Every now and then I am struck by something that gives me pause, that makes me stop for a moment and think. It might be the serenity of a fine fall day, or it could be the top fifteen feet of a tree that was deader than it looked and folded back in exactly the opposite direction intended, but two weeks ago I was struck by the news that Larry and Ruth Daley had drowned in a pond, one apparently trying to save the other, while going about their duties as caretakers of a property in Peru, Vermont.
Both still working in their eighties, they were probably doing things they’d done for years, the same way they’d always done them, and no one will ever know for sure what happened. It was a few days before anyone knew anything happened at all.
The View from Fish in a Barrel Pond remains dedicated to those who somehow find a way to get away from it all, but most especially to those who take care of them when they get there — the caretakers, attendants, guides, outfitters, rangers, managers, support staff and others who not only make sure everyone has plenty of toilet paper and gets back home intact, but also do everything they can to be sure the places we love are still there when we come back.
The skinny jeans of spring are now the fat pants of fall, held up by suspenders until I’m back to my winter weight, which doesn’t take nearly as long as it used to.
Another season has come and gone at Fish in a Barrel Pond, six full months of Life Among the Anglers, a fly fishing dream. They’re all back in what they call the “real world” but their presence is still felt, if only in stark contrast to their absence.
Oak leaves skitter and crab across the dooryard, maple and birch molder in the woods, and now when it rains no one complains. The wind is not cursed and the sun and the clouds are not judged. The trout take their proper place in the overall scheme of things and Nature goes on, doing the things it does whether the anglers are here or not. So do I, but with a lot less wiping of whiskers and sweeping up toenails now that the camps are closed down.
That’s about as close to fish porn as it gets around here. It’s not the first trout ever caught, it won’t be the last and, as trout go, it was fair to middlin’ at best. It was caught on an August afternoon when thousands of ants, flying for the first and only time in their lives, drifted over the lake and fell to the surface, setting off a rise that spread from shore to shore. Ant falls are unpredictable and sporadic and, as it happened, this one occurred on a Thursday afternoon, while no one was here.
No one but me, that is, with a fly rod and a dozen #16 Cinnamon Ants purchased in March for a day in August that might not even happen. A warm day with no breeze, surrounded by acres of silvery dimples as trout rise to a steady sprinkling of ants falling from the sky.
I think a blurry snapshot of a splash captures the afternoon at least as well as even the best magazine-quality heroic angler-holding-a-fish shot could.
As fish porn goes, there’s a picture closer to the literal truth, since it is of a handsome brook trout on the prowl, looking to deposit a little milt. Bold fish stand out against the white sand of the springs while the more timid ones try to blend in around the margins and at the outlet.
Oh, those fins.
Or, for those who like such things, here’s a brown trout that was aggressively rooting out crayfish among rocks in the shallows along the north shore.
Some people think there is only one season at Fish in a Barrel Pond, running from the end of April to the end of October. Maybe they envision the other six months as nothingness or that the hillside simply opens up and the place magically emerges like Brigadoon.
There is no shortage of work to be done each fall to prepare for the following spring and keep the illusion going. Water lines have been drained and blown out, supplies have been inventoried and put away, the roads have been worked and only a smattering of outdoor details remain, like stacking picnic tables and securing docks before ice-in.
I’ll be the guy wearing a life jacket.