Author Archives: Quill Gordon

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.

Half a dozen different mayflies have been coming off for several weeks, dominated recently by big Yellow Drakes. Their hatches can be memorable and plenty of anglers try to time their visits to Fish in a Barrel Pond to coincide. Sometimes, their timing is off and I have to fish by myself.

Subimago

Wearing a raindrop on its head while waiting for its sexual organs to form, that subimago (sometimes called a “dun”) Yellow Drake will shed its skin and take flight again this afternoon, joining others in a mating swarm above the lake. When they’ve done what they came to do, the males simply swoon and die. If they land on the water they will often be taken by trout, as will the females when they’re done bouncing on the surface, depositing eggs.

If they land on the dock they will more likely be picked up by me and placed on a bench for a photo or two, because the wings of imago mayflies (sometimes called “spinners”) are so pretty. This one was done for and could hardly hold itself up.

Done

In hindsight, I should have put the two together and listened closely to hear what advice an old mayfly, all of a day old, might have for a new mayfly still getting its bearings after just a few hours. Maybe, as Benjamin Franklin suggested, its last breaths would be spent reflecting on “a long life spent in meaning well” and “the sensible conversation of a few good lady ephemerae”.

Of course, not all ephemerae are so fortunate.

Really?

Maybe there is something to be learned from mayflies. Maybe not. I don’t know. One thing I do know, though, is that you can learn a lot from Lydia:

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

Needless to say, it can be a while before the opportunity arises for me to do a little fishing myself. It’s only natural to feel a little rusty the first time out but the grip of my rod felt like the familiar handshake of an old friend and the rhythm of my casts returned soon enough, even after eight months on the shelf.

Pulling Free

Poking around with a gold-ribbed hare’s ear nymph got me a couple of waterlogged sticks before I laid into one of the biggest, baddest, sunken tree trunks in the lake, which broke me off after a five-minute fight. It was a clean break and new tippet to boot, so I took it as encouraging that I still can tie knots.

Vulnerable

A rise to my right caught my attention and I noticed dozens of small mayflies drifting across the surface. So confident was I of my not so diminished skills that I determined — without picking one up — that they were #16s, which was good because I had just stocked up on blue-wing olives in exactly that size, which most anglers will tell you is pretty small.

Almost There

I had the knot, I had the cast, and I was sure I had the fly, but when my #16 BWO settled onto the water it became clear the naturals were really much smaller, as my previously small fly looked like a luxury yacht among a fleet of daysailers. Evidently, some skills do diminish with disuse, the judging of size being one of them and it is good to get a natural fly in hand before selecting an artificial.

And, when all else fails, just take some pictures.

Set Adrift

(For what it’s worth, a #18 olive soft hackle did the trick, or at least prevented a skunking, that afternoon. Also for what it’s worth, the photos above were taken with an Olympus TG4.)

Tight lines, you wubbas.

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

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

Vermont Tenkara Finally Mainstream

We at The View from Fish in a Barrel Pond are not above tooting our own horn, especially when it comes to spotting important fly fishing trends, six years in advance. It may take longer for folks to recognize the genius of the Portable Long-Range Angler Management and Training System™ or the practicality of concepts like Gordon’s Getaway Club® (“for anglers who expect less from Nature”™) but we saw this Tenkara thing coming a long time ago.

Stalking wild brook trout in Vermont’s small streams is a delightful way to spend time on (and in) the water. Stealth and a delicate presentation are essential to success. Tight quarters and tiny pools add to the challenge, but there is no denying the beauty of native brookies or the pleasure of a few hours spent following a small, shady stream as it winds beneath a leafy green canopy on a warm summer day. For some, Tenkara provides a perfect set of fishing techniques and equipment to meet these circumstances.

And now, a little more than six years after we first wrote about it in these pages, Tenkara in Vermont has finally gone mainstream, if mainstream can be defined as being featured on Vermont Public Television’s long-running series, “Outdoor Journal”.

The segment below, recently posted on their You Tube page, follows host Lawrence Pyne as he fishes with angler and guide Bill Whitehair, using Tenkara rods to catch lovely little fish on a lovely little stretch of a lovely little stream.

The folks at Tenkara USA should be pleased.

