smoke spiraling up from the cabins). A very nice piece indeed 🙂

    • Thanks, Buggy. Our insects have been laying low of late, what with the chilly weather and all, but the leaves and wood smoke sure smell nice. The camps were empty last night and it was easy to pretend the season had already ended. One more weekend …

      See you Friday.

  3. Really enjoyed your swan song to the season at Camp Neverwas. Well put! Soon you’ll get some well-deserved respite for all your hard labors. At least I hope you will…and…see you next season!

    • Well, Don, with one last weekend (and a lot of work) remaining, it may not quite have been the swan song. Might just be getting warmed up.

      I plan to be here next season and I hope you can make it. Give Abigail a pat on the head for me.

      • I know in actuality that your work is almost never done at Fish in a Barrel Pond. 😉 Abigail is doing great, it’s like she’s become a puppy again! I’ll tell her you asked about her and of course will give her a pat on the head. Though she would have much rather have preferred a dog biscuit. 🙂 Keep those mice at bay!

  4. I have no words that adequately say how much I enjoyed this. Silly humans and their schedules and calendars. Enjoy your off-season quill.

  5. Woolybugah

    Thanks for the “reality check” on what REALLY matters in this world. Beautifully done.

    • Thanks, but I’m trying to come up with a good essay on the pleasures of sitting on a porch on a balmy night, eating Doritos and drinking corn whiskey.

  6. Wood Chip

    Great to see you on the Neversuch Unmaintained Trail, both of us livin’ in the moment, something I am just now learning how to do. I’m losing hair but gaining time with only the position of the sun and the plummeting temps telling me it’s time to go home. Wonderful piece-looking forward to a winter of your ruminations.

  7. Luke

    Hi Quill,

    It was good to see you again when I visited with Paul and Derrick from 10/17-10/20. That was my first time seeing the bubbling spring. A truly magical place. Thanks for a great weekend.

    • I’m still giggling at the way such a large man, wearing a blaze orange vest, got so close to you guys. I haven’t lost my touch.

      The weather has turned. Windy and a bit chilly today, so you guys had the last nice weekend.

  8. The shots of the sand in the springs are fascinating.

    I’m just about done with the Bobo’s mountain sugar you sent. I will have to order some. Next time I may actually pour it on something instead of just drinking it straight out of the bottle. The wife would just shake her head… you know that’s just not right, don’t you?

    Uhhh, no. Apparently not.

    • Some day I will take a video of the sand. It constantly changes and is kind of mesmerizing to watch.

      That syrup is tasty, for sure. I told them my only objection to the bottle was that the tiny neck made it hard to drink from.

      I decided the other morning that I’d had way too much coffee and needed to get something to eat. Toaster waffles and syrup sounded about right but the waffles kept soaking up the syrup so I had to keep adding more. I might have overdone it because, about an hour later, my knees buckled and I got woozy enough to sit down. Had the shakes for thirty minutes!

  9. great photos, I hope the winter months go well. Sad fishing season is almost over.

    • Thank you, M. Winter has its own appeal, even if it plays rough once in a while. The end of the season here is always kind of bittersweet …

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