Two eggs hatched in 2014. Both chicks survived, thrived and fledged, taking off in October for a few years at sea. The Vermont Center for Ecostudies has learned that loons return to places very close to where they were raised, even after all that time and having only seen home from the air once, as they were flying away.
The geese and mergansers of Fish in a Barrel Pond begin the season with dozens of goslings and ducklings. Those numbers dwindle quickly, though, as snapping turtles, otters and mink take their toll. They rely on sheer numbers in spring to leave one or two youngsters still swimming come fall. When danger strikes they scatter, every bird for itself, and if one or two of your brothers or sisters get picked off, at least it wasn’t you.
The loons, however, lay only one egg, maybe two, with one serving as an insurance policy, should something happen to the other. Something usually does. One egg hatched this spring, one egg did not, and we were able to get to the one that didn’t before it was snatched up by an otter, mink, heron or crow.
Wrapped up in paper towels and tape, it was labeled and frozen before being picked up by the Vermont Center for Ecostudies for further, um, study.
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. Continue reading
A photo of a dirty bathroom floor sucked most of the funny from a recent post. The resulting flapdoodle and folderol was probably to be expected but it is interesting to note that the indignation expressed at the condition of said floor was nearly matched by the indignation expressed at its having been pointed out. But here’s the thing: This blog is dedicated to everyone who gives in to the urge to get away from it all, but it is especially dedicated to the brave souls who take care of them when they arrive and, as anyone who has had a job that included cleaning restrooms can tell you, from posh resorts to the most modest of camps, floor-dribblers aren’t the half of it.
Winter’s stark grays softened beneath a gauzy green veil as spring returned to the slopes of Nonesuch Mountain. A last toast to winter drained the dregs of that bitter keg so I took up the cup of spring with a nod to the transition of season, acknowledging an important milestone along our planet’s annual journey around the sun. I lifted the vernal chalice to my lips as for a kiss, and imbibed the essence of the season with intemperate relish as spring flowed like syrup, at its own leisurely pace.
Another cup appeared, brimming with the prospect of the return of anglers to Fish in a Barrel Pond, top shelf stuff, and you know I simply couldn’t resist. But I took a wide stance and held onto my hat as I quaffed because, Dear Readers, drinking from that vessel is like drinking from a damn fire hose.
Each year, the week before opening day, I take my list of things to be done around Fish in a Barrel Pond and make a little schedule. I carefully find a block of time for each of the 4,000 things to be done — an hour here for this job, two hours there for that, completing each task as quickly and efficiently as possible — and when I am done I feel like the most organized and disciplined man in the world.
I then take that schedule and tear it into tiny pieces before the gods of such things have a chance to laugh at my plans. They will find plenty to laugh at in the days ahead.
The air is warm, the water is warm, and the fishing is, well, slow. During the day the trout are hunkered down, hanging around spring holes and the feeder streams where the little dribbles of cool water still flow in (boy oh boy, do we need rain). In the evening a few small pods of fish move around, sipping mayflies and other insects blown in by the warm breeze, but a summer’s worth of fishing pressure has made sneaking up on individual fish and groups of cruisers difficult. They’ve been educated and shy away from the boat. Long, accurate, delicate casts are the only way to hook up.
I can do long, I can do accurate, and I can do delicate but all three at once is asking a bit much so I spend a fair amount of time just sitting, watching and waiting. Here’s some of what I saw on the pond two nights ago:
[This is as good a time as any to note that there are six camps scattered along the shores of Fish in a Barrel Pond, each named after one legendary fly or another. They are, in no particular order, the Parmacheene Belle, Gray Ghost, Queen of the Waters, Cahill, Coachman and Mickey Finn (an acknowledging wink to the Neverwas Nonesuch Angling Society’s long tradition of fiery potations and mind-numbing concoctions). The names were chosen by a specially appointed committee charged with choosing from a list of suggestions submitted by the membership.
Certain members were against naming the camps when the issue came up for a vote, not so many years ago (one camp burned to the ground without a name, way back when — see “The Conflagration at Green Damselfly Cove”) and an attempt was made to turn the decision into one the membership would regret. If they had succeeded in stacking the committee in their favor I could very well have just introduced you to the Bitch Creek Nymph, Rat Face McDougal, Quack Doctor, Golden Monkey, Cow Dung and Ethel May.]
The sounds of the loon stir something primal, deep within all of us (see “Sadly Mistaken“), or at least they used to. More and more, as phone signals and broadband coverage improve, I see people mesmerized by the little boxes they carry, looking at each other and themselves but not what’s right in front of them or yakking away about things that, when you stop to really think about them, probably don’t merit a phone call in the first place and I am a bit concerned.
Never again do I want to hear a person say, “Can’t something be done to shut those birds up? I’m trying to talk here!”
I would, however, like very much to hear, again and again, “Quill, I dropped my phone off the dock. Can you fish it out for me?” because I would say “NO! Firstly, that ain’t fishin’ and lastly, I’m glad you dropped it. Might do you some good to be bored out of your frickin’ skull for a week, you spoiled little …” Continue reading
If I were to describe to you the absolute saddest thing I have ever heard it would break your heart and ruin your week. You’d mope around the house in your slippers and robe, the furnace and your pathetic sighs the only sounds in the house other than silence. Not even I know what describing it would do to me, especially at this point in winter with February still to go, but I can imagine and no one needs to see that. Continue reading