The folks at The View from Fish in a Barrel Pond are pleased for them, I can tell you that much, especially after the fuss in their forum when we first wrote about Tenkara six years ago(!). Confusion was also reflected in a forum on a Tenkara site in Russia but the translation was poor, I have lost the link and, given the current political climate, I hesitate to search for things ending in “.ru”.

From November of 2006, here is our original post:

Vermont Hand Crafted Tenkara Rods

And, while they have not quite come around to our way of thinking, here is the fine piece from the Vermont PBS show “Outdoor Journal,” a very acceptable way to spend the next ten minutes:

(My favorite quote: “Cast it exactly like you would a fly rod. No trick to it at all.”)

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

Balmy Days

Last week’s cold snap was forecast to end on Monday, maybe, but it didn’t happen. Tuesday, maybe, was a possibility but became a definite not. On Wednesday, however, the temperature climbed enough for the sap to run again, the tank filled, and the arch was fired up one more time at Bobo’s (boil #8).

Steam and Snowflakes

The stuff in the front pan, left behind from the last batch to “sweeten” the next, had frozen to slush due to its high sugar content, but the weaker stuff in the back pan was decidedly more solid and, according to the forecast, it’s going to happen again.

Not Exactly Sugaring Weather

Despite the snow and sleet, sap ran into the night and, in order to leave behind as little as possible to freeze, the fire in the arch was stoked until almost midnight. The shed has a lot of wood left in it, but prodigious quantities have already been burned. Opening the doors to feed the fire, especially when they are pulsating like angry cuttlefish, can be like flying into the sun, and closing them quickly — before one’s clothes burst into flames — can become a matter of some importance. Continue reading

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Steamy Video

The recent record-setting warm spell could not possibly last. It is March and this is Vermont, after all. Sap was still trickling down the hill as last evening’s boil ended at Bobo’s Mountain Sugar and, while the collection tank didn’t fill all the way, it had enough sap in it this morning to justify firing up the arch again.

Another justification for processing a not full tank is the fact that temperatures are predicted to drop to well below 0°F over the next few days. Anyone who has ever dealt with a thousand gallons of solidly frozen sap knows how that can slow down an operation. Everyone else can probably imagine.

As dependent on weather as sap runs are, boiling that sap into syrup can be affected, too. Barometric pressure has an effect on the boiling point of liquids and wind gusts to 50 mph have a strange way of preventing steam from leaving the building. Even with doors open.

Fogged-In

Fogged-In

It didn’t help that the outside air that did get in was cold and getting colder, and that it, too, turned to fog when it met the warm air rising from the arch.

Sitting down once in a while is allowed.

Sitting down once in a while is allowed.

The edge of a cold metal barrel is not really a comfortable seat but it will do. Lest readers get the impression I sit a lot, I don’t. Sometimes I stand and stare at the ceiling.

Looking up, into the steam coming down.

Looking up, at the steam coming down.

Mostly, my role in Bobo’s sugarhouse is stoking the fire and drinking beer acting as a role model for children. Mostly, it’s stoking the fire.

Heat

Heat

The sap tank is empty, the arch is quiet and the plumbing is drained. There won’t be another run of sweet sap until this bitter cold blast has moved through, maybe by Monday they say. It was freaky foggy in the sugarhouse today, but not constantly. The fog came and went, as you will see below.

The four foggy photos above are part of a series, a series of 299 images which, when stitched together, form a time-lapse, boiling down two and half hours to thirty seconds. The big hairy guy even does a little dance.

 

Categories: Maple Syrup, Rural Life, Vermont | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

A Big Hot Metal Box

Snowshoes were appropriate footwear on Bobo’s Mountain last Tuesday as the last taps went in, racing against a warm-up that promised a run of sap (see “Something is Running and It’s not Me“). The race was won, the sap was caught, and by Friday children were seen running barefoot.

Three feet of snow disappeared. Some simply sublimated but most of it melted, running noisily down the hill as runnels met rivulets and rills became brooks, braiding their way toward the river.

Melt-Down

Melt-Down

It turns out that this year’s first boil took place on the same date as last year’s but whether or not that means anything is still open to conjecture. By the time this first run was over, somewhere in the neighborhood of 7,000 gallons of sap had been processed. Continue reading

Categories: Maple Syrup, Rural Life, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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