nature

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.

Tough Titmouse

It was 78°F outside (25.5°C) that afternoon and I started thinking my negotiating skills could use a little work.

A Warm April Afternoon

The threat of a vicious plucking doesn’t have me thinking about toting a shotgun when I cross the dooryard (maybe a tennis racquet)  but that ice was looking kind of feeble and I wondered how binding a promise is when that promise is to a Titmouse.

Other bird names sound just as made-up as Titmouse. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is one of my favorite silly names. It sounds funny, except when it doesn’t.

There are Coots and Boobies and Stints, Wandering Tattlers and Greater Yellowlegs (Lesser ones, too). Then there is the quadruple-entendre Bushtit and the (boom)Chachalaca. Throw in some Greenshanks, a few Beardless Tyrannulets, Cuckoos, Noddies and Snipe and there are hours of immature fun to be had with the bird-watching crowd. Don’t even get me started about Woodcocks.

Alas, new species of birds don’t come along very often (and the old ones have a way of disappearing) so the need for creative new bird names is quite limited.

A glance through fly fishing catalogs and magazines will convince anyone that those who tie flies are bound by no such constraints.

New patterns appear each year, whether created from scratch or as significant variations on a theme, and each of those new flies has a name. The need for names for new flies is virtually unlimited, but coming up with a catchy name no one has thought of requires creativity and deep thought. After all, once someone names a fly Rat Faced McDougal, what could be left?

Quack Doctor might have gotten a few chuckles, back in 1892, along with Cow Dung, when they were included in Mary Orvis Marbury’s “Favorite Flies and Their Histories”. Green Butt Skunk must have a story but I’ve never looked for it and I don’t know how the aforementioned Mr. or Mrs. McDougal felt about the whole thing.

Fly fishing has Boobies, too, along with other flies that lend themselves to innuendo, such as Stimulators, and Green Weenies. Others, like Bitch Creek Nymph are named by virtue of birthplace but are still fun to say.

I can only imagine what those who don’t fly fish think of those who do when they hear the names of some of our flies (or go poking through these pages). I learned early on that not everything I hear is quite as it sounds and I no longer faint like I used to when snippets of fishing camp conversations reach my ears.

Opening Day is the Saturday after next and I brace myself for eagerly anticipate the annual onslaught return of the anglers to Fish in a Barrel Pond. After six months of quiet, it takes some time to adjust to so many voices outside my head but it won’t be long before I can walk by a camp and not give it a second thought when someone yells, “What did you do to my Montreal Whore?” or, “Hey! Check out the size of my Meat Whistle!” or, “Where’s my Butt Monkey?”

To the ignorant or uninitiated, hearing such things might be shocking but somehow, to me, words like those are as much a sound of spring as peepers and song sparrows. Some of the men talk that way, too.

With less than two weeks to go before opening, me and the titmouses have not been the only ones watching the ice on the lake. Most haven’t been actually watching the ice; they’ve been calling and emailing to ask about it but it changes from day to day, even hour to hour, and I don’t get paid to stand around watching ice melt. The ice has been deteriorating — of that there is no doubt — but the changes can be subtle, at least when observed over the course of the average human attention span.

A camera on a tripod, however, can stand around all day.

And now, for something more dear to an anglers heart than Boobies or Butt Monkeys.

Say it with me:

Ice-out.

 

 

Categories: Humor, nature, Rural Life, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hoar Frost

Sometimes, even winter holds its breath and, in the cold stillness of a winter night, water vapor changes from gas to solid on contact with chilled surfaces, constructing crystal matrices resembling feathers that last until the sun hits them or somebody coughs.

The adjective “hoary” is sometimes defined as “gray or white, as with age, and in some cases worthy of veneration”. It can also mean “old, overused and trite” but with frost it supposedly refers to the appearance of an old man’s beard.

Old and overused, maybe, but trite?

Old and overused, maybe, but trite?

Tomorrow will have one minute more light than today, and when tomorrow becomes yesterday there will be one minute more as we begin tilting slowly back toward the sun. Meanwhile, it is winter, and even winter can hold its breath.

Yukon Jack, “The Black Sheep of Canadian Liquors” and purported to be the regimental liqueur of the South Alberta Light Horse regiment of the Canadian Army, claims a “taste born of hoary nights…” which probably means it was too dang cold out to go find some better whiskey, so someone mixed what they had with some honey in an old turpentine barrel and hoped for the best.

Something else born of hoary nights is the poetry of Robert Service. There are worse ways to spend the next nine minutes of your life than watching this video recitation of “The Cremation of Sam McGee”:

Categories: nature, Vermont, Winter | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Little Snowflakes

Months of quarrels and quandaries, intrigue and innuendo, distractions, misdirection and outright prevarication finally came to an end and I found myself, one November morning, strangely relieved it was over yet wondering what the heck had just happened. It seemed surreal and nearly beyond belief, but once sober enough for thoughtful reflection, I knew it was very real, indeed, believe it or not.

The adrenaline wore off, shock set in, and I had to sit in order to contemplate the new, horrible, sad reality.

That’s right, friends, another season had come and gone here at Fish in a Barrel Pond.

Fish in a Barrel Pond

Fish in a Barrel Pond

The banshees of winter wail outside the door, the lake froze-over three weeks ago, and anything stuck to the ground now is stuck until spring. The camps are again empty and quiet, smelling only of cold air and anti-freeze in the drain traps. A little happy dance has been done, a nap has been took, and as I catch up on my reading I can’t help but notice that this job, once more, failed to make any major publication’s list of “Best Fly Fishing Jobs!” Continue reading

Categories: Humor, nature, politics, Vermont, Winter | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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. Continue reading

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

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

“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

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

Frog Water

Phrenology is the study of bumps on a person’s skull to determine certain aspects of the individual’s personality and character.

Phenology is the study of cyclic and seasonal natural phenomena, especially in relation to climate and plant and animal life.

The end of sugaring tends to come at about the same time amphibians thaw out and get active, so some sugar-makers call their final batches of syrup “frog water.” Appropriately, a small chorus of wood frogs was sounding off in the puddles as the fire was lit for an April Fools’ Day boil at Bobo’s last Friday afternoon.

April Showers

April Showers

Continue reading

Categories: Humor, Maple Syrup, nature, Rural Life, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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